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Inside Tennis | Reflections on an unprecedented Australian Open with Chris Wilkinson

Inside Tennis | Reflections on an unprecedented Australian Open with Chris Wilkinson

What is special about the AO for you?

The AO Open is always special as it is the first Slam of the year and a chance to see if all the pre-season has paid off. It’s great to spend Jan/Feb in the Southern Hemisphere and get outside and play in decent weather.

Melbourne Park has certainly changed over the years and is now an amazing venue with 3 Courts that now have a roof.

When I played the venue was called Flinders Park and changed its name in 1996 so that Melbourne could be used in the name.

What kind of style suits the AO courts?

The Courts in Melbourne are usually Medium to fast Pace, Djokovic said that this year the Courts have been as Fast as they have ever been.

Fast courts usually suit the big players that have a big serve and like to shorten the rallies as an example a player like Milos Raonic will prefer to play on quicker courts.

Having said that, whatever the surface is, the best players still end up coming through. Federer, Djokovic and Nadal are the best at adapting their games to all different surfaces.

These 3 players have won all 4 Grand Slams played on different surfaces.

What AO moments stand out for you, as a player and a spectator?

Playing Mark Rosset in the first round of Singles in 1994 was a great experience, he was also the reigning Olympic Champion, Unfortunately I lost but it was great to be in Australia competing in the First Grand Slam of the year.

I have watched many matches from the AO in Particular, as a British player watching Andy Murray play and getting so Close to winning.

In any other era, I am sure Murray would have at least half a dozen Grand Slam Titles including the Aus Open, not easy to beat Federer, Djokovic and Nadal in the same tournament.

How did the AO deal with the issues of the pandemic?

This year’s AO has been a real challenge, but all credit goes to the organisation who have done a tremendous effort in getting the Tournament completed.

To minimise the about of people on site the Qualifying event took place in Dubai linking in with other tournaments in the Country.

Tennis Australia even put several flights to transport the players to Melbourne from Dubai, on arrival most players had to quarantine in hotels for 10 days.

This made it very difficult to prepare properly for a tournament in the usual way and many players were concerned how this would affect their preparations and performance.

It was interesting to see that there was quite a lot of injuries in the event and I am sure the lack of training before may have had an impact.

Another interesting moment at this year’s AO was when they had to lockdown for 5 days during the event, the players could continue but without spectators, not easy for players to keep adapting to different scenarios.

Thoughts on underarm serves at Grand Slam level? Is it good for tennis?

With so many players particularly in the Mens game standing so far back to recieve serve an underarm serve is a great idea and is within the rules to use. Nick Kygrios is a player that has really introduced this tactic to the game even thou it seemed a bit disrespectful at first, I now think players are getting used to the idea.

Which players made an Impact at the AO and which players should we be looking out for in the future ?

Obviously Novak Djokovic’s achievement of winning his 9th AO title is incredible especially given his injury issues that he had to overcome.

The standout performance goes to Qualifier Aslan Karatsev from Russia who stunned everyone in reaching the Semi Finals.

On the Ladies side it was great to see the 22nd seed Jennifer Brady reach the final.

One teenager who I have seen growing in the Juniors is Carlos Alcaraz from Spain, he qualified and lost 2nd round at this years AO, he is definitely one to watch in the future, he is only 17 years of age.