Tennis Talk: Rating Australian Open Performances

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Believe it or not, we’re exactly two weeks on from the Australian Open finals weekend. In the second edition of Tennis Talk, me and Sarah Claire rate the Melbourne performances of ten completely random competitors. Enjoy…

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Abigail: The Australian Open was almost two weeks ago, but it was so good (actually, in my humble opinion, one of the most exciting Grand Slams ever), that it’s still worth talking about. I’m joined by Sarah Claire once more to take a unique reflection on the fortnight. Ready, Sarah?

Sarah: All set Abigail!

Abigail: Okay! So here’s how this will to work. I’ll randomly name a player who competed at this season’s Australian Open. Sarah will then have to rate this person’s performance out of ten – in accordance with rank and expectations for that player – and give a little context as to why. I will then give my rating on that player, either agreeing or disagreeing, and then it’ll be Sarah’s turn to choose a player. Don’t worry, we won’t quite make it through all 256 players in the singles draw!

Sarah, your first player is Stan Wawrinka.

Sarah: Personally, I would give Stan’s run a solid 7/10. My reasons being that he beat everyone that he was expected to beat, and then lost to Roger Federer somewhat predictably. I think we all expected the 5 set thriller, but I think we all predicted the winner, too.

Abigail: Really fair assessment, in my opinion. Actually, I can’t add much to your comments. Given Federer’s form, I don’t think Wawrinka was widely expected to upset at all. An 8/10 rating might be a little too generous, as we know the lethal game that Stan’s capable of, so 7/10 is fair.

Okay, who are you giving me?!

Sarah: The somewhat forgotten about Kei Nishikori.

Abigail: (I’m going to try and avoid the O-Kei pun here…!)

You know, I’m going to give Nishikori 6.5/10. He may only have reached the fourth round as the fifth seed, but you have to look at the player he lost to: A zoning Roger Federer. Plus, he took him the distance. Prior to that, he had fought through a tough opener against Andrey Kuznetsov, and won his other two rounds easily. It was the misfortune of the draw that hurt Kei – otherwise I think he could easily have gone deep.

Sarah: Agree, I would give Kei a similar 6/10. Again, a somewhat predictable end to his run. As you said, not much could have been done. Just like Stan, he won about everything he was supposed to.

Abigail: True. So, going for a WTA player this time, what rating would you give Karolina Pliskova?

Sarah: I would give Karolina an 8/10. I enjoyed her run this year. In particular that marathon match against Jelena Ostapenko! Although Mirjana Lucic-Baroni’s story was nothing short of inspiring, I was slightly disappointed that we didn’t have that Serena/Karolina semi-final rematch. That one might have been a bit more competitive!

Abigail: Interesting. I’d actually go lower and give Pliskova 6/10 (being kind.) Perhaps the US Open made me expect too much from her, but she only beat two players ranked inside the top 100 in Melbourne – and then lost to a woman she was expected to beat. Lucic-Baroni was playing great, but the way Serena – who, like Pliskova, can play a lights-out power game – swatted her aside shows exactly what Pliskova should have been able to do.

Sarah: I do think Lucic-Baroni’s tank slightly ran out of fuel by the time she got to Serena, but I also see your point! I still watch Pliskova with slight caution because to me she is still the player that hadn’t reached the third round of a Slam before the US Open last year!

Abigail: Good points. It’s kind of like Monica Puig’s situation. Puig may have won the Olympics, but she was hardly winning big at all before that, and is consequently still developing.

Sarah: Exactly! Perfect example. Your thoughts on Coco Vandeweghe‘s fortnight?!

Abigail: Vandweghe, I think you have to give her a 9/10. She’s a player who has always had potential, but came into the event with literally no expectations surrounding her. She wiped the floor with both the top seed – defending champion Kerber – and French Open champion Muguruza. There will be regrets about relenting in that third and final set against Venus Williams in the semifinals, but as she was not expected to get there anyway she shouldn’t take it too much to heart.

Sarah: I’ll have to agree with you on giving her a well earned 9/10. Coco Vandeweghe hadn’t even entered my mind come the start of the tournament. She definitely showed us that she’s here to play!

Abigail: She could definitely make a move to the top of the game if she keeps up that relentless aggression – although several of the women to break through with an Aussie Open semifinal run haven’t managed it yet. Still, Johanna Konta and Madison Keys are doing well.

Dare I make you rate Novak Djokovic‘s short campaign?

Sarah: I take the word “run” lightly when describing Novak Djokovic’s few days at the Australian Open. Although not completely surprising giving his past few months, I was taken aback given his great win in Doha just weeks beforehand. I would give Novak a 4/10. Yet another strange loss for him, but I still have to give full credit to Denis Istomin for such a courageous performance!

