Some things about the Australian Open were fairly easy to guess: Novak Djokovic bringing home the men's title, the flaming-out of all the Australian men at their home tournament, very hot weather. Others were not, and it's a good time to re-examine those things now:
1. The sudden confrontation with the end of Andy Murray's career: Before he took the court for his first-round match, Murray had a hit with Djokovic that ended with him in physical and emotional pain. At a press conference, Murray said the Aussie Open might be his last tournament, although he was hoping to end it all at Wimbledon. Now, at this moment, Murray is recovering from a last-ditch surgery that hopefully can help his hip heal so he can play without pain. But just in case it doesn't, we should let the record show that, yes, he finally brought the Wimbledon crown to the home crowd. Back in the day, Murray hired Amelie Mauresmo to be his coach and everyone clutched the pearls. Since then, there has not been a more vocal pro-woman male player than Murray. Women appreciate this. Men claim to appreciate this, and then make the claim that because men attract larger ratings, they should be paid more than women. (Hi, Rafa. Still loving that sexy ass, but that's foul.) These days, Mauresmo is working another male pro, Lucas Pouille, and she will have her work cut out for her. After a recent win, Pouille was asked about the decision to have a (gasp) female coach. His response -- that Mauresmo's gender shouldn't matter -- is the mark of Andy Murray, whether he returns to court or not.
2. Serena Williams: Now, I didn't have her advancing past Simona Halep -- her footwork has been shoddy since she returned to the tour. But her footwork has improved quite a bit and she was able to advance to the brink of the semifinals. But what happened when she was up 5-1 in the third set is basically unheard of when it comes to Serena. True confession time: I was watching the match on mute, so I didn't hear the chatter about her injury until the next day. Sure, they showed close-ups of her stumble, but it didn't register at that point that it hampered her play. And frankly, it never looked as though it did. She had plenty of opportunities to close that match and she didn't. Whether it was tentativeness or injury or whatever, she didn't finish it out. A lot has been made of the fact that she didn't call for a trainer. Maybe she didn't need one? Now her coach is out in the world saying that she didn't call for a trainer because she knew the tournament was over for her. He got that out of his own head, having acknowledged that he never spoke to her. Look, I've said since the breastfeeding thing that she needed to cut bait on Patrick Mouratoglou. He is clearly a great tennis mind, but the man is really mostly interested in himself. And then there's the business of the foot fault on match point. Was it a foot fault? I have no idea. But it was one point of a match with many points (and three other match points ...) and to blame her loss on that call, even if it was wrong, is crazy. But yet, there was that groundswell. I'll just never get over the crowd that wants to paint Serena Williams as a perpetual victim, even when Serena isn't doing that.
3. How ineffective Nadal's game can be: Watching Nadal get picked apart by Djokovic, it became clear to me why Nadal's best results come at the French Open. He is a grinder, a physical player who works points until he can seize an advantage. Unfortunately for him, Djokovic is not a patient man. Djokovic is able to cut points short in his favor and the whole cat-and-mouse approach isn't going to work on him at his current level. Nadal's game can grind down most of the field -- he advanced to the final, after all. But against Djokovic, it didn't work. If Nadal wants to truly challenge Djokovic in his current form, he's going to need a first-strike sort of approach himself.
4. Maria Sharapova's results: Double bagel in the first round, beating Caroline Wozniacki, taking Ash Barty to three sets? What has happened here?
5. Ana Pavlyuchenkova's results: Every time I fill out a draw with Pavly in it, I hover over her match and think the same thing every time: "She could win that. But will she?" And again she showed flashes of what she can do. Taking down Sloane Stephens is a big deal and normally I'd have something to say for her bowing out to Danielle Collins, but Angelique Kerber also lost to Collins which is still blowing my mind.
6. Naomi Osaka winning the Australian Open: She's a kid. She's not supposed to win two Slams in a row, both under extreme duress against wily veterans who are Slam champs themselves. I don't know what keeps Osaka calm in closing out these matches, but I need some of it just so I can get through most days without chucking items at people.