Grand Slams do strange things to people. They can make some play like heroes and reduce others to jelly. With this in mind, Popcorn Tennis takes a look at 10 of the events we didn’t see coming at Australian Open 2013.
1. Rise of the young Americans
Sloane Stephens. Jamie Hampton. Madison Keys. Hampton was the first player to take a set off top seed Victoria Azarenka, Keys knocked out 30th seed Tamira Paszek and then there was Stephens, who sensationally ousted Serena Williams in the quarterfinals. Note these names down, as you will be hearing more from them in the future.
2. The French connection
It’s been 15 years since four Frenchman survived to week two of the Australian Open. Take a bow, Jeremy Chardy, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Richard Gasquet and Gilles Simon, who flew the flag through the first four rounds. Alas, none made the semifinals, meaning the French will have to wait a little longer for their next major winner since Yannick Noah saluted at Roland Garros in 1983.
3. Chardy’s a sweet drop
Never before did Jeremy Chardy play this sweetly at a major. The world No.36 accounted for three seeds on the way to the quarterfinals in No.30 Marcel Granollers, No.6 Juan Martin del Potro and No.21 Andreas Seppi. It took No.3 Andy Murray to stop his run.
4. Kirsten flips the opposition
Blood clots, two months on the sidelines and a ranking that blew out to the 260s – things were not going great for Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens in 2012. But after getting her health back on track, a strong finish to last year has continued into 2013 where she made it to the fourth round in Melbourne – her best result at a major. Ever.
5. Date-Krumm turns back the clock
She hadn’t won here since 1996, so when Kimiko Date-Krumm upset 12th seed Nadia Petrova in the first round, it was cause for celebration. But Date-Krumm didn’t stop there – she kept going. A win over former world No.11 Shahar Peer before her run came to an end at the hands of Bojana Jovanovski was one of the great stories of week one.
6. Sveta the most dangerous of floaters
One of the most over-used and unfortunate terms in tennis is “the dangerous floater”. For the few who have been living on Mars and haven’t heard this phrase that conjures images of, well, I won’t say it … A dangerous floater is a player who for one reason or another (injury or bad recent form) is unseeded and therefore could end up anywhere in the draw. These people come with a reputation, real or perceived, that they could case havoc in the form of an upset. And Svetlana Kuznetsova did just that, knocking out 26th seed Su-Wei Hsieh and 10th seed Caroline Wozniacki before falling to No.1 Victoria Azarenka in the quarters.
7. Stan almost The Man
In the first three rounds, triple Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic was once again looking the goods. Three matches, three straight-sets wins. Then came Stanislas Wawrinka, the Swiss player who is not Roger Federer. A top 20 regular, Wawrinka, who plays with ‘The Man’ printed on his shoes, pushed Djokovic to five sets and, for a moment, looked like he may just live up to that nickname.
8. Kvitova and out
What’s happened to Petra Kvitova? Since bowing out in the fourth round of the US Open, the Czech heavy hitter has won just four matches. Illness and an Achilles injury caused her some problems towards the end of 2012, but so far this year she has won just two matches and has not looked the player who blasted her way to the Wimbledon title in 2011.
9. Maria’s sweet and sour
Handing out candy in press conferences but giving nothing to her opponents on court in 2013, Maria Sharapova is quite the riddle. In five matches, the 2008 Australian Open champion has conceded just nine games. In the first four rounds she leaked five games – a new Australian Open record. We just hope that she gave some Sugarpova to her vanquished opponents afterwards to cheer them up.
10. The Williams sisters will not be champions
The Australian Open will not provide the Williams sisters with their 14th doubles title. Venus and Serena may have been the 12th seeds but to most, they were the team to beat. So when they were ousted in the quarterfinals by top-seeded Italians Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci it was, as strange as it may sound, an upset.