The 2021 Australian Open was one for the history books for so many reasons. Led by Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley, organizers had to figure out how to host the tournament with hundreds of players, entourage members and staff in the midst of a pandemic in a country with the strictest COVID-19 protocols on the planet.
"Well, if this tournament can send any message is that, you know, thanks to all the hard work Australians have put in to make sure this country is one of the safest countries in the world and now we are able to play a Grand Slam with crowds, and it's truly amazing," Alex de Minaur said. "It's a feeling we have missed as tennis players, and I'm sure the crowd has missed watching live sports, as well.
"Look, there is hope, and, you know, we will get there. It's a matter of time."
Players assumed they’d be able to practice during the government-mandated two-week hotel quarantine, but 72 would end up in strict lockdown. One of those players was Jennifer Brady, who went on to have her greatest Grand Slam performance ever.
Osaka won her fourth major in front of a respectably-sized crowd inside Rod Laver Arena. (Getty)
Even out of quarantine, the twists and turns were not over with a five-day lockdown coming into effect mid-tournament. But the show went on, and on, until the finals weekend where Naomi Osaka defeated Brady and Novak Djokovic dismissed Daniil Medvedev, in front of fans.
It made for the most memorable global sporting event since the pandemic began, giving hope that more tournaments can also pull it off safely in the near future.