Leaving Federer vs. Davydenko for a special, detailed preview by one of our colleagues here, we break down some highlights from the latter half of second-round action on Day 4.
Brands vs. Tomic (Rod Laver Arena): A tall German who once caused a stir at Wimbledon, Brands has won four of his first five matches in 2013 with upsets over Chardy, Monfils, and Martin Klizan among them. As sharp as Tomic looked in his opener, he cannot afford to get caught looking ahead to Federer in the next round. Brands can match him bomb for bomb, so the last legitimate Aussie threat left needs to build an early lead that denies the underdog reason to hope.
Lu vs. Monfils (Hisense Arena): Is La Monf finally back? He somehow survived 16 double faults and numerous service breaks in a messy but entertaining four-set victory over Dolgopolov. Perhaps facilitated by his opponent’s similar quirkiness, the vibrant imagination of Monfils surfaced again with shot-making that few other men can produce. This match should produce an intriguing contrast of personalities and styles with the understated, technically solid Lu, who cannot outshine the Frenchman in flair but could outlast him by exploiting his unpredictable lapses.
Falla vs. Gasquet (Court 3): The Colombian clay specialist has established himself as an occasional upset threat at non-clay majors, intriguingly, for he nearly toppled Federer in the first round of Wimbledon three years ago and bounced Fish from this tournament last year. A strange world #10, Gasquet struggled initially in his first match against a similar clay specialist in Montanes. He recorded a series of steady results at majors last year, benefiting in part from facing opponents less accomplished than Falla. The strength-against-strength collision of his backhand against Falla’s lefty forehand should create some scintillating rallies as Gasquet seeks to extend his momentum from the Doha title two weeks ago.
Mayer vs. Berankis (Court 6): While Berankis comfortably defeated the erratic Sergei Stakhovsky in his debut, Mayer rallied from a two-set abyss to fend off American wildcard Rhyne Williams after saving multiple match points. He must recover quickly from that draining affair to silence the compact Latvian, who punches well above his size. Sometimes touted as a key figure of the ATP’s next generation, Berankis has not plowed forward as impressively as others like Raonic and Harrison, so this unintimidating draw offers him an opportunity for a breakthrough.
Raonic vs. Rosol (Court 13): The cherubic Canadian sprung onto the international scene when he reached the second week in Melbourne two years ago. The lean Czech sprung onto the international scene when he stunned Nadal in the second round of Wimbledon last year. Either outstanding or abysmal on any given day, Rosol delivered an ominous message simply by winning his first match. For his part, Raonic looked far from ominous while narrowly avoiding a fifth set against a player outside the top 100. He needs to win more efficiently in early rounds before becoming a genuine contender for major titles.
Robson vs. Kvitova (RLA): Finally starting to string together some solid results, the formerly unreliable Robson took a clear step forward by notching an upset over Clijsters in the second round of the US Open. Having played not only on Arthur Ashe Stadium there but on Centre Court at the All England Club before, she often produces her finest tennis for the grandest stages. If Robson will not lack for inspiration, Kvitova will continue to search for confidence. She found just enough of her familiarly explosive weapons to navigate through an inconsistent three-setter against Schiavone, but she will have little hope of defending her semifinal points if she fails to raise her level significantly. That said, Kvitova will appreciate playing at night rather than during the most scorching day of the week, for the heat has contributed to her struggles in Australia this month.
Peng vs. Kirilenko (Hisense): A pair of women better known in singles than in doubles, they have collaborated on some tightly contested matches. Among them was a Wimbledon three-setter last year, won by Kirilenko en route to the quarterfinals. The “other Maria” has faltered a bit lately with six losses in ten matches before she dispatched Vania King here. But Peng also has regressed since injuries ended her 2011 surge, so each of these two women looks to turn around her fortunes at the other’s expense. The Russian’s all-court style and fine net play should offer a pleasant foil for Peng’s heavy serve and double-fisted groundstrokes, although the latter can find success in the forecourt as well.
