Tsonga’s Aussie Open Miracle Run Continues After Nadal Victory
by Abe Kuijl | January 24th, 2008, 9:49 pm
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First reaction after the Tsonga – Nadal semi? Wow. That’s pretty much all there is to say. Little Ali just blew Rafa off the court out there, which I expected might have happened for one set, but surely not three straight sets. And let’s be honest, Nadal was definitely not playing a poor match by any means. The Frenchman was just too good. Like he said in his presser, everything he hit was going where he wanted it to go. Tsonga was serving incredibly well and his reflexes at the net were sometimes just ludicrous. He kept pounding away on Nadal’s high-bouncing spin balls, and he showed again how soft his hands are around the net when moving in for the kill. Jo-Willy hit a ton of aces, mixing up his serves from hitting full-paced rockets down the tee, slice serves in the deuce court and heavy kicks out on the ad-side.

In the third set, Nadal desperately tried to turn the match around. He went all-out attack for a game or two, but Tsonga showed he can not only hammer winners from any position on the court, but also knows how to play defense when needed. Jo-Willy said he had never played a better match than this one. The question now is, can he keep as cool as he did today, and play one more match at this incredibly high level in a Grand Slam final against Federer or Djokovic? If he does, he has a good shot at winning the title, but I have a feeling we’ll relive the Baghdatis story from ’06 and see the rookie go down when he starts thinking about what he might achieve.

The women’s semis offered one entertaining, hard-fought affair, and a routine straight sets win, as was expected beforehand. It’s just that they played out in different order. Jelena Jankovic quickly fell behind 5-0 in the opening set to last year’s finalist Maria Sharapova, because the Russian was continuing where she had left off after bageling Justine Henin in the quarters, and JJ was playing way too defensively at the start. The Serb wasn’t swinging on her returns like she did so well against Serena Williams, and she looked very tired from the get-go. Sharapova tightened up a little closing out the set, producing a couple of double faults we hadn’t seen from her all tournament and Jankovic was becoming a little more aggressive. But Mighty Maria made no mistake serving for the set a second time: 6-3. From there on, it become a routine win for Masha, as Jankovic clearly struggled physically to keep up and went down quickly, 6-1.

Ana Ivanovic was struck by nerves when she realised she was the favorite to reach her second Grand Slam final of her career against Daniela Hantuchova, and the Slovak started the match playing the best tennis I have ever seen from her. Hantuchova benefited from poor serving from her opponent, and the fact that Ivanovic wasn’t moving her feet and subsequently mistimed on one shot after another. Hantuchova was swinging freely on each ball and never gave Ivanovic the opportunity to get in a rhythm. Every forehand was flying in for a winner, not to mention her first serves, so before she knew it, Hantuchova had won the first eight games of the match.

Ivanovic had realised at the start of the second set though that she needed to be aggressive were she to have a chance to fight her way back into the match, and it started to pay off just in time for the Serb. Hantuchova tightened up and started to miss more while Ivanovic’ confidence level was rising fast. The match turned upside down quickly as Ivanovic won 6 out of the next 7 games to win the set and looked set to race through the third to advance to the final. Ivanovic indeed had the better start in that final set, but Hantuchova didn’t drop serve and it was the Slovak who had the chance to struck the first blow when Ivanovic faced a break point serving at 2-3. Hantuchova was up against a second serve, but she made the inexplicable play of going on defense and see if Ivanovic would produce an error. She was punished hard, as the fourth seed slammed a forehand winner past her and eventually won the game after 7 deuces. 

At 4-all and 30-40 down, Hantuchova was at net and thought she had won a point after she hit a short volley, but Ivanovic scrambled to get it and Hantuchova failed to hit a forehand volley over the net and into the open court. Her feet were stuck to the ground. Again she couldn’t step it up on a crucial point and it cost her the match. A couple of good serves and missed returns from Hantuchova in the next game sealed the win for Ivanovic.

