After a year’s worth of staid apparel from clothing sponsor H&M, Berdych opted for a different extreme Down Under: a striped shirt that looked like a soccer jersey. Like Lionel Messi, this look is tough to defend, but after a few viewings, I got the sense that people thought it was so ugly that it was cool. Perhaps Berdych was simply trying to have an answer to Davis Cup teammate Radek Stepanek’s garish garb.
The eighth-seeded Swiss reached the fourth round despite winning just four completed sets, benefiting from both a retirement-aided win over Andrey Golubev in round one and a third-round walkover of Vasek Pospisil. In the marathons that are majors, players need to take advantage of any breaks that come their way. Wawrinka did just that, beating Novak Djokovic, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 9-7, in a four-hour quarterfinal thriller.
With local fans looking for a new face to support, Krygios was in the right place at the right time. But the 18-year-old also had the right stuff on court. He started with an impressive victory over veteran Benjamin Becker, then transformed Margaret Court Arena into a rock venue with his charisma and shot-making. Benoit Paire let Kygios tire himself out in five sets, but by match’s end, it wasn’t just Aussies who had fallen in love with this rookie.
On crutches just days before the tournament began, it looked like Simon would say he couldn’t play. He promptly went out and defeated Daniel Brands by the mouthful score of 6-7, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 16-14. For an encore, Simon won another five-set match against Marin Cilic, easily the most dangerous unseeded player in the draw. You’d never know it by looking at him, but the slightly built Frenchman has a taste for the battle.
The Argentine got a taste of his own medicine—and it made him sick to his stomach. Not literally, as some players were in the oppressive first-week heat, but there were looks of disbelief from del Potro as he watched returns fly by him and forehands that conjured thoughts of his own signature shot. A trendy title pick, del Potro didn’t play horribly, but he couldn’t match Bautista Agut’s level in a five-set, second-round shocker.
The 21-year-old stole the early spotlight in Australia, but for all the wrong reasons. Days before the tournament, Tomic was routed in the Sydney final, 6-3, 6-1. Then he managed just four more games in Melbourne, pulling out of his night match with Rafael Nadal after just one set with a groin injury. Since then, the spotlight has mercifully shifted to other Aussie talents, both young (Thanasi Kokkinakis) and old (Patrick Rafter).
Biggest Bust: Petra Kvitova
The American’s out-there outfits are nothing new; she once wore a dress made of tennis balls to a Wimbledon player party. Her latest transgression is the purple mop on her head. Let’s just hope that Wimbledon, the purple-and-green major, applies its all-white rule to follicles. In Oz, it was seen just once, as Mattek-Sands lost her opener to Maria Sharapova (who probably wouldn’t dye her hair purple even if it meant she’d beat Serena Williams).
Fresh off winning the WTA Newcomer of the Year award, Bouchard quickly quashed thoughts of a sophomore slump. She won her first five matches—three of them in straight sets—to reach the semifinals of a major for the first time. With a cherry demeanor and a game that should elevate her into the Top 20, it’s no wonder some fans enlisted in the “Genie Army,” a vocal presence at her matches. Get on this 19-year-old’s bandwagon while there’s still room.
A finalist at the 2008 tournament, Ivanovic’s former form resurfaced in the No. 14 seed’s third-round match win over Sam Stosur and fourth-round stunner over Serena Williams. Ivanovic was unable to carry that momentum into the second week: After winning the first set of her quarterfinal match against Eugenie Bouchard, she was unable to overcome a leg injury that clearly hampered her efforts in a 5-7, 7-5, 6-2 defeat.
The Australian Open has been anything but the Happy Slam for Kvitova, who two years ago looked poised to claim the No. 1 ranking Down Under. She failed to do so, and in subsequent years has failed to reach even the third round. This time, the mercurial Czech showed off her inconsistent worst in a 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 first-round flameout to Luksika Kumkhum, the world No. 88 who was playing in just her second Grand Slam tournament.
The longest-lasting Australian in either singles tournament was one of the least expected to advance. Ranked No. 120, Dellacqua made the most of her wild card, beating former WTA No. 2 Vera Zvonareva, 18th-seeded Kirsten Flipkens and the tenacious Zheng Jie—all in straight sets—before succumbing to Eugenie Bouchard in the fourth round. “I didn’t know if I’d ever be back in the fourth round of an Australian Open, or any Grand Slam,” Dellacqua said.
With the shot-making on display, you could be forgiven for thinking that Sharapova and Knapp played in ideal conditions. But a glance at the thermometer and the players’ faces said otherwise: It was nearing 111 degrees. This match was best enjoyed on television, for the only thing that exceeded the temperature was the drama. In the end, Sharapova refused to go down, winning the third set 10-8.