Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Magic and Misadventure in Melbourne...

Lleyton & The Gonz (Not to be confused with the Fonz)

Though I anti-picked him to drop out early, it was a little rough to be drawn against Gonzo in the first round, and Rusty
did manage to drag things out to 5 sets which at least shows that the fire isn't quite out. There was however, something very one sided about the sets that Gonzo won, where he seemed to be reeling off winner after winner exposing just how vulnerable Hewitt's game (that serve in particular is perhaps too inviting in an almost "I'll set 'em up, you knock 'em back" kind of way) is in post-Fedora era.

Hewitt did interestingly state his intent to get back into the top ten. It's not impossible (he's not after all that old), and I love the attitude. I just think that the days where you could crack the top ten on spirit alone are long gone.

Extra brownie points for
Gonzo's Clinic on forehand winners and returns of serve.

Just WHY is Blake wearing a Collar? (And why's he getting so hot under it?)

Cracking match against Canadian Frank
Dancevic - who by the way is my exhibit A for the alarming levels of depth in men's tennis. I first saw him play at the back end of 2007, where ranked around #70 he appeared to have it all and I expected him to rise. He didn't deliver, and has in fact regressed a little (to #123 I think).

There was a slight edge to this match, which wasn't played in entirely good spirits - (anyone know why?) Blake didn't seem to want to think twice about firing a ball directly at
Dancevic who just got out of the way in time, but they did shake hands well enough at the end.

But I'll tell you what: I
love the slightly more surly and aggressive Blake; he was certainly playing a lot better than he has for months. A new phase in his career maybe? Weird things tend to happen when you turn 30. Not loving the collar one bit though. Blake can get away with most any look: bandanaed, cap (worn both ways), headband, sleeveless or sleeved. But something about the collar or it's fitting is not quite right.

Extra brownie points for Blake's uncharacteristically edgy attitude.

Rafa and Not-Quite-Goliath

Loved the new outfit - but would people stop reading too much into his duffing up of
Yes he appeared to be hitting a lot more harder and flatter than he perhaps
ever has. (Has the forehand changed?) But would you expect anything less!?

Extra brownie points for
Rochus and his smile when he took his first game.

That Fedora Bloke

Not as solid as he could have been against
Seppi - though that passing shot was something special (If you don't know the one I mean, go way. Please). But it was no cakewalk either as has been suggested in some quarters. Seppi's no slouch - I've seen him seeded around 31-32 in the past and though Fedora pretty much owns him, he would have troubled most anybody else.

Extra brownie points for - you've guessed it -
that passing shot.

Ana "Help - I've forgotten how to serve" Ivanovic

Still stuck in the mire. Still very, very unconvincing. Just why'd it take her
so long to take that first set from Brianti (who by the way bears a striking resemblance to to Justine Henin complete with single handed backhand) And don't even get me started on the ball toss. I should say tosses as she's getting a little too close to Time Violation territory with those repeated practice throws. Has she been practising with Dementieva?

Brownie points carried over and may well be awarded to
Wozniacki whom she may face in the fourth round. My heady intuition tells me that the Dane will and should come out on top. I hope we get to see this one.

Gasquet v Junqueira

What a work out! A surprisingly tough draw for
Reeshard (Junqueira is one of the most successful players on the Challenger Circuit). Gasquet took it in four but the length of most of the rallies as well as the searing heat will have made it feel more like five which unless your name is David Ferrer, you really should try and avoid.

Extra brownie points for
Gasquet's well-struck sliced, swinging serve he used to keep at least some of the points short.

Baghdatis v Soderling

Well, well - who would have guessed? Baggy is looking a little like he was in 2006. Not going to get too excited as he was facing a quite limp
Soderling, and he had what sounded like half of Cyprus supporting him. But he was displaying exactly the kind of magic that's been strangely absent for, what, 3 years now? The surprising speed and agility and the quick changes of pace and direction that can catch the very best off guard.

Extra brownie points for Robin, who despite the problems with his foot, didn't throw in the towel (and took some unnecessary abuse from some of
Baggy's more ill-mannered supporters)

Those Russian Siblings

Well they've made the third round. Haven't been able to see much of
Safin but Safina is a little too up and down. She managed to come through in three sets yesterday (a bagel in the last set) but Makarova played a really high quality first set and things could have looked very different if she'd sustained that.
Not gonna say a word on
Safin (certainly not gonna get drawn into anything remotely optimistic) except that he's playing Fedora-man in round three and though I don't expect too much from Marat, I'm hoping for at least some showcase tennis. It may be the last time he faces Roger and this match has got brownie points written all over it.

Djoko and his Stick

Nothing much to say here, except to echo 2
Hander's observation that Djoko may have begun to find some real form with his new racquet. It's still early days, and like the other members of the top four, he hasn't yet had a real test, but I'm hoping very strongly he continues in this vein - it would add well to the already very intriguing Tales of the Murray-Fedora prickliness (which Djoko wants a piece of by the sounds of it), and Nadal's Newi-sh Forehand.

Brownie points for
Novak learning how to play tennis again.

Oh and be sure not to miss Venus' 2
nd round encounter with 20 year old Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro. This girl has a single handed backhand to die for. I caught some of her matches at Roland Garros last year and though the rest of her game has a very under-developed quality that leaves much to be desired, this is a truly Henin-like picturesque stroke that the commentators said is better than Henin's backhand was at 20.

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