Australian Open 2014: Biggest Takeaways from This Year's Tournament

Steven CookFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 27, 2014

Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland celebrates a point won against Rafael Nadal of Spain in the men's singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014.  (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
Aaron Favila/Associated Press

The first Grand Slam of 2014 is in the books, and this year's installment of the Australian Open left us with plenty of takeaways to consider heading into the season. 

Whether it was greats falling early on in the tournament or unlikely players emerging as contenders or even champions, the event wasn't short on excitement. Stanislas Wawrinka and Li Na took home the championship hardware, but that is far from the only thing you can learn from the action in Melbourne.

Here is a look at the biggest takeaways from the 2014 Australian Open.


New Phenom Wawrinka Worth Keeping Eye On

Rick Rycroft/Associated Press

Winning a Grand Slam event in men's tennis is so rare for anyone outside of the "Top Four" that Wawrinka's win pretty much came out of nowhere. 

The question now is whether he will stick around at the top long enough to shift the dynamic of the sport.

Even making it to the semifinal of a men's tennis Grand Slam is a rare occurrence, as Wawrinka knows from making it to just his second one in the 2014 Australian Open. Competing like he did at Wimbledon and the French Open—where he hasn't advanced past the quarterfinal round in either—will be much tougher than his road in Melbourne.

But the way that the Swiss star shined in Australia can't be ignored. Him getting to the final alone was worth noting, but beating Rafael Nadal was just a sheer display of talent and skill that could make him a force in Grand Slam events down the road.

He certainly hasn't earned his spot in the elite of tennis just yet, but Wawrinka could do so with a big closing out of 2014. 


Serena's Loss Shouldn't Be Exaggerated

Aaron Favila/Associated Press

Don't get me wrong, Serena Williams' loss in the fourth round to Ana Ivanovic was bad, but fans can't get too worked up about her bowing out early in the year's first Grand Slam.

After all, much of her company in the argument of world's best female tennis players faltered as well in Melbourne.

Third-seeded Maria Sharapova—another tennis giant who was expected to threaten for the title—was also bounced in the fourth round. No. 5 seed Agnieszka Radwanska was eliminated in the semis. Two-time defending Australian Open champ Victoria Azarenka was ousted in the quarterfinals.

As the top seed, Williams should have been able to make it far past the fourth round. But when you look across the landscape of the women's bracket, it's apparent that it wasn't a tournament for the favorites on the women's side.  

Williams will take the brunt of the blame as the No. 1 seed and the face of women's tennis for being bounced early. But she wasn't the only one who failed to meet expectations.


Men's Grand Slams No Longer a Four-Man Race 

Rick Rycroft/Associated Press

Since 2009, no player named anything other than Roger Federer, Nadal, Andy Murray or Novak Djokovic had won a Grand Slam. 

Until now.

Wawrinka's epic four-set thriller victory over Nadal in the men's final broke that streak, as he joined Juan Martin del Potro as the only player not in the Top Four to win a Grand Slam singles title since the middle of 2005. 

Perhaps the most impressive part of Wawrinka's feat is how well Nadal had been playing heading into the match. After winning two of the four Grand Slams in 2013, the Spaniard tore through the field at Melbourne and looked sure to clean up his Swiss opponent. 

But Wawrinka had other plans, leading Nadal virtually the entire match and not letting up despite the Spaniard's best efforts.