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Our most impressive 2021 Slam winner, top match and early Aussie Open predictions

With one of many extra unbelievable runs we have ever seen, Emma Raducanu accomplished the Grand Slam season with a US Open title, the place she turned the primary qualifier within the Open Period to win a serious championship. 

Raducanu thrust herself into the tennis highlight, together with this 12 months’s runner-up in New York, Leylah Fernandez. 

Whereas the all-teenage ultimate is a reminiscence we can’t quickly overlook, there have been loads of different unforgettable moments this Grand Slam season. 

What had been the very best matches? Greatest upsets? And sure, it is early, however what ought to we anticipate in Australia?

Our scrupulous writers reveal their ultimate ideas on a wild experience from Australia to Paris and London to New York. 

Most spectacular run to the title

Juzwiak: Every of this 12 months’s Grand Slam singles champions had spectacular runs, however Emma Raducanu’s path to the US Open title stands out for me. Not solely did she sweep to victory with out dropping a set in simply her second Grand Slam main-draw look, however she did it having additionally dominated within the qualifying occasion the earlier week. It was a show of confidence and composure effectively past her restricted tour-level expertise. A qualifier profitable a serious is an achievement I by no means thought I might see occur —  and he or she made it look simple.

Macpherson: The fantastic thing about this 12 months’s Grand Slam title runs was that they every captured the creativeness in fully distinctive methods. However I am going to go along with what Ashleigh Barty completed at Wimbledon. She was coming off an damage, within the unenviable place of being World No.1 with out holding a serious title, and on the event she’d dared to publicly dream of profitable. The Australian went by a draw that included Roland Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova and, in a pivotal semifinal, resurgent former Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber to raise herself to a number of Slam titlist.

The extent-headed Barty is a participant whose wise, process-driven method would not depart a lot room for grandiose ambition. At SW19, she set her sights on a event trophy from the beginning – and pulled it off whereas remaining solely true to herself.


Picture by Garrett Ellwood/USTA

Nguyen: Osaka’s was probably the most dominant. Barty’s probably the most emotional. Raducanu … I’m nonetheless making an attempt to grasp what we simply witnessed. However for “spectacular,” I’ve to go along with Barbora Krejcikova. The 25-year-old didn’t benefit from the harmless, fearless, audacity of youth or the expertise of completed champions as she marched her approach to an unbelievable Roland Garros title, her maiden main. Coming off her first WTA singles title in Strasbourg, Krejcikova beat the likes of Elina Svitolina, Sloane Stephens and Coco Gauff, saved match factors in opposition to Maria Sakkari, and edged Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4 within the third to win the French Open.

Insider Wrap: Raducanu’s dominant efficiency, Fernandez’s will and extra

To prime all of it off, she gained the doubles to develop into the primary girl to brush Paris since 2000. A 12 months in the past, Krejcikova, 25, had but to crack the Prime 100 in singles, and it wasn’t for lack of making an attempt. In a career-altering determination, Krejcikova skipped the US Open doubles occasion final fall to remain in Europe and play ITFs and earn factors. Her gambit labored. She earned direct entry into Paris, made the Spherical of 16, cracked the Prime 100 and hasn’t appeared again.

Prime total match

Juzwiak: Apologies to Maria Sakkari, however Barbora Krejcikova’s whisker-thin 7-5, 4-6, 9-7 Roland Garros semifinal victory over the Greek continues to be my most memorable and spectacular Grand Slam match of the 12 months. With momentum seesawing forwards and backwards, each gamers acquitted themselves marvelously. Krejcikova slammed a backhand winner out of the air to avoid wasting a match level, Sakkari continued to combat till the bitter finish, and after 3 hours and 18 minutes, the Czech thrillingly triumphed. Bonus factors are awarded for the truth that, after this win, Krejcikova has blossomed, turning into not solely a Grand Slam singles champion but in addition probably the most persistently sturdy singles gamers of the 12 months.

Macpherson: Leylah Fernandez alone supplied a plethora of potential selections on the US Open, together with her upset of Angelique Kerber notably scintillating. Within the second week of Roland Garros, it was thrilling to see a succession of matches that reminded us that sporting high quality would not require star names, notably Tamara Zidansek’s epic defeat of Paula Badosa. However shot for shot for a wonderful 3 hours and 18 minutes, nothing compares to Kerber’s 7-5, 5-7, 6-4 overcome Sara Sorribes Tormo within the second spherical of Wimbledon.

Each level was performed as if it was the final – prolonged to gasp-inducing lengths due to the pair’s athleticism, raised to dizzying heights. The No.2 Court docket crowd, in a state of some delirium by the point it ended, gave each gamers a standing ovation afterward and continued that exterior as followers lined the gangways to applaud Kerber and Sorribes Tormo again to the locker room.

Nguyen: My two standout Slam matches had been a pair of prevented upsets from match level down. What occurs on the Australian Open if Garbiñe Muguruza converts one of many two match factors she had on Osaka within the Spherical of 16? Down a break within the second and third units, Osaka elevated every time to edge the Spaniard. Most memorably, she hit three unforced errors to provide the Spaniard two match factors and proceeded to play the following 22 factors with out making an unforced error, profitable 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.

