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  • Dan Crouch

January: Sport month in review

The Big Bash in Adelaide on New Year's Eve was a brilliant closing chapter to sport in 2023, and the first month of 2024 was jam packed with highlights locally, nationally and internationally.

The Australian Open was the headlining event not just in Australia, but worldwide, as Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley declared it "the best ever".

Italy's Jannik Sinner and Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka were overwhelmingly popular singles champions. Sinner erased a 2-0 set deficit against Daniil Medvedev in the final to be crowned Italy's first ever men's Australian Open champion, and the first Italian man to win any grand slam since 1976. He also became just the fourth person since 2010 to defeat Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open.

Medvedev set a record for the most time spent on court during any Grand Slam, as he clocked up a whopping 24 hours and 17 minutes of match time. He played 31 sets, which was also a Grand Slam record, and fatigue was clearly a factor after playing in so many thrillers.

Sabalenka put together one of the most dominant Grand Slam performances ever seen, as she cruised through the tournament without dropping a single set. In fact, Coco Gauff in the semi final was Sabalenka's only opponent who was able to win more than three games in a set against the eventual champion. In her last Grand Slam before turning 26, the Belarusian's victory fulfilled a promise she made to her late father to win two Grand Slams before her 26th birthday.

The tournament also saw what seemed like an unprecedented amount of upsets from unseeded players, and young players making their mark on international tennis for the first time.

Alex De Minaur was the best of the Aussies in the singles, losing in five sets in the fourth round, but the Aussies saw plenty of success in the doubles. Storm Hunter made it all the way to the semi-final in the women's doubles, and in the men's Matt Ebden and Indian partner Rohan Bopanna were victorious. Bopanna was another feel good story at the tournament, as the almost-44-year-old claimed his first title and became the oldest first time world number 1 doubles player.

Cricket was the other sport making major waves throughout January, and it all kicked off with David Warner's farewell test match at the SCG. Warner retired after 112 tests, and he finished with a sensational 57 against Pakistan in front of his home crowd. Australia won the test match and wrapped up the series 3-0.

In the two-test series against the West Indies it was easy victory in the first test, but the match barely made it to a third day of play which left a sour taste in the mouths of Adelaide cricket fans.

In the second test at the Gabba it was an instant classic, as the West Indies held on to win by 8 runs for their first test victory in Australia since 1997.

Shamar Joseph emerged as a cult hero, taking 5 wickets on debut in the first innings in Adelaide, including the coveted wicket of Steve Smith with his first delivery in test cricket. He backed it up with a match-winning 7/68 in the final innings in Brisbane despite bowling with a limp from copping a Mitch Starc yorker on his big toe whilst batting.

The Big Bash season concluded with the Brisbane Heat dominating the in-form Adelaide Strikers in the semi final, and then crushing the Sydney Sixers in the final at the SCG. Spencer Johnson was named man of the match in the final, and Josh Brown burst on the scene and made himself known to cricket fans everywhere with a record breaking knock in the semi.

The Australian women's cricket team had a successful January, winning multi-format series against India and South Africa, and winning five of the seven contests they played in.

Tennis and cricket were the headlining acts, and the Socceroos were another national team doing the country proud as they finished the group stage of the Asian Cup in Qatar undefeated and on top of their group.

Domestic comps such as the NBL, A-League and ABL all continued and moved towards the business end of their seasons.


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