Melbourne Magic
by Abe Kuijl | January 20th, 2008, 4:01 pm

Talk about starting off with a bang. The Australian Open is living up to its reputation of spitting out more than a few classic high-quality matches again, and we’ve only just finished opening week. The organisers have done a fine job of replacing Rebound Ace with a court surface that still suits all kinds of players, even though I wish they hadn’t made the change. 

What they haven’t done, is change the schedule around a little so not half of the night sessions end past 1 a.m.. This really is something the tournament should look into. Of course, a marathon 5-set match that runs until over 4:30 a.m. is a spectacular feat for the fans, but you can’t tell me it’s in the best interest for the players, or others involved in the Open for that matter (tournament staff, media, to name a few). Here’s a thought: Take out one match from the day session and move it to an outer court. Start the night session half an hour earlier and voila, the crowd won’t need to go out for breakfast anymore straight after the last match. 

But, like I said, there’s no denying the Hewitt – Baghdatis match was exciting to watch, not least because you kept thinking, ‘wow, if ‘insert player name’ wins this game/set, this won’t be over before 3:00.. 3:30…’ and so on, before it was finally finished at 4:34 a.m.. Hewitt said in his presser afterwards he didn’t expect to be in bed before 7, 7:30 a.m.. Novak Djokovic, his fourth round opponent, just might have been getting ready for breakfast already by that time. Okay, maybe I’m stretching a little. 

Hewitt should have ended the match an hour earlier, when he served for it at 5-1 in the fourth set. At that point, Hewitt had won 9 out of the last 10 games, coming back from 3-5 down in the third. Baghdatis typically folded again when the chips were on the table, while Hewitt c’moned his way back into the match. Knowing he was all but out of the match at 1-5 in the fourth, Baghdatis started to smile and enjoy the time he had left. The Cypriot started hitting some more cheeky shots, and like he said, not think about the score anymore. His ‘tactics’ put Hewitt off-balance and surprisingly the momentum completely shifted again. Baghdatis took the fourth set in a tiebreak, but when he failed to break Hewitt early in the fifth, the Aussie took control again and finished it off 6-3. Baghdatis left the stadium with tears in his eyes, while Hewitt dropped to the court as if he’d won the event. It was the culmination of what could very well go down as the best day of tennis in 2008. If not that, this crazy Saturday will be a strong contender in the ‘longest day of tennis’ category. 

Who would’ve thought that Roger Federer would play such a dominant role in making the day last over 17-and-a-half hours. His 10-8 win in the fifth over the inspired aggressive Tipsarevic is the longest five set match Fed has ever played, in terms of the 18-game fifth set. It was incredible to see an in-form Federer being troubled so much by a stern Serb who just kept hammering one shot after another towards the King. Tipsarevic played a perfect tiebreaker to take the first set, but after Federer had tied the score by claiming the second set in a breaker, surely his inexperienced opponent would falter and Fed would run away with the match. Indeed Federer went up an early break in the third set, but a rare weak service game from the Swiss meant Tipsarevic got back on serve straight away and from that point on, he never gave his legendary opponent room to breathe (other than dropping the fourth 6-1, of course). Tipsarevic stuck to his game plan from start to finish, which was to play hard and leave nothing on the table. The most striking part of it all was how he always seemed to really believe in his chances. There was hunger in his eyes, which could be seen even through his thick, science-lab glasses. Nikolay Davydenko, take note.

But no matter how heated things got for Federer, how many times he was picked on by his most loathed enemy (Hawk-Eye), never did he lose his calm. Not after falling behind 2-1 in sets to a guy he was supposed to beat 3-0, not when that same low-ranked, nothing-to-lose opponent was putting immense pressure on the big champion by going ahead 5-4.. 6-5.. 7-6.. and 8-7 in the fifth, not ever. And oh boy, pressure there was. Not just because this was a Grand Slam and Federer was finding himself to be in trouble as early as in the third round, or because Fed never finds himself in these kind of situations, but because his No. 1 ranking was under serious threat. Should Nadal win the tournament and Federer lose before the semis, they change places. But from start to finish, Federer was lethal on his service games, and his delivery was no doubt his biggest asset in his win over Tipsarevic. With 39 aces, he set a personal best record. 

All in all, Federer played a very good match, but he was still on the brink of defeat. He partly had himself to blame for that, as only 5 out of 21 breakpoints went his way. Credit Tipsarevic though for never holding back and going for broke whenever, wherever in the match. It wasn’t enough for a Serbian upset, but that might still be in store. 

Novak Djokovic, who spoke to Tipsarevic before the match against Federer and undoubtedly had some spirited words for his countryman, is on fire so far and will be heavily favored over Hewitt in their fourth round showdown on Monday night. Hewitt is playing decent, but compared to Djokovic, he is hitting with less pace, producing more unforced errors and should be dented physically after his epic clash with Baghdatis. It’s hard to see Hewitt take more than a set from the in-form Djokovic, but stranger things have happened in matches involving Lleyton. He’s as motivated as ever to do well in front of his home fans. 

Some random notes on the first week: 

My biggest disappointment was seeing David Nalbandian take to the court for his first round match. Let’s just say the holidays have treated him well and his crashing out to Ferrero came as no surprise. There goes the hype. 

Talking about hype, props go out to Casey Dellacqua for getting to the last 16, but her match against Amelie Mauresmo was hard to watch, while Jelena Jankovic should have finished her off 2 and 1. It was nice to see an unexpected surge from a home-grown girl, but don’t get your hopes up Australia. That forehand is just too rocky.   

