Being the first Grand Slam event of each competitive season, the Australian Open is often an indicator of how the year in tennis will progress. Stars who closed out the previous season strongly are watched to see if their form will continue, while up-and-coming players eagerly aim to make their mark in the sport. As if there wasn’t already enough drama in the event, Australian Open 2014 was marked by soaring temperatures that saw players complaining about being made to take the courts in “unplayable conditions”. Furthermore, even before the start of the tournament, rumors about the court surface being quickened to shorten the length of points drew barbed reactions from those disadvantaged by the alleged adjustment.
Temperatures and court speed aside, Australian Open 2014 featured some riveting tennis from the sport’s most popular superstars. #4 seed Li Na became the first Chinese player to win the tournament, and #8 seed Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland collected the first Grand Slam title of his career. Unfortunately, not all of the event’s favorites managed to live up to their seedings, resulting in the loss of hefty amounts of expected revenue.
Here are the ten most expensive upsets from the recently concluded 2014 Australian Open:
10. Juan Martín del Potro (#5 Seed) / Lost Earnings: $194,000
Argentinian Juan Martín del Potro had the distinction of being the only player outside of tennis’s Big Four (Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Andy Murray) to have won a Grand Slam title since 2005. He pulled off the feat during the 2009 US Open where he defeated both Nadal and Federer, an accomplishment only del Potro can claim to have achieved in a Major.
Unfortunately, Delpo has yet to produce the same form again. His exhausting 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, 4-6, 5-7 defeat to unheralded Spaniard Roberta Bautista Agut in the second round is the fourth time he has exited the Australian Open in that stage of the tournament. What made the loss even more heartbreaking was that del Potro had just won the 2014 Sydney International, a key warmup event for the first Grand Slam tournament of the season.
9. Sara Errani (#7 Seed) / Lost Earnings: $212,000
In tennis today, save for a few exceptions, doubles specialists don’t do particularly well in singles competition. For this reason, it was a surprise when World #1 doubles player Sara Errani began collecting impressive results in singles play. In fact, she has collected seven singles titles and played in the 2012 French Open final, allowing her to reach a career-high ranking of World #5 in 2012.
Unfortunately, the singles success didn’t continue for Sara at the 2014 Australian Open; she was bungled out in the first round by Germany’s Julia Goerges. Fortunately for Errani, her doubles play has continued to be stellar. She and fellow-Italian partner Roberta Vinci took home the 2014 Australian Open women’s doubles title, earning them a cool $453,000.
8. Petra Kvitova (#6 Seed) / Lost Earnings: $212,000
When Petra Kvitova won Wimbledon in 2011 despite not being among the favorites to do so, the tennis world was enthralled. The excitement further grew when she took home the WTA Tour Finals trophy that year. Many sports analysts predicted those were the first of many important titles for the Czech, some even predicting that the future World #1 had arrived. Unfortunately, two years after being the first player, male or female, born in the 90s to win Wimbledon, Kvitova has yet to make the final of another Grand Slam tournament.
In fact, the early exits from the Slams have piled up for Petra. Last season, she exited the Australian Open in the second round and left the French Open and the US Open in Round 3. Certainly, Kvitova’s recent first round defeat by virtual unknown Luksika Kumkhum will do nothing to silence Petra’s detractors who have been dismissing the 2012 Wimbledon victory as nothing but a fluke.
7. Andy Murray (#4 Seed) / Lost Earnings: $237,000
Fourth-seeded Andy Murray can fall back on two alibis if he’s asked about his quarterfinal exit from the 2014 Australian Open. First, he was just returning from back surgery. Second, the man who stopped him 6-3, 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-3 may have been seeded only sixth but also had seventeen Grand Slam titles to his name; they call him “Roger Federer“.
Despite the setback, two-time Grand Slam champion Murray was upbeat about his performance. He optimistically mused, “I’m playing at a decent level fairly quickly again. Hopefully I’ll be back playing my best tennis soon.”
6. Maria Sharapova (#3 Seed) / Lost Earnings: $356,000
To be fair to third-seeded Maria Sharapova, the 2014 Australian Open was just her second tournament after coming back from a shoulder injury that had forced her out of action for four months. However, her 6-3, 4-6, 1-6 loss to 20th seed Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova in the fourth round still sent shockwaves throughout Melbourne. After all, the defeat was only the second time Maria had been knocked out before the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, the last one coming in 2004.
Sharapova acknowledged, “I haven’t been playing the best tennis of this tournament.” The tennis world will surely be watching Maria to see if she’ll be able to find her form during the remainder of the season.
