Archive for January, 2009

 

Anticlimax

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

The women’s tournament came to a close today, and the final was a little bit of a let down as Serena Williams demolished Dinara Safina in two ‘blink and you miss it’ sets. From the very first game Williams imposed herself on the match with some punishing ground strokes and power serves. She immediately followed that up with some blistering returns on Safina’s first service game and the tone was set for the rest of the match.

The second set was half way done before Safina even looked like she could match it, and by that stage it was all too late for the frustrated Russian.

For me this match kind of exemplified the women’s tournament as a whole – fairly unexciting. There were some bright moments in patches (with Jelena Dokic’s run obviously being enjoyable for us Aussies), but there just wasn’t the consistent level of high quality matches that we have seen on the mens side of the draw.

I think the loss of Henin-Hardenne to the sport has left a big hole in terms of offering something different. There is very little variety in women’s tennis – just baseline rallies, minimal tactics, lots of grunts.

Hopefully at some stage soon there will emerge a female player who can bring something unique to the game again. I’m taking nothing away from Williams’ performance here – she was fantastic tonight, and Safina was perhaps a little off. But in the end you want to see a good match, and I saw far too few of those on the women’s side this tournament.

There’s always next more »

 

A Brit in the Final, Finally

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

No, I’m not talking about Andy Murray. If I was I would be severely mistaken, seeing as the Scot was unfortunately removed from the tournament by Fernando Verdasco in the fourth round. Instead of Murray, it’s fifteen year old Laura Robson. Britain has been holding its hopes of a bright future for tennis close against her heart, and it is a relief to see one of these great hopes making it into the final of the Australian Open in 2009. Robson cut an impressive figure on the court in her semi-final match against Noppawan Lertcheewakarn, giving herself a chance to become junior girls number one if she were to win her final round match. It will also be Robson’s second chance at winning a Grand Slam title; she took the opportunity with gusto at the Wimbledon 2008 final.

The semi-final match against Thailand’s Lertcheewakarn was delayed for two hours because of the intense heat; the temperature piqued at 44C, making it impossible to send them out to play. Robson started out at a flagging pace, with Lertcheewakarn taking the first three games with ease. It was an alarming position for the 16 year-old Briton to find herself in. At the back of her mind there must have been the lingering knowledge that Lertcheewakarn had yet to drop a set in the tournament so far. Sim more »

 

The Other Spaniard

Friday, January 30th, 2009

Last night two Spaniards were involved in a match that will talked about for many years to come. A battle of wills that lasted over five hours and was played at the highest level throughout. On this occasion Nadal emerged victorious, but there is a new level of respect for the lesser know Spaniard, Fernando Verdasco, after his might efforts this year.

He came to Australia this summer as a relative unknown. He had never made it past the fourth round at a major, but there were signs early in the summer that we were witnessing a different version of the man. The vital role he played in Spain’s Davis Cup finals victory over Argentina at the end of 2008 had obviously instilled a new belief in his own game.

Addidas (Verdasco’s sponsor) have an interesting set up at the moment where they have a number of coaches on staff for contracted players to take advantage of. One of these is Gil Reyes, fitness guru and close friend of Andre Agassi. Reyes played a key role in Agassi’s resurgence in the second half of his career.

Instead of taking a lengthy off-season break, Verdasco took the opportunity to head to Las Vegas for three weeks in December and work on his game, with Reyes devising a fitness regime that included sessions on the fabled ‘Magic Mountain’ – a torturous 290m uphill stretch that Reyes credits as being instrumental in developing the leg endurance required of a top tennis pro.

As a huge fan of Agassi it also gave Verdasco the opportunity to sit with his idol for more »

 

The Juniors

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

The Junior tournaments of these Grand Slam events can often be ignored unless a nation’s player is doing particularly well. It seems unfortunate on the surface, but on the other hand it allows these young players to grow and develop into the adult players they’ll one day become – without the media or press expectation weighing down on them.

That said, some are receiving lots of attention. The two British hopefuls Laura Robson and Heather Watson are good examples. Watson was beaten by Ksenia Pervak of Russia in the quarter finals, but her performance has been impressive throughout the tournament. Laura Robson remains on as Britain’s Australian Open hope, playing in the semi-finals against Noppawan Lertcheewakarn, currently ranked at number one. They both had relatively simple quarter finals, with Lertcheewakarn beating Anna Orlik 6-1, 6-0, and Robson winning automatically as Romanian’s Elena Bogdan retired reluctantly with an ankle injury. So Britain crosses its fingers for the Wimbledon star to shine in the Melbourne heat; the future of British tennis is starting to get a little brighter and Robson plays an important role in this.

In the boy more »

 

The Wait…

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

It’s a taunting, tantalising limbo period in the Australian Open. The semi-finals are almost over, with some matches decided and others still waiting to be determined. It’s almost intolerable as a fan; the semi-final matches are exciting enough, but they (hopefully) are only a taste of what’s to come. The finals beckon not only the players who find the final round in their grasp, but for the fans too.

It’s a sudden shock to realise just how many players have been whittled away. In the men’s singles, names such as Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Andy Roddick have been swept out of the tournament, leaving only three left standing. For example: Rodger Federer. His semi-final match against Roddick saw the American take a pounding as Federer took another determined stride to the finals. Federer relied on his instincts and skill, and made several successful line-calls with the technology proving him right every time. When Roddick had won in the quarter-finals, he had beaten a very different man; Djokovic may be up there in the rankings with Federer, but he was tired, a player who had a beaten body and strength that wilted under the heat. Those sort of problems weren’t so much as glimpsed in Federer’s game, and Roddick found it hard to dazzle the Swiss as the ever more »

 
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