Vaidisova flamed again in a big match. She definitely could have won at least a set from Serena, but is still making the same inexplicable unforced errors as she did two years ago. She gets as pissed off about them as before as well. If she cleans up on those misses and finds some consistency in her game, not to mention straightening out her head, Vaidisova has a very bright future and at least Top 3 potential. There’s still time for that, because even though Vaidisova has made name for herself over the past couple of years, she’s still only 18 years old. 

Mikhail Youzhny has a real shot at reaching the final after impressively taking out Nikky D. in straights. Nadal has been solid, but is still vulnerable to a solid attacking player who can stay with him for three-plus sets. I’ll stick with my prediction of Rafa making the championship match though. 

Jarkko Nieminen is in the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam tournament. So is Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. It’s not unthinkable Maric Cilic will join that group too. What just happened here?

You Might Like:
Novak Djokovic Will Travel To Australia, Confirms 2 Exo Events…Hope?
Federer Wins Emotional Physio-Calling Battle Over Wawrinka to Gain Australian Open Final
Rafael Nadal Visits The Fishes At Melbourne Aquarium [Video]
Roger Federer Has A New, Fantastic Mercedes Promo Spot [Video]
Serena Williams Admits She’s Never Sang Karaoke To RedFoo

Don't miss any tennis action, stay connected with Tennis-X

Get the FREE TX daily newsletter

9 Comments for Melbourne Magic

jane Says:

And now Radwanska has knocked out Petrova, her second Russian seed. What’s next? The semis? Stranger things have happened.

jane Says:

As for the men’s side, maybe there’s going to be a slight “changing of the guards” in the top ten this year. If this tournament is any indication, players like Roberdo, Davy and (sorry Von) Roddick may be on their way down?

Von Says:


I don’t think Andy will be out of the top 10. He has 400 points to defend. Davy has the same amount. From my calculations 4 and 5 will switch that is if Ferrer goes far. But, he also has some points to defend. Andy should remain at 6. However, Gonzo,(7) who has to defend 700 points will drop down to about 15,and Robredo will move down further. Youzhny should go uo to around 7, Berdych 8, Murray 9, and 10 is open. However, I think they calculate something about highest and lowest number of tournaments in a calendar year and then they subtract some points. It’s too complicated. I’ll just wait until the AO is over, but I don’t think Andy should go down much further.

jane Says:


Yeah – I guess you’re right that Andy doesn’t have a whack of points to defend from last year. But I meant that “changing of the guard” point to refer to the entire 2008 season and not just this tournament. I should’ve added Gonzalez to that list.

A couple of things about on-going men’s matches:

1. Berdych is talented but made a couple of bad decisions in that first set – he needs to be a little smarter on the court. Maybe he should read some Dostoevsky! Mind you, I see he just broke Federer but they’re televising Hantachova’s match so I didn’t actually “see” it – grr.

2. Blake is very composed and Cilic isn’t dealing with the wind so well; thus far, Blake’s the better of the two in this match but I still like Cilic’s game and can see him still turning around.

jane Says:

I rest my case – Berdych just lost the second set; he could’ve had it and he chooses – on his first set point – to do some kind of crazy drop shot. He should’ve won it but didn’t stay focused and think his way through. This guy has tons of potential, but needs some tactics and focus.

Blake, on the other hand, stayed focused throughout, and kudos to him – he’s in the quarters, in all likelihood against Fed. James usually looks like a “deer caught in the headlights” against Fed but maybe he’ll have more confidence and make a match of it this time, unlike that dreadful Cincy final last year. So James – go watch Tipsy’s match.

Looking forward to following Cilic in this season.

pzbrawl Says:

Abe, your blog would be more enjoyable to read if you were to apply your copy editing skills to your own grammar.

Tom Says:

Gonzalez will drop down to about 25***

Von Says:

I was trying to be merciful to Gonzalez. To drop from 7 to 25 is a long road down the ladder to fame and glory. He was the picture of sadness when he lost to Cilic. I don’t know what has happened to him, but after the ’07 AO, he just went into a slump, except for the ’07 Rome MS. Stefanki worked a little magic to get him to the finals in ’07, but now it seems like lights out, curtain call.

jane Says:


“Of course, a marathon 5-set match that runs until over 4:30 a.m. is a spectacular feat for the fans, but you can’t tell me it’s in the best interest for the players, or others involved in the Open for that matter (tournament staff, media, to name a few).”

I’m glad you’ve taken the view that putting the men on at 11:45 p.m. is the organizer’s folly and not Williams/Mirza’s fault for standing their ground.

Now that Leyton has fallen to Djoker (which in all likelihood he would’ve even if he hadn’t played until 4:30 am), this “controversy” is heating up in the press. A few sports writer’s articles imply or outright claim that Hewitt’s loss is “Venus’s fault” – which is ridiculous. I am not even a fan of Venus’s but why should the women’s match be moved or postponed or whatever so the organizer’s can have one block-buster men’s match follow another? Shouldn’t the schedule continue as planned? Maybe the men’s match should’ve been played in the morning, but either way it would’ve been “squsihy” for the winner. The problem, as you point out, is an organizational one: too many night matches.

All this being said – good job by Djoker to hold his cool in front of a pro-Hewitt crowd and a spirited challenge from the Aussie. Djok better get over his “nerves” though, as well as serve well and consistently, as he will face tougher challenges ahead.

Anyhow, onward and upward.

Top story: Kuznetsova The Biggest Star In WTA Istanbul Field