5. David Ferrer (#3 Seed) / Lost Earnings: $451,000
Officially, David Ferrer’s failure to live up to his #3 seeding is an upset. But hardly anyone truly believed that the Spanish #2 would seriously contend for the 2014 Australian Open title. That’s because David has consistently lived up to his reputation: he’s able to make it late into the second week of grand slam tournaments, but can’t manage to win a title on the biggest stages of tennis.
The seemingly unfair generalization about the 31-year-old Ferrer was further reinforced in his latest trip to Melbourne as he was defeated 6-1, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 in the quarterfinals by #7 seed Tomas Berdych, a player David had defeated in 7 of the 11 times they had previously met. Worse, Ferrer courted controversy when he pushed a line judge aside to lay a towel on a chair. Fortunately for the Spaniard, Australian Open officials decided not to issue a fine for the transgression. Otherwise, it would’ve further added to Ferrer’s lost income from the event.
4. Victoria Azarenka (#2 Seed) / Lost Earnings $932,000
In the quarterfinals, Azarenka was paired against #5 seed Agnieszka Radwanska from Poland. Victoria had a 12-3 career head-to-head advantage against the Polish #1 and was largely favored to overpower Radwanska in the match. The meeting between the two was made even more interesting by an incident that marked the players’ history. In 2012, the two had faced each other in a tournament in Dubai, and Radwanska revealed after the match that she was “angry” and had “lost a lot of respect” for Azarenka because of her incessant shrieking each time she hit the ball.
Well, the Pole finally got her revenge at the Australian Open by embarrassing her opponent 6-1, 5-7, 6-0, a loss that cost Vika more than $900,000.
3. Novak Djokovic (#2 Seed) / Lost Earnings: $1,150,000
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic may have only been seeded #2 going into the Australian Open, but he was the favorite after collecting a 25-match winning streak that included four Davis Cup match victories, titles in two ATP 1000 events, and the ATP World Tour Finals championship. Moreover, Nole was the three-time defending champion at Melbourne, having won the Australian Open title in 2011, 2012, and 2013. Plus, Novak had just hired former World #1 Boris Becker to sit in his player’s box. Lastly, as if Djokovic weren’t primed enough to take his seventh Grand Slam title, he was fortunate to receive what was termed a “dream draw”. All the way until the finals of the event, he would be able to steer clear of the other solid contenders for the title: Murray, Federer and Nadal.
Alas, in the quarterfinals, Novak was upended by Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka, the eighth seed, whom Djokovic had previously defeated fourteen straight times. The match was an epic four-hour struggle which ended 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 9-7 in favor of the Swiss.
2. Rafael Nadal (#1 Seed) / Lost Earnings: $1,170,000
It was a roller coaster ride of an Australian Open for World #1 Rafael Nadal. He came into the championship as the moderate favorite after ending 2013 on top and winning the warmup tournament in Doha. Then, when he was placed in a nightmare half of the draw that would force him to defeat several top players to win the title, observers no longer fancied his chances. However, Nadal somehow managed to move through the tournament by beating up-and-comer Grigor Dimitrov in the quarters and one of the all-time greats, Roger Federer, in the semis — those wins despite dealing with terrible blisters on his playing hand.
Another twist in Nadal’s fate involved #8 Stanislas Wawrinka defeating Rafa’s most formidable rival, Novak Djokovic, in the quarters then making it to the final. Suddenly, everyone was writing in Australian Open 2014 as Nadal’s 14th Grand Slam title after noting that Stanislas had yet to take a single set from Rafa in their eleven meetings.
The Swiss had other ideas, though. After tasting blood upon seeing Nadal hampered by a back injury, he galloped through the match 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 to win his first Grand Slam title and become Swiss #1 and World #3.
1. Serena Williams (#1 Seed) / Lost Earnings: $2,171,000
Serena Williams was the odds-on favorite going into Melbourne. She was riding a 22-match winning streak stretching back to August of 2013, a period that included titles in the 2013 US Open, the season-ending WTA Tour Finals, and the 2014 Brisbane Open. In fact, Serena had been so dominant that the tennis community recklessly assumed she would win the 2014 Australian Open and was already buzzing about the possibility of the American achieving a rare career calendar Grand Slam. Unfortunately for Williams and her fans, she was surprised in the fourth round by 14th seed Ana Ivanovic, who was then ousted by the unseeded 19-year-old Eugenie Bouchard of Canada in the very next round.
Of her performance, World #1 Williams could only say, “It wasn’t the best.”
It certainly wasn’t. What was supposed to be a $2.3-million paycheck for the event turned into a comparatively dismal $119,000 — pocket change for the multimillionaire Serena.
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