Often known as the ‘Happy Slam’, the Australian Open always provides plenty of thrills and spills and it acts as the curtain raiser for the new campaign on the Grand Slam front. The tournament has been decorated with brilliant champions over the years, including Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams who have reigned supreme Down Under.
Plenty of upsets over the years
With under a fortnight until the Australian Open 2023 gets underway, it’s time to take a look back and reminisce on some shock first-time winners. We have examined five in this well-researched list, and this covers the men’s and women’s tournaments. Do you think there will be a new first time winner in 2023? You can find the best betting offers on USbetting24.
Jennifer Capriati (2001)
It’s fair to say that Jennifer Capriati’s rise in the game is meteoric. Fans seem to warm to stars that make the breakthrough from a young age, and Capriati certainly falls into that category. After making her professional debut at the tender age of 13, Capriati made a name for herself in the Slams. Although things nearly took their toll in the 1990s for the American, her comeback was nothing short of astonishing. And in 2001, she conquered Down Under with a tremendous run, as she saw off Monica Seles, Lindsay Davenport, and Martina Hingis en route to lifting the title.
Thomas Johansson (2002)
There are plenty of players who have endured pain at the Australian Open (Andy Murray springs to mind!), while some have seen Grand Slam success elude them. Perhaps Johansson wasn’t one of those players who many expected would get his hands on a coveted Major, but such expectations were exceeded in 2002. The Swede, of course, was a perfectly competent player, and he arrived at the 2002 edition of the tournament as the 16th seed. He had already amassed six career tour titles at that point, albeit five of them were at ATP 250 level.
He was hardly fancied at the beginning of the tournament to be crowned the champion, but the top seeds were topped early on. The likes of Gustavo Kuerten, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, and Tim Henman bade premature farewells, and the draw opened up for Johansson. Indeed, Johansson didn’t have to face a top-10 player until the Final where he ran into Marat Safin, and he smoked him in four sets. After trailing by a set, Johansson produced some stunning tennis, and the victory was a shock in itself. It was a defining moment in Johansson’s career and before retiring in 2009, he claimed three more titles and reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon.
Amelie Mauresmo (2006)
Of course, the serial winners and their awe-inspiring talent captivate our attention the most, but we do like a trier too. Amelie Mauresmo, by many accounts, was under-rated, but what she lacked in talent compared to some of her rivals, her determination was a rather admirable facet of her character.
She had been to the Australian Open before in 1999, but she was brushed aside comfortably by Hingis. There were also nine quarter-final defeats in Melbourne, but she was to be denied her championship-winning moment in 2006 when Justine Henin-Hardenne retired injured in the second set. However, the glory that came with her Australian Open success after years of heartache won’t ever be forgotten!
Stan Wawrinka (2014)
Known as ‘Stanimal’, Stan Wawrinka boasts some of the biggest groundstrokes on the ATP Tour, and his single-handed backhand is lethal. Perhaps he ought to have have won more Slam titles given his undeniable talent, but when you are playing in an era containing Rafael Nadal, Djokovic, and Roger Federer, then his accomplishments shouldn’t be diminished.
And in 2014, Wawrinka found himself having to navigate a path to the Final where Djokovic and Federer stood in his way. He would meet Nadal in the Final, and he came through in four sets. By doing so, he became the first player outside the ‘Big Four’ to claim a Slam title since Juan Martin del Potro claimed the US Open in 2009.
Sofia Kenin (2020)
Injuries may have seen her ranking slide in the past couple of years, but in 2020, Sofia Kenin was playing some of the finest tennis of her career. Before she won the Australian Open in 2020, she had lifted three WTA 250 Tour titles, so she was far from an unknown quantity. And in the build up to the 2020 Australian Open, nobody was really talking about Kenin. However, she swept past Coco Gauff, Petra Kvitova, Ash Barty, and Garbine Muguruza in the Final to get her hands on the title. Whether she will reach those lofty heights again remains to be seen.