Extra just lately, Karolina Pliskova’s late-night slugfest in opposition to Amanda Anisimova within the second spherical of the US Open was a revelation, each for Pliskova and Anisimova. Regardless of serving a career-best 24 aces, Pliskova was getting pushed off the baseline by Anisimova’s audacious shot-making and energy. The partisan crowd on Ashe was going completely wild with each Anisimova winner, however Pliskova proved her veteran mettle in saving a match level within the deciding tiebreak to win 7-5, 6-7(5), 7-6(7).  

Most notable upset

Juzwiak: After a few rounds the place the formbook held up surprisingly effectively, Leylah Fernandez blew the roof off of Arthur Ashe Stadium with a come-from-behind upset of defending champion Naomi Osaka within the US Open third spherical. Osaka had gained 4 of the previous six hardcourt majors and is all the time a menace on this floor, however Fernandez used sterling returns and impeccable timing to grit out the second set from a break down and switch the match round. Simply as notably, Fernandez’s upset of Osaka proved to not be a one-off, however fairly the primary indicator of the trailblazing ultimate that electrified New York on Saturday.

Macpherson: ‘Notable’ can imply a number of issues – the start of a brand new star, probably the most shocking. However the largest sliding-doors second for me was Tamara Zidansek’s 7-6(1), 6-7(2), 9-7 upset of Bianca Andreescu within the first spherical of Roland Garros. It wasn’t essentially a shock, given Zidansek’s underrated clay-court abilities and Andreescu’s lack of kind. Nevertheless it got here all the way down to the wire – and if the Canadian had pulled it out, the route Zidansek ended up taking all the best way to the semifinals would have been hers. Andreescu has been notably luckless in 2021, with damage, sickness and unlucky attracts all combining to stop her gaining any match momentum. This match may have modified that.

Learn: Champions Nook: After US Open win, Stosur and Zhang aren’t carried out but 

Nguyen: Shelby Rogers getting her first win in 5 tries over No.1 Barty, getting back from a double-break down within the third to win 6-2, 1-6, 7-6(5). After profitable Wimbledon and Cincinnati, there was as near an air of inevitability round Barty as we’ve seen in a prime seed at a Slam. As Alex talked about, we discuss loads about “sliding door” moments all through the season, and this felt like a giant one. Had Barty closed out the win, she would have confronted Emma Raducanu within the subsequent spherical.  

Favourite second 

Juzwiak: Carla Suárez Navarro has all the time been simple to root for, armed with an eye catching single-handed backhand and a optimistic demeanor. In 2021, the Spaniard wrapped up her profession as one of many sport’s final warriors, enjoying thrilling matches in her ultimate occasions simply months after defeating most cancers. Regardless of receiving a horrible draw, it was so gratifying to see her play her ultimate Wimbledon singles match in entrance of the Centre Court docket crowds, in opposition to World No.1 Ashleigh Barty within the first spherical. She took a set off the eventual Wimbledon champion, as a result of she’s a fighter, on and off the court docket.

Macpherson: I take into account myself a Hsieh Su-Wei aficionado, having adopted probably the most idiosyncratic participant on tour ever because the 37-match profitable streak with which she started her profession as a 15-year-old in 2001. It has been fairly a experience, however even now there’s all the time a brand new and intensely bizarre factoid to find out about her. As she carved her approach to her first Grand Slam quarterfinal on the Australian Open, coach Paul McNamee revealed to the media that Hsieh experiences damaged strings so not often that she performs with the identical racquet for years on finish and is so unfamiliar with the sensation that she as soon as did not even realise it had occurred. Thoughts blown.

Nguyen: Ons Jabeur putting on an absolute show for the Wimbledon Centre Court docket crowd in a 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 win within the third spherical. I imply … come on.

Means-too-early Australian Open prediction

Juzwiak: It’s honest to say 2021’s majors every concluded at one excessive or one other, with heavy favorites profitable (Osaka, Barty) or with shock champions who only a few individuals, if anybody, predicted to win (Krejcikova, Raducanu). Prognostication at this level appears to be a idiot’s errand — however as a idiot, I’ll guess that Ashleigh Barty, this 12 months’s most prolific titlist, will thrill her homeland followers and transfer one step nearer to a profession Grand Slam. Additionally, the Melbourne crowds ought to take observe from the roaring followers in New York. They will nudge Barty that additional bit in her most difficult matches to assist her triumph on residence soil.

Rankings watch: Raducanu, Fernandez attain profession highs; Hsieh returns to doubles No.1

Macpherson: There shall be so many compelling narratives heading into Australia. Can Ashleigh Barty achieve her quest for a house Grand Slam title? Can Angelique Kerber’s renaissance final into 2022? Will Bianca Andreescu and Naomi Osaka regroup and rebound from their tumultuous seasons? I am notably desirous to see how Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez’s success conjures up their peer group – particularly, Marta Kostyuk and Clara Tauson, who would have been thought-about on a lot the identical stage because the US Open finalists a fortnight in the past. Personally, I’ve religion that Andreescu will come good once more – so long as her well being permits.

Nguyen: My solely prediction at this level is the stress on Ashleigh Barty shall be extremely excessive. Oh, and the climate shall be sizzling.

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