By: Brenden Campbell
First, I would like to begin by thanking Zach for the opportunity to contribute to ZPretz Sport Zone. Writing about the great game of Tennis allows me to follow my passion for the sport and to give my thoughts on what transpires on court at the pro level. I will cover all major tournaments during the 2018 season, beginning with the Australian Open, which concluded on Sunday. With that being said, here are my three biggest takeaways from the year’s first grand slam.
Rafael Nadal’s Health is still Questionable
Unfortunately, the words “Nadal” and “Injury” have been used far too often in the same sentence over the past few years. 2017 was an excellent year for Rafa, as the king of clay reclaimed his championship form at Roland Garros and overtook Andy Murray to become world #1. His great year then came to an abrupt end in November when he pulled out of the ATP Finals with a knee injury. Many wondered whether or not Nadal would be healthy enough to even play the Australian Open this year, but he entered the Melbourne draw as the #1 seed and began right where he left off, disposing his first four opponents without dropping a set. This led him to a highly anticipated quarter final match against #6 seed Marin Cilic, but Nadal retired 4 hours into the match with a new ailment – a hip injury. With an aging Nadal playing his best tennis since 2014, it will be interesting to see how Rafa’s health effects him the rest of the year, especially come clay season.
Top Americans are Off to a Slow Start
When Andy Roddick retired in 2012, he left American men’s tennis without a grand slam contender. Then along came 25 year old Jack Sock. The Kansas native had an amazing end to 2017, where he won the Paris Masters and made a semi final run at the ATP Finals. Coming in as the #8 seed in Melbourne, Sock was expected to make a deep run into the tournament’s second week. However, this run did not play out as many expected. Sock still had a championship hangover from last year during his first round match, and was upset by #41 Yuichi Sugita in four sets. Along with Sock, many other top American players began the year with a slow start. #16 John Isner was upset by #74 Matthew Ebden on the first day of the tournament. In the women’s draw, #5 Venus Williams and #10 Coco Vandeweghe also had first round exits. With Davis Cup coming up this weekend and the two March Master events beginning in few weeks, the players carrying USA tennis will have to step up their games if they want to be successful.
Hyeon Chung Makes History
Hyeon Chung’s performance in Melbourne was by far the biggest headline of the Australian Open this year. The 21 year old young gun had back to back to back wins against tough opponents in the first week. He easily disposed of reigning Sydney champion Daniil Medvedev in round 2, and then went on to defeat #4 seed Alexander Zverev and former champion Novak Djokovic. Chung followed up the three biggest wins of his career by winning a quarterfinal match against Tennys Sandgren to become the first South Korean player in history to play a semi final match at a grand slam. Chung’s historic run down under shot him up 29 spots in the world rankings, allowing him to break into the top 30. The NextGen star has cemented himself as one of the world’s top players, and I fully expect him to continue to climb up the rankings and compete for titles in 2018.