Australian Open 2016: Winners and Losers from Melbourne
The 2016 Australian Open is in the books. In the future, when people look back on the two weeks that were, who will they remember as the biggest winners and losers?
Angelique Kerber qualifies as one of the biggest winners. Her amazing run cumulated with an upset over Serena Williams.
Novak Djokovic is the winningest of the winners. He defeated Andy Murray to win a record-tying sixth Australian Open title and his 11th Grand Slam.
As for the losers, Rafael Nadal's first-round loss was a shocker. Other than that, the men's tournament went pretty close to the draw. Top-ranked Djokovic faced No. 2 Murray in the finals. Third-ranked Roger Federer made it to the semis, and fourth-ranked Stan Wawrinka reached the fourth round.
Meanwhile, 12 of the top 20 seeded women were gone by the third round. Three top-10 players lost in the first round.
By the time Djokovic finished his victory speech, more than 250 men and women had left the courts in Melbourne. But that doesn't necessarily make them losers at Australian Open.
Shuai Zhang was contemplating retirement before she went on a run from qualifying to the quarterfinals. She'll move up 69 spots in the WTA Tour rankings. She won seven matches in Melbourne, the same as Djokovic and Kerber. That certainly makes Zhang a winner.
Who joins her on the list? The following are the winners and losers from the 2016 Australian Open.
Winner: Angelique Kerber and Also-Rans
Kerber's win gives hope to all those solid players who gut it out every year and keep coming up short. That list includes Jelena Jankovic, David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. These are players who possess Grand Slam champion talent but keep coming up short.
As Serena Williams told reporters in her post-match press conference: "She's been around a really long time. ... She played so well today. She had an attitude that I think a lot of people can learn from: just to always stay positive and to never give up."
After the match, Kerber told Tennis.com's Steve Tignor: “I was going out there trying not to think too much that it’s a Grand Slam final. I was going out there and going, ‘OK, I can beat her, I beat her once.' If you’re just hoping, you can’t win against her...I was just trying to play my tennis."
She did just that. Steady and determined, Kerber is now and forever a Grand Slam champion.
Loser: Serena Williams
For any other player, reaching the final of the Australian Open without any match-play preparation in months would be a monumental accomplishment.
But not for a woman who is playing for history and legacy. Williams certainly achieved many objectives, including solidifying her spot at No. 1. But to be in position to make history for a second consecutive Grand Slam, only to allow nerves to get the better of her, has got to sting.
Williams spoke with reporters about the high expectations: "I mean, it's interesting. I mean, every time I walk in this room, everyone expects me to win every single match, every single day of my life. As much as I would like to be a robot, I'm not. I try to."
Losers: The French
The French always have a deep field of excellent players, but for all their success in Davis Cup and in other tournaments, they had a poor showing in Melbourne.
France had 13 men in the singles main draw. This did not include French No. 1 Richard Gasquet, who withdrew from the tournament before it started.
Former Australian Open finalist and French No. 2 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was clobbered by Kei Nishikori in the fourth round. Promising No. 17 seed Benoit Paire lost in the first round to Noah Rubin. Jeremy Chardy, seeded No. 30, bowed out in the second. Adrian Mannarino, was knocked out in the first.
The best performance came from Gael Monfils, who lost to a red-hot Milos Raonic in the quarterfinals.
Winners: The British
Great Britain is not known as a tennis power. European neighbors France, Spain and even Switzerland have produced bigger tennis stars.
But maybe that's changing. Murray reached the finals. Johanna Konta became the first British woman to reach a Grand Slam semifinal since Jo Durie in 1983. Murray's brother Jamie won the men's doubles title with his Brazilian partner Bruno Soares.
Gordan Reid, of Great Britain, won the men's wheelchair title. It was an impressive showing just months after Great Britain won its first Davis Cup since 1936.
Winner: Shuai Zhang
Like Kerber, Zhang has been around a long time, fighting and plugging away at tennis.
Zhang is a winner not just because she reached the quarterfinals but because she won us over with her tenacity, fist pumps and, of course, her family.
A journeyman in the sport, Zhang considered retiring this year. She reached a career-high No. 30 but had fallen to No. 200 and was ranked No. 133 entering the tournament. She had a horrific record in Grand Slams: losing eight times in the first round and six times in qualifiers.
