In many ways, this Australian Open feels like a return to normal. Covid-19 restrictions are down – no more two-week hotel quarantine for the hordes of players touching down in Australia. Novak Djokovic is back and terrifying rivals, his deportation saga in 2022 now ‘in the past’ (he says).
But there are two huge absences that show just how much times have changed. No Roger Federer, no Serena Williams – and the 43 Grand Slam singles crowns between them.
That’s not to say there aren’t megastars and potential future legends in the field.
But last week Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley made this bold claim spruiking the tournament: “I’m also proud of the fact that this year is our best field. As far as the entries go, every single player – we’ve had a few pullouts as you know from injury, but this is our best field we’ve had both on the men and the women.”