Sinner succeeds, Sabalenka defends, Medvedev endures and more in my look back at talking points from the tournament

Jannik Sinner with the 2024 Australian Open trophy
Jannik Sinner holds his first grand slam trophy aloft after recovering from two sets down to beat Daniil Medvedev | ShutterstockVictor Velter

After two weeks of exciting (and sometimes very long) action in Melbourne, Jannik Sinner and Aryna Sabalenka emerged as the singles champions Down Under.

While Sabalenka defended her title in imperious fashion, Sinner recovered from a two set deficit to break Daniil Medvedev's heart in the final. The Russian has now lost three finals in Rod Laver Arena, twice a set away from the title.

Alongside the champions, here are some of the storylines that grabbed me during the 2024 Australian Open.


It was a steady climb before a frantic ascent.

Jannik Sinner nabbed his first title in Sofia in 2020 at the aged just 19. That year, the Italian also beat his first top 10 ranked opponents in Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev. Sinner acquired more titles and scalps in 2021 and 2022...but it all came together last season.

Under the guidance of Simone Vagnozzi and success-machine Darren Cahill, Sinner captured four titles, claimed 13 top 10 wins, reached a career high ranking of four, and led Italy to their first Davis Cup since 1976. Most importantly for this fortnight, he beat Novak Djokovic twice at the season's end.

All of that experience and the countless hours off court have created a polite, clean-hitting, big serving monster. Before the final, Sinner was only broken twice and neither of those were the work of the world no.1. In the showpiece match, after a ropey start, the 22-year-old then settled into the occasion and took full control of the contest for the last three sets.

On Sunday, Sinner became the first Italian male to win a singles major since Adriano Panatta in 1976. Given his ability, determination and an outstanding support team, there simply have to be more majors for the man from San Candido.

Sabalenka Dominates Draw

Two years ago, Aryna Sabalenka crashed out of Adelaide with 21 double faults and service jitters so extreme that she resorted to a few underarm deliveries. The Belarusian exited the Australian Open that year in round four and spent time rebuilding her serve just to stay competitive.

Since reshaping her serve in late 2022, Sabalenka's grand slam results have been the following:

How about that for remarkable consistency from someone who used to be known for her erratic nature?

Sabalenka was at her best in Melbourne as she cooly bludgeoned all comers without dropping a set. It was reminiscent of Serena Williams's demolition job at the same event in 2017. The 25-year-old looks to be in the peak of her career right now and could potentially add another couple of majors to her CV just this season.

Marathon Meddy

Can a man give anymore and not succeed?

As the epic final shifted into its closing set, Daniil Medvedev broke the record for total sets played by anyone at a grand slam tournament in the Open Era (31). He did that while surpassing 24 hours on court over the fortnight. Even as the third set slipped away, the Russian found the resolve to hold serve one last time at 3-5 and force Sinner to win it. The Italian did so of course, but Medvedev deserves nothing but praise for his skill and endeavour in defeat.

In the final, the 27-year-old displayed excellent feel around the net and the ability to dominate from the baseline when required. These ingredients will surely form part of the recipe to claim career major no.2 down the line. Simply put, a tennis titan.

Zheng Arrives

While she could not equal Li Na's achievement ten years earlier, Qinwen Zheng's run to the final has brought her onto the world stage.

Handed a more appetising route to the final after the exits of Iga Swiatek and Elena Rybakina, the 21-year-old took full advantage. In the final, she was simply beaten by a more experienced player in peak form. But if Zheng, who was the ace (54) and double fault (41) leader in Melbourne, can harness that weapon, she will have the arsenal to win a major.

Novak Neutralised

On first glance, Novak Djokovic losing his first ever Australian Open semi-final and first at any major for five years is surprising but understandable. Despite all his achievements, the 36-year-old is human after all. The manner of his defeat is intriguing though.

While Sinner was a very worthy winner, could you ever imagine Djokovic making 29 unforced errors in the first two sets of a grand slam semi-final?

The last significant occasion I remember where the Serb was subpar was the 2021 US Open final, where he lost to Medvedev. However, he was chasing the Calendar Slam in that match so succumbing to pressure was more than allowable. The question going forward is: was Melbourne just one of those days, or the start of his decline? We'll gather more information on the European clay.

Subpar Swiatek

After impressively surging to the WTA Finals title at the end of 2023, this was not the Australian Open campaign we expected from Iga Swiatek.

No doubt, the Pole was handed a tricky draw with an Australian Open champion (Sofia Kenin) and finalist (Danielle Collins) in her opening rounds. However, having passed those tests, I thought Swiatek would gain in confidence and settle into the competition.

It was not to be though as Linda Noskova's thunderous performance unsettled and eventually dislodged the world no.1. As in 2023, it still holds true: Away from Roland Garros, Swiatek remains a tremendous, but vulnerable, force.

The Zverev Conundrum

On court, it was a highly satisfactory run for Alexander Zverev as he took out Carlos Alcaraz with a statement performance in the last eight. The German then suffered a painful loss from two sets up against Medvedev, but that was a high quality encounter between two of the game’s powerhouses.

However, the 26-year-old - and the sport itself - continue to be overshadowed by the court proceedings facing him for alleged domestic abuse (which he denies). With the trial only set to start on May 31st (during Roland Garros), there will not be resolution for some months yet.

A Spark For Some Women, Not All

Given that the Australian Open takes place at the season's start when top players aren't fully up to speed, it's usually ripe for some surprising runs and upsets.

It was definitely a tournament to savour for the new world no.29 Dayana Yastremska, who won eight matches (including qualifying) on her way to the semi-final. Is this the start of something for the 23-year-old? It was also a great event for the rising contingent of Linda Noskova (quarter-finals), Marta Kostyuk (quarter-finals) and Mirra Andreeva (fourth round).

Elsewhere, Marketa Vondrousova (1st round exit), Jessie Pegula, Ons Jabeur and Maria Sakkari (all 2nd round), will want to move swiftly on from Australia.

Slow Starts And Familiar Pain

Melbourne was also an underwhelming start to the season for a few big names on the ATP Tour.

Usually a formidable force Down Under, Stefanos Tsitsipas could not make it to the last eight this time around as Taylor Fritz ended his chances in round four. Meanwhile, Casper Ruud continues to struggle away from the Bois de Boulogne as the Norwegian crashed out in round three to Cam Norrie. Ruud has not made it past the third round of a major in four of his last five attempts.

As for poor Andrey Rublev, he’s now 0-10 in grand slam quarter-finals after falling in straights to the eventual champion.

Too Early To Tell

We of course had three high-profile returns on the women's side as Naomi Osaka, Angelique Kerber and Caroline Wozniacki all took to the courts.

None of the group made it past the second round but that's to be expected given how early it is in their comebacks. I have confidence that Osaka can rediscover top form given her desire and age (26), but I'm still sceptical about how Kerber and Wozniacki will compete with the very best over the season.