January 15, 2019
The Australian Open is always full of surprises. But we had already warned you it might happen.
So when is a shock not really a shock?
How can Andy Murray, Kyle Edmund (who almost won it last year) and Nick Kyrgios all fall at the first hurdle?
Big names are out and no one is surprised.
In fact, if you flick back to my Australian Open preview blog, you will see I was preparing the ground for all three of these eventualities.
The big shock was that Andy Murray lasted so long and played so well against the superb Roberto Bautista Agut.
Truly heroic stuff from a player who can hardly walk without discomfort half the time. Well done Andy.
No one saw it coming, did they? An inspirational piece of tennis drama if ever there was one.
But in the final analysis, the younger man came through with an emphatic fifth set.
Then we had Kyle Edmund, the other big-name Brit, hoping to go all the way to the business end once more at Melbourne.
But Tomas Berdych is technically superior and was always favourite to progress in my book. So it proved.
It was the same story with Nick Kyrgios, the Aussie with as much talent as any player on the planet.
But mind and body have to be in perfect harmony for us to witness Nick’s very best. They weren’t.
Instead, it was the formidable Canadian on the other side of the net who demonstrated such poetry in motion.
It was all in the serve of Milos Raonic. Not enthralling if you love a long rally.
But thirty aces later, some of us were gently shaking our heads in sheer admiration.
Kyrgios said he had never seen anything like it. And if Raonic can keep serving like that, he will be a serious threat to the big guns.
Were we surprised? No, we saw it coming. Maybe not thirty aces! But the result, yes.
Talking of those big guns, let us state for the record that Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are all through without too much trauma.
There will be plenty of time to write extensively about them later this fortnight.
Yes, the three biggest names are still there. But three other big names have gone – and we barely raised an eyebrow. The so-called shocks, strangely, were not shocks at all on the first two days of the Australian Open.
There were almost upsets. Kei Nishikori was two sets down and won in five, Simona Halep was a set down and won in three.
Would it have been too much of a shock had she lost to Kaia Kanepi?
Not really. She has lost to her in a Slam before
The other favourites in the women’s draw, Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber are through.
No doubt more drama is just around the corner.
This is the Australian Open. There will be upsets. Genuine upsets. Ones we won’t have flagged up.
Predictions in this sport are a perilous business most of the time.
That’s why we love tennis so much.
By Mark Ryan