FROM bushfire smoke to a memorable kiss and a controversial banana, the Australian Open was never short of incident.
AFP Sports looks back at five memorable moments from the first Grand Slam of the year.
– Mother Nature roars –
Melbourne’s weather is famously fickle and Mother Nature — seemingly no fan of tennis — appeared determined to steal the show.
Torrential rain — some of it a murky brown colour — helped wash the smog away, but that brought problems of its own, caking courts in brown sludge.
Next there was ferocious heat, with beaten semi-finalist Simona Halep saying that temperatures close to 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) “killed me”.
– ‘Bananaman’ slips up –
France’s Elliot Benchetrit was dubbed “Bananaman” by Australian media after handing the fruit to a ball girl during a qualifying match and asking her to peel it for him.
Benchetrit argued that he was struggling to get the skin off because he had cream on his hands.
But umpire John Blom wasn’t impressed and told him to peel his own banana, allegedly berating him for treating the girl like his “slave”.
As the controversy rumbled on, making headlines in Australia and beyond, the Frenchman complained that the backlash against him was “out of control”.
– Nadal’s scary moment –
Rafael Nadal melted hearts after rushing to console a ballgirl and kissing her on the cheek after one of his fearsome forehands thundered into the side of her head.
The Spanish world number one was in the throes of wrapping up his second-round clash against Argentine Federico Delbonis when the unfortunate girl found herself in his firing line.
Nadal went over to check how she was and gave her a quick peck on the cheek, leaving the youngster blushing.
Nadal called the mis-hit “one of the more scary moments of my career” and met 13-year-old Anita the next day to apologise again.
– ‘Crazy aunt’ –
She is the most successful tennis player in history with 24 Grand Slam titles, but Margaret Court loomed ominously over the tournament she graced as a player.
Now 77, the Australian is a controversial figure because of her deeply conservative views, once saying that “tennis is full of lesbians”.
She was granted a low-key ceremony to mark the 50th anniversary of her calendar-year Grand Slam, but John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova were having none of it.
McEnroe labelled Court “a crazy aunt” and he and fellow legend Navratilova staged an on-court protest demanding Margaret Court Arena be renamed. They later apologised for breaking tournament “protocols”.
– Baby-sitter Barty –
Ashleigh Barty, a surprise loser in the semi-finals to eventual champion Sofia Kenin, caught the world’s media off-guard by conducting her post-match press conference with a baby cooing happily on her lap.
Australia’s world number one said 12-week-old niece Olivia, who seemed perfectly at ease in the spotlight, put her defeat in perspective.
But not everyone was amused, some accusing Barty of using the baby to deflect attention away from her loss.