From Aryna Sabalenka to Jannik Sinner, the Australian Open had plenty of unique and novel winners to celebrate. But amongst India’s golden stories that began with Sumit Nagal in the men’s singles ended on a crescendo as Rohan Bopanna.

Bopanna (43) not only became the world’s No.1 doubles player, but also won his first men’s doubles title at a Grand Slam.

When the new rankings come out on the first Monday after the conclusion of the Australian Open, it will confirm what India have been celebrating already. Alongside his Australian men’s doubles partner and local hero, Matthew Ebden, Bopanna will officially be declared the world men’s doubles No.1 player.

No ordinary feat, having come after years of speculation over form, retirement and age, Bopanna could have well rested on his laurels. By his own admission, he had faced notions about age and also doubts about his own form at the highest level of the game, and relying on his family support that included his wife and daughter and sheer persistence to keep going.

Where it would have been easy to sit back and let the success sink in, the doubles pairing, now barely a year old, decided to do themselves one better.

Bopanna’s previous and only Grand Slam title success had been in 2017 at the French Open when he won the mixed doubles title with Canada’s Gabriela Dabrowski. Now Bopanna joins the likes of India’s men’s doubles tennis club of Grand Slam winners that includes the famed pair of Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes.

An interesting fact now would be to follow how long he will remain at the No.1 spot, something even India’s Sania Mirza, enjoyed in the women’s doubles section.

But the win did not come easy in the final or in a couple of rounds earlier even when Ebden and Bopanna rallied to overpower more favoured names. The Italian men’s doubles pair of Simone Bolelli and Andrea Vavassori were the favourites going into the final match.

It was a hard fought victory for the pairing of Bopanna and Ebden, overpowering the Italian duo in a tiebreaker in the first set before winning the match in straight sets 7-6, 7-5.

A tournament that began with Sumit Nagal flying India’s flag high after coming through a tough qualifying week and then subduing the mercurial Alexander Bublik found its crowning moment with Bopanna, which as far as Indian fans were concerned, was the highlight of a tournament that added an extra day of a Sunday start.

The Australian Open was not without its controversies or the big fall of mighty players and legends including the world’s no1 ranked women’s singles player, Iga Swiatek, who was made to eat humble pie by 19-year-old Linda Noskova of the Czech Republic, in a tough three set match in her third round.

Other players who underwhelmed included Ons Jabeur. In that sense, the men’s draw seemed steadier in week two as at least six of the top seeds found themselves at the business end of the tournament.

The attempt to start a day early did not seem to vindicate the organisers’ reasoning about reducing the tension of the line up of matches in the early rounds. Match schedules, particularly those being held at night, became controversial with the matches, particularly in the men’s singles, not only going deep at five sets but also, finishing beyond 3 a.m. Australian time, begging the question of how many people were tuning into the match time and even the locals.

Players are voicing concerns about this disrupted sleep and recovery hours, the potential impact on their health with short turnarounds, which might also impact the forthcoming matches in terms of their ability to recover fully. It seems while the way of the future is also a fair sprinkling of night matches, the debate over cut off times took centre stage with no immediate conclusive measures in places.

With women’s matches vying for primetime matches as much as the men’s, the fact that the organisers toyed with the start timings in the second week only to revert again, became a story in itself as a critical juncture of the tournament.

Novak Djokovic, the favourite to lift the Australian Open, found himself out of sorts the first match he played in broad daylight as it were. With an obvious preference for night matches, Djokovic looking to add Grand Slam 25 to his career chart was forced to go back to the drawing board.

Matched in the semi-final against a young Italian player breaking new ground for his countrymen at the first Grand Slam of the year, Djokovic had no answer to the 4th seeded 22 year old Jannik Sinner’s astoundingly clinical performance that did not see him lose even a single game on his serve.

This was in stark contrast to the other men’s singles semi final match when Germany’s Alexander Zverev won the first two sets but ran out of steam against the durable Daniil Medvedev of Russia.

The two have shared plenty of bad blood and there were certainly a few moments that could have seen either man boil over the edge.

Having played attrition inducing matches en route, it had to come down to stamina and intensity and it was quite extraordinary that Medvedev, who looked done for all good measure, in the first two sets, suddenly found his rhythm and intensity and did not look back, winning the match from being two sets down.

Zverev, on the other hand, who played a composed, clinical game against the highly hailed Carlos Alcaraz of Spain, to rattle the youngster no end on court, found himself unable to meet Medvedev as the clock went deep.

The men’s game had been of this nature, Zverev himself featuring in a few five sets including against 19th seed Cameron Norrie and no. 5 ranked Andrey Rublev showing some of his temperature and also, ruthless strategy as he took down local hero, Alex de Minaur, ranked No. 10 in a five set thriller.

Sinner, who swallowed the likes of Rublev without compunction, seemed the favourite going into the final. But Medvedev (27), who has one previous Grand Slam title, found more in the tank, despite the late finishes to his own matches to rattle the usually rather calm and composed Italian who struggled to find his sweet spot for nearly the better part of the first two sets.

But just when it seemed it might be third time lucky for Medvedev in Australian Open finals, Sinner found another level to his game, which only improved as the match went on. As Medvedev tired more, Sinner’s game was having an upswing, which then made no surprise that the match went organically into a marathon fifth Test, 34 times before that has already happened in this Grand Slam in the men’s draw which is a record feat in itself.

Through it, Sinner pulled the punches in the important moments, and although by slim margins, just enough to run down the usually indefatigable Medvedev. Stealing the Grand Slam, Sinner became only the first Italian to win the Australian Open and the only Italian to win a Grand Slam since 1976, while also breaking the stranglehold of the top three winning the Australian Open.

In the women’s draw, it was business as usual for Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus who made light work of Coco Gauff, her opponent in the semi final, though Gauff herself was a favourite and seeded just two ranks behind Sabalenka on four.

Judging by Sabalenka’s thundering serve and equally powerful returns of serve, the winner of the other semi final was always going to fight an uphill battle. The second semi-final felt tamer with China’s Qinwen Zhang overcoming Dayana Yastremska who had to come through the qualifiers.

The 12th seeded player from China had no answer to Sabalenka’s studious play and although she will find herself in the top 10 for the first time in the women’s single rankings which come out Monday, it must be worrying that the second seeded Sabalenka was simply invincible almost entirely through the two week tournament.

Sabalenka, only 25 years of age, celebrated in style after the win. This is her second Grand Slam title and second consecutive Grand Slam success at Melbourne Park. She even showed off a couple of dance moves, delirious with joy.

While questions have now been raised in light of Rafael Nadal pulling out with injury in the week before the Australian Open and Novak being defeated in a manner that he himself described as the “worst Grand Slam loss” about whether the old guard was now in danger of extinction, the signs in the women’s game seem ominous as far as Sabalenka is concerned.

Bopanna meanwhile is showing no signs of slowing down at 43 years and 329 days of age.