Life on the WTA tour: Eight takeaways from this year's Australian Open

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Caroline Wozniacki won her first Grand Slam title at Melbourne this year. (AP)

1) From was to wizard

Caroline Wozniacki not only won her first Grand Slam title, but she returned to the world No. 1 ranking. She’d last held the top spot six years ago, on January 29, 2012. The six-year gap is the longest gap in WTA history.

2) Movers over shakers

At many key stages of the Australian Open, power hitters were taken down by nimble movers. Simona Halep easily dispatched Naomi Osaka and Karolina Pliskova. Angelique Kerber toppled Madison Keys and Maria Sharapova. Ash Barty beat Aryna Sabalenka and Camila Giorgi (though Barty lost to Osaka). 

3) It’s not good to be the queen

The winners of the last three Slams—Sloane Stephens/US Open, Garbine Muguruza/Wimbledon, Jelena Ostapenko/Roland Garros—collectively won three matches in Melbourne. For what it’s worth, in 10 appearances at Roland Garros, Wozniacki’s best efforts were a pair of quarterfinal appearances (though one of them came last year).    

4) Let us feel your pain

The old school Aussies liked to say, if you’re hurt, don’t play—and if you play, you’re not hurt.  In other words, no post-match whining. But maybe in today’s world, when trainer visits are frequent and visible, where social media can potentially trigger 24/7 coverage, it’s impossible to stay discreet. Or is it that the likes of Elina Svitolina and Simona Halep, each of whom spoke at length about the injuries after defeats (while giving credit to their opponents), are simply practitioners of contemporary confession? 

5) My kingdom for a volley  

Often in matches, a player would open up the court profoundly with a penetrating groundstroke, put the opponent on the defensive and then fail to move forward to strike what would appear to be a rather makeable volley. Hello, coaches: Teach these players some simple court management and volley skills. And while you’re at it, feed some lobs and resurrect the overhead. It was incredibly disturbing during the final to see Halep retreat and always opt for a swing volley over the smash. Does she even have one?

6) American tennis—one-off or warning?

On the eve of the tournament, much looked promising for the American contingent. But such contenders as Stephens, Coco Vandeweghe, Venus Williams—all semifinalists at the US Open—went out in the first round.  Madison Keys, sharp through four rounds, seemed completely at sea in the quarters, winning just three games versus Kerber. Still, Lauren Davis showed exceptional grit and game to earn match points versus Halep before losing 15-13 in the third in one of the best matches of the tournament.    

7) A lesson from Roger

Variations in spin and pace. Effortless precision. The ability to dissect and curate. These are the qualities we cherish in Roger Federer. A woman’s player did that too: Su-Wei Hsieh. Honorable mention to that versatile Australian, Ash Barty. Each of these two should give coaches and parents something to think about it when it comes to player development. 

8) Serena: Why worry?

As Serena Williams monitored the progression of styles and surprises, pretenders and contenders, it was hard to imagine her witnessing five straight minutes of the tennis and worrying if it was going to be difficult to make a successful return. Though we probably won’t see Williams in peak form until Wimbledon—might she borrow a page from Federer and eschew the clay-court season?—only the delights and distraction of family life appear factors that could derail her progress. Stats of note: Serena is 10-1 versus Wozniacki, 8-1 against Halep.  

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