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11 Things I Think I Thought About Novak Djokovic, Naomi Osaka And The Australian Open

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Wrapping a busy month in Melbourne when some thoughts on our first Grand Slam champions of 2021:

1. DJOKOVIC DOMINATION
This was supposed to be it. The end of Novak Djokovic’s reign in Australia.

 

Riding his 20-match win streak, with all those titles, wins over Top 10s and with Djokovic struggling against the likes of Taylor Fritz, Frances Tiafoe, and with injury; the Russian Daniil Medvedev was going to do what have never been done before: Take the Serb down in the Australian Open final.

Haha.

 

Hell, I thought Djokovic would win, but not like he did. Not by that scoreline and not that easily. Yet in the end, he made Medvedev look mediocre.

Right from the start, you could see how well Djokovic was striking the ball and moving. He looked so comfortable and confident in every facet of the game. Even after losing the early break, he was all business and Medvedev wasn’t able to rise to the challenge.

 

Djokovic jumped on Medvedev’s second serve and controlled that match from that standpoint. And by the end of the second, Medvedev was a beaten man.

Djokovic knows the road is long and that you can’t win the Australian Open or Slams at the ATP Finals or Paris Indoors or the ATP Cup. You have to have the right mindsight, preparation, experience and know when to peak.

 

But just imagine how much better he would have been without the tear? Scary.

Speaking of peaking…

2. AWESOME OSAKA

Naomi Osaka is now 12-0 when she reaches the quarterfinals at a Slam. She’s never lost. And she’s just 23.

What I love about watching Osaka is just how calm and in control she is. Against Serena last week Wednesday night, she got down a break quickly after a miserable start, but there was absolutely no panic. No emotion. Nothing.

 

Even down those match points in the fourth round against Garbine Muguruza, she’s stayed focused, stable and unfazed by the situation. It’s incredible to see from such a young person.

You hear it a lot in team sports in the U.S.: You can’t tell by their face if they are winning by 20 or down by 20. That’s Osaka.

 

And that’s an awfully, awfully tough thing to learn. Few have and even few have it and can win.

If Osaka can figure out how to play on surfaces other than cement, she’s basically going to be the Big 1 of the WTA because there’s really no one who is going to challenge her — Kenin? Gauff? Andreescu? Sabalenka? I don’t see it right now.

 

She’s by far the best in the game.

3. SERENA COMES UP SHORT

I give a lot of credit to Serena Williams. Having a baby a few years ago along with some previous serious health scares, it would have been easy and understandable for her to simply hang it up. But at age 39, she keeps fighting to tie Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam titles.

 

What’s more remarkable is that she keeps rebounding after these tough losses. Victoria Azarenka, Osaka and Andreescu at the US Open. Simona Halep and Angelique Kerber at Wimbledon.

Tennis – Australian Open – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, February 18, 2021 Serena Williams of the U.S. leaves the court after losing her semi final match against Japan’s Naomi Osaka REUTERS/Loren Elliott

 

Each loss devastating it its own way, but instead of sulking and giving up, Serena gets up off the mat and goes right back after it.

4. AUSTRALIAN OPEN ORGANIZERS

Big kudos to the team in Melbourne for getting the players into the country, then through a 2-week quarantine, then deal with a minor hotel COVID outbreak and the subsequent fan restrictions that followed and more.

The logistics of that operation are more than book-worthy.







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