By Miguel Guerra
Every grand slam is a fantastic grand slam. Usually, it ends with Nole, Nadal or Roger (RIP) winning the men’s draw and a teenager sensation winning the women’s draw, but what really matter is the pathing, it’s the R2 matches, the epic semifinals or the weird upsets that make a slam tournament simply the best sight in sports history tied with the football world cup (Very biased opinion).
In 2022, it felt like we lived seven tournaments in one: the Australian Open.
I should begin by saying that, as we know, the Aussie swing is terrible for most of us. The time zone is insane. At the Australian Open, early round matches began at 9 PM (great!) but blockbuster action on Rod Laver Arena started at 5 AM. If you spent the evening watching tennis, you don’t really have a reliable brain at 5 AM. I napped constantly through matches. I remember in 2021, I saw Djokovic going two sets up against Fritz. I napped and woke up to both playing a fifth set. It’s mental.
On the court (not in court), it was grand slam tennis. Superb.
It wasn’t quite like the U.S. Open, with a qualifier winning the women’s draw, but it had some big upsets.
From Raducanu winning a top-ten worst match I’ve ever seen against Stephens then losing in the second round to Kovinić using 90% forehand slices because of a nasty blister to Osaka and Auger-Aliassime losing after match points up, a Mannarino resurgence, #21 and a famous deportation, the two weeks felt like six months…
But nothing, in my honest opinion, trumps the men’s doubles.
Ok, the men’s singles final was pretty awesome. Glad my sleeping brain allowed me to watch full three sets and a half, buuuut, in the back of your mind, you could see Nadal winning #21. Why not? He’s that good.
You could see the Osaka upset. You could see Collins in a major final. You could see Medvedev choking a two set lead. I don’t think anyone saw Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis as grand slam champions.
You could also see Ash Barty winning without dropping a set, but that goes into the same category as the men’s doubles, with a little less disbelief.
A very deserving #1 with 113 weeks on the top spot of her sport, she was and is amazing. But better with the crowd.
Pressure is no privilege. Ask Djokovic as he attempted the calendar grand slam last year. But Barty didn’t feel it. Neither did Kyrgios/Kokkinakis, which are the focus of this commentary.
Let’s call them KokKyrgios for short. This isn’t much shorter is it? KyrNakis? ThaNick?
Firstly, I have no idea how they defeated the #1 team, Mektic/Pavic, gold medalists and the best team by far, in the 2nd round. Mainly because I didn’t watch it.
It was, like, in straight sets. They hit SEVENTEEN aces. I slept through it, because I never thought they would win it and you have to store energy in grand slams. Woke up to this amazing surprise.
If you watch the highlights, which don’t tell the whole story, the key of that match and for the whole tournament was: serving + Thanasi’s forehand + Kyrgios’ backhand.
If Kyrgios’ backhand has an awkward look to it, with a very short swing and flat strokes, it’s absolutely golden, especially on the return. The Croatian team was lost, constantly serving to that wing, with Kyrgios nailing spectacular returns. Since Mathew Willis tweeted how much better Kyrgios is returning on his backhand than on his forehand, I couldn’t unsee it. Spot on.
Kokkinakis’ forehand was absolutely popping. He had just won a title the previous week, in singles, but couldn’t handle the physique of his round one match, losing in straight sets. Nick had a good first round win in singles, but faced the world number two, Medvedev, in the second round. He even got a set! It’s safe to say that it was in this match that the pandemonium started, along with a grand slam dream. Nick played Daniil on Rod Laver Arena, the biggest of the Australian complex, to a rowdy crowd. Excited by Nick constantly, as he urged them to roar and yell every time he did something crazy, this atmosphere, despite not being able to distract Medvedev for long, would be a key to KokKyrgios’ doubles run.
As the commentator said before their third round match against Behar/Escobar: ‘’Welcome to the jungle, aka Kia Arena’’. The brand new stadium sponsored by Kia was the showroom for some comedic, and eventually awesome, tennis.
Kokkinakis the Serious, Kyrgios the Jester. With every single point followed by the ANNOYING and UNBEARABLE ‘’Siiiuuu’’ (I always thought it was “SIII,” I have no idea where this U came from), they defeated four seeded teams from the 2nd round to the semifinals. With NINETY FIVE aces in the campaign, they found an absolutely delightful groove. They played tennis, good tennis.
Hate the player, don’t hate the game. What Kyrgios is of a skillful player, he’s a prick. Pardon my Australian. He’s got quite an unflattering history, from randomly and audibly bringing up Donna Vekic in an R-rated context while playing Stan Wawrinka to throwing a chair on court. And he was not immune to annoying antics this tournament. He complained to umpires, threw rackets and, the cherry on the pie, exposed locker room heat with another team coach and went after one of his opponents in the final, all on social media.
Petty, small, egocentric. If his focus on his ego would go to his tennis…
Regarding his tennis, I’ve never seen him serve so well. He managed to hit 38 aces in two singles matches, being in the top 20 of ace leaders this Australian Open. In doubles, if he wasn’t acing, he was making sure Thanasi had a sitter on the net, exactly how it happened on their championship point.
Thanasi, on the other hand, was not behind on the quality of his serving and hit some of the best forehands I’ve ever seen him hit, while smiling seemingly uncomfortably as Kyrgios did his bits. They took their chances and played break points and other decisive points super well. You didn’t see this coming, did you?
I knew that Tennis Twitter wouldn’t be ready for Nick Kyrgios as a grand slam champion. I totally get it. Especially since we talk so little about doubles. (We should change that.) But for me it was like a car crash I couldn’t look away from. One of those scenes you have to see to believe and when you’re actually seeing it you still can’t believe it, especially since Nick’s on court reaction was like ‘’What, like it’s hard?’’ Well, it was supposed to be!
The title didn’t seem to change Nick that much. He still posted some controversial things on Instagram, but that won’t change if he’s slam champion, or #300 in the world. Thanasi had his story crowned with this amazing comeback story, since struggling so much with injuries. A three year period of struggles reminding us of Juan Martín del Potro, who just this week announced a very likely retirement, which left us all in tears. Thanasi, though, is younger and seems to be on the right path of a safe return. A singles and a doubles title in three weeks is not bad at all!
Neither won alone. A perfect storm to crown a crazy grand slam.
Nadal, Barty, Krejcikova/Siniakova…. Kyrgios/Kokkinakis… Aussie Open champions. There’s no place like home.