So that puts the Serbs on a win and a loss in the semis, and a nation glued to their television sets for the women’s final. Can Novak Djokovic create some special interest for Sunday’s final as well? It’ll be one heck of a match to watch, that’s for sure. Djokovic showed in the US Open final that he doesn’t have to fear Federer from the backcourt, but he wasn’t ready for an upset yet mentally, as he blew all those set points in the first two sets. I’m sure he’s learned from that encounter, as Nole learns from any big match. Will it be enough to upset the King in Australia? A lot will come down to how well Federer will serve tomorrow. Íf he serves as well as he did against Tipsarevic, I don’t see Djokovic pulling through. But if he shows occasional lapses in his delivery, like against Berdych, the Djoker won’t fold as badly as the Czech did and he will cause Federer real trouble. I’ll stick with the champ in five.


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10 Comments for Tsonga’s Aussie Open Miracle Run Continues After Nadal Victory

Shital Green Says:

Good to see the same old people here ! I am watching the match between Djoko and Fed at 4:14 am CT, and it looks like Australian Open is Djoko’s to take this year as he takes 2 sets lead at this moment (7-5, 6-3). Or, it could be Tsonga’s.


Shital Green Says:

Finally, at 5:25 am, Djoko takes out Fed’s crown to set up the final against Tsonga the Ali. Djoko has now reason to celebrate this victory in straight sets against the invincible. It was a good revenge of the loss Djoko had suffered at the US Open. Congratulation to him!!
It will be exciting to watch whoever wins the final between Tsonga and Djoko. Although I will be slightly inclined toward Djoko, I will still be cheering for Tsonga as well and his victory will not disappoint me at all.


jane Says:

One last comment before much needed sleep: Federer was pretty straightforward in his press conference. He admitted his movement was off, but otherwise Djokovic outplayed him. Federer’s serve has bailed him out a lot this tournament (as Abe notes) [I don't know if I've seen him so high on the Ace count] but it wasn’t enough tonight. Djoker was reading it.

Djoker has something special in the support he has in his box: so many people pulling for him, but his mum, dad and brothers were praying and cheering the entire time – gotta like that. Djokovic has proven what he said: Federer is beatable. Well, of course he is; anyone is. It’s just a matter of when and how much.


Tejuz Says:

Djok played a great match… and Fed was too poor today, especially his forehand and movement around the court. Had he won those set points in the 3rd, there might have a been a chance for a recovery.. but Djok did hit those wide serves everytime on break/set points. Good on him.

Well.. now both the finalists are gunning for their 1st grand slam title. Djok has been there before and is the fav here. That might be to Tsonga’s advantage.

Anyway..its going to be a cracker of a match. And it might not be like the Baghdatis story for Tsonga because.. while Baggy was facing a 6 time grandslam champion(who hadnt lost a GS final til then), Tsonga is playing a guy who is 2 years younger than him and also gunning for his 1st title.

Well.. Fed did deserve to lose the match, the way he played it.. or even his previous round against Blake. It might be kind of a wake-up call for him for the rest of year.


Von Says:

Von Says:
Jane:

“WOW – Am I happy my feelings were wrong. What a great match by the Djoker. He played fantastically well and held his nerve AND his serve. He’s also proven himself.”

I congratulate Djok for a well-played match. However, I have mixed feelings about this one. Sometimes we want something but when it happens it doesn’t feel quite so good. I hope I am making some sense.

I would like to touch on a few observations and a very unbiased opinion of mine relative to Fed. I know I have been very vocal in my comments about Fed, but let’s talk about Fed the Tennis player/champion.

I believe Federer beat Federer. He placed an enormous amount of pressure on himself with the urgency to break Sampras’ record this year. That in itself can cause someone to lose control of their situation and color one’s perspective about their desires. There are a few other things that have been so blatant to me as an observer.

I retrospect, looking back to the ‘07 AO, and what has transpired since then. Fed was not the same player in ‘07 as he was in ‘06. And judging by his performance in this AO, he’s not the same player.

♣Fed’s errant forehand has become a liability for over a year, something he needs to work on.

♣He has become a few steps slower, which happens as we age. He can’t run down the balls as he used to.

