Early on in the tournament, it looked like the seeds would be largely untroubled, with only three men and six women losing their opening rounds, almost half of the total upset at the first stage last year. But little did we know of what lay ahead.
Nobody could have predicted the early demise of both Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray in the first week of the tournament, but that’s exactly what transpired. The reigning Australian Open champion lost his second round encounter with Uzbek journeyman Denis Istomin in five pulsating sets while the freshly-crowned world No.1 went down to renaissance man Mischa Zverev in four.
We’re also not discounting surprise semifinalist CoCo Vandeweghe upsetting women’s No.1 AND reigning champion Angelique Kerber. The American’s impressive run also included a win over No.7 seed Garbine Muguruza – in fact, she only lost a total of nine games in mowing them both down.
However, considering the evidence presented, we are going to hand it to Denis. The 30-year-old was first out of the gate among the big-name upsets, he was the lowest ranked, and he defeated a man with an impeccable Grand Slam record.
Where to even begin? There was so much to love at this year’s Australian Open. From the return of Venus and a Williams sisters final, to the dream of Roger and Rafa. It’s all really been ‘pinch yourself’ stuff from woe to go. But one player stands out, and that’s Mirjana Lucic-Baroni.
Her story of redemption is nothing short of incredible, as she bookended her wins in Melbourne with a 19-year gap. The 34-year-old Croatian then won our hearts as she rose on a tide of momentum to reach her first major semifinal. “One day I will say a long, big story about things that have happened to me,” she said. “But I could never have dreamt I would be here again.”
Special mention to Mischa Zverev. The German made a legion of friends with his old school skills on the court and disarming sincerity off it. Coming from relative obscurity and the verge of retirement to topple the world No.1 in Melbourne? A big thumbs-up from us.
Best performed siblings
We can’t go past Venus and Serena, but while we’re on the topic of Mischa, let’s not forget younger brother and fast-rising star Sascha, who very nearly ousted Nadal in a third round five-set marathon at Rod Laver Arena. Meanwhile, Karolina Pliskova came in as a firm favourite for the title but only made it as far as the quarterfinals, while twin sister Kristyna equaled her best ever result at a major, making the third round.
Best on-court speech
It’s probably the first time that a single player has been recognised twice in the AO Awards, but Mirjana Lucic-Baroni gets the nod again. After first suggesting her thoughts might be a little too risqué for television, she was pressed, so she just went for it. “F... everything and everybody, whoever tells you that you can’t do it. Just show up and do it with your heart.” FTW.
We have no hesitation in handing it to Venus Williams and that dance.
Best racquet smash
There’s two clear contenders here – and both have a keen sense of occasion. For pure intent however, Stan gets the nod, with his nonchalant ‘snap-across-the-knee’ against Roger Federer in their semifinal. No mess. No fuss. The other? Serena’s little racquet slap in the final resulted in a clean break, right across the throat. Yikes.
Best performing local
We can’t split Dylan Alcott and John Peers here. The dual Rio gold medalist won his third Australian Open title in a row in the quad wheelchair event while Peers claimed his maiden Grand Slam title, beating the Bryan brothers in the men’s doubles final. First class both.
Shot of the tournament
Not Monfils. Not Kyrgios. Not even Aga's tweener, but this.
Pat. Please. It’s time. Someone, buy the man a tie. Refer to picture at top of the page
For sheer weight of numbers, we may have to pat ourselves on the shoulder ourselves here. Five million impressions and counting. Clearly, we humbly accept our own award on behalf of Roger and Rafa.
When all is said it done, we’ll just give one last award to the universe, or collective consciousness, or maybe to all us; the fans, the players, everyone. We’re just not sure it’s possible to single anyone out for delivering these two unbelievable finals. Or if we should even try. Thank you!