Australian Open 2022: 5 things we learned
Updated: Jan 31, 2022
It's fair to say the 2021/22 Tennis season in Australia has produced its fair share of headlines. But now the 1st Grand Slam of the year is over, what have we learned?
Tennis Australia can now retreat into the shadows and lick its wounds after copping a belting in the local and international media over its handling of the Novak Djokovic saga.
But, as they say in the classics, "All's well that ends well". The 2022 Australian Open was exciting on and off the court. There was drama at every turn, new champions crowned and reputations enhanced with others left in tatters.
Two new Australian Open singles champions have been crowned. The Queen of the Australian summer, Ash Barty, claimed her first Australian Open singles title. Hopefully, the first of many.
Rafael Nadal turned back the clock and collected his second Australian Open title. He stands alone on the mountain top for the first time, leading the GOAT race with 21 slams to Roger and Novak's 20. That race is far from over.
These are obvious take away's from the 2022 "Friendly Slam". However, there is much to reflect on now that the season has closed. Here are the Top 5 things we learned following this year's Australian Open.
5. The new generation of Men's Tennis stars have much to learn, on and off the court.
In the Men's singles final, Daniil Medvedev was taken to (old) school in a five-set marathon by the fighting Rafael Nadal. Medvedev's Tennis stacks up against the very best in the game but he leaves Australia with his mental state questionable at best.
On numerous occasions during the tournament, we saw him explode viciously. At umpires, ball kids, opponents, and especially the crowd. Nadal showed Medvedev what it takes to be a true champion. Not just in the final, but throughout the tournament.
Hopefully, Medvedev was paying attention but his comments in media since the final suggest otherwise.
Bad player behaviour at the 2022 Australian Open wasn't restricted to the frosty Russian
Tennis players are not robots, nor would we want them to be. Emotions can sometimes boil over and, at the highest level of sport, that's to be expected. But, the behaviour next group of top players coming through in this tournament was, at times, appalling.
The talent of this group can't be questioned. Medvedev, Zverev, Shapovalov and Tsitsipas have all had moments to forget in this tournament. This new generation of Tennis stars all appear to have large chips on their shoulders. To be fair, following in the big footsteps of Rafa and Roger can't be easy.
Ask Novak Djokovic.
But, there is a reason Nadal and Federer are beloved by fans around the globe. If this next generation wants the same sort of respect from the fans it will need to earn it rather than demand it.
4. Australia's reputation on the world stage has been diminished.
Regardless of what position you take in the vaccination debate, to have the world number one and defending champion arrive in Australia only to be detained at the airport, and eventually deported, was almost comical.
The reality is Novak flew into Australia believing he had an exemption that would enable him to compete at the Australian Open. How he got that exemption doesn't really matter in terms of the optics of the situation overseas.
For a high profile, international sports star to be detained, taken to court, cleared, released, detained again and eventually deported is not ideal. Whilst there are those cheering the government's decision to deport him, many others around the globe have condemned it.
The obvious question to ask is how the authorities enabled things to play out the way they did? It was no secret that Novak was coming. Did anyone at government level (Victorian or Federal) consider picking up the phone and confirming that everything was in order?
Clearly, the answer to that question is no. Australia's reputation as an organiser of elite, international sporting events has taken a major hit as a result. Combine the Novak saga with our next point on the list and it all adds up to a very bad look for Australia and the Australian Open in general.
3. (Some) Melbourne Tennis fans need a lesson in civility and Tennis etiquette.
The atmosphere at Melbourne Park during the Australian Open was electric, especially after the first few days. Crowd numbers were down early in the tournament. That was likely as a backlash against the handling of the Novak saga and the pandemic situation combined.
However, following the Nick Kyrigos versus Daniil Medvedev 2nd round clash, fans came flocking back. Many new Tennis fans came to Melbourne Park with two, clear objectives in mind. Boo Medvedev at every given opportunity, and ride alongside Kyrigos and Kokkinakis in their doubles run.
The 'Special Ks' would go on to upset many opponents during their run to the title. The now infamous "Suiii" chant rang out on every court they played on.
I'm all for fan involvement in sport. Showing passion as a spectator shouldn't be discouraged but there are some basic principles that should be adhered to. In golf, when someone addresses the ball and is about to swing, the crowd shuts its mouth. It is an unwritten contract between the player and the spectator.
Likewise in Tennis, when a player is ready to serve the crowd goes respectfully quiet. Occasionally, during important moments, an exuberant crowd can push the boundaries of what is respectful and what is simply passionate support.
But, at this Australian Open, we saw something different. Some people in the crowd were next level feral. Cheering, jeering, yelling, and whistling when players are trying to serve isn't cool. It's not funny, it's not ok and it never has been.
We saw far too much boorish crowd behaviour during the tournament for my liking. Before next years edition, the tournament organisers need to commit to educating new spectators to the sport on what is acceptable and what isn't.
