Australian Open: Mid-Tournament Assessment
I wasn’t sure when to make a mid-tournament assessment. I was considering making it before any fourth round matches were played but I’m glad I waited.
I want to say that things are really heating up but the 2010 Australian Open started on a pretty high note. With Roger Federer being tested in round one to Andy Roddick being pushed to five against Fernando Gonzalez, the first slam of the decade has been absolutely fantastic. There have been relatively few upsets up to this point (on the men’s side) so let’s look at what’s in store from now on.
The Men’s Side: This biggest upset of the tournament was and still is eight seed Robin Soderling blowing a two sets to love lead in the first round. What bothers me is that the mental stability was questioned for about five minutes until everyone forgot about him. Maybe I’m alone in believing he deserves to be in the top 10, but that was a terrible step in the wrong direction. Fortunately, he didn’t have too much to defend here.
The next big upset occurred last night when 14th seed Marin Cilic outlasted fourth seed and the reigning US Open Champion Juan Martin del Potro in an epic Clash of the Titans. Del Potro was looking out of sorts for the entire tournament but I’m glad he went out to a worthy opponent, and he went down swinging. There’s little shame in that considering all of his injuries from the wrist to his feet and that bird call that was bugging the crap out of everyone. Pam Shriver made a good point early in the match that it was more important for Cilic to win because it wouldn’t bode well for him in the future for Del Potro to have his number from an early time. These two already have the makings of a good rivalry and I fully agree with Shriver which is why I’m glad Cilic got the win.
Cilic next faces Roddick who was cruising through the draw until he ran into Larry Stefanki’s former pupil Gonzalez. I don’t think anyone expected this match to go to five or for Gonzalez to be in control of it for so long. Credit to him for a nice recovery after a punishing match against Evgeny Korolev but Roddick is just too consistent, too smart, and too determined. The Roddick and Cilic match should be an interesting one. Roddick should still be the fresher of the two but even at their most fresh, Roddick has the edge physically. Mentally, they’re pretty even. Roddick is determined to show everyone he deserves to stay in the conversation, Cilic is determined to show everyone he deserves to get into the conversation. Expect a great match.
Defending champion Rafael Nadal has played some iffy tennis but he’s really getting into a groove and despite a string of the luckiest four points I’ve ever seen a player put together (I’m looking at you, Ivo Karlovic) Nadal looked great in his win over the giant Croat. He next faces Andy Murray, a dominant winner over John Isner. Daren Cahill and Brad Gilbert made a good point that Murray looked better in his win than Nadal because Isner was coming in playing better than Karlovic but Murray really stepped it up. Then they added that it means absolutely nothing heading into Tuesday’s quarterfinal. Everyone is expecting a blockbuster and, since this is tennis, you never really know what will happen. But I also hope for a great match and I’m curious to see what Murray is going to do against Nadal. He’s not like Soderling or Cilic who can blow Nadal off the court but he can still beat him, the question is how.
The top half of the draw is still in the round of 16 but there are some good matches brewing there. After a tough test from Igor Andreev, Roger Federer has cruised into the fourth round of a major for the… you get the point. He faces a semi-test in the form of Lleyton Hewitt. Hewitt troubled Federer at the US Open but I just can’t picture Hewitt doing anything to hurt Federer. But Hewitt has been playing particularly well and he lucked out with Marcos Baghdatis retiring in the previous round (such a shame for Baghy) but I don’t think that’ll matter against Federer. It’s hard not to worry about Federer these days but I’d say he’ll go through in no more than four sets.
It’s hard to say anything about Novak Djokovic because he hasn’t faced any top players but he has dropped a set. He made up for it by dismantling his opponent in the third round but my concern is that in the second and third sets he got broken when serving it out. How worrisome is that? Well, not as worrisome as his overall mentality, which I think is the biggest question mark. He faces another, let’s say, unseeded player in the fourth round and should have no trouble there. But he will most likely face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarterfinals. Tsonga has been playing some great tennis and should be able to subdue the mentally weak and often inconsistent Nicolas Almagro. I just don’t know where Djokovic is right now so I’m leaning towards Tsonga in that one. But they both have to win their matches tonight before I really lean towards anyone.
