Photo : Martin Sidorjak
We all knew this Australian Open was going to be special.
One would be hard-pressed to find a more memorable Grand Slam event, for better or worse, but after a shaky start and the tennis began, the season’s first major became one for the ages for all the right reasons with two incredible finishes.
And the Canadians came through looking pretty good too.
If what went down in Melbourne is any indication, we are in for an amazing 2022 season.
Here’s what you need to know.
In Case You Missed It: Nadal, Barty make history
In a way, the ending of the Australian Open was completely predictable.
Heading into the tournament, the expectation was that the season’s first major would end with a man lifting his record-breaking 21st Grand Slam singles title and the top women’s player in the world further asserting her dominance.
Both things happened, but in the first instance, it was not the man most expected taking the lead in the Slam race.
After chasing Roger Federer for his entire career, Rafael Nadal is finally on top of the mountain after winning his record-breaking 21st major title at the Australian Open, breaking a three-way tie for most all-time with Federer and Novak Djokovic.
And he did it in dramatic fashion, rallying from two sets down in what was the second-longest Grand Slam final in history to beat world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev in five hours and 24 minutes. It was only Nadal’s fourth 0-2 comeback, first since 2007 and was the first time it happened in the Australian Open final in the Open Era.
With the win, Nadal not only takes the lead for most major singles titles by a man, but he becomes the second man in the Open Era, and fourth all-time, to win all four Grand Slam titles twice.
The final itself was one for the ages, as Medvedev seemed to have one hand and three fingers on the trophy after winning the first two sets and leading 3-2, love-40 on Nadal’s serve to break in the third set. But the Spaniard reminded everyone why he is possibly the sport’s greatest fighter, saving the break points and going on to claim his second title in Melbourne in what may have been the greatest victory of his storied career.
To make the win more spectacular, it is worth remembering that Nadal had foot surgery a few months ago and revealed during the Australian Open that he was concerned his career was over and expected that this Australian Open would likely be his last one if he managed to play. He then contracted COVID at the end of December. But none of that stopped him from starting 2022 undefeated as he has already won two titles.
Ashleigh Barty had a far easier path to the title on the women’s side, not dropping a set on her way to her third major title and first at her home Slam, clinching the trophy with a straight-sets win over Danielle Collins in the final.
The win ended a 44-year drought for Australian players at their own Slam. In an emotional trophy ceremony, Evonne Goolagong Cawley, the last Australian to win the singles title at the Australian Open and an idol of Barty’s, was on hand to surprise the women’s No. 1 and hand her the trophy, something that had not been announced beforehand.
This was Barty’s first major title on hard courts, putting her in elite company as one of only five active players to win at least one Slam title on each surface, joining Nadal, Djokovic, Federer and Serena Williams
Barty is also the first indigenous woman to win the Australian Open since Goolagong Cawley.
As for the Canadians, Félix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov both acquitted themselves well, reaching the quarter-finals and falling in five-set thrillers to the eventual finalists.
Auger-Aliassime’s match was particularly dramatic, and heart-breaking, as he played some of the best tennis of his career so far, taking a two-set lead over Medvedev and holding a match point in the fourth set. But Medvedev took the racquet out of the Canadian’s hands, saving the match point with a big serve and managed to hang on to edge Auger-Aliassime in five sets.
Shapovalov showed grit in his quarter-final against Nadal, rallying from two sets down to push the eventual champion, who seemed to be struggling with the conditions, to a fifth set before Nadal dug in and pulled out the win.
Pospisil wins in France
Believe it or not, there was tennis being played elsewhere last week and Vasek Pospisil was the star, claiming the title at the ATP Challenger event in Quimper, France.
Pospisil defeated Gregoire Barrere in three sets in the final to win his 10th Challenger trophy and first since 2019. The Canadian has won his last three Challenger tour finals.
The win helped bump Pospisil’s ranking by 17 spots, up to No. 121 in the world.
What to Watch:
There are three events on the ATP Tour this week with a few notable playing in action.
The biggest name competing is Alexander Zverev, who leads a field in Montpellier that also features Australian Open quarter-finalist Gael Monfils, who has won the title three times.
Dominic Thiem was supposed to make his return this week in Cordoba, Argentina, but pulled out at the last minute. The third event is taking place in Pune, India.
It is an empty week for the WTA with no tournaments on the calendar. There are also no Canadians competing this week on the main tours.
Under the Radar: Fung goes back-to-back
Pospisil wasn’t the only Canadian who picked up a title last week as Stacey Fung successfully defended her title at the ITF W15 event in Cancun Mexico. It was Fung’s second career ITF title.
She did not drop a set on her way to the final, including a straight-set win in the title match and a win over countrywoman Bianca Jolie Fernandez, younger sister of Leylah Annie, in the quarter-finals.
The ATP Challenger event in Cleveland this week features a trio of Canadians. Brayden Schnur will be competing in singles and will meet former Top 10 player Jack Sock in the first round. Alexis Galarneau also qualified for the singles.
Schnur and Peter Polansky are both competing, with different partners, in doubles in Cleveland.
Overall, like on the main tour, it’s a quiet week on the lower tours. You can follow the Canadians in action every week here.