Naomi Osaka is the real deal
Robbed of her moment at the US Open by Serena Williams’ antics, Osaka shrugged off the furore surrounding her maiden Grand Slam title in the best way possible – by winning the next one. Osaka’s fearless hitting is entertaining to watch and she displayed mental strength in re-gathering herself in the third set having missed three championship points in the second. Osaka, who turned 21 in between her two Grand Slam triumphs, is now the world No1; this time last year she was ranked 72. Expect even more from her this year.
Petra Kvitova is back
A ruthless, cold-eyed assassin on the court, Kvitova is one of the warmest, friendliest players off it, a popular figure on the Tour and in the locker room. Fans and fellow players alike will be delighted to see her return to the top of the game following the knife attack two years ago that endangered her career. Even her doctors had advised Kvitova that she might never play professional tennis again, but she proved them wrong. Looking lean and fit, Kvitova was playing in her first Australian Open final, and appears capable of adding to the two Grand Slams she has previously won.
Serena Williams isn’t unbeatable
By reaching the final of the past two Grand Slams, Williams has proved she is far from finished. She may even start slight favourite at Wimbledon to land a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title. But straight-set defeats by Angelique Kerber at Wimbledon and Osaka at the US Open, followed by her loss to Karolina Pliskova at the Australian Open showed that the current crop of women are not frightened to take her on. When did Williams last lose from 5-1 up in the third? Previously her persona would have carried her over the line when her tennis did not, and that no longer seems to be the case.
Playing in the middle of the night is a mistake
Scheduling is always hostage to long matches and the Australian Open has a history of producing some epics – it’s one of the aspects that makes the tournament so watchable. But when two players don’t even start until 12.30am, and many fans have given up through sheer tiredness, then something has gone wrong. Two-time Grand Slam winner Garbine Muguruza and British No1 Johanna Konta deserved better, particularly in light of the gripping three-setter they somehow managed to produce in the early hours.
The women’s game is ultra competitive
Injuries and illness prevented Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki from repeating their spectacular final of 12 months ago, but both will surely come back stronger, quite possibly at the French Open. Six of the top 10 in the WTA rankings have won Grand Slams, while their past records indicate that Pliskova and Elina Svitolina (who won the Tour Finals last October) clearly have the ability to do so. 2019 is set to be a great year for women’s tennis.