Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks ahead to the latest in tennis. Today, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews day 7 of the 2021 Australian Open.
In the end, there were two.
Typically, the above opening is as cliche as it comes and teachers at journalism school will tell you to avoid the big fat cliches when you write. To seek the unexpected. To write about the man biting the dog but not the dog biting the man.
But in our case, this opening is perfect it’s literally what happened. One minute Novak Djokovic and Taylor Fritz were in the midst of a hotly contested third round match at this year’s Australian Open before the sparsely filled stands of Rod Laver Arena—and the next, all fans inside the stadium left, with the two players finishing their match on their own.
What happened and why?
The reason? The Australian government had ruled that the country would go under strict quarantine in order to help curb COVID-19 and its spread. Thus, there would be no gatherings whatsoever in the country for the following five days, including for this Australian Open. (Whether they think hosting this Grand Slam is and was a great idea is probably beside the point.)
Look, it’s fine and this is something that they should have done from the very beginning: there was really no rhyme or reason to have fans on-site. It’s just a little odd to hear that the quarantine will be so short, though we suppose that the powers that be have their reasons (they do and it’s a word that rhymes with honey). But ultimately we’re left to kind of assume that the only real reason why no Australian Open matches are cancelled is that…tennis players are deemed to be essential workers?
Matches to highlight
As always, here are three matches we’ve chosen to highlight below. For the rest of the day 7 schedule, please head over here.
Rod Laver Arena: Garbine Muguruza  vs Naomi Osaka (first match of the day)
What a way to start this day 7: on one side of the net is a former No. 1 who’s still only 27 years old and with two Grand Slam titles to her name, while on the other is another former No. 1 with three different Grand Slam titles under her belt. Garbine Muguruza will no doubt hope to equal last year’s final belt but it’ll be a daunting task: Osaka, after all, has already triumphed at this event once in the past.
Rod Laver Arena: Grigor Dimitrov  vs Dominic Thiem  (Not before 3pm AEDT)
Somehow, Grigor Dimitrov and Dominic Thiem are merely two years and change apart? We’re not sure if that makes us feel like the former just ages slowly or the latter does so quickly, but we do find it odd. That said, this is a juicy matchup: Thiem should have the advantage but he hasn’t been his sharpest all the while Dimitrov certainly has in navigating a tricky draw.
Rod Laver Arena: Iga Swiatek  vs Simona Halep  (First match of the evening)
On paper, this is about as fun of a matchup as a fourth round match can get, we’ll just need to see if Iga Swiatek and Simona Halep deliver. Both players play a similar kind of game, if only 10 years apart, and a best-case scenario for the young Swiatek’s career is likely that of Halep, right?
Yeah, this will be fun.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG