Four lower seeds exited on Thursday in Melbourne, a day that saw the majority of the top seeds cruising into the third round at the Australian Open, and highlighting the next generation of Canadian talent. Is that an oxymoron?
Front and foremost was unseeded Australian teen Bernard Tomic, whose varied, consistent play frustrated No. 31 seed Feliciano “F-Lo” Lopez 7-6(4), 7-6(3), 6-3.
“It’s the first time I’ve been in the third round,” said Tomic, who will next face world No. 1 Rafael Nadal, who on Thursday dropped only four games against American Ryan Sweeting. “I can’t believe that I’m playing [Nadal]. What an opportunity it is to play him, in a third round as well. It’s a dream come true. Look, I’ve got nothing to lose. I’m hitting the ball great. My confidence is up there, especially after two matches. I played a left hander before I played him, that’s always good.”
Other young breakthrough upsets on the day were Canadian Milos Raonic straight-setting No. 22 Michael Llodra, and former junior world No. 1 Richard Berankis advancing when No. 27 David Nalbandian retired in the third set citing illness — or something like illness.
“I was like empty, you know? Didn’t feel good. Is tough, very tough,” said Nalbandian, who acknowledged his earlier five-set win over Lleyton Hewitt took a lot out of him, but had a hard time pinpointing his problem. “Everything. Nothing specific. Like empty, you know? I toss a ball for the serve and everything was moving around. It’s tough playing like that. Call the doctor. Told me that dangerous playing like that. That’s why I retired.”
31-year-old Czech Jan Hernych was also an upset winner, defeating No. 30 Thomasz Bellucci 8-6 in the fifth. The Canadian Raonic served his way into his first Grand Slam third round.
“I feel like lately I’ve been working a lot on my serve,” said the Canadian qualifier Raonic, who the Australian media has been comparing to Mark Philippoussis, and who will next face No. 10 seed Mikhail Youzhny, who was a five-set winner on Thursday. “And I think a lot of pressure is taken off my serve because of my second shot, I’m playing well with it, dictating a lot. Because always I was getting a lot of block returns. Maybe I would get tight or not play the first ball after as aggressively and effectively. Now I’m taking care of that, so that’s taking even more pressure off my serve. So this is letting me relax more.”
Other Top 10-seeded winners Thursday, all posting straight-set victories, were No. 4 Robin Soderling (d. Gilles Muller), No. 5 Andy Murray, and No. 7 David Ferrer (d. “Iron” Mike Russell).
Other seeded winners were No. 11 Jurgen “Tuna” Melzer, No. 13 Jo-Wilfried(-”Ali”) Tsonga, No. 15 Marin Cilic, No. 20 John Isner (d. Radek “The Worm” Stepanek in four), No. 21 Marcos Baghdatis (d. Juan Martin Del Potro in four), and No. 31 Guillermo “G-Lo” Garcia-Lopez.
“I knew before the match that he didn’t have a lot of matches on his feet,” Baghdatis said of Del Potro. “That put the pressure on me because I was a bit the favorite, but play fast balls, don’t give him time to play, and that’s what I did today, so I’m very happy, I played good today. When you’re [not injured] it’s easier to keep the competition, keep working hard, it’s been a year and a half I don’t have any injuries — touch wood — I’m working very hard, it will take time for sure, the same for Juan Martin.”
Baghdatis will next meet Tuna Melzer.
Isner and Cilic will next face off on Saturday in a serving contest.
“He’s kind of steamrolled through his first two matches,” Isner said. “He obviously likes playing here in Melbourne. The game plan is going to be the same: just go out there and try to hold my serve early on, try to get into his serve games a little bit. But he’s hitting well from the back and serving well. Just try to hold serve and keep pace with him and see what happens.”
Matches to look out for on a loaded Friday in Melbourne include (2) Roger Federer vs. Xavier “X-Man” Malisse, (19) Stan Wawrinka vs. (12) Gael “Force” Monfils, an all-Serb in (29) Viktor Troicki vs. (3) Novak Djokovic, (8) Andy Roddick vs. Dutchman Robin Haase, Kei “Special K” Nishikori vs. Fernando “Hot Sauce” Verdasco, (6) Tomas Berdych vs. (28) Richard Gasquet, and (14) Nicolas Almagro vs. (17) Ivan Ljubicic.
TENNIS-X NEWS, NOTES, QUOTES AND BARBS
Roger Federer has won 12 straight matches…Andy Roddick and Robin Soderling are the only two men yet to drop serve…Canadian Milos Raonic has hit 48 aces is six sets of tennis…Rafael Nadal has lost 4 games in two matches…The future has arrived: Richard Berankis, Bernard Tomic, Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori, Alexandr Dolgopolov, all of whom made the 3rd RD…There are 64 players left in singles (men and women) but zero from the continent of South America…Bernard Tomic has been broken just twice…Shahar Peer is the only female yet to lose serve…Caroline Wozniacki lost to Dominika Cibulkova last week in Sydney…Viktor Troicki and Novak Djokovic will play for the second straight Slam. In the heat at the US Open, Djokovic escaped in five sets. Temperatures are expected to be warm again Friday…What will Venus wear Friday? Does anyone care?…Julia Georges wears Maria Sharapova’s dresses. Some, no, many say she looks better in them…Before Bernard Tomic, the last 18-year-old to reach the 3rd RD at the Australian Open was Rafael Nadal in 2005. Tomic plays Nadal Saturday…Venus Williams has still never retired from a Grand Slam match…Novak Djokovic has beaten Viktor Troicki six straight times…Andy Roddick has reached the 3rd RD at the Australian Open nine straight years…Fish Population Decimated in Melbourne: Mardy Fish was diagnosed with a thyroid problem before the Australian Open, then lost early to Tommy Robredo. “The thyroid problem is strange. It sort of zaps you. You don’t feel really ill or anything but just a little helpless. It’s disappointing because I had put in the hard yards in the off-season and was really looking forward to playing here, especially being seeded higher than I have ever been at a Grand Slam at No. 16. But the doctors tell me this condition will pass and I will just concentrate on getting in shape for San Jose.”…Nicolas Lapentti has announced his retirement at age 34 after suffering from knee problems: “I’ve worked with great doctors but could not get a full recovery,” said the former world No. 6 and close pal of Anna Kournikova. “It’s an important decision so I didn’t want to rush, I wanted to be 100% sure.”…Kim Clijsters caught former ATP player and TV commentator Todd Woodbridge sending a text to fellow commentator Rennae Stubbs saying Clijsters looks like she is pregnant: “I saw a text you sent Rennae Stubbs,” Clijsters said to former doubles specialist Todd Woodbridge in a courtside interview, reported by Reuters. “You said you thought I was pregnant!” “Well, are you?” asked Woodbridge, trying to hide his embarrassment. “No I’m not pregnant!” Clijsters shot back with a laugh. She added: “The text said: ‘She looks really grumpy and her boobs look bigger.’” “Well that’s the end of my TV career,” said a horrified Woodbridge as a giggling Clijsters wrapped an arm around him to the delight of the Rod Laver Arena crowd.” — Good thing for Woodbridge that Clijsters has a breezy personality, that exchange wouldn’t have went so well with Serena. There would have been a Woodie on the ground.
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