The best match tonight should be between Fernando Verdasco and Nikolay Davydenko. Is it weird that two top 10 players are facing each other in the fourth round or can that happen legitimately? Either way, Davydenko is simply beasting it up. He has bageled all three of his opponents so far and, honestly, I think he gets another bagel tonight. Add to the fact that he’s 6-1 against Verdasco and it doesn’t look good for him to repeat his semifinal performance of last year. That would put Davydenko, the best player in the world, against Federer, the number one player in the world, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves…
The Women’s Side: Surprisingly, the women’s side has had some interesting matches, too. Perhaps what could go down as the most shocking result of the year, Kim Clijsters got absolutely rocked by Nadia Petrova. Peter Bodo wrote a blog where he criticized Clijsters for not giving Petrova enough credit. I’m all for giving your opponent credit when they deserve it, but considering just how terribly Clijsters played, I’m sure she was thinking more about her abysmal play than Petrova’s great play during the interview that’s something like an hour after the match. Cut the girl some slack. Besides that, I have to say that it looks like Serena Williams will defend her title, but I want Maria Kirilenko to win. She is by far the best looking girl on the WTA.
The Commentary: Besides the tennis, I have to assess to commentating after making such a big deal about it a few weeks ago. All I can watch is ESPN2 so the commentators I’ve been listening to are Chris Fowler, Brad Gilbert, Darren Cahill, Mary Carillo, Pam Shriver, Mary Joe Ferandez, Pat McEnroe, Dick Enberg, and Cliff Drysdale. They have a new woman in the studio but I don’t know her name and she clearly doesn’t know anything about the sport.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been listening to this team for so many years now but I’m getting accustomed to their pointless conversations amongst each other. But I still have some complaints. Chris Fowler is getting too cocky in his role because he talks too much and acts like he knows a lot about the mechanics and the strategy and all that tennis related stuff, but he sounds dumb next to guys like Drysdale and McEnroe and just about everyone else. I still don’t like Carillo. She’s super negative too often and it sounds like she’s just there to insult and criticize everyone.
McEnroe is in love with Roddick and Federer and Cahill and Gilbert can’t get enough of Murray. Cahill’s comments are a little too colorful sometimes. He called a Karlovic slice “beautiful.” Really? Karlovic’s slice? That’s got to be the overstatement of the tournament. Shriver and Fernandez are actually pretty great. They never try to sound like they know more than they do and they’re usually pretty spot on with their statements. Especially compared to Carillo, they’re just wonderful.
I don’t know why but I’m growing to like Drysdale for the first time ever. He’s also cut down on the useless statements and he’s been pretty insightful. I enjoyed his conversation with Fowler about how during his playing days, the players hung out with each other a lot because they didn’t have entourages that were bigger than Vincent Chase’s.
My least favorite guy in tennis, Dick Enberg, continues to be awful. Why does he work for ESPN? Why do they let him commentate? I only have terrible things to say about him so I’ll stop there.
Some Final Thoughts: I’m loving Roddick’s arguments with the umpires. He’s argued three matches in a row now, twice on match points. If he makes the final, I hope he keeps arguing.
Speaking of Roddick, what ever happened to him serving above 150mph? He set the serve speed record at 155mph back in 2004 and I know he hit a 152mph serve at the US Open that same year. But since then no one, including Roddick, has been able to get that high. Even 140mph is rare. You’d think players like Isner and Karlovic could at least hit 150 at least once, but nothing. Anyone know why that might be because I would love to see a bullet serve.
Has anyone else noticed that if Nadal doesn’t make at least the finals and Djokovic fails to make it that far, Djokovic will overtake the number 2 spot? It’d be pretty awesome for Djokovic fans but I feel like the tennis Gods just don’t want Djokovic to be number 2.
The new decade has really started with a bang and what I’m amazed at the most is how, halfway through the tournament, and I still have no idea who’s going to win. It’s still just as wide open as when it started. A measly three years ago, the question was if anyone would be able to take a set off of Federer before he won the whole thing (no one did in 2007). How times change.
Also Check Out:
Djokovic Assesses Federer v Isner US Open Match-Up
Ginepri Gives Countryman Pep Talk for Federer v Isner US Open Match-Up
Nadal Will Never be No. 1
Spaniards and a Swede Win, Djokovic Needs to be More Like Roddick
Rafael Nadal Presser: It’s Happy Day To Win The Rome Title Another Time