Zhang told the Daily Mail: "The last few months I'm already 200, my ranking, so it was very tough. I was feeling very sad every day, I almost retired."
Facing the end of her career, she invited her parents to Australia. Her father had never seen her play in a Grand Slam.
Her coach had tears in his eyes after Zhang upset Simona Halep in the first round. Her coach and parents huddled and jumped for joy after every victory.
Zhang played fearless tennis with child-like enthusiasm. Even bigger winners than Zhang? Tennis fans who got to watch.
Loser: Daria Gavrilova
Like Zhang, Daria Gavrilova had a Cinderella run at the Australian Open. However, her fourth-round meltdown had to be the worst display of bad sportsmanship at this year's Australian Open.
When she was winning, Gavrilova was smiling, laughing and engaging. After losing the first-set 6-0 against Carla Suarez Navarro, Gavrilova began pouting and even sulking. She threw her racket and acted like a brat.
Although she acts and looks like a teenager, Gavrilova turns 22 in March. She's is nearly four years older than Belinda Bencic, who handled her tough defeat to Maria Sharapova with so much class. Gavrilova is also a year older than compatriot Nick Krygios, who is known for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Later, apparently aware of the backlash, Gavrilova tweeted: "I was a spoiled brat out there...Emotionally fried...sorry about my bad behavior."
Winners: Young Aussies
Australian fans said farewell to Lleyton Hewitt at this year's tournament. He leaves the game with the knowledge there's a wealth of talent in the Australian tennis pool.
Kyrgios reached the third round, where he had a good showing against Tomas Berdych. Australia's top player, Bernard Tomic, made it to the fourth round, where he lost to Andy Murray.
On the women's side, Gavrilova's march to the fourth round excited local fans. Gavrilova and Kyrgios teamed up to win the Hopman Cup earlier this year.
Surprise British sensation Konta was born in Sydney. All under 25, these young players gave Australians plenty to cheer about.
Losers: Young Americans
Every year, Americans hope some young talent will rise up and help re-establish the U.S. as a tennis power.
Serena and Venus Williams and John Isner are the only Americans ranked in the Top 20. They are all in their 30s.
So, it was disappointing to see the most promising young Americans, Sloane Stephens and Jack Sock, exit early. Stephens lost in the first round, and Sock, seeded No. 25, went out in the second.
Ryan Harrison also lost in the first round. The once promising American has gone from hopeful to doubtful. Fellow American Madison Brengle took out Coco Vandeweghe in the first round. Samantha Crawford reached the semifinals in Brisbane but lost her first-round match in straight sets.
Winner: Milos Raonic
Canadians can be proud of young Raonic.
Although Raonic suffered a heartbreaking loss to Murray in the semifinals, the young Canadian proved he could be a serious contender in Grand Slams to come.
Raonic executed his game plan well. He went up two sets to one before an injury and Murray's experience caught up with him.
Hopefully, Raonic can stay healthy. Much respect for the sleeve.
Loser: Rafael Nadal
Second only to Serena Williams' shocking loss in the finals, Nadal's first-round exit had to be the biggest upset in the tournament. It was Nadal's first opening-round exit at the Australian Open.
His opponent, Fernando Verdasco, is a high-quality player, so losing to him wasn't the big shock. Nadal's inability to keep up with Verdasco provided the bigger surprise. Known for his stamina, the 14-time Slam winner looked too tired in the first round.
Winner: Novak Djokovic
Djokovic has won four of the last five Grand Slam titles.
He steamrolled 17-time Slam winner Roger Federer. He beat No. 2 Murray in straight sets. Djokovic is so efficient and dominant that some call him a machine. A well-oiled machine, he sent a message to the rest of the field: It's my world now; the rest of you are just spectators.
Loser: Andy Murray
Try as he might, Murray just can't break through. He's been runner-up at seven of his nine Grand Slam final appearances.
Losing to Djokovic is nothing to hang your head about. Djokovic ran through Federer, who is considered one of the greatest of all time. But Murray is only one week older than Djokovic. Another beating like this has to have Murray wondering if he'll ever get a crack at No. 1.