The Betway ambassador hails the Australian Open champions’ hard work behind the scenes and pays tribute to Daniil Medvedev after another epic final.
It’s very rare that the best player on the first Monday of a Slam is the best player on the final Sunday. Normally you survive and work your way in, but both Jannik Sinner and Aryna Sabalenka were the stand-out players from start to finish in Australia.
Sinner has earned it the hard way
Sinner was the second name on most people’s lips when talking about favourites for the event behind Novak Djokovic. I join the rest of the tennis world in celebrating his success because you feel like he’s really earned it piece by piece. I appreciate how everything has gotten a little bit better every year.
He was a little too skinny and would get bullied around sometimes, so he built up his body where he can play five sets without looking winded. His serve has gotten 3-4 per cent better each season and his defensive ability is amazing now. He’s also one of the few guys that has knock-out power on both sides – he can take you out on the forehand or the backhand.
It feels like he’s been a professional since he was 18 years old. You never see him whimper and you never see him complain. Credit to his team and Coach Cahill, and also to him for committing to the process because he’s lost some heartbreakers in Slams but you wouldn’t know it by the way he goes about his business.
He showed such awareness of the match scenario in his first major final, knowing that Daniil Medvedev had played so many hours of tennis and that one body can only take so much. He looked so composed in the third set even though he had been blown out of the first two. It was very impressive.
Sabalenka most consistent player on the planet
The same goes for Sabalenka. You love to see progression and hard work being rewarded. The most impressive thing is that 15 months ago she was dealing with the serving yips and there were questions about her mentality and faith in her own game.
The physical attributes have been there from the word go, so credit to her for working through those issues, because this was comprehensive. I hope it’s as gratifying to her as everyone else feels it should be.
She’s now made the semis or better in the last six majors, and I don’t know that any of us dummies would have looked at her two years ago and said that she was going to be the most consistent player on Earth. She has every right to think that she’s the best player in the world right now.
I also thought Qinwen Zheng was great. A lot of seeds fell early on her side of the draw, but there’s a certain pressure that comes with knowing from the round of 16 that you have a real opportunity of making a Grand Slam final. To win six matches and make that a reality is impressive in itself.
Her life is going to change now. Making a final and being from the Chinese market means there’s going to be a lot of eyeballs on her moving forward, but she certainly passes the eye test.
Medvedev is a Hall of Famer
We’re rightfully celebrating Sinner, but Medvedev is a badass. He has nothing to hang his head about and left everything in Melbourne.It doesn’t really matter how great your fitness level is – that cumulative effect of time on court is eventually going to add up.
His superpower is playing extended rallies and asking the question over and over: ‘Can you punch me out over time?’ He plays the most effective version of tennis that he’s capable of and it has gotten some amazing results.
This is his sixth major final now and I don’t feel like we give him enough credit. I’ve never left a final watching Medvedev and thought he’s blown it or given it away. He makes someone earn it every single time. He’s played Rafa twice, Novak twice and an in-form Sinner. It’s just the way it goes. I lost four finals and won one. Sometimes you just come up against someone better on the day.
We’re acting like this one’s going to be the thing that breaks him, but he’s done it before and has come back extraordinarily. I’m not worried about him showing up and being at the business end of every hardcourt Slam over the next couple of years and, personally, I’d love to see him win another one. He has beaten all the best players on the biggest stages and is no doubt a Hall of Famer in his own right.
Who can bounce back?
It’s always interesting to look at the players that didn’t have the results they wanted in Australia and see how they react.
Carlos Alcaraz has created this outlandish shadow of brilliance early in his career, but his camp would say that he was very ordinary in his quarter-final defeat to Alex Zverev.
Holger Rune came in as eighth seed but got knocked out in the second round. Jess Pegula is No.4 in the world but did the same. How will they rebound?
Indian Wells and the Miami Open tend to be a pretty good marker for who is going to play well and dominate for the rest of the year, so there’s plenty to look forward to.
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