Roger Federer’s historic Australian Open championship capped what may go down as the most historic Grand Slam tournament ever held. Here are five moments that made this event stand out from all the rest (soon to be added to my “On This Day In Tennis History” mobile app (www.TennisHistoryApp.com)
Jan. 29, 2017: Roger Federer wins his 18th major singles title with an historic 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 victory over arch rival Rafael Nadal in the final of the Australian Open. The win incredibly comes in Federer’s first tournament back from a six-month sabbatical to heal his knee after a semifinal loss at Wimbledon. Federer, seeded No. 17, trails Nadal 1-3 in the final set, but wins five games in a row to extend his men’s record for most major singles titles won, but also stave off Nadal, a winner of 14 career major singles titles, from closing the gap on his record. The 35-year-old Federer becomes the oldest man to in a major singles title since Ken Rosewall wins the Australian Open at age 37 in 1972. Federer wins three straight five-set matches to take the title, his fifth at the Australian Open, beating No. 5 Kei Nishikori in the quarterfinals, No. 4 Stan Wawrinka in the semifinals and No. 9 Nadal in the final. Federer’s win is his first major title since he won at Wimbledon in 2012 for his 17th major. Despite the loss, Nadal still holds a 23-12 head-to-head advantage over Federer in their careers, including 6-3 in major finals. It marks the first time that Federer beats Nadal in a major final since the Wimbledon final in 2007.
Jan. 28, 2017: Serena Williams wins her 23rd major singles title, breaking the Open Era record of Steffi Graf with 22, beating older sister Venus Williams 6-4, 6-4 to win the Australian Open. Williams becomes the oldest woman to win a major title in the Open Era at the age of 35 years, 124 days and the final against her 36-year-old sister marks the oldest combined age in a major final. The victory, her seventh career singles title at the Australian Open, also returns Williams to the No. 1 ranking. It marks the 28th time that she and sister have played in their first professional career, Serena holding the 17-11 advantage in their career head-to-head as professionals that started at the 1998 Australian Open. Says Serena of her historic championship, “My first Grand Slam started here, and getting to 23 here, but playing Venus, it’s stuff that legends are made of. I couldn’t have written a better story.”
Jan. 22, 2017: Mischa Zverev, ranked No. 50 in the world, upsets No. 1 seed and five-time finalist Andy Murray 7-5, 5-7, 6-2, 6-4 in the fourth round of the Australian Open. Later in the night session, American Coco Vandeweghe upsets world No. 1 and defending champion Angelique Kerber 6-2, 6-3 in the fourth round. The losses by Murray and Kerber mark the first time since the 2003 U.S. Open where the world No. 1 men and women lose on the same day at a major championship when Juan Carlos Ferrero beat Andre Agassi in the semifinals and Justine Henin defeated Kim Clijsters in the women’s final.
Jan. 19, 2017: Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan registers one of the biggest upsets ever at the Australian Open and tennis history upsetting six-time Australian Open champion and world No. 2 Novak Djokovic 7-6 (8), 5-7, 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4 in four hours, 48 minutes in the second round of the Australian Open. Istomin, ranked No. 117, was only into the Australian Open field after winning the Asia-Pacific wild card tournament, where he saved three match points in the semifinals against India’s Prajnesh Gunneswaran. “All the credit to Denis for playing amazing,” Djokovic says. “He deserved to win. No doubt, he was a better player in the clutch moments.” Writes Chris Clarey in the New York Times “It was also the latest blow to Djokovic’s battered aura of invincibility. In June, after winning the French Open for the first time, the elastic Serb held all four Grand Slam singles titles at the same time. Now, he is the reigning champion only in Paris.”
Jan. 17, 2017: Ivo Karlovic re-writes the Australian Open record book in defeating Horacio Zeballos from two sets to love down 6-7(6), 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 22-20 in the first round. Karlovic, 37, fires 75 aces in the five hour, 14 minute victory, breaking the previous Australian Open record of 51 set by Joachim Johansson in 2005, while the 84-game match also breaks the tournament record of most number of games in a match since the introduction of the tie-break in 1972, surpassing Andy Roddick and Younes El Aynaoui‘s 2003 record of 83 games. The 42-game fifth set is also the longest fifth set in Australian Open history, breaking the 21-19 fifth-set scoreline of Roddick – El Aynaoui. “This match is what I will, after my career, remember,” says Karlovic. “If it was easy match or I lost easily, I wouldn’t remember it. But this one I will definitely remember forever.