Photo via SkySports
Tennis fans watched the clock turn back at the 2017 Australian Open in Melbourne. The two final matched: Serena Williams vs. Venus Williams and Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal, attracted record crowds and captivated television audiences worldwide. Serena Williams, 35, captured her 23rd Grand Slam title, only one shy of the all-time record held by Margaret Court. Her dominant serve and powerful returns overcame the precision of Venus Williams, 36, who has been battling an auto-immune disease for the better part of the decade. At 35, Serena Williams’ win at the Australian Open extended her own record of being the oldest Grand Slam winner. This victory silenced critics who suggested that Williams was declining after “only” winning one Grand Slam in 2016. It will be difficult for Williams to follow up this performance: the next Grand Slam, the French Open, has been William’s worst Grand Slam event. She has won only three times at the French Open, a feat that would be a hall-of-fame career for most players. Still, with the opportunity to tie Court’s record for Grand Slams, Serena Williams will be a tough opponent come May.
The men’s final match was equally as historic, featuring #17 Roger Federer vs. #9 Rafael Nadal. These two have had epic duels for the last decade, and this match did not disappoint. In a five-set marathon, Federer was able to overcome the powerful Nadal and capture his 18th Grand Slam title, the most of all-time in men’s tennis by four. Tournament favorites Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray fell early, allowing Federer to capture his first Grand Slam title in five years.
“For me, it’s all about the comeback, about an epic match with Rafa again. Doing it here in Australia, that I’m so thankful to Peter Carter and Tony Roche, and just people… I guess my popularity here, their support, that I can still do it at my age after not having won a slam for almost five years,” said Federer after the win. Tennis fans remember the battles between Federer and Nadal at Wimbledon in the late-2000s, ESPN reported that the viewership for the 3 a.m. final was the most ever for a program in that time-slot. The 2017 final had double the viewers than the Murray-Djokovic final the year before. In addition, the tournament broke its attendance record, admitting over 725 thousand patrons over the two-week event.
“In the age of young stars, it was great to see Rafa and Federer back at it,” said Kevin Haley ’17..
In May, the French Open at Rolland-Garros begins, and it will be interesting to track the performance of Rafael Nadal. Nadal has established himself as the best clay-court player in modern tennis. From 2005 to 2014, Nadal won nine French Open titles, failing to win only in 2009. His nine men’s singles titles are the most in French Open History and he also has the record for most consecutive wins on clay, 81.