Down Under Day 5: ‘Cause you’re hot then you’re cold.
Day 5, the temperatures soared to 37C before a late night cool change took over. And much like everything down under, the tennis yesterday mimicked the weather, with shades of hot and cold, and its fair share of ups and downs.
ONE is your magic number. Randy and Rafa both lost one set. ‘Martin Porto’ ate one bagel. Justine Henin came back from one set down to level, and eventually – win the match against Kleybanova. Monfils could do no more than win one set against a cracking John Izzy, while Wicky and Sveta gave away one set to their respective opponents, but ultimately no harm was done.
And in the upset of the tournament, Kimmie won one game to concede the match to Nadia Petrova 6-0 6-1. To top it all off, Nadia Petrova was wearing a beautiful dress.
IS THIS REAL LIFE?
But first, it was a match that had nothing to do with ‘one’. Unless you count Jelena Jankovic as one big loser.
I have a real soft spot for JJ. She’s a ridiculous human being. She’s emotional, she’s stereotypical, she acts like a petty little school girl, and I mean that in a good way – she’s a real hoot to have around. And when she’s on, she plays tennis in a flowy, crafty and strangely feminine way.
Flowy, crafty and feminine she was not yesterday in her 6-2 6-3 loss to Alone Bondarenko, who was a shiny 0-9 against her prior to the match. Youch.
Every off-season, JJ goes off, picks a part of her game to “improve” and comes back with that part of her game regressed. This time last year, ranked No 1 in the world, JJ decided to bulk up. The price she paid for it, supposedly, was the loss of her mobility on court and that mobility she never got back until the summer hard court season rolled around.
This off-season, it seems that Lady Jaja took a look at the serving woes of Ivanovic & Co and decided she wanted to join the club. She went off, complete revamped the serve, and came back not only with no marked improvements but quite the opposite.
She gained no extra power, no better placement or higher first serve percentage. In fact, there was so much going on with the toss and ridiculous knee bend that she lost the timing on her serve.
Which brings me to my point – why fix something that wasn’t broken? Her serve was never a thing of wonder, but it was slightly better than “functional”. Now it’s barely rolling into the box.
I understand the desire to continuously improve as a player, but girl, you’re 24. The salient features of your game are there for better or worse. It’s time you start working with the strengths you’ve got rather than trying to fashion new weapons out of thin air. How much time do you think you have left before the new generation of bright young things come along and usurp your place in the top 10 OH WAIT …
The word ‘shocker’ doesn’t quite describe this next upset. Didn’t see a single point of Clijsters v Petrova because I was watching Cilic v Wawrinka on Margaret Court Arena at the time. From what I gather, it seemed that Nadia Petrova turned up prepared to play the Kimpossible, but the Kimpossible didn’t turn up to play at all.
Clijsters’ press conference offered no explanations for this bizarre loss, the worst in her career spanning 555 matches.
…she was good. But, you know, I let her ‑‑ you know, I made all the mistakes and she didn’t really have to do much. She served really well and was aggressive in the rallies, but that’s because I let her play into the courts. Just because I wasn’t feeling the ball well. It sucks.
It’s something you don’t want to happen too often. You just want to keep working hard. But, yeah, like I said, it sucks that it has to happen at this stage of this tournament at least. If it happens in another tournament, then you can say, Okay, you know, it’s not a big deal, just keep working hard.
You know, matches like this, maybe it happens once a year where you feel like this. But, yeah, like I said, you don’t want it to happen more than this because then, you know, it’s not a coincidence.
I think I haven’t changed anything in my whole preparations before every match. Everything was the same, same routine, then something like this happens. That’s probably the most frustrating thing about it, is not knowing. That’s sports. You know, it can happen.
That – ladies and gents – is the difference between Kim Clijsters and Ana Ivanovic. Both lost early at the Australian Open. It “sucks”, of course it does. But unlike Ana, Kim isn’t going to go away, sign up for therapy, dump her coach, revamp her service motion, and get a new husband. She’ll wave her hand and call it “sports”. It happens, and I’ll make damn sure it ain’t gonna happen again.
Life wasn’t much easier either for the other Belgians still in the draw. For a set and a half against Kleybs, Justine looked lethargic and a step too slow. Meanwhile, Kleybanova was serving and clubbing the ball with so much pace and accuracy that it didn’t seem possible to stop her momentum.
But momentum, like Lady Luck, is a fickle customer. Justine finally woke up half way through the second set, and all it took for was a few second serves from Kleybanova for Henin to weasel herself into the match.
She’s not the HBIC for nothing.
With the second set under her belt, the lethargy wore off and Henin began to exhibit her full array of shots with better execution and court coverage, neither of which she had at the start of the match.
The real question now is whether she can recover in time for her all-Belgian clash against Yanina Wickmayer, who is yet to lose a match in 2010 but has probably had more dog fights than any other player this Australian Open.
In two of the more exciting matches of the day, John “Chubbysex” Isner and Marin Cilic defeated some tough opponents in Monfils and Stan on the infamously rowdy Margaret Court Arena.
Not a fan of big servers in general, but there’s something about John Isner that gets me … it’s not the forehand, nor his abilities at the net, both of which are respectable though not world-class. The kid’s got spunk, that’s all.
And he’s also got Andy Murray next round. It’s Toothface v Tongueface, can Mandy break finally his Australian Open voodoo? Or will John Isner achieve his best ever slam result?
If there’s one thing about Margaret Court Arena that I love, it’s the atmosphere of the place. It’s rowdy, it’s gleeful, and players like Monfils milk it for all its worth. Every roar from the crowd seemed to be magnified by ten-fold, and fans of a particular player tend to congregate like sardines into a single section of the crowd.
I had the misfortune of having the entire Croatian contingent sitting in my section yesterday. Luckily, they were mostly well-behaved after the security team stationed themselves outside. And apart from cheering like a bunch of drunk energizer bunnies through the night, and trying to convincing me that Roger Federer was “Norwegian”, they became a welcomed distraction from what was otherwise a very long match and a heat-exhausted crowd.
Stan started the match with full focus, striking the ball cleaning, and drawing gasps from the crowd with his backhand. But Stan being Stan, he couldn’t harbor the momentum, nor could he handle Marin’s risque forehand once the Croat found his range there. Every time, Cilic pushed Stan wide on the forehand, he won the point. And the momentum in the last 3 sets largely went the way of the youngster.
By the third set, Stan was physically exhausted in the heat, and the sounds coming from his racket had lost the sort of crispness they had in the first set. There was only one way for this to go and it wasn’t in the direction of the Swiss.
It was an important win for Cilic, whose tennis followed the theme of the day through phases of hot and cold. He’ll have an interest match against “Martin Porto” next round, as the Argentinean himself has been having complete blackout periods during matches. Delpo needed 4 sets to get past Mayer after losing a bagel set.
We’re in for one helluva Round 16 I tell ya.