Australian Open: No happy ever Rafter, Cash machine didn't pay out – Barty eyes glory after Aussie heroes fell short

By Sports Desk January 27, 2022

Australia expects as Ash Barty faces Danielle Collins in Saturday's grand slam final at Melbourne Park.

The world number one, from Ipswich, Queensland, will be bidding for her third grand slam singles title but a first at the Australian Open.

The wait for a home champion has been a long one, but it could soon be over.

Chris O'Neil was the last Australian winner of the women's singles, way back in 1978, while the last men's singles champion was Mark Edmondson in 1976.

Australia has hardly been starved of tennis talent over the past 40 years, but for one reason or another, the home slam has been beyond their reach.

Here, Stats Perform remembers the household names who have seen their hopes dashed in Melbourne.

Jelena Dokic

Dokic never came close in Melbourne, truth be told. Which is not to say she lacked the ability, having reached the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2000 and climbed as high as number four in the WTA rankings two years later. Dokic's career was blighted by a traumatic relationship with her overbearing and violent coach and father, Damir, whom she alleged physically abused her on many occasions. Her best performance at Melbourne Park came against all expectations, at the outset of a tour comeback in 2009 when she reached the quarter-finals, losing out there to Dinara Safina. Dokic, who is now 38 and retired from the tour, has been conducting on-court interviews during this year's Australian Open.

Lleyton Hewitt

'Rusty' won Wimbledon and US Open titles at the peak of his powers, and reached number one in the world at the age of 20. Before Roger Federer came along with different ideas, it seemed Hewitt might rule the roost in the men's game for years to come. He reached one Australian Open final, and in 2005 that was a glorious chance to secure a home major as he faced Russian Marat Safin in the final. Hewitt won the first set, but then Safin took command, winning in four. Incredibly, it would be the last grand slam men's singles final not to feature Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic until the 2014 US Open (Nishikori v Cilic).

Pat Cash

Cash's career peak came at Wimbledon in 1987, when he beat Ivan Lendl to capture the title before famously climbing up to the players' box. At the start of that year he almost won the Australian Open, too, when that tournament was staged on grass at Kooyong, in Melbourne's suburbs. He lost a five-set thriller to Stefan Edberg, another grass-court master, and when the tournament moved to Melbourne Park a year later, shifting to hardcourts, Cash was a finalist once more. Again, he suffered heartbreak in a deciding set, Mats Wilander denying Cash home glory, and he would never play a grand slam final again.

Samantha Stosur

Stosur, who called time on her singles career after a second-round defeat in Melbourne this year, was Australia's most recent women's singles grand slam champion until Barty came along. She triumphed at the 2011 US Open, sensationally beating Serena Williams in the Flushing Meadows final, and got to as high as number four in the world. She also reached the 2010 French Open final, but Stosur was never a factor in the business end of her home major, at least in singles. The fourth round was the furthest she ever went, but it was a different story in doubles, as she won an Australian Open mixed title in 2005, alongside fellow Australian Scott Draper. In the twilight of her career, in 2019, she teamed up with Zhang Shuai to win the women's doubles, a poignant success after so much singles frustration.

Mark Philippoussis

Philippoussis, aka 'Scud', was a US Open runner-up in 1998 and also reached the 2003 Wimbledon final, where he was the sacrificial lamb as Federer scooped the first grand slam title of his career. In Australia, though, just like Stosur, his slam peak was round four, a disappointment considering his talent and weaponry. In 1996, Philippoussis stunned the then world number one Pete Sampras in the third round in Melbourne, only to lose to lowly ranked compatriot and doubles expert Mark Woodforde in his next match. Arguably the most famous story concerning Philippoussis and the Australian Open is the widely reported rumour he was spotted kissing Anna Kournikova in an underground car park at the 2000 tournament. Both denied it. "Just good friends," was Kournikova's verdict.

Pat Rafter

Rafter won back-to-back US Opens in 1997 and 1998, as well as reaching consecutive Wimbledon finals in 2000 and 2001. A semi-final run in Melbourne in 2001, which proved to be the serve-volley master's last year on tour, was Rafter's best performance at his home slam, eventual champion Andre Agassi coming from two sets to one down to deny him a place in the title match.

Nick Kyrgios

All the talent in the world, but Kyrgios appears to be happy enough ploughing a unique furrow though his tennis career. Top five in the shot-making stakes, Kyrgios turns 27 in April and his ability has taken him to just two slam quarter-finals to date, including at the 2015 Australian Open. He was a junior champion at Melbourne Park in 2013, and has also reached the fourth round twice in the seniors. It is up to Kyrgios whether he wishes to make optimum use of his remarkable racket skills or carry on entertaining with virtuoso, but short-lived, singles runs. You wonder whether a Barty triumph could ignite this firecracker of a player.

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    Carlo Ancelotti must have been considering it. He must have been thinking that this would not be Vinicius Junior's night.

    The hour mark was approaching, the Brazilian boy wonder had barely made an impact on this Champions League final, and on the bench there was semi-final hero Rodrygo, straining for a chance.

    Heck, there was Eden Hazard too, and even Isco and Gareth Bale. For old time's sake, did they ever cross Ancelotti's mind.

    There had been a first-half flicker from the 21-year-old Vinicius, when he got the better of Liverpool's Ibrahima Konate with a stealthy piece of skill in the penalty area, but Jordan Henderson read the danger and gladly conceded a corner.

