Melbourne considers itself one of the world's great sports cities, and rightly so: What other city stages a public holiday for a street parade before the Australian Football League Grand Final? (Think Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade featuring Super Bowl protagonists the day before the big game. You're welcome for the idea, Roger Goodell.)
It's no wonder, then, that the Australian Open is often considered the best tennis Grand Slam of the lot -- certainly Australia considers it to be so. Aussie Open fans don't care who's involved in the final; they will watch anyone. Although they certainly have their favorites, as we heard when Roger Federer took the court for the third set of his semifinal against Novak Djokovic. One thing they do enjoy is a local to cheer -- and occasionally jeer.
Without further ado, here's a roundup of the key "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi" moments at Melbourne Park 2016.
Lleyton Hewitt bids farewell at the Australian Open
Lleyton Hewitt left Rod Laver Arena for the final time as a player when he went down in straight sets to David Ferrer in Round 2. He had contested the Australian Open without a break every year since his debut in 1997, and he had became a local favorite because of his famous effort and heart -- what Aussies call "ticker" -- rather than his form. Only once did he make it past the fourth round of the men's singles: in 2005, when he went all the way to the final, only to lose to Marat Safin.
Hewitt provided this year's crowd with more buzz and excitement in the final tournament of his lengthy farewell tour, as he made his way into the second round with a straight-sets victory over fellow Aussie James Duckworth. But the fairy tale died against Ferrer, when it became apparent Rusty no longer had the legs to keep up. A few years ago, he could have pushed the match to an epic five-setter -- something fans came to expect from the never-say-die South Aussie -- but no more.
He wasn't for bowing out quietly, though. He went out in his usual feisty fashion with chainsaw celebrations and c'mons aplenty, and he rekindled the worst of his younger days when he delivered a stern word to chair umpire Pascal Maria after a couple foot faults: "You're a freaking idiot. That's why everyone in the locker room thinks you're full of yourself."
Rusty gave everything he had, but he simply didn't have the pace or power to push Ferrer. The crowd didn't care so much, though, and responded to his passion as they do in Melbourne.
"It was an unbelievable atmosphere out there," Hewitt said afterward. "A couple of roars during the match tonight was as loud as I've ever played in front of. I was getting goosebumps at times."
Hewitt couldn't hold back the tears as he watched recorded tributes from some of tennis's biggest names -- Roger Federer, Rafeal Nadal, Andy Murray and Nick Kyrgios -- and we imagine Rusty will miss tennis as much as tennis will miss his c'mons, fist pumps and backward cap. The two-time Grand Slam winner now takes on his new role of Australian Davis Cup captain, and it'll be interesting to see how he handles young guns such as Kyrgios, Bernard Tomic and Thanasi Kokkinakis.
Australia's new favorite
Daria Gavrilova might have just become an Australian in November, but the Russian native has already become a favorite with the local fans for her exuberance and back-to-the-wall fighting.
A virtual unknown for the casual tennis fan, "Dasha" developed a strong fan base early in the Aussie, after she fought her way through the opening rounds of the tournament with grit and determination. But it wasn't until the third round that her star really started to rise. She clinched her match in an epic, 11-9 three-setter against 28-seed Kristina Mladenovic. The Frenchwoman looked likely to steal the match with several break-point opportunities in the deciding set, but 21-year-old Gavrilova held serve to take the victory while listening to the crowd's euphoric chanting of "Dasha."
The unseeded Gavrilova then looked ready for the quarterfinals, when she took the opening set of her fourth-round match against Carla Suarez-Navarro to love. She had, after all, already defeated 6-seed Petra Kvitova. But she soon began to crumble. Call it nerves. Call it pressure. Call it inexperience. She wilted, and before long, the game was in Suarez-Navarro's hands. Gavrilova screamed and whacked her racquet on the ground as she lost all control of the match -- and her emotions -- in a self-proclaimed brat moment.
I was a spoiled brat out there... Emotionaly fried...... sorry about my horrible behavior 💔
— Daria Gavrilova (@Daria_gav) January 24, 2016
Brat or not, Gavrilova seems to be a character Australia will love.
While Gavrilova's star is ascending, the same cannot be said for Sam Stosur, the former US Open winner and French Open runner-up who cannot buy a title in Australia. Stosur struggled yet again and suffered her fourth first-round defeat at the Australian Open in straight sets to Karolina Pliskova.
