The tennis season has flown by all over again and in this two-part series we look back on the highlights month by month.
The heat of the Australian summer got the year off to a flying start for Switzerland as Roger Federer and Belinda Bencic won the Hopman Cup in Perth while Nick Kyrgios won his first title in Australia in Brisbane and a teenager gave us a taste of what was to be a remarkable year as Alex de Minaur reached the semis in Brisbane and the final of Sydney before being stopped by Daniil Medvedev in the latter final.
The Australian Open obviously had all the attention in what was a merciless two weeks weather wise. To say it was boiling hot would be an understatement. This time it was the women who captured the attention for the best matches starting with Simona Halep saving match points to beat Lauren Davis in what was arguably the year’s best women’s match.
Halep saved another two against Angie Kerber in the semis to reach the final against Caroline Wozniacki. The Dane has saved two match points against Jana Fett. Halep and Wozniacki played what remained the most glorious final of the year that saw Wozniacki win her first major 76 36 64 and got back to No.1.
The men’s final was entertaining as well as Federer claimed a record equalling sixth title by beating Marin Cilic 61 in the fifth. It was Federer’s 20th major making him the fourth player and only man to win 20 or more majors.
One topic occupied tennis’ mind this month and it was Roger Federer and his chase for No.1. He took a wild card into Rotterdam and by reaching the semis he achieved the milestone. Things almost came unstuck in the quarters as Robin Haase took him to three sets. Federer became the oldest man to reach No.1 ending Andre Agassi’s reign in that spot. It was also the longest gap, five years between stints at No.1.
Roger Federer held onto No.1 all of March for a total of 309 weeks at the top. The final of the BNP Paribas Open was remarkable as Federer has championship points against Juan Martin del Potro who rallied back to win a thrilling roller-coaster ride especially the final set tiebreaker. It was the Argentine’s first Masters 1000.
Serena Williams began her return after giving birth sixth months before and got to the third round before being stopped by sister Venus. There was much discussion over whether protected rankings and seedings rules should be changed to accommodate new mothers.
The women’s final was one-sided as Naomi Osaka stopped Daria Kasatkina for her biggest career title to date. More was to come later in the year.
Across the nation at the Miami Open there were more sensations. In one of the most dramatic and stunning upsets or the year Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis beat Federer in the second round from a set and break down becoming only the seventh Aussie to beat Federer and with that the Swiss lost the No.1 ranking.
The women’s first round was dramatic as Serena played Osaka with the later winning and the former storming off court and into a car.
The women’s title went to Sloane Stephens over Jelena Ostapenko two first time major winners from the year before and the men’s doubles title went to the Bryan brothers, it was their 115th title which is more than any other man in singles or doubles.
The Miami Open ended with John Isner winning his first Masters 1000, defeating Alexander Zverev and the women’s doubles went to Coco Vandeweghe and Ash Barty. Apart from Barty, Americans made it an American party in Miami.
Rafa Nadal returned to play and win his eleventh Monte Carlo Open and backed it up with an eleventh Barcelona title and he was back at No.1.
Alexander Zverev claimed the Madrid Open beating Dominic Thiem who had upset Rafa Nadal with the women’s title going to Petra Kvitova over Kiki Bertens. Nadal bounced right back and won his eighth Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome while the women’s title went to Elina Svitolina who beat Simona Halep.
Roland Garros began with Nadal chasing an eleventh title in Paris but most of the talk early on was centered on the return of Serena Williams in her first major since the 2017 Australian Open.
Serena Williams played superbly to reach the last 16 and was in line to face Maria Sharapova but the highly anticipated match never happened as Williams withdrew because of a pec muscle injury. But the overall celebration belonged to Simona Halep who, after losing two French finals and this year’s Australian Open final, finally won a major – a dream, was realised. She beat Sloane Stephens from a set down and made it 6-0 in the final set.
She became the second Romanian and first since her manager Virginia Ruzici 40 years before to win Roland Garros and ten years after she won the junior title.
Nadal was incredible and amazing all over again and he beat Dominic Thiem in the final. Nadal dropped just one set against Diego Schwartzman in the quarters, the first set he’d dropped at the French since the quarters in 2015. He’d won 41 consecutive sets on clay since then.
He became the first player in the Open era to win eleven titles at the same major and joined only Margaret Court to achieve that all time. It was his 79th career title, 57th clay title and 17th major.
END OF PART ONE
PART 2 WILL CONTINUE WITH JUNE AND THE START OF GRASS