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Australian Open Has Begun

Tennis

The GIST: Thanks to a half-day time difference, the Australian Open has already begun, so let’s get right to it.

February 08, 2021
Source: Andy Brownbill/AP Photo
Source: Andy Brownbill/AP Photo

The set-up: The Aussie Open is the first of four Grand Slams (aka majors). All Grand Slams follow the same format: 128 singles players and 64 doubles pairs compete in single-elimination rounds in both the women’s and men’s events. 

  • The tournament runs from today to February 21st with daily matches (check out the schedule here), and as one of the few sports that values equality, the women’s and men’s singles champions will each receive about $2.1 million US. 

The off-court action: Due to Australia’s strict rules for international travellers, there were a lot of COVID-19 issues and drama around the tournament. But all that COVID-19 concern has seemed to overshadow another significant issue: the second-largest arena at Melbourne Park, home of the Aussie Open, is still named after 24-time Grand Slam winner Margaret Court. 

  • For years, Court has publicly renounced LGBTQ+ rights and has advocated for conversion therapy, and there have been numerous calls to remove her name.
  • Instead, Tennis Australia reaffirmed their recognition of Court’s tennis achievements ahead of last year’s Open (though they did not invite her to this year’s event) and the Australian government awarded her with the country’s highest honor just last month. To that we say, WTF?

The women’s on-court action: Fortunately, Serena Williams is aiming to erase Court from the record books. Williams is fighting for her 24th major win, which would tie Court’s all-time record, though a nagging shoulder injury may hold her back.

  • Well, that and the fact that reigning U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka is the heavy favorite to win, while fellow American Sofia Kenin is looking for her comeuppance.

The men’s on court action: A back injury may also prevent Rafael Nadal from becoming the first men’s player to win each major singles championship twice. But something tells us reigning champ and tournament favorite, Novak Djokovic (pronounced JOKE-OH-VITCH), isn’t going to let that happen.

The Canadians: Meanwhile, Canada’s chances at doubling our national Grand Slam count are strong with the return of 2019 U.S. Open winner Bianca Andreescu, following a 15-month injury leave. Our favorite wunderkind Leylah Annie Fernandez is competing, too.

  • And on the men’s side, Denis Shapovalov (11), Milos Raonic (14) and Felix Auger-Aliassime (20) are all seeded in the top 20 to start the show. Bring it home!

The Americans: The U.S. field is stacked. Along with both Williams sisters and Kenin, we have Coco Gauff, Sloane Stephens and Jennifer Brady on the women’s side, and Taylor Fritz and Sam Querrey on the men’s side. And though Osaka plays for Japan, she grew up in New York, so we consider her one of ours, too.