Friday, 22 January 2010

Melbourne: Days 4 & 5 – “Shock Infested” Swamps

So it all happened out there yesterday.

It was hot, it was muggy and some of the play looked to have been extricated from a swamp.

Petrova d. Clijsters 6-0, 6-1

A shocker, but perhaps also something of required reality check. Cupcake Kim she’s most certainly no more, but even the most ardent of her fans would concede she’s not immune to the odd bad day at the office.

Perhaps more interesting was the the way she dealt with it in the presser:

"It sucks," she said. "I was completely off. She was good but 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. It sucks that it has to happen at this stage of this tournament. If it happens in another tournament, then you can say: 'OK, it's not a big deal, just keep working hard.' Matches like this happen maybe once a year.

"You just try to stay calm because there were points where I really wanted to break my racket into pieces, but that's not going to help either, so you really just try to stay positive. At some points I was just happy I was hitting a ball in. That's how bad it was."

The Guardian

Yowza, Yowza, Yowza!

Kimmie 2.0 has very much arrived – with not a cupcake in sight.

She’s picked up on court largely where she left off after her first Slam, but it’s off court that the real transformation has taken place.

Kimmie 2.0 is a darker, more edgy figure, with a more Hingis-like, caustic world view of her opponents. She's also more comfortable using words like ‘suck’.

The rest of the year suddenly got more interesting.

Bondarenko d. Jankovic 6-2 6-3

First things first.

What on earth is going on with Jelena’s serve?

There seems to be a viral marketing campaign currently doing the rounds in women’s locker rooms, that like any properly constructed sales pitch, is disturbingly effective in signing up consumers for stuff they don’t need.

Jelena’s first serve was a liability………back in 2007.

It was never going to assume B-52 proportions but since then I did think she successfully fashioned it into something more competent, something she might use to do more with than simply start the point.

I’d put up a clip except I had my first run-in with Tennis Australia who insisted I take down those two Henin clips from my last post (You know you’ve arrived on YouTube when that happens for the first time, though whether a 50 second tennis clip actually infringes copyright or should come under what most would consider ‘fair use’ remains open for debate).

For now I’ll attempt to describe it as best I can.

From the peacock-like head cocking, to the bending of the knees to an angle so acute, you’d think she needs the type of knee protection Moto Rally GP drivers are routinely issued with.

The pay off for such excessive re-architecting? Darned if I can see it.

She may even have regressed.

As for the rest of her game, it’s not entirely in tatters – but a visit to the drapers wouldn’t go amiss.

What little rhythm she did manage to create, was quickly quashed by Bondarenko who I’m sure has come on leaps and bounds since the last time I saw her.

Sign me up as a fan.

Kuznetsova d. Kerber 3-6 7-5 6-4

Sveta left it all out on court in round two. It was smooth, it was dreamy and as always when she’s on song, so cruel it was cute – Pavlyuchenkova didn’t know what had hit her, with no idea how to respond even once she did.

I was even deluded into believing she might have taken that next vital step up to becoming comfortable in her skin as a two time Slam Champion.

She must have left it all out on court – because last night, there was nothing left.

She made Kerber look as good as she did, by letting loose a total of 43 UFEs (peanuts compared to Shaza’s first round outage, I know) – shoot anyone that tries to convince you otherwise.

This one should have been over in 1:25, instead it lasted over two hours.

Maybe starting after the Nadal match at 12am had something to do with it.

Champions sometimes have a stinker in the first week – but are conditioned into putting it behind them and playing their subsequent matches with such panache, you sometimes think they were undergoing necessary detox.

I’d like to think it’s that way with Sveta – except I’ve been wrong so many times.

Safina d. Baltacha 6-1 6-2

Brits have been busy celebrating the first time two women have reached the second round of a Slam outside of Wimbledon since 1992.

But Dinara poured hot tar over all of that yesterday - just like she has been in all her matches so far.

The difference in class was all too evident.

I’m rather liking the look of Safina’s groundies since the beginning of the event.

That serve however...

Henin d. Kleybanova 3-6 6-4 6-2

Justine dropped a set and has picked up a leg inflammation – no doubt from all those hours spent 'comparing notes' with Elena on court – could she be the next big story with a flat ending?