Wozniacki vs. Vekic (Hisense): Like Kvitova, Wozniacki seeks to build upon the few rays of optimism that emanated from a nearly unwatchable three-set opener. Gifted that match by Lisicki’s avalanche of grisly errors, the former #1 could take advantage of the opportunity to settle into the tournament. Wozniacki now faces the youngest player in either draw, who may catch her breath as she walks onto a show court at a major for the first time. Or she may not, since the 16-year-old Donna Vekic crushed Hlavackova without a glimpse of nerves to start the tournament and will have nothing to lose here.
Hsieh vs. Kuznetsova (Margaret Court Arena): A surprise quarterfinalist in Sydney, the two-time major champion defeated Goerges and Wozniacki after qualifying for that elite draw. Kuznetsova rarely has produced her best tennis in Melbourne, outside a near-victory over Serena in 2009. But the Sydney revival almost did not materialize at all when she floundered through a three-setter in the qualifying. If that version of Kuznetsova shows up, the quietly steady Hsieh could present a capable foil.
Putintseva vs. Suarez Navarro (Court 7) / Gavrilova vs. Tsurenko (Court 8): Two of the WTA’s most promising juniors, Putintseva and Gavrilova face women who delivered two of the draw’s most notable first-round surprises. After Suarez Navarro dismissed world #7 Errani, Tsurenko halted the surge of Brisbane finalist Pavlyuchenkova in a tense three-setter. Momentum thus carries all four of these women into matches likely to feature plenty of emotion despite the relatively low stakes.
Miami, FL – December 1st, 2012: Attendance grew on stadium court at Crandon Park Tennis Center in Key Biscayne, FL. on Friday evening, as tennis enthusiasts flocked to see some of the world’s best players perform during the night session on day one of the Miami Tennis Cup.
As the vodka bottles were uncorked in the VIP Lounge, for the select few lucky enough to purchase lounge passes, Alejadro Falla, Colombia’s top-ranked player, took to the court against Spain’s Nicolás Almagro, ranked number 11 in the world. The first set was closer than expected, as Falla put up a hard fought battle from the baseline, after conceding the first set 6-4, lasting well over an hour. His first set spirit diminished during the second set that lasted only 35 minutes, as Almagro demonstrated why he was eleventh in the world, winning 6-1.
“It was tough because every match against Alejandro is complicated,” said Almagro about the left-handed Falla. “I’m quite happy with how I’m playing at the moment and I’m glad to be in the warmth of Miami for the first year of the Miami Tennis Cup. Hopefully the crowds were treated to an enjoyable game.”
Shortly after the tournament’s opening match, the top-ranked American, John Isner, squared away against the former number one player from Spain, Juan Carlos Ferrero. Fans were treated to a thrilling first set that reached a tie-break, that was easily won by Isner 7-2. The second set was a close fought battle, but Isner stepped-up his game to take the second set 6-3.
“I’ve a pleasing 2012, and this is a nice way to round off the year,” said Isner during his post-match press conference. “I’m happy to be competing in the Miami Tennis Cup. It’s a good crowd with some top players competing. I’m looking forward to seeing Andy Roddick play Andy Murray and hope to meet one of them in Sunday’s final.”
Day two of the Miami Tennis Cup will feature the tournament’s headline match between the retired Andy Roddick and the reigning U.S Open and Olympic Champion, Andy Murray, currently ranked number three in the world. The match on Stadium Court starts at 5:00pm and is expected to draw a capacity crowd.
Andy Murray, The “Coach”
First up on Stadium Court was Andy Murray who advanced over Alejandro Falla in straight sets with little resistance from the Colombian, 6-2, 6-3. In Murray’s press conference, he acknowledged Falla’s presence in tennis as a “tough player” since he “pushed Federer in Wimbledon” and beat Mardy Fish at the Australian Open.
The other day I commented on how Ivan Lendl didn’t seem to be “coaching” during Murray’s practice session, rather being a bit passive. It seems that Lendl posing questions to Murray has worked better for their relationship than Lendl simply directing Murray as to what needs to be done on court. Murray, the always independent thinker, commented thoroughly and honestly on the way his relationship with his coach has developed.
“A lot of ex‑players view things like ‘This is how I would have done it in that situation,’ or ‘That’s how I would have played,’ or whatever. Whereas Ivan has been actually very, very good with that.
He asks a lot of questions, as well, to understand why you maybe chose to hit a certain shot or what your favorite shots in certain moments are. He’s been very, very good with that — which is not the case with all coaches. He also understands that there are a lot of things that coaches can do that maybe annoy players. (Murray then cited Tony Roche feeding balls from the side of the court as one of these annoyances.)
He just asks the questions and I give him the answers. We have had no problems so far (smiling).”
Ana Ivanovic, The Wine Taster
Serbian Ana Ivanovic had a tougher time against her opponent Vania King, but finally prevailed after being broken in the second set, 6-4, 7-5. The American moved well and executed her backhand down-the-line especially well, making her a tough riddle for Ivanovic to solve. Ivanovic mentioned the heat as not being a factor and the minimal wind to be the difference between here and Indian Wells. The Serb also wasn’t shy talking about how she will celebrate reaching one of her goals this year.
“I’m just really happy with where my game is at the moment. Also, I was real excited to be ranked 10 in the race, which was kind of my goal for the year. So that kind of was exciting. I was like, ‘Oh, we have to have a glass of wine tonight.’”
When asked about what kind of wine, she answered: “I like Australian shiraz. Red wine. I don’t drink white. That’s actually the only thing I can drink.”
Novak Djokovic, The Ambassador
Although Novak Djokovic had no match today, he conducted a special media press conference answering questions on a variety of topics. He was quick to remind the media that the Sony Ericsson Open was the first ATP-level tournament he won in his career back in 2007. What a path this current world #1 has paved in the last five years!
Usually the entertainer, Djokovic took a more serious yet still cheerful tone to his interview as he talked about enjoying the island life at Key Biscayne, “walking” and “biking” around. He also commented on Serbia’s influence in tennis, but in a slightly different wording than the tennis world is used to:
“[The Serbian tennis players] are always seeking to improve and get better. I believe that our past that we had in our country, which was very turbulent, I have to say, helped us to discover that great desire for success and to become one of the world’s best tennis players. This mentality — very, very strong mentality — is actually something that separates, I think, people from that region from any other.”
John Isner, The Wannabe Singleton
Newly-crowned world number 10 John Isner found himself in a jam when he soundly lost the first set to Nikolay Davydenko, 6-2. He was able to recover and win in three, and even finished off with four of his fastest serves of the night — 137, 135, 136 and 129 mph. In his post-match presser he elaborated what the new ranking meant, or rather didn’t mean, to him.
“I didn’t look at the rankings and stare at it or anything like that. It’s something I thought I could accomplish. Now that I have, I’m happy, but I’m definitely not satisfied.
But for sure, it has sunk in. It sunk in, I guess, as soon as I got into the top 10. But, you know, I’m number 10. As my coach says, I want to become a singleton. I want to … have a single digit by my name instead of two.”
Does ‘9’ count, John?
by Maud Watson
Unfortunately, one of the biggest stories in the first week of the Aussie Open has been Nadal’s comments about Federer and his response (or lack thereof, in Nadal’s opinion) to tour issues. There was no mincing of words either, as he launched his verbal attack in his native tongue. Whether you agree with Nadal’s stance on the issues of the schedule and prize money is irrelevant. He had no business taking it outside the locker room and publicly attacking Federer. It’s frowned upon in team sports when one team member decides to air dirty laundry in public, and this is no different. Then, shortly after these controversial comments, Nadal announced he hurt his knee while sitting/getting up from in a chair, and that the pain was so bad, he was unsure he was going to play. Granted, the press asked him why his knee was wrapped. But he knew it was a freak thing, and the tests all came back negative. Just say it was precautionary, end of story. Not sure who handles PR for Nadal, but someone needs to get a hold of him and tell him to just shut up and play. When he announced he wouldn’t play in February due to his shoulder, it caused more than a few to roll their eyes and suggest he was preparing his excuse should he fall short of the title in Melbourne. His unprofessionalism in attacking Federer in the press prompted even some Nadal fans to say they had lost respect for him. Then this latest bit about hurting his knee while in a chair has sadly caused many to laugh and makes cracks about him. He’s achieved too much already in his career to slowly morph into a joke, especially at his own hands.
It didn’t take long for the tournament to suffer a couple of high-profile losses. On the women’s side, Sam Stosur crashed out early to big-hitting Sorana Cirstea. Not sure why some were insistent on calling this a shocker. Sam had a poor lead up to Melbourne, and it’s been evident she’s nervous playing in front of the home crowd. She was ripe for the upset. The slightly bigger surprise was Fish exiting early. Again, this wasn’t completely unforeseen. We saw shades of the old Fish in Perth, and unfortunately for him, it was the old Fish who showed up to play Falla. That’s what made his loss so much more disappointing. Falla played a complete match, and rather than digging in his heels, Fish decided to whine and complain about it. If he’s going to start behaving that way again, he’s in for an agonizing and frustrating season.
Fans may have witnessed some key moments in the careers of young guns Christina McHale and Bernard Tomic. American teenager McHale showed more than a hint of promise last season, and she’s backing it up well here in 2012. She won her opening match in straight sets over 24 seed Safarova before digging deep to pull out a victory against local favorite Erakovic. She still has plenty of room for growth, but for sure she’s looking like the real deal. On the men’s side, Tomic gave fans plenty to cheer. Down two sets to none against Verdasco, it appeared that Tomic was going to falter under the weight of his nation’s expectations in the opening round of Day 1 on Rod Laver Arena. But he kept his head about him, Verdasco got nervous, and Tomic delivered in five. He followed that up with a nice come-from-behind four-set win against Sam Querrey. These are the kind of matches that build character, and Tomic is showing that he’s continuing to mature and develop. 2012 most likely will be a growing year for both, but expect great things from each of these upstarts in the near future.
Someone who wasn’t talked up too much coming into Australia was Maria Sharapova. But in both of her opening matches, Sharapova has been a pillar of consistency, striking the ball as cleanly as ever. She should now be considered a strong contender to reach the quarters, where Serena Williams may await. Serena clipped her badly last they met, but based on current form, Serena should be the more worried if that quarterfinal clash comes to pass. On the men’s side, a tip of the hat to Lleyton Hewitt. He’s a longer shot than Sharapova to go far here, and an Andy Roddick injury helped his cause in reaching the third round. But considering his many injuries and the type of surgeries he’s undergone, he’s moving extremely well. There’s definitely some fight and game left in the tank, so don’t be surprised to see him post some impressive runs this season.
That’s the problem with ambiguous rules, and unfortunately, it leaves some players on the short end of the stick. Coming off a heart-breaking five-set loss to John Isner, Nalbandian criticized what he (rightfully) considered poor officiating at the end of the enthralling encounter. In looking at the replay, Nalbandian definitely took some time in looking for the mark after he had confirmed that Chair Umpire Nouni had overruled the linesperson and called an Isner serve in. As a result, when he made the challenge, Nouni ruled Nalbandian had taken too long and didn’t allow the challenge. In principle, I agree with Nouni. Challenges are supposed to be in a timelier manner. But in Nalbandian’s defense, when is that rule ever truly enforced? And in a moment like that, as ambiguous as the challenge time rule is, you gotta let Nalbandian have that challenge (especially since it was revealed Nouni’s overrule was incorrect).