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Top five matches of the 2021 Australian Open

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Roar Rookie
4 days ago
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The Australian Open is done and dusted for another year.

Novak Djokovic extended his record to claim a ninth title at Melbourne Park, while Naomi Osaka won her second title at this tournament in three years. With that said, here are my picks for the top five matches in both the men’s and women’s singles draws.

Men’s singles

5. Stefanos Tsitsipas vs Thanasi Kokkinakis, second round
Tsitsipas def. Kokkinakis 6-7(5) 6-4 6-1 6-7(5) 6-4

Few players have been as unlucky with injuries as Thanasi Kokkinakis. He has not managed a full season since his breakout year in 2015 and has missed most of the past two seasons.

Tsitsipas had to fight hard for the win in a match that went for four hours and 32 minutes. It remains to be seen whether Kokkinakis can continue this injury-free run and get back into the top 100.

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4. Novak Djokovic vs Taylor Fritz, third round
Djokovic def. Fritz 7-6(1) 6-4 3-6 4-6 6-2

Held on the final night before Melbourne’s five-day lockdown, this match saw the crowd being forced to leave mid-way through the fourth set.

The start of Djokovic’s injury concerns stemmed from this match, and at one point, it looked that he might retire. The strong-serving Fritz gave the world No. 1 everything he had, appearing to overpower Novak in the third and fourth sets.

But as the crowd was ejected from the venue, the delay in play gave Djokovic enough time to draw enough energy needed to carry out the victory with a champion effort. It was his most valiant performance en route to the title.

Novak Djokovic plays a backhand

(Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

3. Dominic Thiem vs Nick Kyrgios, third round
Thiem def. Kyrgios 4-6 4-6 6-3 6-4 6-4

The crowd was firmly in Kyrgios’s corner for this one, and it certainly seemed that way after the Australian was up by two sets. Ever the entertainer, Kyrgios delighted the crowd with several aces, tweeners and underarm serves, the latter of which won him the second set.

Thiem scratched and clawed and hung in there, but momentum was clearly in his favour with a crucial break in the fifth set to lead 4-3. The world No. 3 would go on to win courtesy of a devastating backhander down the line.

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2. Stan Wawrinka vs Marton Fucsovics, second round
Fucsovics def. Wawrinka 7-5 6-1 4-6 2-6 7-6(11-9)

Every Australian Open, there’s always one player who proves themselves to be the marathon man; this year, it was Marton Fucsovics, who had spent almost eight and a half hours on court after this match.

The unseeded Hungarian triumphed over 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka in three hours and 59 minutes, which could have ended much sooner after Fucsovics won the first two sets.

But the veteran Swiss had other plans, ultimately sending the match to a decisive tiebreaker in the fifth set. Victory looked certain for Wawrinka, who had three match points, but some late unforced errors cost him the win.

1. Rafael Nadal vs Stefanos Tsitsipas, Quarter-finals
Tsitsipas def. Nadal 3-6 2-6 7-6(4) 6-4 7-5

This match had everything.

It looked certain that Rafael Nadal would move on to the semis after being up two sets to love, but then the weapons of Stefanos Tsitsipas made an appearance. A crucial break in the last set put the 22-year-old up 6-5 and a chance to serve out the set, which he put away, ending a match that went for just over four hours.

While ultimately Tsitsipas would fall to runner-up Daniil Medvedev in the semi-finals, he pushed the Spaniard all the way, clinching a comeback for the ages.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece

Stefanos Tsitsipas. (Photo by TPN/Getty Images)

Women’s singles

5. Simona Halep vs Ajla Tomljanovic, second round
Halep def. Tomljanovic 4-6 6-4 7-5

Few expected Ajla Tomljanovic to match it with Simona Halep for as long as she did, but the Australian delivered a far more consistent, disciplined performance which almost saw a great upset.

Despite Tomljanovic leading 5-2 in the deciding set, it was the No. 2 seed who would claim victory, as Halep powered through five straight games to secure a place in the third round.

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4. Jennifer Brady vs Karolina Muchova, Semi-finals
Brady def. Muchova 6-4 3-6 6-4

Karolina Muchova’s win over world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty in the quarter-finals guaranteed us a first-time grand slam finalist, so it remained to be seen which of these two would clinch victory.

If this were a list of the best single games of the tournament, this would hands-down be on the top of the list; Jennifer Brady’s service game which led to her winning the match featured five match points, but also three break points to Muchova during the deuce phase.

The two players battled back and forth for 12 minutes in a tense affair, and the only reason it isn’t higher on this list is for the number of unforced errors in that decisive game.

3. Aryna Sabalenka vs Serena Williams, fourth round
Williams def. Sabalenka 6-4 2-6 6-4

The best action from the women’s draw came in the fourth round, so it’s a shame that they were played behind closed doors. However, we got a triple threat of intense matches, all on the same side of the draw.

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First up was Sabalenka versus Williams, with the clash of styles between the two evident from the start. Both players brought a lot of power into their serves and shots in an all-out offensive display.

Serena may not have got her elusive 24th grand slam title, but she played and moved better than she has in years.

Serena Williams plays a backhand

(Photo by Fred Lee/Getty Images)

2. Simona Halep def. Iga Swiatek, fourth round
Halep def. Swiatek 3-6 6-1 6-4

A rematch from last year’s French Open which saw 19-year-old Iga Swiatek victorious on the way to becoming the most recently-born grand slam winner. This match showed her true class and creativity right from the outset, winning a point in the opening game with an elegant drop-shot/lob combination.

Simona Halep took control in the second set as Swiatek’s emotions got the better of her. Swiatek hit 33 winners to Halep’s 19, though she also conceded 42 unforced errors.

A crucial break for Swiatek in the deciding set made it 2-2, but Halep would then break back to love, hanging on for a tough victory.

1. Naomi Osaka def. Garbine Muguruza, fourth round
Osaka def. Muguruza 4-6 6-4 7-5

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The collection of fourth-round epics concludes with this pick as the best women’s match of this year’s Australian Open.

The peculiarities of the WTA ranking system led to many players feeling under-seeded, including Garbine Muguruza, who had slipped to the 14th seed and matched with Osaka, though this could have easily been a final.

The opening set going to Muguruza was the only time Osaka dropped a set all tournament, and with her back against the wall at 3-5 in the second set, she ran through the next four games to clinch victory to move on to the final eight.