Australian Open 2017: Winners and Losers from Melbourne
The 2017 Australian Open will go down as one of the most historic, entertaining and nostalgic Grand Slams ever.
Serena Williams won her 23rd Grand Slam title, a record for the open era; Roger Federer won an 18th, breaking his own record for most Slams won by a man; and Venus Williams and Rafael Nadal made valiant comebacks after recent struggles.
Improbable matchups of Williams vs. Williams and Federer vs. Nadal in the finals developed into a magical weekend in Melbourne, Australia.
"I'd like to congratulate Rafa on an amazing comeback. I don't think either of us believed we'd be in the final of the Australian Open when we were at your academy four or five months ago. But here [we] stand," Federer told the crowd at Rod Laver Arena during the trophy ceremony.
But enough about the winners. Not everyone left Australia with their head held high.
Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Angelique Kerber all suffered shocking defeats to unseeded players.
Those three were the toast of tennis going into the tournament. Kerber and Djokovic were defending champions. Murray and Kerber were the new reigning No. 1 players.
The expected showdowns for the No. 1 ranking never materialized. Instead, fans were treated to a legends ball of sorts, as Serena and Venus, Federer and Nadal played in finals.
They are more than just legends, they hold the top two spots for most Grand Slams won among active players. The four biggest names in tennis, they represent the best of the game's past and present.
All four are winners. So who are the losers? The following are the biggest winners and losers at this year's Australian Open.
Winner: 'Big Babe Tennis'
With the courts in Melbourne playing a bit faster, it was all about what Mary Carillo calls "Big Babe Tennis." Carillo coined that phrase five years ago, when Maria Sharapova, 6'2", and Petra Kvitova, 6'0", were at the top of their games.
Recently, smaller players like Dominika Cibulkova, 5'3", and Simona Halep, 5'6", had begun to challenge the big babes. Even Kerber is only 5'8", tall for the average woman but on the shorter side in tennis.
CoCo Vandeweghe, Karolina Pliskova, Serena and Venus Williams, Johanna Konta, Garbine Muguruza, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova were the quarterfinalists.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average height of an American woman is about 5'4". In the quarterfinals, Serena and Pavlyuchenkova were the shorties, at 5'9" and 5'10", respectively. Lucic-Baroni and Konta are both 5'11", Vandeweghe, Muguruza, Pliskova and Venus are all 6'0" or taller.
Losers: Young Guns
As Federer, Nadal, Murray and Djokovic age, questions about the next generation crop up. The likes of Alexander Zverev, Nick Kyrgios, Borna Coric, Lucas Pouille and Dominic Thiem have been mentioned among young players most likely to win a major.
The ATP World Tour calls them young guns, as they're all under 25.
But this time, it was the old guard, including wild card Denis Istomin, that ruled at the Australian Open. Grigor Dimitrov, who turns 26 in May, reached the semifinals and pushed Nadal to a fifth set.
However, Coric and Pouille were gone in the first round. Kyrgios squandered a two-set lead and lost in the second round. Zverev and Jack Sock went out in the third round, and Theim reached the fourth.
None of the young guns made it to the quarterfinals.
If these players don't make a move quick, they might not be considered young when the old guard retires.
Loser: Novak Djokovic
Since winning the 2016 French Open, Novak Djokovic has experienced somewhat of a slump. It continued with a second-round loss to Istomin.
Is it time to panic? Maybe. CNN's Ravi Ubha reported that fans in Serbia are worried.
"The concern is huge. Novak is kind of a Superman in Serbia. And Superman never loses," Vojin Velickovic, tennis editor of Serbian sports daily Sportski zurnal, said in an interview with CNN.
Winners: Wilson and Nike
Three of the four finalists in men's and women's singles used Wilson racquets and all four finalists wore some form of Nike apparel.
Serena, Venus and Federer are all long-time Wilson users. Nadal uses Babolat. Serena was using the new SW104 Blade racquet.
Serena, Federer and Nadal are among Nike Court's top players. Although Venus wears EleVen, her own clothing line, she wears Nike shoes.
Wilson created 23 limited-edition gold commemorative tennis racquets to celebrate Serena's accomplishment. Each of the racquets is signed by Williams. Priced at over $723 each, representing Serena's seven Aussie Open titles and 23 Slams, they sold out. All proceeds from the sale of the racquets will go to The Serena Williams Fund.
A special pair of Nike shoes with the No. 23 from legendary NBA star Michael Jordan were presented to Serena on the air during a post-match interview on ESPN.
Losers: The New No. 1s
Andy Murray retains the No. 1 ranking, but he missed out on a chance to win his first Australian Open and to solidify his claim to being the best player in tennis.
It wasn't just that Murray lost, but he crashed out to Mischa Zverev, a talented player but certainly no world-beater.
It wasn't even a five-setter. Zverev blew past Murray, taking the last two sets 6-2, 6-4. That's not the way the top player is supposed to bow out. Now, especially after the classic from Federer and Nadal, Murray sinks back into the odd man in that Big Four. Wawrinka, who has as many Slam titles, performed far better.
Kerber's loss to Vandeweghe in the third round, didn't end her stay at No. 1. It took Serena winning the tournament for that to happen. Still, losing early helps give Serena a 665-point lead.
Even with an abbreviated schedule, Serena could stay ahead of Kerber, who has semifinal points to defend in Miami, Charleston and the Rogers Cup. She has runner-up points to defend at Wimbledon and Cincinnati. Kerber won the U.S. Open and Stuttgart.
Winner: Venus Williams
Everyone expected Serena in the final, but Venus' runner-up run was a surprise. The last time Venus was in a final was in Wimbledon 2009, when she lost to Serena.
Venus became the oldest woman to ever reach the final of the Australian Open. Martina Navratilova (who was 37 at the time) is the oldest woman to reach a Grand Slam final and Serena, 35, is the oldest to win a Grand Slam final.
After being diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome in 2011, Venus adjusted her diet and was able to manage her symptoms. She moves up from No. 18 to No. 11.
Loser/Winner: Rafael Nadal
Yes, Nadal is a winner for even reaching the final and for the class he showed in his post-match speech. But he's also among the losers for the way he let the match slip away.
Unlike Venus, who hardly stood a chance against Serena, Nadal had the title on his racquet. He was up a break in the fifth set and serving to go up 4-2. He seemed to be cruising to a 15th Grand Slam title when he lost momentum and the match.
Of course, Federer stepped up his game. But Nadal left the door open, and that will probably haunt him for some time.
Winner: Serena Williams
Serena knew she was playing for No. 23, but she was unclear about No. 1. When she was told that she had regained the No. 1 ranking, she was genuinely surprised. Now she leads Kerber by a tournament's worth of points. More importantly, she is one Slam ahead of Steffi Graf.
In a post-match interview, Serena claimed to not be focusing on Margaret Court's 24, the record for most Grand Slams won by a male or female. But with three more Slams this year, you can bet that number is on her radar.
Winner: Roger Federer
Serena's win is more historic, but Federer's victory is more unexpected and impressive.
Before the tournament began, Federer's comeback from injury was treated with cautious optimism. Most fans hoped he would compete well and not crash out early.
He entered the tournament seeded at No. 17, so his path was difficult. He faced Tomas Berdych in the third round and No. 5 Kei Nishikori in the fourth round. He finished off compatriot and 2014 Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka in five sets in the semifinals.
It seemed Nadal might get the best of Federer again. But down a break in the fifth set, Federer dug deep and pulled off perhaps the biggest win of his career. It was a brilliant display of courage and determination.