Down Under Day 11: Will my fists fit in there?
Okay, I get it – I’m petty, snarly, fangirly, and often a tad indecent… But overall, I’d like to think I’m a fair person. And in the interest of fairness, Andy Murray has played the best tennis out of all the top guys at this Australian Open.
Barring an epic braincramp from Muzz, or a ‘TMF the Invincible’ sighting at Melbourne Park in the next few days, Mandy looks set to seal his first slam and break the British slam drought.
Fiiiiine. But do I have to be there to witness it? Haven’t I suffered enough tennis trauma as a human being?
Like Verdasco, Gonzalez and Baghdatis in previous years, Marin Cilic became the “adopted son” and revelation of the tournament. For a set and a half, he played the sort of aggressive, exhilaratingly risqué tennis he brought against Muzz last year at the US Open.
Perhaps Mandy had some psychological scar tissues left over from their previous meeting; perhaps he didn’t expect so much fuel left in Cilic after what must’ve been the most physically demanding tournament he’s ever played; or perhaps it was just a case of “old habits die hard” – we didn’t see this new ‘aggressive attitude’ that commentators have been purring about all tournament from Mandy until late in the second set. For the first set and a half, it was Marin’s party.
But not unlike his quarterfinal match against del Potro at the US Open last year, Marin’s party ran out booze. Murray did a good job hanging in the second set despite facing early breakpoints and a barrage of winners from Red Hot Cilic Peppers on the other side of the net.
Then this happened …
Sometimes, a single point can change the momentum of a match. Marin’s legs got a little heavier as his run in Chennai, 3 five-setters and a 3.5 hr four-set match against Stan in Melbourne finally caught up on him.
Muzz, bolstered by the adrenaline of a great shot, began to settle down, open up the court more and attack the Cilic serve. With Mr Mo-mentum firmly on his side, there was no stopping Mandy as he gobbled up the next 3 sets in impressive fashion for a spot in his second grand slam final.
I don’t see Jo or Ferd the turd stopping him on Sunday.
On a totally unrelated note, this shit needs to stop happening.
A Croatian fan somehow managed to get onto the court to shake Cilic’s hand after the match. The man is due to face charges in court today. Apparently, everything happens on Pascal Maria’s watch.
Earlier in the day, I headed to Rod Laver Arena for my last shift at the Australian Open.
It says something about personalities in women’s tennis right now that two grand semifinals could barely draw a crowd big enough to rival ‘Hit for Haiti’, while Federer’s round 1 match against Andreev exhausted every seat in the house.
The first semi of the day, Serena v Li Na, was surprisingly competitive. In her 7-6 (4), 7-6 (1) to Serena, Li Li Na Na played some of the most gutsy tennis I’ve ever seen from her. The crowd was overwhelmingly on her side, cheering wildly as she fought off a total of 4 match points serving at 4-5 and 5-6 to take the second set into a tiebreak.
But as we’ve seen so many times, the difference between a champion and a very good play reveals itself so brutally in the big moments. When it came to the two tiebreaks, Serena played to win. Li played not to lose.
In stark contrast, the second semifinal of the day was not even close to being competitive. Zheng Jie didn’t get a sniff of a chance as Justine Henin brushed her aside to win 6-1, 6-0, in just 51 minutes.
What’s there to say? Being a small gal herself, Zheng had neither the game or the power to outrun or outhit Justine. And as for Henin, an easy match at this stage of the slam was just what the doctors ordered. She now has a full 2 days to recover and prepare herself for the final.
And what a dream final we’re going have!
The two best players of the last decade, amassing over 4 years at No 1 between them, with an almost split H2H record of 7-6 (Serena leading, having won their previous meeting in Miami 2008 just before Henin announced her retirement).
And yet bizarrely enough, they’ve never faced off in a grand slam final.
This has been way overdue.
And what of women’s tennis? After an 18 month “retirement”, Justine Henin returns to make two consecutive finals in the first two tournaments she plays.
While no one was fooled to think that women’s tennis has grown in leaps and bounds over the past two years, I wasn’t quite expecting things to be completely stagnant.
But that’s the sad truth of it all: nothing has changed. Serena and Justine – you still rule.