That defeat begged the question: Is Stosur the perennial underachiever? But that question perhaps says more about high Aussie expectations than failings on Stosur's part. Perhaps Stosur -- a former world No. 4 who has won eight WTA Tour titles including the 2011 US Open and 24 doubles titles including a career Grand Slam -- should be viewed instead as a solid player who has overachieved? Not that any self-respecting Aussies will ever admit to that.
Nick Kyrgios sends tongues wagging ... again
Nick Kyrgios is no stranger to controversy, and he was quick to hit the headlines again in 2016, even before he arrived at Melbourne Park. He withdrew from a warm-up match at Kooyong, where he told umpire Scott Elbin after a debatable line call, "If you actually don't correct that, I'm actually not going to play." Then he complained bitterly about extreme heat before withdrawing, citing a minor foot injury. The moments continued at the Aussie, where he was hit with the second-largest Australian Open fine ($3,000) for swearing during his opening straight-sets win over Pablo Carreno Busta.
Kyrgios set tongues wagging again in the second round, when he "barked at his camp" for a set and a half "to get him a longer pair" of shorts. Finally, the chair umpire afforded a bathroom break, and Kyrgios returned sporting a longer, black pair.
Kyrgios was always going to have a hard time in his third match against 6-seed Tomas Berdych, but still spectators might have expected something more from the 20-year-old, given he has several big-name upsets under his belt. Kyrgios certainly didn't mince his words when he took on the chair umpire several times during the match -- most notably to complain that he could hear music coming from the crowd.
"Am I hearing things?" he shouted at no one in particular before approaching the umpire to exchange words. "Mate, it's a circus. Are you OK? Mate, there is music playing in the crowd while we are playing. I've told you seven times, mate."
Kyrgios bounced back with an amazing 6-1 third set, but it wasn't to continue, and Berdych won the final set 6-4 to claim the match. To put an exclamation point on his rampage, Kyrgios made one final dig at chair umpire James Keothavong, as he said, "You're a terrible umpire" while they shook hands.
Kyrgios certainly has game, and he continues to show he is something exciting and entertaining within Australian tennis. He has talent, strength and showmanship that will take him far in tennis, and he will continue to draw crowds to his exhilarating matches. Perhaps, however, fans in Melbourne and beyond are also drawn to his matches for the very real possibility of a meltdown.
Bernard Tomic takes on world's best off the court
Another of Australia's brash, young, male stars, Bernard Tomic, opened his Australian Open account with two four-set encounters against unseeded players before he blasted fellow countryman John Millman in straight sets. But his Open ride quickly came to an end when he lost to No. 2 Andy Murray with a scrappy performance in Round 4.
Tomic has been criticized for his blasé attitude during matches, and his fighting back against Murray seemed an unnatural departure from his comfortable and relaxed style. Murray seemed to have Tomic's number in the opening sets before the Aussie pressed the Briton in the third by producing his fastest serve of the night, 127 mph, to maintain an important hold. Even so, that nonchalant attitude soon proved his downfall, with lazy shots and poor returns that gifted Murray's place in the quarters and ended Tomic's run.
Later, responding to Roger Federer's comments that the world No. 17 would need to work hard all year to make the top 10, Tomic taunted Federer for his struggles against No. 1 Novak Djokovic and said Federer was "nowhere near Novak's tennis right now."
Tomic has a long list of off-the-court incidents, and this latest one left a sour taste.
Australia's next generation
Following in the recent footsteps of some of Australia's biggest names, Oliver Anderson, 17, was crowned junior boys singles champion while Alex De Minaur, 16, reached the semifinals and took the junior doubles champions title with Blake Ellis, 17. Sara Tomic, younger sister of former Australian Open junior title winner Bernie, reached the girls semifinals.
Anderson showed physical and mental courage to overcome a hip injury in defeating Uzbek Jurabek Karimov in his Rod Laver Arena debut. He prevailed 6-2, 1-6, 6-1. He said he thought the match had run away from him after the second set of the topsy-turvy final, but treatment to his troublesome hip seemed to do the trick. He survived break point in the opening game of the deciding bracket to go on to win the title and join the likes of Bernard Tomic and Nick Kyrgios on the honor roll.
De Minaur and Ellis came from behind in their final at Melbourne Park to upset 8-seeds Lukas Klein of Slovakia and Patriki Rikl of the Czech Republic 3-6, 7-5, 12-10. The victory continued Australia's recent doubles dominance at the Open, with the pair joining the 2015, 2014 and 2013 winners.