Nadal d. Kohlschreiber 6-4 6-2 2-6 7-5

Oh the unqualified joy of seeing the ‘Declinist’ position on Rafa’s game, being sequestered in it’s proper place.

I have no idea whether or not Rafa will go all the way – at this point I’d say that’s not all that likely, nor for that matter as important as the question of whether his play resembles something like that of Pre Wimby 2009: It does.

If there’s one thing Kohlschreiber deals in, it’s BIG-UPSET tennis.

This might just have gone the same way as his match with A-Rod did two years back, if Phillip didn’t run out of gas somewhere near the beginning of the fourth set.

We were all waiting to see Rafa go up against credible opposition, and Phillip might just have been the tonic with which to put a seal on Rafa’s revival.

The confidence very evident in the way he shunted back a once-in-a-career wide angled backhand winner that was so far out of court he had to go round the net post.

Yeah that’s what comes of not being able to post up YouTube clips anymore. Boo.

Cilic d. Wawrinka 4-6 6-4 6-3 6-2

This one had five set bruiser written all over it.

I didn’t get to see it – but it’s kind of the result I expected.

Stanislas has been all at sea since Wimbledon last year, a period that’s coincided rather nicely with Marin’s upward march.

Marin is “the new Delpo” according to some – a view I would almost share were it not for the fact that their styles of play are a little like oil and water.

But there’s no doubting Marin is the best placed to have a Delpo like breakthrough year.

Somewhat befitting then, he should be playing “Mr Breakthroughs-are-so-2009” himself, in the next round.

A match that could go either way if you believe there’s anything behind that wrist injury Delpo came into the event with.


I didn’t catch very much of the action from day four.

I’ll try and be quick.

Davydenko d. Marchenko 6-3 6-3 6-0

Kolya’s the man of moment right now, and something tells me this is different from the surge Nalbie experienced at the end of 2007. One that was promptly extinguished in Oz the following year (nice to have you back Daveed, almost).

I’m still not confident of him going all the way, but Davy looks awfully close to embracing at least some of the attention that goes along with taking out the best two players on the planet at consecutive events; he definitely has a different look about him this year – one that was in full show yesterday against poor old Marchenko , who to his credit didn’t play a poor match.

The top ten is sometimes a dark, murky place; full of untold misery for any hapless intruder unfortunate enough to blunder into the wrong party (remember Fed performing live vivisection on Delpo last year?), and Davy is currently it’s arch-executioner.

I do so want him to go all the way, but will for now be content with the knowledge that seeing him face off against Fed in the quarters might turn out to be every bit as good as the Rafa/Sod encounter we won’t now get to see.

Federer d. Hanescu 6-2 6-3 6-2

Normal service ‘resumptionalised’. For the time being.

Djokovic d. Chiudinelli 3-6 6-1 6-1 6-3

Having not seen any of Djoko’s matches so far, I’m not entirely sure where he is (yeah, that old chestnut). I’d like to think he’s been bolstered by that win in Paris last year.

Until I see him face off against Tsonga, Haas or Youzhny, who all lurk menacingly in his quarter of the draw however, I can’t be completely certain of that.


Not crazy about the “Hell’s Angel meets Kung-Fu Fighting” edition Sergio Tacchini have kitted him out with either. Though it’s far more preferable to the incoherent slather of colour Murray’s been daubed with. Especially beneath those ‘pits’.

V. Williams d. Bammer 6-2 7-5

This time last year I was highly optimistic of Queen V’s chances of fixing that gaping hole on her CV, by winning her first Slam on a blue surface since the early Noughties.

This year I saw nothing leading into the event that would suggest that’s even a remote possibility.

Dulko d. Ivanovic 6-7 7-5 6-4

It’s becoming difficult to avoid at least considering the possibility that Ana’s set to go the same way as Vaidisova, and understanding the root of her problems sometimes feels like a niche Philosophy.

I’m not about to embark on either.

There were some good signs in her play, but not very many, and more disturbingly an action that almost suggests she’s made her peace with wonky service tosses – they seem to have fused themselves into her game so stealthily, she’s now more inclined to adapt to an errant ball toss than she is to continue to try and work it out of her game.

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