Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks ahead to the latest in tennis. Today, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews day 1 of the 2021 Australian Open.
We’ll get to the Australian Open but first, a detour.
We’re taking a detour to the very same Margaret Court Arena where a good portion of this upcoming Australian Open will take place, a detour there, yes, to discuss the fact that Daniel Evans beat Felix Auger-Aliassime in the Murray River Open final by the score of 6-2 and 6-3.
The win gives the 30-year-old Evans the very first title of his career, a distinction that the Canadian who’s 10 years younger is still looking for so far in his decidedly young career. Because, and stop us if you’ve heard this before, this loss in the final over the weekend brings FAA to a rather gloomy 0-7 record in finals.
This isn’t stellar, let’s call it that, but there are two different ways of looking at the situation. On the one hand, it doesn’t matter how many finals you make if you keep losing them because ultimately you play to win the matches; that would be the glass half-empty viewpoint. On the other hand, making seven (and counting) finals before your 21st birthday is undeniably impressive and is a sign of bigger and better things still ahead; that would be the glass half-full approach.
Though whichever way you look at it, the fact remains that Auger-Aliassime’s trophy case remains for now 100% empty. I guess that’s the problem.
John Cain Arena: Pedro Sousa vs Stanislas Wawrinka  (First match of the day)
When the draw for this first major was released, Novak Djokovic fans must have pestered their (bad) luck at realizing that 17-seed Stanislas Wawrinka had been slotted in the top half of the draw, meaning that their favourite would likely need to contend with the one man who’s been as lethal against him as anyone else in the past decade.
Wawrinka might not be playing as well as he always has, but he has a knack for stepping up when he’s matched up against Djokovic. Look, we can’t really help things here: if it happens, it happens—and if it happens, it’ll happen in the fourth round.
1573 Arena: Arantxa Rus vs Iga Swiatek  (Second match of the day)
It’s not often you can say you’re watching the player who represents the likely future of the sport turning into precisely everything it is that everyone had hoped for—but that’s what at stakes for Iga Swiatek in 2021. Now, we’re not saying that the 19-year-old must absolutely use this new season as the launching pad that turns her into women’s tennis’s next great champion; there are ways to look back at this season and consider it a whopping success. But after the end to her 2020 season, expectations are sky high for the young Polish player.
Margaret Court Arena: Jannik Sinner vs Denis Shapovalov  (Second match of the night)
Will this be the best match of the first round? Maybe but who knows? What we do know is that we’re looking at two of the probable handful of very best players in the men’s game for the next decade or so.
Whereas Denis Shapovalov arrived with great fanfare a few years ago, Italian Jannik Sinner has lurked and seems poised to break through in a major way before long: we’re already on the record saying that the 19-year-old could have the whole tennis world at his feet if he keeps this up.
If nothing else, this first round match is a look at the future of men’s tennis and you could certainly do worse than that.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG