The 2016 Australian Open began under the cloud of a BBC/Buzzfeed report alleging match-fixing in tennis. The chaos surrounding the story was matched on court by a slew of upsets, particularly in the women's draw. By the completion of the second round, only 14 of the 32 seeded women remained in the draw. The men's seeds experienced a less turbulent time of it in Melbourne, with only seven failing to advance to the third round. Week one will also be remembered for the final match of Lleyton Hewitt's career. The long-time Aussie stalwart lost to David Ferrer in the second round, in his 20th appearance at the Australian Open.
Check out who's left in the WOMEN'S DRAW
The Chinese player, ranked as high as #30 in 2014, scored one of the biggest upsets of the first week when she dismissed #2 seed Simona Halep in straight sets. Compounding the loss for Halep was the fact that Zhang had failed to advance past the first round of a Slam in each of her previous 14 attempts, and lost in qualifying at Slams a further 13 times. Yet, the world #133 summoned her best tennis, and finds herself in the fourth round, where she will play Madison Keys on Monday.
In just her third attempt at qualifying for a Grand Slam main draw, Osaka made it all the way to the third round before losing to a resurgent Victoria Azarenka. She will leave Melbourne with yet another career high ranking, having announced herself as a player to watch for the 2016 season and beyond. Osaka beat Donna Vekic in the first round and then #18 seed Elina Svitolina in straight sets two days later.
Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka have dominated headlines in the early rounds. Should they both make it to the final, the meeting would represent a resumption of a match-up that once promised to feature heavily on tour, before Azarenka was beset by injury in 2014. While Serena owns a lopsided head-to-head against the two-time Australian Open champion, their meetings became increasingly competitive prior to Azarenka's plummet down the rankings. The pair met in six finals between the 2012 U.S. Open and 2014 Brisbane International: Williams won four times, including consecutive U.S. Open finals. This Australian Open could be the (re)start of something special, particularly for those who insist on Williams needing to have a rival on tour.
ON THE WEB
WTA Injury Report - Australian Open
"Calmer Daria Gavrilova Discovers a Fine Balance"
Zhang Shuai: A Dream Run from the Abyss
"Rising Star Johanna Konta Striking A Blow for British Tennis"
Heather Watson's Partnership with Judy Murray Not Permanent
"Ash Barty Left Tennis for Pro Cricket; Will She Ever Return?"
From the SI Vault: Profile of the Williams Sisters from the '98 Australian Open
"Osaka's Star on the Rise"
ICYM the drama surrounding Night 6 at the Australian Open
Check out who's left in the MEN'S DRAW
Lleyton Hewitt bid farewell to the ATP Tour after a second round loss to David Ferrer this week. His prospects for a deep run in the tournament always hinged on a kind placement in the draw. An opening match against countryman James Duckworth allowed the home crowd to experience one final night-time win for Hewitt in Rod Laver Arena. The hard reality for Hewitt is he was never able to deliver at his home Slam: only once in 20 tries did he make the quarterfinals (then was beaten by Marat Safin in the 2005 final). Long a ceremonial player at Slams, Hewitt became a fan favourite toward the end of his career, re-branded from his early years. His on-court aggression and missteps were forgotten in favour of the warrior who never gave up. Regardless of how you feel about Hewitt, he cut a large figure on the ATP Tour, and his contributions to the game over the last two decades will endure.
WATCH: A film crew followed Hewitt for the past 12 months. This is the final product: "Lleyton Hewitt: The Final Tour"
Rafael Nadal was one of the major casualties of the first week in Melbourne. His first round loss to Fernando Verdasco marked the second time the two played a five set-match in Melbourne, the other being the 2009 semifinal won by Nadal. This first round loss for Nadal comes after the world #5 had seemingly made progress toward regaining some of his best form, which eluded him for much of the 2015 season. He began the year healthy, and with a finals appearance in Doha, it appeared he was capable of a deep run in Melbourne. Patrick Mouratoglou, coach of Serena Williams, gave an interview to Carole Bouchard for Sports Illustrated, in which he offered some enlightening insights into what this loss means for Nadal and his career going forward. As Mouratoglou suggests, Nadal is a step slower. But is his loss of foot speed reversible? Is it due to a lack of confidence or, more worryingly, the effects of a decade's worth of physically taxing tennis? The upcoming clay season will reveal much about where Nadal is headed in the near future: can he improve his footwork and confidence as he attempts to find a way back to the highest level of men's tennis?
ON THE WEB
"Tennis Season Opens to Accusations of Match Fixing"
"In Their Own Words: Players' Reactions to Allegations of Match Fixing"
Paradorn Srichaphan fails to earn a place on the Asian Golf Tour
"Andy Murray Doesn't Engender Roger Federer-like Worship, but Maybe he Should"
Boris Becker speaks to Rolling Stone
"How Lleyton Hewitt Changed the Sport of Tennis"
"Lleyton Hewitt Ends Aptly: Sprinting, Cursing, With a Few Tears"
"Operating on a Shoestring, Ireland Struggles to Develop First Rate Players"
Tennis "leaders" may be forced to answer questions in British parliament over match-fixing row.
Jon Wertheim'sinterview with Scott Ferguson on match-fixing scandal.
"Tennis is Getting What it Deserves with Latest Match-Fixing Scandal"
"First Round Defeat Raises More Questions for Rafael Nadal"
"Why Betting Data Alone Can't Identify Match Fixers in Tennis"
The Body Serve - "Mid Aussie Open Chat: Scandal, Upsets & Your Least Favorite Commies"
Beyond the Baseline - ATP'S Chris Kermode on match-fixing reports
No Challenges Remaining - Five new "daily episodes" from the Australian Open, Episode 141 a-e.
The Tennis Podcast - Lots of Hewitt content over two new episodes.