♣The 18-22 age group are not in awe of Fed and are not scared to take their game to him. They play well within themselves and are not deterred by his mastery of the game, because they have their own great shot making skills, and believe in themselves.

♣Fed became a little too smug with his game and did not pay enough attention to his inadequacies. He most probably was in denial, which happens to all of us, and he has not adjusted to those problems. I suppose he felt he could handle it. We as human beings ride on a wave of euphoria when things are going our way. I feel that this has happened to Fed.

♣Fed’s confidence has been sliding since the MS tournaments at Indian Wells and Miami. It was a revolving door with Fed. His tournament wins had become an unsure thing. Will he or won’t he. If that’s our feeling, how much more did it play on Fed’s mind.

I hope that Fed will look at this loss as a good thing and not take it as a negative or take everything for granted. When or if he loses the No.1 ranking, it will be a revolving door between the top 3, because they are the closest in the race of ranking points, etc. As a matter of fact, the No.2 ranking will become a revolving door because Nadal has been tested and proven to be vulnerable. He has his own problems. The predictability of tournaments has now acquired the status of unpredictability, suspense and intrigue.

I cannot say I am overjoyed for Djok. I feel that he is very cocky and blatantly vocal. I suppose it’s a family trait because his mother is very vocal also. She stated after the US Open ‘07, that her son will beat Fed at the next grand slam they play. I suppose that’s why they were praying to make her statement prove to be true. And, that is really puting it on the line.

Jane sorry about the following:

Call me old fashioned or a snob, but I believe that there’s cheering and support and then there’s too much cheering, an overkill. Unfortunately, that’s how I see the behavior from his box. There aren’t too many players’ box support as demonstrative as his. They shout and clap and stand at nearly every point he wins. This was extremely visible at the US Open in ‘07, with the chanting chorus of “Novak, Novak.” Whatever happened to grace and class? I know the British and Aussies do not behave in that manner about thier players. I believe that Djok made some enemies during his match with Fed by making some gesticulations toward the Aussie croud. Berdych made the same mistake in Spain and the fans booed him when he played his next match.

I find Djok’s breathing problems to be a sort of “psych out” for his opponents. He does that gasping act and then 5 minutes later he is smoking. It is diconcerting for an opponent to witness that type of problem because it places them in a position of suspense. Is this guy going to retire? How should I play against him? it’s a bit concerting to the opponent and breaks their focus.

Djok has a propensity for the dramatics/theatricals. He has a little bag of tricks, and I feel his gasping act played a big part in the Ferrer match. I believed Ferrer paid too much attention to Djok’s breathing problems and lost track of the match. To some extent it happened in the Hewitt match also.

In view of the foregoing, I feel that in some ways it is good for tennis that the total domination will end and I hope that Federer will relax and stop placing so much pressure on himself regarding the urgency to beat Sampras’ record. It took Sampras close to two or more years to win the final 2 slams to get him to 14 grand slam wins. Fed should find some comfort in this. All things in moderation! And, diversity is good for the sport.

I hope that my comments did not upset anyone, it was not meant to incur anyone’s anger, but just my views a an observer. I can say this much, that here isn’t any love love lost between Djok and Federer.

Posted January 25th, 2008 at 8:30 am


Tejuz Says:

I agree Von.. with most of the things u posted. Am disappointed that Fed played so poorly and lost the match.. but then.. if you watch Djok’s post-match interview he seems very cocky.

when asked.. “Did you feel Federer was the same player that you played in New York?”
“Well, I didn’t pay attention on him too much, you know. Was he performing the same way in US Open and here? I can’t say exactly right. Why? Because I was performing better.”
“You know, if he wasn’t serving, of course he had problems, he was struggling with the serve. Why? Because I made a lot of pressure. It’s not because he was struggling.”


Von Says:

TejuZ:

“.. can’t say exactly right. Why? Because I was performing better.”
“You know, if he wasn’t serving, of course he had problems, he was struggling with the serve. Why? Because I made a lot of pressure. It’s not because he was struggling.”

