Australian Open 2020: Djokovic, Kenin and the best stories from Down Under


MELBOURNE, Australia — After 14 days of captivating tennis at Melbourne Park, Novak Djokovic and Sofia Kenin emerged as Australian Open singles champions for 2020.

Djokovic’s come-from-behind five-set win over Dominic Thiem in Sunday’s final gave him an unprecedented eighth Australian Open title. Kenin, the 21-year-old American, enjoyed a fairy-tale fortnight, defeating world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty and teen sensation Coco Gauff en route to her maiden Grand Slam singles title.

Here are some of the best stats from an action-packed tournament Down Under:

  • The women’s final between Kenin and Garbine Muguruza was the first Slam final in the Open era not to feature a top-10 seed.

  • At 21, Kenin became the youngest Australian Open champion since Maria Sharapova in 2008.

  • Djokovic was the first player in 11 years to come from two sets to one down in a Grand Slam final.

  • With Thiem falling to Djokovic, still no man born in the 1990s has won a major title.

And now, without further ado, here’s a look back at how the 2020 Australian Open unfolded:

Donation, donation, donation

With bushfires ravaging Australia, a tennis tournament was the last thing on everyone’s mind. However, that didn’t mean the tennis community wouldn’t unite and raise much-needed funds for those in need.

Before the Australian Open even began, a number of the game’s top players came together for what was dubbed the Rally for Relief. The tennis exhibition, staged at Rod Laver Arena, raised a staggering AU$4.8 million.

Australian star Nick Kyrgios, who was the catalyst in organizing the Rally for Relief, then pledged an AU$200 donation for every ace he hit across the summer of tennis.

Further creative donations came in thick and fast, in the end over AU$6 million was raised to help with bushfire recovery efforts.

READ MORE: John McEnroe donates AU$1,000 for every set Kyrgios wins at AO

The best part? The money which has been raised is already on the way to those in need, says Australia’s head of national bushfire recovery agency, Andrew Colvin.

“We are working very closely with the charitable industry to make sure the money gets to the communities in need,” Colvin told reporters at Melbourne Park. “For instance, tradesmen who have lost their tools are being provided with new tools so they can get back out and work straight away and support their families.”

Look out! Rafa rifles forehand at a ball girl

Without a doubt, one of the lighter moments of the 2020 Australian Open was seeing world No. 1 Rafael Nadal apologize for accidentally striking 13-year-old ball girl, Anita, with a scorching forehand.

The 2009 champion was cruising to a straight sets win over Argentina’s Federico Delbonis in his second-round match when he hit the shot that cannoned into the young girl’s head.

Nadal immediately raced over to check on her well-being and after he had received a thumbs-up, he planted an innocent kiss on her cheek, prompting the capacity crowd to roar with approval.

READ MORE: Nadal hits ball girl at Australian Open

After the match, Nadal tried his best to apologize once more.

“For her, probably it was not a good moment,” he said on court. “I was so scared for her, honestly. The ball was so quick and straight at her head.”

The following day, Nadal caught up with Anita and her family. The 19-time major champion also signed a hat saying, “To my friend Anita, all the best”.

A real freaky Friday in Australia

Day 5 of the Australian Open was as unpredictable as it was entertaining.

In the first singles match of the day in Melbourne Arena, 2018 champion Caroline Wozniacki was sent packing by little-known Tunisian Ons Jabeur. Just 90 minutes later and Serena Williams had been shown the exit, the 23-time Grand Slam champion falling to China’s Wang Qiang in three sets.

But that wasn’t the end of the drama. Later in the afternoon, reigning champion Naomi Osaka fell to 15-year-old sensation Coco Gauff. “Was this real life?” the young American asked. We know, Coco, we’re not sure what was going on either!

The freakiness extended into the men’s draw with Milos Raonic upsetting Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets before Aussie battler John Millman gave Roger Federer an almighty scare on Rod Laver Arena.

Millman led Federer 8-4 in a fifth-set tiebreaker before the Swiss champion reeled off six straight points to win the match and cap off one of the most remarkable days of tennis in recent memory.

Coco and Rocket

After Gauff had defeated Osaka 6-3, 6-4 in the third round to become the youngest player in the Open era to eliminate the reigning Australian Open women’s champion, she had only one request.

“Oh my gosh I’m on Rod Laver Arena. I can’t believe this,” Gauff exclaimed in her on-court interview. “If [Laver] sees this, tell him we can set up a meet-up sometime. I need a selfie for Instagram.”

Laver, an 11-time major champion, is 81 years old and it didn’t take long for him to reach out to the young American on social media.

We think Coco was pretty chuffed to get the Australian legend’s attention, though we’re still waiting for that selfie.

Remembering Kobe Bryant

The tragic and sudden death of Kobe Bryant rocked the sporting world during the Open. Tributes flowed for the NBA legend, including at Melbourne Park on the second Monday of the tournament.

Bryant, who died at age 41, was friends with many tennis players and also wrote a book on tennis in 2019.

Naomi Osaka tweeted “I can’t.” along with a letter she addressed to Bryant, referring to him as her “big bro.”

READ MORE: Tennis community pays tribute to Bryant

Later in the day, an emotional Nick Kyrgios donned Bryant’s famous Los Angeles Lakers No. 8 jersey on his walk out to Rod Laver Arena ahead of his fourth-round match against Nadal. Kyrgios continued to wear the jersey for the coin toss and five-minute warm-up.

READ MORE: Kyrgios wears Bryant jersey for AO warm-up

A special tribute to Bryant was also made at a local NBL (National Basketball League) game, held at Melbourne Arena a few days later. Before the game began, the crowd took part in 24 seconds of applause. Bryant had also worn number 24 during his NBA career.

Smoke, haze, rain, heat and … more rain

As always in Melbourne during January, you have to keep one eye on the tennis and the other on the temperature gauge.

The tournament began in hazy conditions, but it didn’t take long for it to be washed away when a massive downpour hit Melbourne Park on Day 1.

We then saw cooler than usual conditions for the majority of the tournament before the mercury reached a sweltering 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43.5 degrees Celsius) on Day 12.

But in typical scenes for Melbourne, just 24 hours later the temperature had been halved and rain was once again falling for finals weekend. Melbourne really does offer four seasons in one day.

New Nick and awesome Ash

The 42-year drought between homegrown Australian Open singles champions might still remain, but local stars Kyrgios and Barty won millions of admirers Down Under this past fortnight.

As mentioned, Kyrgios, the world No. 26, inspired dozens of other professional players to make donations towards the bushfire appeal, but it was his gritty performances against 16th seed Karen Khachanov in the third round and Nadal in the fourth round that showed why many have been tipping him to soon breakthrough for a major title.

READ MORE: Kyrgios overcome injury, Khachanov in four hour marathon

Meanwhile, world No. 1 Barty excited Australians with a glorious run to the semifinals at Melbourne Park — the first homegrown player to reach the final four at the Australian Open since Lleyton Hewitt in 2005.

The 23-year-old and reigning French Open champion fell to eventual champion Kenin in the semis, but what a memorable run it was.

READ MORE: Barty has a wonderful sense of perspective after AO loss

Congratulations, Novak and Sofia

But when it was all said and done, there was no doubt who owned the two weeks in Melbourne: Djokovic and Kenin.

Until the French Open …

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