<
>

A-F: Grading the main Australians at Melbourne Park

MELBOURNE, Australia -- With Ash Barty bowing out of the Australian Open on Tuesday night, all 22 local hopes are now out of contention for singles glory.

Throughout the tournament, some Aussies dazzled while others flopped. So, taking into account experience, expectation, opposition and of course performance, it's time to grade the most notable Australians who competed this year at Melbourne Park.

Ash Barty
Defeated by Petra Kvitova (8th seed) in quarterfinals
Grade: A+

Barty became the first Australian woman in 10 years to reach the quarterfinals at the Australian Open after coming from a set down to defeat Maria Sharapova in the fourth round. The 22-year-old Queenslander was Australia's shining light throughout the tournament, earning further wins over Luksika Kumkhum, Yafan Wang and Maria Sakkari. Barty, a two-time Newcombe medallist, was far from disgraced Tuesday when she fell in straight sets to a rampant Kvitova, who could take hold of the women's world No. 1 ranking by winning in Melbourne.

Alexei Popyrin
Defeated by Lucas Pouille (28th seed) in 3rd round
Grade: A

If it wasn't for Barty's dream run, 19-year-old Popyrin would have been the standout Australian at this year's Open. An almost unknown before the tournament, Popyrin began his campaign with an impressive straight sets win over the experienced Mischa Zverev and backed it up by racing out to a two sets to love lead against 7th seed Dominic Thiem. The Austrian then retired hurt, setting up a third round showdown between Popyrin and Frenchman Pouille. In a high-quality affair, Popyrin dazzled with some sublime tennis, coming from two sets down to level the match before Pouille was able to edge him 6-3 in the decider. Overall, it was a sensational week for Popyrin who is no doubt a player to keep an eye on.

Alex de Minaur
Defeated by Rafael Nadal (2nd seed) in 3rd round
Grade: B+

Like Popyrin, de Minaur was ultra impressive in his first Australian Open as a seeded player. The Australian No. 1 cruised by Portugal's Pedro Sousa in the first round before outlasting Henri Laaksonen in a five-set thriller in the second. De Minaur then ran into Nadal, who put on a clinic on Rod Laver Arena, but the 19-year-old Aussie can still leave Melbourne with his head held high.

Alex Bolt
Defeated by Alexander Zverev (4th seed) in 3rd round
Grade: B

Not too many Australians would have been familiar with Bolt before the tournament, but his gutsy wins over American Jack Sock and Frenchman Gilles Simon proved he can mix it at the elite level. Bolt wasn't afraid to play his shots and was rewarded with a third-round berth at his home Grand Slam, the first time he had ever progressed further than the opening round at a major. In the end, Zverev got the better of him but it didn't stop Bolt -- and his bleached blonde tips -- from becoming a cult tennis hero Down Under.

John Millman
Defeated by Roberto Bautista Agut (22nd seed) in 2nd round
Grade: B

For a moment it looked as though Millman, the man who knocked out Roger Federer at the 2018 US Open, was going to put his name up in lights again. Having already ousted Federico Delbonis in his opener, Millman was down two sets to Spaniard Bautista Agut but stormed back into the match, winning the next two sets to send it to a fifth. His epic and near flawless fourth-set tiebreaker will be remembered for a long while even though he dropped the decider 6-4.

Kimberly Birrell
Defeated by Angelique Kerber (2nd seed) in 3rd round
Grade: B

She may have been totally outclassed by Kerber, but Birrell won't soon be forgetting her 2019 Australian Open. The 20-year-old took down Paula Bidosa Gibert in her opener before sending 29th seed Donna Vekic packing not long after. By reaching the third round, Birrell netted herself A$155,000 - a figure which more than doubled her career earnings prior to the tournament.

Zoe Hives
Defeated by Caroline Garcia (19th seed) in 2nd round
Grade: B-

Victorian wildcard Hives blitzed experienced American Bathanie Mattek-Sands 6-1, 6-2 on opening day in what was her first appearance in a Grand Slam. The 22-year-old was then beaten by Frenchwoman Garcia but will still triple her career earnings by taking home a handy AU$105,000.

Matt Ebden
Defeated by Rafael Nadal (2nd seed) in 2nd round
Grade: B-

Journeyman Ebden took down German world No. 51 Jan-Lennard Struff in his opener to advance to the second round for the second consecutive year. In eight Australian Open main draw appearances, Ebden has never progressed further than the second round and unfortunately came up against a red-hot Nadal in Melbourne this year. Ebden was no match for the Spaniard but nevertheless gave locals someone to cheer for, if only for an hour and 56 minutes.

Nick Kyrgios
Defeated by Milos Raonic (16th seed) in 1st round
Grade: C+

It would be unfair to grade Kyrgios too harshly after drawing former world No. 3 Raonic in the first round. The Canadian brought his A-grade service game to Melbourne Arena, sending down 30 aces and winning a mind-boggling 86.25 percent of points on his serve. Nevertheless, it was the first time Kyrgios, the world No. 52, had failed to progress from the first round in Melbourne.

Ajla Tomljanovic
Defeated by Johanna Konta in 1st round
Grade: C+

For a fair chunk of her match against Brit Johanna Konta, Australian Ajla Tomljanovic looked the more accomplished player. She was edged in a tight opening set tiebreaker before dominating the second 6-2. But Tomljanovic soon picked up an unwanted piece of history by becoming the first female player to be knocked out of the tournament under the new third set tiebreaker rule.

James Duckworth
Defeated by Rafael Nadal (2nd seed) in 1st round
Grade: C

New South Wales wildcard Duckworth was far from disgraced in the opening round against 2009 Australian Open champion Nadal. Sure, it was over in straight sets, but Duckworth managed to win 12 games and take the match into a third hour. He also didn't look overawed by the occasion of playing one of the sport's all-time greats on Rod Laver Arena.

Bernard Tomic
Defeated by Marin Cilic (6th seed) in 1st round
Grade: D

Like Kyrgios, Tomic copped an unfavourable draw at this year's tournament when his name was read out alongside 2018 runner-up Cilic. He put up little resistance during the match as Cilic breezed by him in a little over two hours on Margaret Court Arena. After his loss, the 26-year-old lashed out at Australian Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt in a war-of-words which has been the talk of the tournament.

Daria Gavrilova
Defeated by Tamara Zidansek in 1st round
Grade: D

Day 2 at the Australian Open was one of those days where it just didn't click for Gavrilova. The 24-year-old was edged 7-5 by world No. 78 Zidansek in a tight first set before falling apart in the second, eventually going down in straight sets. It was the first time since 2015 that Gavrilova had been sent packing from her home slam in the first round.

Sam Stosur
Defeated by Dayana Yastremska in 1st round
Grade: D-

Another year, another Australian Open failure for Stosur. The 2011 U.S. Open champion capitulated against Ukraine's Yastremska on day two and has now lost five consecutive matches at Melbourne Park. After taking an early break and going up 4-1, Stosur dropped 12 of the next 15 games on her way out of the tournament. At 34 years of age, you wouldn't bet against her being absent from next year's event, either.

Thanasi Kokkinakis
Retired hurt against Taro Daniel in 1st round
Grade: N/A

Once again injuries prevented us from seeing the best of Kokkinakis. He won the opening set against Japan's Daniel before being forced to withdraw.