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January 2023

January saw the start of the 2023 tennis season, and the first Grand Slam event of the year take place in Melbourne.

United States win the inaugural United Cup

The American team lead by Taylor Fritz, Frances Tiafoe, Jessica Pegula and Madison Keys triumphed in the first ever United Cup, a new mixed event and the first of its kind since the Hopman Cup, which was discontinued in 2019. They beat Italy 4-0 in the Final. There were also tournament victories for the likes of Novak Djokovic, Aryna Sabalenka and Belinda Bencic in Adelaide, and Coco Gauff in Auckland.

Australian Open

Prior to the tournament, world number 1 Carlos Alcaraz announced that he would miss the event due to injury. This meant that defending champion Rafael Nadal became the top seed. However, despite overcoming a tough test in Jack Draper in the First Round, his title defence ended in the Second Round, as hampered by injury he lost to Mackenzie McDonald. Last year’s runner-up Daniil Medvedev was also knocked out early by in-form American Sebastian Korda, who pushed Djokovic very close in the Adelaide Final a few weeks earlier.

Another young player that impressed was unseeded Jiri Lehecka: beating Borna Coric, Cameron Norrie and Felix Auger-Aliassime on his way to the Quarter Finals. In that half, Karen Khachanov made back-to-back Grand Slam Semi Finals but was beaten by an impressive Stefanos Tsitsipas. 

In the bottom half, Andy Murray rolled back the years with epic five set wins over Matteo Berrettini and Thanasi Kokkinakis. Many seeds fell in the Second Round with Jenson Brooksby knocking out Casper Ruud, Michael Mmoh beating Alex Zverev and Alexei Popyrin beating Taylor Fritz.

Tommy Paul took advantage and made his first Grand Slam Semi Final, beating youngster Ben Shelton in the Quarter Finals, who’s trip to Australia for the event was his first time outside of the United States. Novak Djokovic beat Paul in the Semi Finals, only dropping one set on his path to the Final. 

Djokovic and Tsitsipas were playing for not only the Australian Open title but the world number 1 ranking. In their first Grand Slam Final meeting, Djokovic came back from two sets down to win at the French Open in dramatic fashion. This time it was more straight-forward, as Djokovic beat the Greek in straight sets to win a record tenth Australian Open title and 22nd Grand Slam title. The new world number 1 is now level with Rafael Nadal in terms of number of Grand Slams won.

In the Women’s Singles, 2nd seed Ons Jabeur was beaten in the Second Round by Marketa Vondrousova. Poland’s world number 1 Iga Swiatek had won two of the last three Grand Slams, but would not get her hands on the Australian Open trophy this time. She was beaten by the player who won the only Grand Slam she didn’t win in that time: Elena Rybakina.

Another Pole, Magda Linette, had an inspired fortnight, beating Anett Kontaveit, Ekaterina Alexandrova, Caroline Garcia and Karolina Pliskova on her way to the Semi Finals. Viktoria Azarenka, champion here in 2012 and 2013, put in an impressive showing, reaching the Semi Finals after wins over Madison Keys and Jessica Pegula. She would be beaten by Rybakina in the Semi Finals.

Joining Rybakina in the Final would be Aryna Sabalenka. The Belarusian was playing some explosive tennis, and hadn’t dropped a set so far in the tournament, which included wins over Elise Mertens, Belinda Bencic and Linette. In a thrilling two-and-a-half-hour final, Sabalenka closed out a three set win for her first Grand Slam title. With that win, she is the new world number 2.

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We had a great time on Saturday

"Just wanted to let you know that we had a great time on Saturday and that it all went smoothly. I didn't realise it was better than making a booking in a restaurant, but even then we were very lucky to get a beautiful table for 6 at the Wingfield restaurant. It was the only one available! Thanks for helping me organise this nice day with the family and let's stay in touch for future years."

Gabriel Buteler

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