    But that had really been the first and last time in the first 58 minutes of play that Vinicius caused Liverpool any real consternation. He had a team-low 29 touches of the ball at that point, but then Federico Valverde's low cross from the right presented him with a 30th, a tap-in at the far post. The phantom menace became the match-winner.

    Trent Alexander-Arnold, needing to initially cover Karim Benzema, appeared to almost forget about Vinicius, but there he was, lurking, and he could not miss.

    Billed as a Ballon d'Or shootout between Benzema and Liverpool's Mohamed Salah, this final largely ignored that script. If anybody put in a performance worth of such an honour here, it was Madrid's outstanding goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who made nine saves, the most on record in a Champions League final since 2003-04.

    Watched by Ronaldo, the great Brazilian whose health scare before the 1998 World Cup final at this very stadium was followed by France romping to glory, Vinicius stayed on the pitch until stoppage time, when Ancelotti opted for Rodrygo's fresh legs.

    Ancelotti, that is, who is now a four-time Champions League winner, the first coach in the history of the competition, in this or its previous guise as the European Cup, to reach that tally.

    He has trusted Vinicius all season long, backed a blossoming talent and been richly rewarded by the youngster, and his winner in such a game of high prestige marks another step forward in a career that could see him finish among the all-time greats.

    There were plenty of greats inside the Stade de France, many in the stands. Needless to say, the likes of Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Clarence Seedorf, Zinedine Zidane and Fabio Cannavaro did not have to tolerate any of the nonsense outside the stadium that forced this game to be delayed by 36 minutes, that left reports of children in tears, of pepper-spraying police, media being mistreated, and of panic on the streets of Paris.

    The Galacticos were joined in the VIP seats by Rafael Nadal, midway through his crusade for a 14th French Open title.

    Madrid now have 14 Champions League and European Cup titles, and Ancelotti, who delivered La Decima in 2014, has delivered two of those after the two he landed with his beloved Milan.

    A double of LaLiga and the Champions League is theirs, while Liverpool must settle for their own twin triumphs from the FA Cup and EFL Cup. The quadruple was beyond them, and Liverpool blew themselves out in the first half here.

    After knocking out Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, Manchester City and now sinking Liverpool in the trophy match, Madrid reign once more.

    Vinicius reigns – the first South American aged 21 or younger to have 10 or more goal involvements in a Champions League campaign since Lionel Messi for Barcelona in the 2008-09 season.

    His four goals and six assists in Europe came from a personal all-competitions haul of 22 goals and 16 assists in 52 games for the season. At 21 years and 320 days, Vinícius is the fifth youngest player to score in a Champions League final.

    Ancelotti reigns – "I am a record man," he told BT Sport at full-time.

    Benzema reigns – it was not his night but could have been.

    The Frenchman had a goal ruled out for offside just before half-time, after a three-and-a-half-minute wait for a VAR verdict. Deciphering that moment was as challenging as the task of unravelling the Agatha Christie footballers' wives court saga, and it caused almost as much soapbox frothing on social media.

    Come the final whistle, and Madrid's celebrations of their 1-0 victory, that moment was an afterthought.

    At full-time, former Liverpool and Madrid striker Michael Owen said of Jurgen Klopp's Reds: "I still think they're the team to beat... the most fearsome team in Europe".

    Owen was in Paris, at pitchside even, but must have missed the news. Madrid reign again.

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    Stefanos Tsitsipas said the consistency of his rivals has pushed him to become a better athlete after he eased into the French Open's last-16 with a 6-2 6-2 6-1 win over Mikael Ymer.

    Having fought back from two sets down to beat Lorenzo Musetti in the first round before downing Zdenek Kolar in an absorbing four-set contest featuring three tie-breaks, the Greek enjoyed a more routine outing against the 23-year-old Swede.

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    "I have questioned myself, how do I become a better athlete? These guys have pushed me to become a better athlete. 

    "I question myself, really, what can I add to my life that can eventually help me achieve more and do more, and do better in terms of my career. So, every day is a question: What can I add?

    "Looking back on the diet that I had, let's say, three or four years ago, it's nothing compared to what I have now. In terms of fitness, this is something that I have questioned a lot, as well.

    "And, of course, the balance between life and career. It hasn't been easy, but I kind of feel in better control of my life right now, being focused and having control around me without relying too much on other people's feelings."

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    "I had to do my job. I had to play my tennis. I wasn't really thinking of the ease that I could maybe create in terms of a result," he added.

    "But with my good efforts, the way I committed myself to every single point individually, the end was good. I was able to create a good result today with some good tennis

    "It's a good thing to have a match like this every now and then, I think. It was a good performance in ways."

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    Giorgi moved into the fourth round with a 4-6 6-1 6-0 defeat of the seventh seed on Court Simonne-Mathieu.

    Italian Giorgi broke the two-time grand slam semi-finalist from Belarus' serve six times as she booked a meeting with Daria Kasatkina, progressing beyond the third round for the first time at Roland Garros.

    Veronika Kudermetova earlier reached the last 16 of a major for the first time when Paula Badosa retired from their third-round match due to a right calf injury at 6-3 2-1 down.

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    The top seed saw off Danka Kovinic 6-3 7-5 in the opening match of the day on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

    It is only the second time this century that only one of the top-10 seeds has reached the fourth round, with the other occasion being when Karolina Pliskova was the last such player left standing at Wimbledon four years ago.

    Czech Pliskova failed to capitalise at the All England Club, as she was knocked out in the fourth round.

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