The first major of the season well and truly messed with our sleeping pattern but it was worth it

This year’s Australian Open served up some incredible storylines. Reigning NCAA men’s champion Ben Shelton, on his first trip outside the United States, reached the quarter-finals on what turned out to be “a movie”.

The 20-year-old lefty experienced the full set of results in Melbourne, including a five-set, come-from-behind victory in round one against Zhizhen Zhang, businesslike straight-sets wins in rounds two and three against Nicolas Jarry and Alexei Popyrin, and a mature five-set victory over compatriot J.J. Wolf in the round of 16.

Ben Shelton plays a backhand during his fourth-round match against J.J. Wolf Photo credit: Joel Carrett [Shutterstock]

Shelton, who has already surpassed his father Bryan – a former world No 55 – fell to another American Tommy Paul in the quarter-finals in four high-quality sets and when the new rankings are released, the Florida Gator, playing in his first full season on the ATP Tour while completing his degree online, will take his place amongst the top 50 in the world.

Michael Mmoh lost in the final round of qualifying but went on to take full advantage of his lucky loser spot after David Goffin’s withdrawal. Mmoh, with British coach Zack Evenden in his corner, made a run to the third round, picking up thrilling victories against French qualifier Laurent Lokoli in “crazy” circumstances in round one, before chalking off the biggest win of his life against world No 13 Alexander Zverev in round two.

Michael Mmoh stretches for a forehand en route to the biggest win of his career Photo credit: Kelly Defina [Getty]

The American, 25, eventually fell to compatriot Wolf in the third round but left Australia with his ranking well inside the top 100 (83 in the live rankings) after starting the year at 113. “It’s not a bluff top 100,” said coach Evenden. “He’s earnt this one.”

Staying Stateside, 16th seed Frances Tiafoe – the waviest of them all – also made a run to round three. Tiafoe took out German Daniel Altmaier in the first round in four sets and Chinese teenage sensation Juncheng Shang in the second round in straights before falling to Karen Khachanov in an eventful four-setter (on his 25th Birthday).

Not only did Big Foe wow the crowds with his incredible shotmaking, he also had Tennis Twitter playing fashion police as many weighed in on his eccentric fit (which he pulled off). His girlfriend Ayan Broomfield, encourager-in-chief, took us behind the curtain posting a video of the DC native trying on the look before his first-round match.

Break Point star Felix Auger-Aliassime made it to the second week and was the last man standing after the so-called “Netflix curse” saw the likes of Matteo Berrettini, Casper Ruud, Taylor Fritz, among others, make early exits.

Felix Auger-Aliassime acknowledges the crowd after his fourth-round defeat Photo credit: James Ross [Shutterstock]

FAA, donning the Renault logo on his right sleeve, fell to the talented Jiri Lehecka in four sets in the round of 16 and admitted afterwards he did not play well in any of his matches in Australia.

Coco Gauff entered the first major of the year with a perfect 5-0 record in 2023 after securing her third career title in Auckland and got off to a positive start Down Under. The 18-year-old American navigated her way through to the second week with straight-sets wins against Katerina Siniakova, Emma Raducanu – win 100 on the WTA Tour – and Bernarda Pera before falling to former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.

Coco Gauff plays a forehand during first-round match on Rod Laver Photo credit: Mark Kolbe [Getty]

Gauff was visibly emotional during her post-match press conference following defeat to Ostapenko but spoke with considered maturity. “I worked really hard and felt really good coming into the tournament,”  said Gauff, who was the subject of a BBC Sport column for the fortnight. “I still feel good. I still feel like I’ve improved a lot.”

Following her singles exit, Gauff went on to reach the last four in the women’s doubles with partner Jessica Pegula.

A player who was unfortunate to miss out on a place in the singles main draw was Alycia Parks. The 22-year-old American lost in the second round of qualifying but did register a couple of wins in the women’s doubles draw with Oksana Kalashnikova of Georgia. The pair reached the third round where they were beaten by defending champions Siniakova and Barbora Krejcikova.

Taylor Townsend made good of her singles wildcard and very nearly reached the third round after taking 19th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova to three sets. Townsend, who was unbeaten on the doubles court coming into the AO, handily beat Diane Parry in the first round 6-1, 6-1 and took the opening set against Alexandrova by the same scoreline before falling 2-6, 3-6.

Taylor Townsend plays a volley during her second-round match Photo credit: Aaron Favila [AP]

Like Gauff and Parks, Townsend was in the women’s double draw with Asia Muhammad. The Adelaide 1 champions were ousted in the second round. Townsend did go further in the mixed doubles event, teaming with Jamie Murray and making a run to the quarter-finals.

Madison Keys is another player who has made a blazing start to the season after going unbeaten at the United Cup. A semi-finalist last year, this year’s 10th seed reached the third round where she fell to two-time champion Victoria Azarenka in three sets.

Elsewhere, Christopher Eubanks reached the second round for the first time after a five-set victory over in-form Soonwoo Kwon. Eubanks gave a good account of himself against Lehecka in the next round but the Czech had too much for the big-serving American over four sets.

Christopher Eubanks plays a forehand in his first-round match Photo credit: Asanka Brendon Ratnayake [AP]

Sloane Stephens, Jasmine Paolini and Mikael Ymer all had tough openers. Stephens made a good start against Anastasia Potapova but went down 6-7, 4-6. Paolini faced 18th seed Liudmila Samsonova and fell 2-6, 4-6 and Ymer also fell in straight sets to 31st seed Yoshihito Nishioka 4-6, 2-6, 5-7.

In the junior event, Great Britain’s Ranah Akua Stoiber – a Ghana girl – had a breakthrough tournament after reaching her first Grand Slam semi-final.

Ranah Akua Stoiber serves during her third-round match Photo credit: Robert Prange [Getty]

The 17-year-old, who was seeded 13th, won three of her five matches in straight sets, and came through a tricky third-round encounter against Germany’s Ella Seidel – a player ranked 267 places above her – in three sets. Stoiber lost to seventh and eventual runner-up Mirra Andreeva 3-6, 2-6.

And that is your lot! Big congrats to Aryna Sabalenka for winning her first Grand Slam and Novak Djokovic for taking the men’s crown.

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