2018 Australian Open: Six best storylines from Week 1

In what was undeniably one of the most memorable first weeks in the history of Grand Slam tennis, the Australian Open featured upsets, blistering heat, comebacks, incredible stories and everything in between. As we prepare for week two to begin, are the six best storylines from week one:

2018 Australian Open Storylines

Marta Kostyuk’s memorable ride in Melbourne

As you all may know from reading these pages, I have been chronicling the journey of the 15-year old Ukranian, who went from receiving a wild card in qualifying to winning her three matches in three sets to upsetting 25th seed Shuai Peng and Olivia Rogowska in the first two rounds of the main draw until her run came to an end in the third round against countrywoman and tournament favorite Elina Svitolina. Possessing a big game off the ground and on serve, blessed with tremendous height and a demeanor to match, Kostyuk thrilled us all as she did what hadn’t been done by a 15-year old in a major in over two decades. Her ranking will rise from 521st to 275th after the proceedings in Melbourne are completed, allowing her to play regularly on the ITF Tour. While we may not see her on the WTA Tour for a while (barring Grand Slam qualifying, which is a distinct possibility), it will be worth tracking the progress of this special talent who left us with memories we won’t soon forget.

Simona Halep and Lauren Davis’ epic third round match

In what was a 3 hour, 45 minute battle with 61 rallies of nine or more shots, the top-seeded Romanian and 76th-ranked American played a tournament tying 48 games, the third set lasting alone lasting 2 hours, 22 minutes. Halep served for the match at 5-4, 6-5 and 8-7 only to see Davis break back each time while the American held three match points at 11-10 playing with a bloody toe on each foot while Halep battled cramps before the two-time major runner-up emerged with a 4-6, 6-4, 15-13 victory. Rather than continue on, i’ll let the two participants tell you the rest of the story following the classic:

Halep: “Honestly, I thought it’s over at that moment, but was good because I relaxed my arm and I served pretty well those three balls,” Halep said. “And then she took the medical [timeout]. I had time to calm down. I had come to believe again, to restart the mind.

“And also I found more energy after that three-minutes break. But at 13-all, when I took the game, I said it’s my lucky number, so it’s going to be two in a row now. “It was definitely a very tough match. I never played the third set so long. I’m really happy I could stay and win it. I’m almost dead.”

Davis: “I have never played a match like that before where it went so long in the third set. We were both fighting our hearts out, and, I mean, every point was just super long. I got to the point where I was so tired, I just told myself to swing and move and for the most part it was very effective. That third set was nothing really like I had ever played before, such an amazing atmosphere.

“I think my second toes are infected. I was just jamming them a lot with how much I was moving around the court. That first match point just, I felt something and I couldn’t really put any pressure – it was my right toe, and then it eventually was my left toe, also. The trainer wrapped them really well and I was able to move fine after that. It’s (her toenails) about to (come off).

“It was very difficult. I had never really had that happen before. They have been sore but not like that. Like I said, I couldn’t really put any pressure on them. It also took me by surprise because it came on so suddenly. I mean, it’s honestly like a quick fix. It will probably take a week to heal or something.”

Novak Djokovic’s return

Following a seven-month layoff from competitive tennis with a wrist injury, Djokovic has returned to his favorite tournament, where he has gone on to lift the trophy six times. Although he’s looked in top form for the most part, his draw has been relatively kind: Donald Young, Gael Monfils and Albert Ramos-Vinolas, none of who pose significant problems to Djokovic. With the loss of just one set and the debut of a new, abbreviated service motion as well as former pro Radek Stepanek now alongside Andre Agassi and Pepe Imaz in his coaching ranks, the Serb can look ahead to week two with both great promise and stiffer competition awaiting him.

Angelique Kerber announcing herself again on the big stage

As you may know, I picked the 2016 Aussie Open champion to reach the final due to her outstanding lead-in to the year’s first major with a finals appearance at the Hopman Cup and her title in Sydney. She’s done nothing to disprove that theory and her 6-1, 6-3 demolition of Maria Sharapova in the third round has put her smack amongst the title contenders. With more power in game, a new coach in Wim Fissette and renewed confidence, it will be hard to see anyone stopping Kerber from reaching the championship match.

Upsets, upsets and more upsets

In what can certainly be categorized as one of the craziest majors in recent times, 21 of the 32 seeds on the men’s side bowed out in the first three rounds while 22 of the 32 seeds on the women’s side were sent packing through three rounds. Among those were all three returning semifinalists from last year: Venus Williams, Mirjana-Lucic Baroni and Coco Vandeweghe (of course, Serena Williams is absent to heal her body after giving birth). Also shown the door were Sloane Stephens, Stan Wawrinka, Garbine Muguruza, Petra Kvitova, David Goffin, Alexander Zverev and Jelena Ostapenko among the notables. On the one hand, it’s always good to see the biggest names and best players go as far as they can. On the other hand, it’s great to see new names and fresh faces emerge and make their mark.

The heat takes its toll

With some of the hottest days on record in tournament history during the middle of the week, the players were certainly feeling the effects. Gael Monfils nearly passed out during his match against Djokovic, Alize Cornet needed to call the doctor to have her blood pressure taken, Kyle Edmund was as red as one could get after his third round victory and Johanna Konta slipped and fell twice during her second-round loss on the sticky Melbourne courts. The conditions were virtually unplayable with the tournament officials refusing to stop play or even close the roof on the three main show courts. Thankfully, the oppressive heat has subsided and the temperatures are back to normal.

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