Here we are at the half way point of the season’s first Grand Slam, and there have been several moments worth reflecting on. So in no particular order, here are some thoughts and observations.
Most years I find the Aussie Open to be relatively free of major upsets, with the favourites making it to the final eight. This year Andy Roddick lost in the 3rd round to Philipp Kohlschreiber in a marathon match of five sets. I don’t think anyone could have seen this result coming, and it was unfortunate for Roddick as he had a nice draw going for him. Kohlschreiber had never before taken a set off Roddick, and had in fact lost to him at this very tournament three years ago. This is a tournament that is made for Roddick’s aggressive hard court game. In seven attempts down under, Roddick has made three semi-finals, and one quarter final. This year I was certain he would reach the semi’s and gave him a decent shot of beating Rafa Nadal to attain his first final. Look for Roddick to regroup and emerge hungry for some wins on the upcoming hard court circuit in the US.
Now to focus on a the emergence of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a fast rising player from France. Had a decent run at his first tourney of the year in Adelaide by making the semi finals. Still I gave the edge in his first round encounter here to Andy Murray, who I was expecting a big showing from. Instead he took out Murray and has just beaten Richard Gasquet rather handily to reach his first Grand Slam quarter final. This is a major breakout for the young Frenchman, and I like his chances in the next round against Mikhail Youzhny. He could be this year’s Novak Djokovic I suppose. While looking at his results from 2007, I noticed he put together a very solid run on the challenger circuit, winning three hard court titles in a row at one point. By the looks of it he could very well transfer that success to the big league!
The top half of the draw has gone more according to form. The big clash will arrive in the semi’s here if Federer and Djokovic advance as predicted. Roger’s big moment thus far came earlier than expected however, with his five set win against Janko Tipsarevic. That match could have easily gone the wrong way for Federer, and resulted in a big pay day for some risky gamblers out there too. What a headline that would have made! Federer prevailed in a tight fifth set, 10-8 against the upstart Serb. In his post match comments, Roger admitted that he needs some matches like that to keep him in check. Not very often this guy gets pushed to five sets, and especially so in the 3rd round of a tournament. The last time Roger was pushed in an early round of a Slam was back in Spring 2004 at Roland Garros where he lost in straight sets to Gustavo Kuerten.
Roger Federer – overwhelming favourite encounters some adversity and shows that he’s able to battle through it.
James Blake – fights back from down two sets to one for the first time in his career.
Novak Djokovic – Breezes through first four rounds of the tourney…lookout Roger!
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga – Youngster serves notices of his arrival by beating Murray, Gasquet in early rounds.
Fabrice Santoro – Sets record with 62nd Grand Slam appearance.
Ivan Ljubicic – No longer a threat on tour. Grand Slam record is brutal.
David Nalbandian – Losing to JC Ferrero 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 indicative of a lack of effort.
Andy Roddick – Not for losing a tough match, but for his lack of respect towards officials and fans. Here is the video of Andy getting mad: