Federer, Nadal Struggle; Unseeded Americans Pounded at Australian Open
If working your way into a Grand Slam is the norm du jour, then former No. 1 Roger Federer and world No. 3 Novak Djokovic have it down at this year’s Australian Open, with both men struggling into the second round on the event’s opening day.
The No. 2-seeded Federer moved well but frequently lapsed into passive play in a 6-1, 7-6(4), 7-5 win over Andreas Seppi that ended well after 8 a.m. EST on Monday morning. The defending champ Djokovic likewise did not look sharp, struggling with a new racquet change and forced to come back from breaks down in the last two sets in a win over challenger-level player Andrea Stoppini 6-2, 6-3, 7-5.
“I had a little slow start in the first two weeks, I didn’t play my best tennis,” he said. “Today I was very down in the second and third set, and I turned it around. Hopefully I can get going and get a good result here.”
Another former No. 1, Andy Roddick, had no such trouble bursting out of the gate. Roddick has been relegated to a “second-tier” player in the eyes of many below the foursome of Rafael Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and Andy Murray — which is fine with the American, who says he needs to prove himself in 2009.
“The thing about sports is no one really remembers yesterday, and that’s fair,” Roddick said after decimating Swede Bjorn Rehnquist 6-0, 6-2, 6-2. “You have to go out and prove yourself on a daily basis. I have no problem with that. I feel like last year was disappointing for me. A good year (in 2009) is obviously winning a big tournament and trying to get back into the conversation.”
Roddick will next face qualifier Xavier “X-Man” Malisse, who he has bested in all seven of their career meetings.
No. 23-seeded American Mardy Fish made it through his opener with a 6-7(3), 6-4, 7-5, 6-0 over wildcard entry Samuel Groth, but it was generally a disastrous day for unseeded Americans, with six booking flights back to the U.S. at the end of Monday.
Robby Ginepri bowed in straights to No. 20 Tomas Berdych; Czech Dominik “The Dominator” Hrbaty downed American giant John Isner, who had melted-out by the third set of his match in the Aussie heat; Robert Kendrick lost to No. 16 Robin Soderling of Sweden; Bobby Reynolds lost in straights to No. 21 Tommy Robredo of Spain; comeback veteran Taylor Dent fell to fellow American Amer Delic in five; and Sam Querry lost in straight sets to Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber, who had withdrawn from Auckland last week citing a shoulder injury.
“The disappointment for me was Querrey, as I thought he would really have a break-out tournament here,” said U.S. Davis Cup captain and ESPN commentator Patrick McEnroe, on the big-hitting American who was coming off a runner-up effort at Auckland.
Other seeded winners Monday were (8) Juan Martin Del Potro (d. Mischa Zverev), (10) David Nalbandian (d. Marc Gicquel in four), (11) David Ferrer (d. Denis Gremelmayr in five), (15) Stan Wawrinka (d. Ivo Minar in four), (19) Marin Cilic (d. Kevin Anderson in four), (26) Marat Safin (d. Ivan Navarro Pastor), and (28) Paul-Henri Mathieu (d. Jarkko Nieminen who retired in the second set with injury).
No. 27-seeder mirror-gazer Feliciano “F-Lo” Lopez was the only seeded casualty on the opening day, losing a marathon 16-14 in the fifth set to Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller.
Other notable all-unseeded efforts were Fabrice “The Magician” Santoro outlasting former No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero in four sets; Aussie teen Bernard Tomic gaining his first Slam match win in a four-set victory over Potito Starace; Russian Evgeny Korolev topping former No. 1 Carlos Moya in straights; darling of the Aussies, Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis straight-setting Julien “United Colors of” Benneteau; and overlooked Serb grinder Janko Tipsarevic defeating Oscar Hernandez 6-0 in the fourth.
“It’s a dream come true to win a first round in my first Grand Slam,” said the 16-year-old Aussie hope Tomic who will next face Muller. “I’m just thrilled that I could pull off a win today. With the crowd behind me, it was an unbelievable experience.”
Matches of note Tuesday in Melbourne are (4) Andy Murray vs. Andrei Pavel, former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt vs. (13) Fernando “Gonzo” Gonzalez, Juan Monaco vs. (the injured?) (5) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, (9) James Blake vs. Canadian talent Frank Dancevic, Japanese breakout player Kei Nishikori vs. (31) Jurgen “Tuna” Melzer, former Olympic gold medalist Nicolas Massu vs. (17) Nicolas Almagro, and American qualifier Wayne Odesnik vs. Mario “Baby Goran” Ancic.
Ivanovic Struggles Continue, Emotional Dokic Wins at Aussie Open
The top two Serbs in women’s tennis began play at the Aussie Open pretty much exactly as they ended 2008 — world No. 1 Jelena Jankovic cruising, and Ana Ivanovic struggling through.
Ivanovic worked through a strange service toss problem, and spotty serving in general with some ugly groundies thrown in for a 7-5, 6-3 win over Julia Goerges.
“I don’t expect myself to step on the court and play perfect tennis from very first moment,” Ivanovic told reporters. “You just want to give yourself the best possible chance and give time to work yourself into the tournament.”
Jankovic, who clearly added some muscle to her frame during the off-season, blew to a 6-1, 6-3 first-round victory over Austria’s Yvonne Meusburger on Monday.
“The first matches are the toughest for me, especially (as) I haven’t played for about two months,” she told reporters. So it’s nice to get going and get off to a good start…I played well in the first set — slowed down — lost my concentration in the second. But it’s all right. You know, it comes with playing matches, getting the routine, and just the whole rhythm out there.”
Other seeded winners into the second round Monday were (3) Dinara Safina (d. Alla Kudryavtseva), (7) Vera Zvonareva (d. Magdalena Rybarikova, bagel in the second set), (10) Nadia Petrova (d. Yaroslava Shvedova), (11) Caroline Wozniacki (d. Shahar Peer), (15) Alize Cornet (d. Mariya Koryttseva), (16) Marion Bartoli (d. Melanie South), (17) Anna Chakvetadze (d. Anne Keothavong in three), (19) Daniela Hantuchova (d. Casey Dellacqua), (25) Kaia Kanepi (d. Date-Krumm 8-6 in the third), (26) Ai Sugiyama (d. Stephanie Dubois), and (29) Alisa Kleybanova (d. Sofia Arvidsson).
Three lower seeds were cooked on the barbie in the near-100 degree Aussie heat Monday in the form of (23) Agnes Szavay (l. to Galina Voskoboeva in three), (24) Sybille Bammer (l. to Lucie Safarova), and (27) Maria Kirilenko (l. to Sara Errani, bagel in the first set).
Among notable unseeded winners were down-on-her-luck Indian Sania Mirza (d. Marta Domachowska), and the long-suffering Jelena Dokic (d. Tamira Paszek in three).
After her win, a tearful Dokic spoke about tennis in the midst of depression and family problems (aka classic crazy tennis dad) suffered over the years.
“Tennis is not the most important thing in the world, but it’s something that I love,” Dokic told reporters. “I was very disappointed when I couldn’t play well. It was a tough time in my life. I had a lot to go through, a lot of family issues. It’s really a miracle for me [to be back playing]. It’s really emotional to win today. What I had to go through, it’s really great to have this win. I don’t think a lot of people know what this means to me.”
Highlights on Tuesday in Melbourne are China’s Meng Yuan vs. (2) Serena Williams, (6) Venus Williams vs. German Angelique Kerber, the shaky (8) Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Russian-turned-Australian Anastasia Rodionova, (28) Francesca Schiavone in an upset alert vs. China’s Shuai Peng, and (13) Victoria Azarenka vs. Czech Petra Kvitova who already has a 2009 title under her belt.
TENNIS-X NEWS, NOTES, QUOTES AND BARBS
Temperatures are expected to remain in the 90s Tuesday before a cool front hits. Despite the heat, there was no stoppage of play Monday (i.e., it really wasn’t that hot!)…
Andy Roddick has never lost in the first round at the Australian Open now in eight tries. Roddick has also lost 15 lbs. during the off season…
Roger Federer is a No. 2 seed for the fourth time in his career at the Aussie Open. The last two times he won the title (’08 US Open, ’04 Australian Open)…
Federer has reached 18 straight Grand Slam semifinals…
Temperatures almost reached 100 degrees on the opening day in Melbourne. “My feet were burning,” said world No. 1 Jelena Jankovic following her match…
Props to ESPN in the U.S. for staying with the Aussie Open all night and into the morning when Roger Federer finished off Andreas Seppi well after 8 a.m. EST…
Jelena Dokic hasn’t spoken to her father in years and is still repairing the bridge with her mother and brother: “The biggest thing I regret is [not having a relationship with] my brother…I didn’t have contact with him for years until the last 12 months. That was the hardest thing to deal with. I still feel like I’ve lost them [her family]. I will try my best to do what I can to patch things up with my brother and my mum. I’m trying to do that. It will be difficult.”…
Intrepid tennis reporter Matt Cronin says Ana Ivanovic has broken-up with ATP boyfriend Fernando “Hot Sauce” Verdasco…
Rafael Nadal is blogging for the Melbourne Herald-Sun newspaper, taking questions on topics from motivations to whether he has sex during a tournament. “Every player should know the best way to be ready to play next day. So it is up to the player,” Nadal writes…
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