One of the real beauties of sport is that, every so often, it throws you a curveball - an unexpected outcome that nobody predicted. Typically this involves an underdog success story - like a Leicester City, Oakland Athletics or Goran Ivanesevic - where all the stars align, allowing an unfancied contender succeed against all the odds. We saw shades of this at the Australian Open, where the performances of several 'longshots' made it a tournament to remember.
It may seem a bit of a stretch to describe Roger Federer an underdog, given that he has 18 Grand Slam titles to his name and is arguably the greatest male professional of all time. But the fact is he has just claimed his first Major in half a decade and hardly anybody saw it coming. In an era dominated by Novak Djokovic, with Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka as the best of the rest, the champion Swiss has seen his star fade and quietly slipped away from the pinnacle of the game.
Like his long-time rival Rafael Nadal - who also rediscovered something close to his best form in a run to the final - Federer's star has faded in recent years. Time waits for no man, as they say, and injuries start to take their toll. So to see the 35-year-old elevate himself back to the top step of a Grand Slam podium was a wonderful moment, made all the better by the fact this was his first tournament back from a six-month injury lay-off. Form is temporary, class is permanent.
In the Women's draw, it was normal service resumed for Serena Williams, who powered her way to a record 23rd Open era Major and reclaimed the world number one ranking from Angelique Kerber in the process. Certainly not for the first time in her long and distinguished career, she did so without losing a set. But this was only part of the tale. In many ways, the story of the tournament was that of Venus, who reannounced herself to the world by reaching a first Grand Slam final since 2008.
At the age of 36, the older Williams sister appears to have achieved a certain equilibrium after many years battling illness and injury. She thoroughly deserved her return to the spotlight, even if an eighth Major title was a step too far. Tennis fans have been thoroughly treated over almost two decades by these siblings, and it was heart-warming to see them back on court together in a Grand Slam final.
Ahead of the Australian Open, few would have predicted two 35-year-old champions, but the 'old guard' proved their enduring quality in Melbourne. For the likes of Murray, Djokovic and Kerber, surprise early exits are sure to add extra motivation for the months to come, both on the practice courts and out on tour. Before too long, the French Open and Wimbledon will be looming large on the horizon, and the top-ranked players will be eager to show that their failure in the first Grand Slam of 2017 was just an isolated blip.
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