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On Sunday in Melbourne, Novak Djokovic denied Stefanos Tsitsipas his first major title to capture his 22nd, while one day prior, Aryna Sabalenka lifted her maiden Grand Slam by ousting Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina.
It’s time to reflect on a busy fortnight Down Under with our Australian Open recap.
Djokovic Wins 22nd Major
Universal Tennis INSIGHTS has helped add a layer of in-depth analytics to every step of the Grand Slam. Going into the tournament, No. 4-seeded Djokovic (UTR 16.31) was the INSIGHTS favorite. Based on UTR Rating, he was the best player in the world, and now his ATP ranking reflects it. He's now tied with Rafael Nadal for most majors at 22.
The 35-year-old Serbian had 14% odds of leaving Melbourne with his 10th trophy, while finalist Tsitsipas (16.04) came in at No. 5 with 7% odds. INSIGHTS correctly predicted 74% of the matches and dubs the biggest upset wild card Alexei Popyrin’s (14.66) win over No. 8 seed Taylor Fritz (16.04). New star Jiri Lehecka earns the nod for best performer, as he, a 15.23, competed like a 15.55 across five matches. The 21-year-old hadn’t won a Grand Slam main draw match until arriving in Melbourne.
Americans made a huge splash, with JJ Wolf, Ben Shelton, Sebastian Korda, and Tommy Paul all reaching the fourth round. Shelton would defeat Wolf for a place in the quarterfinals, while Paul would appear in his first major semifinal. It marked the most American men in the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam since 2005.
Australians also made themselves known at their home major. Wild cards Rinki Hijikata and Jason Kubler came out of nowhere to win the men’s doubles title, marking the second year in a row the event has gone to Aussies (Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis won in 2022). The women’s doubles champions are familiar faces — Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Sinakova picked up their seventh major win together.
A Grand Slam breakthrough has been a long time coming for Sabalenka (12.94). The 24-year-old had previously reached three major semifinals but never a final. She changed some of her habits leading into 2023, notably her diet (no sugar) and her mental mindset (no psychologist), which has paid off. She’s on an 11-match win streak, having opened the year with a title in Adelaide. In her win in the Melbourne final over Rybakina (12.90), Sabalenka racked up 17 aces and 51 winners.
“I’m just super happy and proud,” Sabalenka said. “There
INSIGHTS had expected top seed Iga Swiatek (13.17) to win with 14% odds (she would lose in the fourth round to Rybakina). Rybakina had the fifth-highest odds at 5%, while Sabalenka didn’t crack the Top 10 favorites. INSIGHTS correctly called the outcomes of 76.4% of the women’s matches.
Varvara Gracheva gets the honor of best performer — the UTR 11.92 played like a 12.29 and stunned No. 8 seed Daria Kasatkina (12.74), giving up just two games. The biggest upset was accomplished by 21-year-old qualifier Katie Volynets (11.74), who upended No. 9 seed Veronika Kudermetova (12.78) on her way to the third round.
The UTR Pro Tennis Tour has proved itself as a pathway to the biggest stages of the sport once more. Learner Tien, a 17-year-old set to play for USC, reached the finals of the junior boys’ draw, before falling to Alexander Blockx, the No. 3 seed. Tien has played on the PTT in Newport Beach, once reaching the semifinals.
Tien teamed up with another young PTT player, Cooper Williams, to win the junior boys’ doubles event. Williams reached the third round in singles before going all the way to title town with Tien in doubles. Williams has played PTT events in Bradenton and Boca Raton, getting valuable match play as he gets set to graduate high school and attend Harvard in the fall.
“When you go to these ITFs, and you travel quite a bit, you're looking at one match, and you got to make that match count,” Williams told Universal Tennis last year. “But here, if you're training for these, you get six or five for good matches, and you get to work on stuff. It's really, it's really good.”
The girls’ junior final was a battle amongst friends as 15-year-old Alina Korneeva won a three-set marathon over Mirra Andreeva. Renata Jamrichova and Federica Urgesi captured the junior girls' doubles trophy.
•UTR Ratings as of 9:00 a.m. EST, January 30, 2023.