AO2011 Day 5-Day 7: Heart (by PJ)
Seeing that Australian Open is the home Slam of this blog, and Dootsiez is just really worn out from working/tennis-ing/writing awesome SI blog articles, I thought I’ll give her a hand in keeping the Aussie Open posts somewhat intact-ish.
I was at Melbourne Park for tennis for AO Day 5, 6 and 7, so let’s see what I remember from those outings.
Day 5 was a last minute decision for me. I somehow scored a day off from work, and decided to buy myself a day ticket to catch Roger v Xavier Malisse. I missed most of Wozniacki due to successful Roger stalking (but to be honest, I don’t really want to put myself through a Wozniacki match, not even when I’d paid for it), and managed to catch Kuznetsova v Henin. It wasn’t that competitive of a match given the two players were – well, Kuznetsova and Henin. Justine seemed to be still suffering from her elbow injury. She was unable to find her first serve, double-faulting her way to being broken. She clawed back to take the second set to a tiebreaker – but it was a shockingly bad tiebreaker as both girls shanked shots, shanked serves and in the end, it was decided with what seemed to be routine for the match: a Justine double-fault.
I have to say though: Kuznetsova v Henin for a friggin’ 3RD ROUND? Man, that’s about ten kinds of cruel, ye olde Tennis Gods.
And then it was Fed-time with a match against Malisse. If I can be honest, I did think that Roger seemed a bit cranky during his practice session, but I brushed it off as my tendency to over-worry about things not worth worrying about. Until Roger started playing.
As said by Dootsiez, it wasn’t a bad match – he after all won in comfortable straight sets – 6-3, 6-3, 6-1. However, the whole match was just bizarre. His shot selections were bizarre. He seemed disinterested in the first set, but he won that. Only when he got broken in the second set, then he seemed to come to life.
Suddenly, I see Roger muttering, glaring, shaking his head, yelling NIEEEEEEEEN at missed forehands, and giving C’MONS and fistpumps at 15-all. He won the second set, basically steam-rolled Malisse in the third, but his mood didn’t seem to calm down, not until he got the match in his pocket.
If he’s a girl, I’ll definitely say he was PMS-ing. All the symptoms were there. But hey, he won, and he’s through.
Day 6 observations in dot-points – mostly the outside court matches as there was where I was at:
1) Milos Raonic. Who woulda though this young, gutsy and most unknown Canadian qualifier would have the goods to boot world no.10 Mikhail Youzhny? I watch one set of this match and he was outplaying le Colonel from the forehand wing. It didn’t help that Youzhny’s backhand was not as sharp as it usually was. Coupled with Raonic’s amazing serving – he currently holds the record for fastest serve for this AO season – Youzhny couldn’t keep up and was bundled out in 4-sets. It will be interesting to see how he now matches up against David Ferrer.
2) Alexandr Dolgopolov. What a guy. At the ripe old tennis age of 22, he’s finally beginning to make himself seen and heard on tour, reaching the 4th round on his debut Australian Open (didn’t manage to qualify last year) after knocking out Jo-Wilfrid Tsonga in 5 sets. Granted Jo was not 100% – still fighting off the effects of a niggling injury – but Dolgopolov hung on, clawed back from a 2 sets to 1 deficit, and blasted Tsonga with solid forehands and volleys and impressive serving. Tsonga’s frequent double-faulting contributed to the 6-1, 6-1 score of the last two sets, but well played, Dolgopolov. I don’t think he will get past Bobby Sod (who is flying under the radar looking ominous) but I daresay he will give Sod a run for his money.
3) John Isner and Marin Cilic. There’s something about Mr. Isner and 5-set marathons. . If I was John Isner, I will bloody make sure that I never play 5th sets, ever again. I think he is still haunted by Wimbledon. After missing a chance at 0-30 on Cilic’s serve at 6-all, his face was literally wrought with PAIN. He was totally thinking about Wimbledon and OH LORD PLEASE NOT AGAIN I SWEAR. But the final scoreline of 9-7 fell short of his 70-68 Wimbledon record, of course. And the other difference is that he was not the victor. Marin Cilic won himself the right to be stomped on by Rafa in the quarter-finals
4) Bernard Tomic. The kid was a spoiled brat with no EQ skills and social etiquette, but if people expect him to roll over and play dead for Rafa, they expected wrong. Tomic rose to the occasion, matched Rafa on every play – even managing to take a 4-0 lead in the second set before inexperience on his part and experience plus GRIT on Rafa’s part levelled things again. The scoreline of 6-2, 7-5, 6-3 was much closer than it suggested. Rafa was actually pressured in most of his service games. Tomic is no pushover, but he is still a brat. Still, I am curious to see where he goes from here, whether could he sort his personality out along with his game.