And if spectators won't do the right thing then throw them out of the venue EARLY IN THE TOURNAMENT. Don't wait until finals day and say there's nothing we can do about it. Set the appropriate standard early and the fans will follow.
2. The media coverage of this year's Australian Open was horrendous.
The coverage of this years Australian Open was absolutely diabolical in every sense of the word. That includes the TV presentation, the reporting in the traditional media, and the content produced for social media.
Firstly, let's talk about the Channel 9 coverage. I'll start with the good. Jim Courier......again. Thank goodness for Jim and his brilliant, after-match interviews. That's all I have.
The anchoring of the coverage on Channel 9 was abysmal. They are missing an actual broadcaster. A Bruce McAvany/Dennis Commetti type who can anchor the coverage of the product and command respect from the viewer and the athletes.
There are too many ex-players moonlighting as broadcasters who are incapable of doing the job. Sam Groth, Casey Dellacqua and Jelena Dokic are wonderful servants of Australian Tennis and have plenty to offer Tennis Australia in their retirements. But, broadcasters they are not.
Todd Woodbridge and Lleyton Hewitt are barely acceptable on a microphone. They should be doing special comments at best. Instead, they are calling some of the biggest matches played in sports history.
The final straw for me was when Channel 9 cut to a commercial break as Ash Barty was about to do her lap of honour around Rod Laver Arena. As an Australian Tennis fan, I had never seen that in my lifetime. I still haven't. Who made that boneheaded call?
Instead, when we came back from the commercial break they gave us Casey, Alicia Molik and some unknown anchorman drinking a beer with Ash and asking her a series of non-sensical, sycophantic, rubbish questions with zero substance.
Moving onto the rest of the media.
It felt to me like from the moment Novak Djokovic arrived in Australia that all the media was interested in was stirring up trouble where ever it could. Controversy fills column inches in newspapers and gets eyeballs on screens.
As a member of the media on a smaller scale, I do understand that principle.
The mainstream sports media has an important responsibility that comes with their privileged positions. When you are given access to some of the worlds biggest stars you have a responsibility to report fairly, accurately and respectfully.
The majority of the media failed miserably. The press conference questioning of players after matches was downright pathetic. After their doubles victory in the final, one international journalist asked Thanasi Kokkinakis if Nick touches his butt off the court.
Seriously, Do I need to go on?
One last point about the mainstream sports media.
Facebook and Twitter are not the friendliest of places and can be downright nasty at times. If you want to have a bad day, read any comments section of a news story posted to Facebook.
The sports media has known for a long time that controversy breeds comments and engagement on social media. Time after time the mainstream media pushed out social media posts focused on negatives. Clickbait.
How many posts did you see about the following topics over the last two weeks? Medvedev's outbursts, Kyrigos' run-in with the Croatian doubles pair, comments from Michael Venus about Nick and the Australian crowd.
I remember when there were daily hot shots packages put together by the broadcasters during the big tournaments. What happened to them and why aren't they posted to social media?
If I was giving the media coverage of this years Australian Open a score out of 10, I'd give it minus 50. It was the absolute worst I've ever seen and I'm sure the late Kerry Packer would be turning in his grave.
1. The Nick Kyrigos circus is Box Office
There is no doubt that Nick Kyrigos is one of the most talented Tennis players on the planet. There is also no doubt that Nick doesn't care about Tennis purists.
But, his doubles run at this Australian Open with his best friend Thanasi Kokkinakis captured the attention of the nation. Nick himself openly states that he is more interested in putting on a show for the crowd than winning.
He's not the first entertainer we've seen on tour. Back in the 1980s, entertaining Frenchman, Henri Leconte never reached his full potential. But his matches were always entertaining and he had quite the cult following.
Leconte reached the French Open Final in 1988, won a Davis Cup with France in 1991, and always put bums on seats. Gael Monfils is another showman that has an abundance of unfulfilled talent. He seeks to entertain and brings in the crowds wherever he plays.
But, the Nick Kyrigos show is something different. Something we've never seen before. His borderline disdain for traditional Tennis gives many pundits the impression that Nick simply doesn't like Tennis.
Well, those pundits are close. Nick doesn't like their version of Tennis. He has his own vision and plays the game his way, rightly or wrongly.
Whether you like Nick or hate him, his matches are must-watch events. Like the proverbial train wreck, when Kyrigos is on the court you know you shouldn't watch but how could you possibly not?
Kyrigos and Kokkinakis packed the stands in every one of their doubles matches. Many were no doubt hoping to see Nick fail, but the vast majority were just enjoying the show.
The number one thing I've learned from this year's Australian Open is that Tennis is better for having Nick Kyrigos involved. He might even be the industries biggest commodity.
The sooner those in charge of marketing the sport realise it's not just those holding trophies that people come to see, the faster the game will grow.