Sunday, 25 January 2009

Magic and Misadventure in Melbourne pt 2...

Reeshard and his barbaric yawp....

I'd normally use a third round exit as an excuse to unleash yet another diatribe on the many misdemeanours of Gasquet, but even though he didn't come out on top in his five set clash with Gonzo, there was something a little different in the way he conducted himself. I don't actually think he choked quite as badly as he's done in the past, or to put it another way, I think his loss was as much a product of the gruelling nature of the lengthy match (he played a tough four setter against Junqueira too) as any mental failing. I particularly liked the way he saved match point with a low percentage, ripped forehand winner and the very un-Reeshard like primaeval scream he let out afterwards. You're not in Room 101 just yet Reeshard.

Gonzo is looking in extremely fine nick both physically and mentally. I don't think he'll get past Nadal but just may give him the kind of workout Berdych gave Federer or Djoko got at the hands of Baghdatis.

Extra brownie points for Reeshard finding his voice (and heart?) at last.
(Gasquet image by Chris Silva under

Melbourne 05 it was not...

I'd be lying if I said I really believed Safin would progress any further once I saw his name listed alongside a certain Roger Federer in the draw. But I was, as I said hoping for some 'showcase tennis'; and I think we got that - in that last set at least.

I can't really blame anyone for not coming through against Federer when he decides to raise his game that way (the backhand pass and the match point rally that led up to it summed things up very nicely); Safin did almost everything right in that last set: it was a classic case of his best not being good enough.

There's something very promising though about the way he sustained some of those longer rallies in that final set. His forehand normally breaks down in those situations, particularly on the run.

Extra brownie points for the Federer's 'larger than life' tribute to Safin after what may be their last match.

Fedora going five...

I don't know what to make of this. You could say it was a good thing that Federer had a stern test ahead of the quarter finals against an adversary that has troubled him in the past, and not at all out of place in what is likely to be a comparatively less polished phase of his career. A great confidence booster too.

It could also unfortunately be construed as a display of the kind of errant play we saw much of last year and that against a more grounded opponent would cost him more dearly. It's also less than desirable physically. I only caught highlights of this one and by the end Federer was in complete control: Tomas in contrast, was unravelling by the minute.

Extra brownie points for Federer's come back from 2 sets down (when was the last time he had occasion to do that?)

Rafa v Haas...

Another case of your best not being good enough. Haas (one of my fave players, who's never quite recaptured the form of early 07) didn't play a bad match and displayed some of his impeccable timing and touch, particularly at the net. But any match featuring a ratio of 53 winners to 8 UFEs in favour of the eventual victor, suggests some pretty nasty bruises were inflicted.

What to read into this then? I've yet to see evidence of any change in that forehand, and I don't subscribe to the 'sending-out-a-message' theory put forth by his impassioned fanbase.
I suspect Rafa's just being Rafa and enjoying himself out on court.

Extra brownie points for that gargantuan and quite outrageous ratio of winners to UFEs; against what should have been a tricky opponent

Baggy bows out...

Fedora found his test in Berdych and Novak did in Baghdatis. It only went to four sets but Djoko couldn't have been pleased at having to play till 2:30 in the morning.

A little disappointed for Baggy - I thought he had something going there. But also glad I now have conclusive proof that Djoko really has learnt to weave his new stick.

The other Russian Sibling...

I don't know what to say here, except that she's treading a little too close too disaster for my liking. As wonderfully inspiring as that comeback against Cornet was, the fact remains that she should never have put herself in that situation in the first place.

As good a player as Cornet is, she's particularly vulnerable to the imposing nature of Safina's game. Unless I'm mistaken, Cornet has (perhaps in an attempt to counter this) bulked up a little but there still remains a little of the 'startled deer' in her tennis-face, particularly when she gets bossed around by the big girls.

No brownie points Dinara, despite the fascinating comeback...

Jelena bows out...

Too good by half. That's my opinion of Bartoli's form and seems to have been the main reason for Jankovic's demise. As many others have observed, Bartoli was playing the kind of tennis that saw her reach the 2007 Wimbledon final.

Jankovic wasn't at her best but I can excuse her for looking a little befuddled at times in the face of the most ruthless and determined display of tennis I've seen from Bartoli in a long time.

The two-handed strokes on both wings and the ultra-efficient service motion can appear a little perplexing. She generates real flatness in her comparatively shortened back swing and it's not so much the pace that beats you: it just seems a very difficult game to read.

Extra brownie points for Bartoli's groundstrokes that allowed her to outhit probably the best scrambler in Women's Tennis.

Oh Yeah - The Fairytale...

I don't know what to mention about this story that hasn't already been said. But Comeback Girl Dokic (and the tales of all the demons she's had to conquer) has really brought the Women's event alive this year. I really started to take note when she knocked out Wozniacki, whom I thought would be the revelation of the tournament.

I heard today that Damir's announced his intentions to attend the final, should she make it. As Chris Bradnam mentioned today, I don't believe he's quite understood the point she's trying to make.

Brownie Points all over the place...

Honourary mention to Blake and the A-Rod who've crept through the draw quite unseen. Makes you almost not want to watch them...

Similar feelings on Kuznetsova's run - I've yet to see a match of hers too, and should probably keep it that way.

Honourary mention to the French contingent too: I've only caught one of Tsonga's matches and none of Simon's or Monfils. Doesn't it make you feel just a little sorry for Gasquet though?

Not so honourary mention for Ivanovic who despite some spirited play bowed out to 29th seed Kleybanova. As 2Hander says, she's not looking like a top tenner - not one bit.

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