Our sports year in review: Farewell 2019

With the year coming to an end, we take a look back at the sporting moments that defined the Greek and Australian field in 2019

JANUARY Stefanos Tsitsipas shocks the world of tennis, reaching the semi-finals of the Australian Open. The highlight of his performance was of course his victory over Roger Federer, in a thrilling match that had the eyes of thousands of people glued to their screens. The Greek community of Melbourne shower the young player with their love and appreciation, with the 19-year-old declaring the city as “his second home.”

The Socceroos fail to protect the title they claimed for the first time ever in 2015, as their participation in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup that is held in the Emirates is cut short by the host nation. Graham Arnold’s men are knocked out in the semi-finals thanks to a goal by Ali Mabkhout in the 68th minute.

PAOK celebrate their first championship in over 30 years with gusto. Photo: APE/MPE

MAY PAOK win the double in Greece, finishing top of the league, five points ahead of Olympiacos. Razvan Lucescu’s team also win the Greek Cup, beating AEK 1-0 in the final. The team from Thessaloniki maintained an unbeaten run throughout their domestic season, a feat that hadn’t been accomplished since 1964.

The A-League title decider was played out between the Premiers Perth Glory and Sydney FC, with the “sky blues” winning their fourth championship and becoming the most successful club in Australia (alongside Melbourne Victory.)

JUNE In a great year for Greek Australian tennis, Ashleigh Barty wins the French Open, simultaneously reaching number one in the Women’s World Rankings. The 23-year-old from Queensland becomes one of the most highly paid athletes, gaining over $12 million in prize money within a span of twelve months.

Giannis Antetokounmpo poses with the MVP Award. Photo: APE/MPE

Giannis Antetokounmpo becomes the first Greek athlete to win the highly coveted MVP (Most Valuable Player) award in the NBA, capping off a wonderful season that saw him lead the Bucks all the way to the conference finals. That would only be the tip of the iceberg for the youngster, as he would go on to win two ESPY Awards, have a pair of Nike shoes named after him and a live action movie by Disney based on his life would go into production. He began the 2019-20 season in incredible form, scoring 50 points in a single game against the Utah Jazz, a career high for the 25-year-old.

AUGUST Olympiacos go through three UEFA Champions League qualifying rounds undefeated, with an incredible record of 13-1 goals. The Greek team drew goalless in their first game in the Czech Republic against Victoria Plzen, then went on to win all the rest of their games up until the group stage. More specifically, they beat Plzen at home 4-0, Istanbul Basaksehir 0-1 in Turkey and 2-0 at the “Georgios Karaiskakis” and finally FC Krasnodar 4-0 in Piraeus and 1-2 in Russia. Unfortunately they wouldn’t be as lucky in the group stage, drawn up against European heavyweights Bayern Munich and Tottenham Hotspur.

SEPTEMBER In the FIBA World Cup that was held in China, the Australian “Boomers” came one step from the final, losing the semi-final in the second overtime to eventual World champions Spain 95-88. Their great performance in the competition left an important legacy for future generations, and people began to show their support to the sport by increasing their presence at the NBL games. Meanwhile, Greece disappoints in the tournament, failing to go through the second group stage, despite the efforts of Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Ashleigh Barty of Australia poses with her winning trophy on stage after defeating Elina Svitolina of Ukraine in the WTA Finals Tennis Tournament at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center in Shenzhen, China’s Guangdong province, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019. Photo: AAP via AP/Andy Wong

OCTOBER Representing Australia, aspiring Greek boxer Antonia Konstantopoulou manages to reach the final eight of the Women’s World Boxing Championships in her category (54kgs.) The young athlete was able to participate in the tournament as champion of Australia, having won the national title a few months prior.

Stefanos Ksenos takes first place in the Karate U21 World Championships in Santiago of Chile. The Greek team would have many other achievements in the tournament, such as Konstantina Chrysopoulou’s silver medal. The future is bright for Greece in the newly inducted Olympic sport.

DECEMBER After a short break to detox from social media, Stefanos Tsitsipas comes back better than ever, emerging as the winner from the ATP Finals tournament. For those not in the know, this is a competition between the top-10 ranked athletes in the men’s category that takes place every end of the year at the O2 Arena in London. Tsitsipas left the entire world stunned once again, beating Federer, Medvedev, Zverev and Thiem and losing only to Nadal and capped off a memorable season both for himself and Greek-Australian sport as a whole.

Yokohama Marinos manager Ange Postecoglou (L) wins Manager of the Meiji Yasuda J.League Champions during the J. League Awards ceremony in Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo on Dec. 8, 2019. Photo: AAP via AP

Former Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou becomes champion of Japan with the Yokohama F. Marinos. In a battle that will be remembered for many years to come for fans of the sport in the land of the rising sun, the former South Melbourne player was able to lead his club to success. With just two games to go, then-table-leaders FC Tokyo slip up by drawing with Urawa at home (1-1), giving the “blues” the advantage. And at the final round’s trophy decider between the two teams, even though Postecoglou’s men could’ve settled for a draw, they came out and beat their main rivals at home 3-0, sealing their success in the most dominant way possible. Postecoglou went on to win the Manager of the Year award in Japan.