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Australian Open Gearspotting 2024

It's been another fantastic grand slam with some epic storylines and crazy upsets; today, we round up the Australian Open 2024.
Australian Open Gearspotting 2024 Featured Image

Wow, it feels like just yesterday that we were solemnly concluding our US Open Gearspotting; sad to see another season draw to a close, and now the AO is already over. It's always a little funny to me that such an important event happens so early on the calendar, but if this Australian Open is anything to go by, then 2024 is going to be a wild ride.

Whatever status quo we thought we had in tennis was ripped up and thrown out the window; both world number ones were ousted early (the semifinals is early for Djokovic), and they left a power vacuum that was filled by two rising forces who are sure to dominate for years to come.

It wasn't just the final results that provided a great storyline, though; during the early rounds of the men's AO, a new French superstar was born. Fair warning: if I get a little carried away here, I am French. We've been starving for a top 10 player for years now, and seeing our southern neighbours succeed always adds a bit to the pain but anyways, I digress.

Arthur Cazaux: Babolat Pure Drive 100

Arthur Cazaux: remember the name.

The 21-year-old from Montpellier got a wild card into the Australian Open and took his chance without any second thought. He beat 3 top 40 opponents on his way to the fourth round, but before we talk about who he beat, we need to talk about how he did it. Cazaux is electrifying; he has one of the most thunderous serves I've ever seen for a guy under six foot tall, and his all-court play style is enthralling, especially when points get hectic, and he brings the crowd into the game. He has a raw charm and youthful exuberance that became infectious to the AO public, and watching him fight his way to the fourth round was a treat.

He also beat Holger Rune to get there. While Rune has had a rough several months, there's no denying his quality, and taking down a top-10 opponent should never be downplayed. He took it to the Dane with no sign of nerves or discomfort, and in the post-match press conference, it became clear why. Cazaux has already played Rune; in fact, he's played him many times at the junior level and beaten him more than not. He's from the same tree of electrifying youngsters as Rune, Alcaraz, and Sinner, he just took a little more time to break into the pros. Now he's here, and hopefully, he is here to stay.

It was also nice to finally see a young professional player using the Babolat Pure Drive 100.

As we know, the Pure Drive is very popular on the amateur scene and used to be one of the most common rackets for the pros, but it has lost a lot of popularity over the years. The beauty of the Pure Drive is in its simplicity and power, but in achieving that, it doesn't sacrifice much consistency, and that was abundantly clear as we saw Cazaux demolish the ball, winner after winner. With Fabio Fognini still the main face of the line, it's no secret that Babolat has been hoping for a new player to take on the mantle, and perhaps they've found their marketing diamond.

Ok, that was a lot on Cazaux, but he's exciting, there's no doubt about it, and I'm definitely excited about him. We can move on now.

Aryna Sabalenka: Wilson Blade 98 18x20 v9

It's time to talk about Aryna Sabalenka, and time to have a serious discussion as to whether she's the best player in the world.

Iga helped her case by winning the WTA Finals, but she had a rough Grand Slam season outside of the clay last year, and it didn't get any better this January. Sabalenka, on the other hand, has shown incredible consistency by reaching the semifinals in her last six majors, and now she's won her second Australian Open.

Watching Sabalenka hit the ball is entertaining, to say the least, and it's refreshing to see that you can still attain success by having an all-out, aggressive style of play. She struggled for consistency during the formative years of her career, but it was obvious that once the process came full circle, it would be hard to stop her, and now she's there.

She blew almost every opponent off the court, not dropping a set, double bageling her second round opponent, and losing only 20 games outside of the only match where any player gave her a fight. That semi-final against Coco Guaff was by far her toughest test, and while she eventually took her down 7-6 6-4, this rivalry is shaping up quite nicely for the future. Gauff took first blood on home turf at the US Open final in September, but Sabalenka broke back in Australia, and I can't wait to see what's coming next between the two.

