A Fortnight of Firsts at the Australian Open

On the Baseline Tennis News
January 28, 2011

It’s hard to believe that the 2011 Australian Open is almost in the books. The first Grand Slam of the season has been an exciting one, marked by a number of firsts. Among them, a first-time Asian finalist, first-time Grand Slam doubles winners, and even the first-time that something other than strings broke on a player’s racquet.

The 2011 Australian Open List of Firsts

1) Li Na is the first Asian player (male or female) to make it to a Grand Slam singles final, and potentially become the first Asian player to win a Grand Slam title.

2) Kim Clijsters is in a position to win back-to-back Grand Slam titles for the first time. The last player to accomplish this was Serena Williams (2008 US Open/2009 Australian Open).

3) The fourth round marathon match between Francesca Schiavone and Svetlana Kuznetsova was the first singles match in Australian Open history to last four hours, 44 minutes. This match length surpassed last year’s Australian Open record of 4 hours, 19 minutes, when Barbora Zahlavova Strycova defeated Regina Kulikova.

4) During Agnieszka Radwanska’s first-round match against Kimiko Date-Krumm, her racquet came apart below the handle while she was playing a point. That’s a first.

5) Victoria Azarenka and Maria Kirilenko played in their first Grand Slam tournament as a doubles team. They lost in the final.

6) Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta played in their first Grand Slam doubles final as a team, and won.

7) This year marks the first time since 2004 that Serena Williams has missed the Australian Open.

8) Caroline Wozniacki is the first Danish woman to reach a Grand Slam semifinal, or better, in the Open Era.

9) Justine Henin retired from tennis for the second time–a first for her.

10) After the Australian Open, Francesca Schiavone’s ranking is projected to rise to No. 4—a first by an Italian woman, and equal to Adriano Panatta’s No. 4 ranking in August 1976.

11) Venus Williams retired from her third-round match due to injury–her first retirement at any level since August, 2004 (Los Angeles). Venus had played 294 consecutive matches up to that point.

12) Bethanie Mattek-Sands made it to the Australian Open main draw for the first time, after falling in the qualies in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2010.

13) Li Na could become the first player to complete the Sydney-Australian Open double since Justine Henin in 2004.

14) Sam Stosur is the first Australian-born woman to be seeded in the top 5 at a Grand Slam since 1984.

15) Serena Williams will drop out of the top 10 for the first time since 2008, as a result of missing the Australian Open.

16) Caroline Wozniacki advanced to her first Australian Open semifinal.
She also played her first Grand Slam tournament as the world No.1 and top seed.

17) This year marks the first time since 2006 that Dinara Safina was not seeded at the Australian Open.

18) Venus Williams and Justine Henin played in their first official tournament of year at the Australian Open. Henin hasn’t played since Wimbledon in 2010. Venus, not since the US Open.

19) For the first time in three years, Victoria Azarenka has not lost to Serena Williams at the Australian Open.

20) Germany’s Julia Goerges reached the third round at a Grand Slam for the first time.

21) Li Na is the only one of last year’s quarterfinalists to reach the final eight at this year’s Australian Open.

22) Agnieszka Radwanska played in her first tournament since her first round loss in Beijing in October 2010. Soon after her loss, she underwent surgery for a right foot stress fracture.

23) Benesova, Sevastova, Makarova, Peng, and Pennetta all made it to the fourth round at the Australian Open for the first time.

24) Anastasija Sevastova is the first Latvian woman to reach the fourth round at the Australian Open since Larisa Savchenko in 1992.

25) Francesca Schiavone will be the first player to make Top 5 debut at age 30 (or older) since February 2000 (Nathalie Tauziat).

26) Li Na is projected to rise to No. 7 after the Australian Open. If she wins the title, she will ascend to No. 5—a first for a player from China.

27) Shahar Peer is projected to rise to No. 11 in the rankings – the first time any Israeli man or woman has made this accomplishment.

28) There were 29 “first” meetings between WTA players at this year’s Australian Open. Some notable first meetings: Kimiko Date-Krumm vs. Agnieszka Radwanska, Venus Williams vs. Andrea Petkovic, and Alize Cornet vs. Kim Clijsters.