Abigail: Istomin certainly has to be given full credit (and he backed up that massive upset, as well!) But given that this is Novak Djokovic we’re talking about – who had virtually dominated the past six years at the Australian Open – I can’t really go easy on him, despite his post-French Open struggles. As you mentioned, he looked good during the Doha final. And having never lost to someone ranked lower than world no. 68 at a Slam before this… Sorry to all Djokovic fans, but I have to give him a 2/10. May it simply serve as motivation…

Sarah: Motivation being the key factor missing in his game in recent months, in my opinion! It’s disappointing. But as you said, he virtually dominated tennis for the past few years. He is only human, even though we might have forgotten that due to his extraordinary run in recent years.

Abigail: I was just thinking about the irony of that final comment, actually! But it’s true. He is only human, but it seems chasing something as elusive as the French Open made him superhuman. Right now, he seemingly needs bigger goals – or else a completely revitalised love for the sport.

Sarah: Your thoughts on Jo-Wilfried Tsonga‘s performance?

Abigail: Given his no. 12 status at the time, Tsonga actually excelled the expectation of his ranking with a quarterfinal showing. It just didn’t feel like he had done, because – for once – he got a kind draw, but fell in straight sets to his first big test: Stan Wawrinka.

I think Tsonga displayed great focus to get to the last eight without making much fuss. But I found his performance against Stan – with big opportunities on the line – pretty disappointing, and he continues to needlessly lose sets against lower ranked players. Because of that… 6/10.

Sarah: When I set my eyes on Tsonga’s draw, I was ecstatic. Rightly so, he showed great professionalism on getting to where he should get, but I was thoroughly disappointed in his performance against Wawrinka. He may be ranked 12, but I expect more of a fight from him. I’ll agree with the 6/10.

Abigail: What about Garbine Muguruza? Given her recent form, she’s something of a complicated one…

Sarah: I’ll admit, I didn’t see much of Muguruza. I won’t rate her as I didn’t watch enough of her matches, but complicated indeed. I have to say, I expected her to beat Vandeweghe, though.

Abigail: That’s fair enough. I honestly didn’t see much of her either, but a run to the quarterfinals without dropping a set – after months in a virtual wilderness – is pretty decent. She was drubbed by Vandeweghe, though. I would give her a higher score, but her ranking of world no. 7 has to be considered, too. Maybe 6/10 (at most) is fair.

Sarah: Your thoughts on Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova‘s run?!

Abigail: For a ranking of 24, Pavlyuchenkova did incredibly well. I started taking a real interest in her game last year, and she seems to finally be pulling away from the pressure that resulted from being junior world no. 1. She beat an in-form Elina Svitolina and Kuznetsova, who was the second highest ranked seed in the quarter. But she was pretty erratic at times against Venus. Since there were no expectations for her ahead of the event, I’ll give her a 7/10.

Sarah: I personally really enjoyed Pavlyuchenkova! I find it sad seeing how much potential she has and how it was taken away from her by the pressure. I’ll give her a 7.5/10, I really enjoy watching her while she’s on-song.

Abigail: Genuinely nearly went for the 7.5 myself, are you a mind reader?! Anyway, there are two more ATP players I would like us to rate, and if I give you the first I know you’ll guess the second.

Andy Murray.

Sarah: Taking into account Murray’s relatively straightforward draw (on paper), I’m going to give the world no. 1 a 5/10 – given the opponent he lost to. We know that draws can look deceiving, but I still expected Andy to make the quarter-finals, at the very least.

Abigail: I think that’s fair. Having had his best season to date last year, and having played well in Doha – not to mention the Australian Open being his most consistent Slam – Murray was widely expected to go deep. Even though he was simply outplayed by a superior opponent on the day, it doesn’t change that fact that Andy was by far the favourite to make the last eight rankings-wise. If his opponent (whom I’m sure we will name shortly!) was a lesser quality player, I’d be giving Murray a much lower mark. But rankings lie sometimes. I’ll say 4/10.

Sarah: Well, last (but certainly not least!): Your thoughts on Mischa Zverev‘s dream run to the quarter-finals?!

Abigail: As many of you probably know, me and Sarah have followed Mischa Zverev since his not-so-distant days on the Challenger circuit, working his way back up from the depths after injury. The end of last season hinted that a magical week might be just around the corner. Still, to survive a match point against John Isner (coming back from two sets to love down), and to later beat the top seed in four sets to secure entry into a maiden major quarter-final at the age of 29 and a ranking of 50… That’s insane.

Mischa Zverev is awesome. Because he went down in straight sets to Federer in the last eight, I can’t really give him 10/10. So… I’ll give him 9.9/10!

Sarah: I can’t explain how incredible it was to watch Mischa fight back to win that five-set match against Isner, let alone beat Murray in four sets!! His story is truly inspirational. For a man that returned to the sport with mere hopes of being a “good hitting partner for his brother”, a quarter-final run in the Australian Open is quite unbelievable. I shall give a similar 9.999/10.

Abigail: His older brother rating would be a solid 10/10, now that you mention it!

Well, that’s ten (completely randomly chosen) players rated, so let’s hold it there for now. Hope everyone reading enjoyed that as much as I did – and hopefully Sarah too?!

Sarah: As usual, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Abigail: Until next time, then…

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Thanks for reading! How would you rate the aforementioned players? Want us to do another round? Let us know in the comments section!

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