With the pandemic still in play, the Australian Open began In Melbourne Monday, three weeks later than usual, with all-time greats Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic competing in feature matches. No. 10 Serena easily defeated No. 51 Laura Siegemund, Germany, 6-1. 6-1 during the day session and defending champion Djokovic faces No. 66 Jeremy Chardy, France, during the evening session.
An Achilles injury that Williams suffered at the U.S. Open last September forced her to withdraw from the French and Italian Opens, but the Australian Open’s decision to postpone the first major, due to the pandemic, made it possible for her play the Melbourne event. However, a second injury (shoulder) prompted her to default a semifinal match to top-ranked Ashleigh Barty at the Yarra Valley Classic four days ago. “At my age (39), I really just try to go on how I’m feeling physically and not put myself in a bad position in general for my health,” Williams said.
Williams claimed her 23rd major in 2017 when she won her 7th Australian Open title. Since then, she has fallen short of tying Margaret Court’s record by a single match four times: twice at Wimbledon (2018-19) and twice at U.S. Open (2018-2019). Former pro Lindsay Davenport is among several former pros who considers Williams the greatest-of-all-time (GOAT) even if she never wins another major. “She’s been the greatest player we’ve ever seen,” Davenport told the LA Times. “Does she need to get to 24, 25, to make everyone believe that? I don’t think so. Margaret won a number of Australian Opens with a 32-player draw (and) 90% of the players being Australian. A little bit of an unfair comparison. It’s on her mind …. I say she ties it this year. I’m not sure if she breaks it. Two is a lot to win in one year.”
In recognition of Black History Month, the International Tennis Hall of Fame (ITHF) released a digital exhibit, Breaking the Racial Barriers, which is a comprehensive look at the history of black tennis in America. The exhibit includes profiles of black tennis pioneers, including R. Walter (Whirlwind) Johnson, who in 2009 was inducted into the ITHF as a contributor. Profiles of other pioneers and current pros also are featured in the multimedia timeline, spanning more than 120 years. With the ITHF’s permission, we will provide profiles of former and current players throughout the 2021 Australian Open, beginning tomorrow with Serena Williams.