We’re four days into the 2019 Australian Open, and things—namely, the weather and the competition—are already very hot.
The prestigious pro tennis tournament, also known as the Grand Slam of Asia-Pacific, began on Monday, January 14, at iconic Melbourne Park. In the days since, dozens of world-class athletes have played through temperatures topping 100 degrees, with major match upsets already making headlines.
Haven’t tuned in yet? No sweat. Here, we share background on the big-name tournament, recap the highlights to date, and explain how and where you can catch the rest of the action, which continues through Sunday, January 27.
The Australian Open is one of four Grand Slam Tournaments held every year.
The Australian Open and the three other annual Grand Slam Tournaments (Wimbledon, the French Open, and the U.S. Open), are the “tentpoles of the sport,” David Brewer, U.S. Open tournament director, previously told SELF. “They’re the longest running and seen by the players as the most prestigious trophies to win each year.”
These competitions are so prestigious, in part, because essentially every big-name tennis player participates, unless they're injured or taking time off from the sport. The field is large and deep, with 128 singles in the men’s and women’s competitions, 64 teams in the men’s and women’s doubles competitions, and 48 teams in the mixed doubles competition, plus many others in the additional events. (More on the other events in a minute.) Players and teams advance or are eliminated in a bracket-style competition—kind of like March Madness on a larger scale—which makes the entire tournament extremely exciting, whether you follow tennis regularly or just tune in for the Grand Slam events.
Though the four Grand Slam tournaments include the same events and follow the same qualifying procedures, they all carry a unique vibe.
“Each Grand Slam event tends to take on the personality of its host city,” said Brewer. As for the Australian Open, it’s known for having a laid-back vibe, a spokesman for the USTA tells SELF. (USTA is the governing body that runs the U.S. Open.)
The Australian Open is also unique in that it marks the first major competition of the season. Many of the players are coming off several weeks—or even months—of downtime, which means the general field of athletes is rested and ready to go, says the spokesman. This gives the tournament a sense of optimism and promise, he adds, though it can also add to the pressure, as an athlete’s performance at the Australian Open can, for better or for worse, set the tone for their entire season.
Lastly, because of the aforementioned heat in Melbourne (after all, it is summer in Australia right now), this particular Grand Slam tournament is a tough test of the players’ endurance.
Since the first matches began, there have been multiple upsets, with several up-and-comers defeating more seasoned competitors.
On the women’s side, 17-year-old American Amanda Anisimova, the youngest player currently ranked in the top 100 by the Women's Tennis Association, beat #24 ranked Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine. The win secured #92 ranked Anisimova’s spot in the third round of competition (singles players must win seven rounds to nab the overall tournament title).
On the men’s side, Frances Tiafoe, a 20-year-old American player (current ranking by the Association of Tennis Professionals: #38) bested #6 ranked Kevin Anderson of South Africa. With the victory, Tiafoe also secured his place in the third round of competition.
With more than 10 days to go, there are plenty of exciting matches ahead.
For the women’s singles competition, household names—Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Danish star Caroline Wozniacki (the 2018 Australian Open Champion in women’s singles), and Japan’s Naomi Osaka (the 2018 U.S. Open Champion in women’s singles)—are key players to watch, though as mentioned, major upsets can and do happen during Grand Slam tournaments. That's part of what makes the competitions so exciting.
When it comes to the men’s singles title, serious contenders include longtime legends Roger Federer of Switzerland (the 2018 Australian Open Champion), Rafael Nadal of Spain (the 2018 French Open Champion), and Novak Djokovic of Serbia (the 2018 U.S. Open and Wimbledon Champion), though as mentioned, other athletes should not be ruled out.
Also, while the men's and women's singles competitions are the most publicized events at Wimbledon, there are more than a dozen categories of competition, including the men’s and women's doubles as well as mixed doubles (teams made up of one man and one woman). That's in addition to wheelchair singles and doubles for both men and women, plus singles and doubles for both boys and girls (also known as the Juniors competition).
Here’s how and when you can catch the rest of the action:
The competition continues through Sunday, January 27, with matches held daily as winners advance to the third round, round of 16, semifinals, quarterfinals, and then finals. The women's singles final will be played on Saturday, January 26 at 3:30 A.M. ET (5:30 P.M. local time), and the men's singles final will be the next day at 3:30 A.M. ET. Check out the full match schedule on the Australian Open website here.
You can watch matches live on the Australian Open website, though keep in mind Melbourne is 14 hours ahead of East Coast time, so the games often fall during the middle of night for American viewers, in which case you might just want to watch highlights, accessible here. You can also catch highlights on ESPN, which you can access via cable, Hulu Live, Sling TV, or DirecTV Now. If you don’t have cable or one of these subscriptions, you can download the ESPN+ app (a seven-day trial is free and a monthly subscription costs $ 4.99) to view coverage.