Now Sabalenka’s racket? Well, I think we all know what it is, although technically, as of Tuesday, January 30th, I'm not supposed to acknowledge this frame's existence by strict orders of Wilson Tennis.

I'm getting a little annoyed that the new paint job is plastered in every pro player's hands and that we're not allowed a peep, but mum's the word, so I'm only going to talk about why the general Wilson Blade 18x20 works well for her game. An 18x20 Blade is about as controlled as it gets, but when you think about Sabalenka's game, it doesn't really make you think of control. Control rackets aren't only for players who want to calmly place the ball in their opponent's court. They can be perfect for players like Sabalenka, who hit as hard as possible because that requires a consistent response from the racket.


Jannik Sinner: Head Speed MP

Jannik Sinner, the tennis world owes you an apology.

We didn't listen when, time and again, you sat there in a post-match press conference telling us that these crushing losses and early exits were only part of a greater process. We thought you weren't taking yourself seriously and that you needed more fire in your belly, but in the end, you are vindicated because, at only 22 years old, you are a grand slam champion.

I've never seen anything like Sinner's game; in fact, I've heard rumors that many players consider his groundstrokes the most punishing in history. While it seems difficult to admit that about a 22-year-old, when you hear how the ball crackles off his string bed, it might just be true. It almost feels like you're watching a video game character with how elastic he is and how much pace he can generate on both forehand and backhand, with seemingly so little effort.

We've always known how big his game is, but during this Australian Open, we watched him turn into a destructive force of nature that may stick a wrench in what was supposed to be a passing of the torch from "the big three" to Carlos Alcaraz. Alcaraz was the anointed king, but he has met his match, and what may be even more valuable than the trophy itself is the experience and confidence that Sinner gained from winning his maiden Grand Slam. The tennis world should be scared; this kid is special, and he did something very special by beating Novak Djokovic on Arthur Ashe.

It's hard to round up the Australian Open without at least mentioning Djokovic, but I don't want to overanalyze what I saw last Thursday night. Djokovic wasn't himself; I'm not sure if he was injured or having one of those Djokovic moments where he forgets how to play tennis, but that wasn't the 24-time grand slam champion out there, and part of me wishes we could have seen the titanic match that Sinner-Djokovic promised to be. With that said, this is a one-off. Djokovic isn't on the decline; he's going to be fine, and he will be favourite for every other major this year, but he's now found a second opponent who will go into any match believing he can win. Whatever was going on in that match, Sinner played him off the court, and that's what will stay in the history books.

Now, how about that magical Sinner racket, eh? Because his Speed MP also got some of the spotlight during one of the funniest Jim Courrier interviews I've ever watched. Courrier asked Sinner about his racket, specifically if anyone could buy it off the shelf, and the guilt in Sinner's eyes told the whole story. That's not a stock 2024 Speed MP Auxetic 2.0. Hilariously, it's not even painted like one because I guess, for Head, it isn't worth having Jannik Sinner endorse the new paint job?

Anyways, it's not the 2024, it's not the 2022, it's not even the Graphene 360 or the 360+. What's under all that paint is the 2016 Head Graphene Touch Speed MP. It's admittedly very similar to the current Speed (with a slightly thinner beam), but the whole Sinner racket-gate fiasco does bring up an important point that professional players aren't always using the racket they endorse. Most of the public knows this, but below the paint can hide a very random frame that happened to work well the day a pro was in the mood to switch it up.

That wraps up yet another Australian Open gearspotting. These are always a lot of fun, and I just want to tip my hat to these professional athletes who always seem to rise to the occasion and provide us with heart-stopping entertainment.

The wait till Roland Garros is long, but there are some great tournaments to come before Paris, and I can't wait to see what 2024 has in store for both the ATP and WTA. Can Sinner and Sabalenka end the year as new number ones? That seems more and more like a real possibility.

You can demo any of the rackets listed here, or check them out online.

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