He’s an idiot. How could he not know if Fed was serving poorly. He is trying to say that Fed could not serve well because of the pressure from him. It was not a runaway match, 7-5, 6-4, 7-6, is not a runaway match. It was more or less a close match, with a few points off. Lord help us.

This is what I am talking about. Mixed feelings about Djok winning. If it were another, more humble person, I would be happy. I would not like it if he gets to the No.2, much more the No.1 ranking. He is one big-headed idiot. If he had any class he would not have said such stupid things. He would accept the win gracefully.

I dread the comments that he is going to mouth off from now on. I hope Tsonga takes him out. Tsonga is a better mannered youngman and can play better. .


jane Says:

Von,

Phew, some wrath for Djoker. I agree he is cocky in some of his comments but he did play better last night than in N.Y.C. So it’s tough for him to know how much of it had to do with Federer being off or whatever. He really did seem to be focusing more on himself and his game tonight.

While I still like the jubilance of that crazy Serbian family I agree that the letters on the shirts are a bit much, as are some of the “ovations”. It’s just nice to see a whole family there like that. I also agree that Djok should’ve handled the crowd more tactfully. The last thing he needs is a bunch of enemies in the crowd.

I disagree about the breathing though; I know it’s real – he’s been operated on for it. And I don’t think he’s called one trainer this tournament which is an improvement on his part. I think he’s a highly strung young man, and I sometimes think the breathing issues are related to anxiety.

Anyhow, I’ll be happy if either Tsonga or Djoker win. I am happy to see a change of faces in the final.


jane Says:

Von,

Don’t know if you read all of Djoker’s interveiw, and a lot of it is cocky, for sure, but he also said these things:

“it’s understandable crowd was a little bit more for him, because he’s defending champion and No. 1 player of the world. ”

“[Roger's] a special case because he’s expected to win everywhere he goes on any surface. So it’s not easy, of course. But for me was the less pressure maybe today ’cause I was playing against a better‑ranked player, you know. But I really wanted to win. I didn’t have anything to lose. I was just, you know, going for the shots.”

“On the start I was pretty nervous, you know. I knew that if I start to play a little bit worse, you know, if I start to make some unforced errors he’s gonna use it right away. That’s why he’s No. 1.”

” I think the dominance of Federer and Nadal, as well, especially in the men’s tennis, was just amazing the last couple of years. So I think it’s great for the media, for tennis lovers all around the world, to see something new.”

From his interview, you can tell that he knows Tsonga will be a real challenge.


Von Says:

Jane:

“Phew, some wrath for Djoker. I agree he is cocky in some of his comments but he did play better last night than in N.Y.C.”

I get your point. I am not one for cocky comments. I feel that winning and compliments should be accepted gracefully. To me he was just adding salt to Fed’s wound and that’s the last thing anyone should contemplate doing when beating an opponent. I suppose I can attribute it to his being young and that he has a lot to learn.

His gesticulations toward the crowd is inexcusable, but he’ll find out at the other match with Tsonga, if it was good or bad. They might start booing and that could upset him.

It would be catastrophic for him if he were to lose to Tsonga, which I feel is probably going to happen. My gut feeling again, (I was way off on my first gut feeling) but I think that Tsonga’s game is much stronger than Djok’s and he is also riding a high. That being the case, Djok’s high would dissipate in a few hours.

His comments: ”I think the dominance of Federer and Nadal, as well, especially in the men’s tennis, was just amazing the last couple of years. So I think it’s great for the media, for tennis lovers all around the world, to see something new.”

Yes, they’re going to see something new alright, him. He has to learn to temper his wins with grace. Sometimes it’s best to say too little than too much, especially when you beat someone.

Tsonga’s comments were so different from Djok’s that’s why I feel he would be better suited for the title.

Fed’s loss is not the end of his reign, and, Djok has a lot of points to defend this year, that being the case, I think the No.1 spot is not going to be within his grasp for this year. He could possibly be No. 2, later in the year but that is dependent on Nadal’s performance and how Djok defends his points. However, only time will tell.

We’ll have to wait for the final chapter and how everything plays out.

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