Day 7 of tennis was pretty full-on – and again, I missed Wozniacki’s match due to Feder-stalking. Oh well, wouldn’t change it for the anything!
My first match on Rod Laver Arena saw Li Na taking out Vika Azarenka in straight sets – although not without the usual WTA business of losing serve a couple of times before hanging on for the win. Li Na definitely had the crowd on her side – as Azarenka’s screeching just annoyed the hell out of everyone else – little old lady next to me called it “disturbing the peace”. Crowd tittered and laughed every time she went “OOOOOOOORRRRRHhhhhhhhhhhh” and imitations were rampant. Mean, but no one could really stand her. I’m pleased that Li Na is through. She’s playing well, and she meets Andrea Petkovic – who completely outplayed Shrieky Sharapova – in the quarters. It will be a match worth catching.
Roger McFed then took centre court for what 99.9% of the tennis community expected to be a routine trashing of Disco Dancin’ Tommy Robredo. Roger has a perfect 9-0 record, and has only ever lost two sets to Mr. Bright Red Pants. He was imperious on serve the first set, firing aces and unreturnable serves and T-Rob could not even make a single-point dent on. However, although he wasn’t really taking his chances with T-Rob’s serve, he did well enough to earn that one break and to take the first set. The routine was still on track.
Until the second set. Suddenly, T-Rob found his first serve and his disco groove. Fed lost his first serve and most of his ballet groove. A loose game from Roger late in the set found him broken, with Tommy then serving for the set and before I can yell FUCK YOU FEDERER, it was one-set all.
Roger wasn’t in the mood for any more five-setters though. He broke the Disco serve early in the third, and hung on to close the set out in a back-to-routine fashion. Tommy then changed into a presumably lucky red shirt (and maybe lucky red underwear) but it wasn’t nearly enough. Le Fed then earned early simultaneous breaks again in the fourth, and then it was business as usual in the office of Federer.
When asked by Courier whom he prefers for the quarter-final, Roger answered, “My friend, Stanley”. Well, Roger’s friend Stanley was at his smokin’ Ewok Stanley best when he literally blew Andy Roddick off court in the last RLA match in straight sets. Everything was working for The Other Swiss Guy – his backhand was sublime, his forehand was clicking, his volleys were there, he was able to chase balls, return them, and suddenly, out of nowhere, he was pulling 200kmph serves and outserving The Serve himself. Poor ARod didn’t help himself by having a horrendous serving day by his usual standards, seeing his first serves faulting, and thus having Stanley pouncing all over his second serve like PJ pouncing all over Federer if she can guarantee she won’t be arrested for *ahem* inappropriate harassment.
I would just like to remind Roger that when he meets Wawrinka during the quarter-finals on Tuesday, he’s not going to be Your Friend Stanley. He should be Stanley Your Enemy Whom You’re Going To Destroy So That He Won’t Get In The Way Of Number Seventeen. Heads up, okay?
As for the other quarter-final, Djokovic and Berdych both hammered Almagro and Verdasco respectively. As Jodi so aptly puts it, it will be The Battle Of Sesame Street when Bert meets Big Bird. I hope they clobber each other to death.
Saving the best for the last – Schiavone and Kuznetsova. What a brilliant, brilliant match, and brilliant, brilliant display of heart, of determination, of passion. I started watching at 5-all, and could not leave Garden Square despite brambles sticking to my thighs and an extremely sore back. I watched those two girls played their guts out. The level of tennis was RIDICULOUS. The points played – I could only gasp and scream NO WAY as they just blazed the balls back into play for winner after winner with the most ridiculous volleys and ball-chasing.
Towards the end, there would be four breaks of serve. And each time, the girls broke each other with amazing plays and gutsy shots – really going all out for it instead of hanging back and hoping for the opponent’s mistakes. They let nothing go. NOTHING. It wasn’t a serving marathon to hold serve. It was a tennis marathon for every single point. Every single one of it.
In the end, the first to blink was Kuznetsova, as she lost serve that one final time. But she made sure that Franny did not have an easy time serving it out. Sveta kept chasing the balls, kept hitting the winners and never once gave up the belief that she could maybe break back and keep herself alive. But it was not meant to be as Franny finally held that one crucial serve, and it was all over.
At the same time, my heart breaks for Kuznetsova, as I’m sure with millions of other people out there. Franny will play Wozniacki next. And unfortunately, she will have nothing left in the tank to play Wozniacki’s brand of tennis. Still, I hope for a miracle, I hope that Franny’s heart will be enough to propel her through, and through again, and again.
Because I now truly think she deserves the title of Australian Open women’s champ, 2011.
No prizes on who I think should have the men’s title. But I won’t say it outloud.
And onward we go.
P.S. photos from daylife.com