Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Happy Slamming at the Australian Open

Updated January 21, 2008

Super Saturday: The Aussie Open's Greatest Day of Tennis

The Most Amazing 31 Hours of Men's Tennis
Third Round Madness, January 19, 2008

2:05AM: Kohlschreiber def. Roddick 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (11-9), 6-7 (3-7), 8-6
• a total of 74 aces were struck. Roddick hit a career high 42 aces, while Kohlschreiber fired off 32 aces.
• Roddick's fastest serve of the night was clocked at 145 mph (unreturned by Kohlschreiber).
• Kohlschreiber hit an incredible 104 winners, Roddick hit 79.
• this loss marks Roddick's earliest exit at the Aussie Open since his debut in 2002.
• watch Roddick's meltdown here.
• As ESPN's commentator Chris Fowler put it "We can add Kohlschreiber to the list players Roddick brings out the best in slams." The esteemed list of Roddick-killers includes Richard Gasquet, Andy Murray, Marcos Baghdatis, Gilles Muller, and Joachim Johansson.
• Kohlschreiber went on to lose to Jarkko Nieminen in the fourth round (6-3, 6-7 (7-9), 6-7 (9-11), 3-6) which makes this the first time Roddick has lost to an opponent who did not go on to the AO final (Schuettler 2003, Safin 2004, Hewitt 2005, Baghdatis 2006, Federer 2007).

4:05PM: Blake def. Grosjean 4-6, 2-6, 6-0, 7-6 (7-5), 6-2
• this is Blake's second five-set match win at a slam (his first was at USO 2007 vs Santoro).
• for the first time in his career Blake came back from two sets down.
• this was Blake's first win over Grosjean, who had previously beaten Blake 3 times before.
• after Vince Spadea lost to David Ferrer in the third round, Blake became for the first time in his career the last American man standing at a slam.
• Blake advanced to his first non-U.S. quarterfinal grand slam appearance when he defeated Marin Cilic in the fourth round.
Question: How many times since 2001 has James Blake gone deeper in a Grand Slam than Roddick? Answer: Four times, in early-round play in 2002, 2003, and 2006 at the French Open and at the 2005 U.S. Open, where Roddick suffered a shock first-round upset and Blake reached the quarterfinals.
• watch match highlights here.

9:14PM: Federer def. Tipsarevic 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (7-1), 5-7, 6-1, 10-8
• the match lasted four hours and 27 minutes.
• Tipsarevic (49) was appearing in just his first Australian Open third round.
• Tipsarevic and Federer had never played one another before.
• Tipsarevic ended Federer's 30 straight sets won at the AO.
• Federer served only one double fault, Tipsarevic six.
• Federer hit a career high 39 aces.
• For Federer, it was the earliest round that he has been extended to five sets since 2001 Wimbledon second round (d. Malisse).
• The fifth set was the longest of Federer’s career (previous longest 9-7) and the longest contested by a top seed at the Australian Open in the Open Era.
• watch the last few games in the fifth set here.

4:34AM: Hewitt def. Baghdatis 4-6, 7-5, 7-5, 6-7 (4-7), 6-3
• the AO broke its own rules of not starting any matches after 11:00PM. Hewitt-Baghdatis took to the court at 11:47PM. It was the latest start ever for a grand slam match.
• the match would end 4 hours and 45 minutes later, at 4:34AM, making it the latest-running match in AO history.
• There were a total of 13 breaks of serve throughout the match.
• Baghdatis committed 80 unforced errors, Hewitt made 56.
• a third of ticket-holders stuck around for the entire match.
• Hewitt has never lost a five set match at the Australian Open.
• watch the last game here with Baghdatis leaving the court in tears.
• shocking US tennis fans, ESPN2 gave 16 hours of continuous tennis coverage, most of it commercial-free, and stayed with matches long after it was supposed to sign off for other scheduled programming. If you were as thrilled with the tennis coverage as I was, please send ESPN your happy tidings here.

Related articles:
• 30 (hour) love [TR.net]
• Two days of madness [Tennis.com]
• Long Aussie Open nights play havoc with schedule [AP]
• Melbourne magic [Tennis-X]
• ESPN sets record for longest live telecast [The Washington Times]

Upset, Tested, Revealing, Loss, Inspiration, Need.

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Updated January 17, 2008

A Comedy of Errors

R64: Roddick def Berrer 6-2 6-2 6-4

Sometimes you come across one photo that perfectly encapsulates the match it was taken from. This is one of those photos.

After fans complained that Andy didn't do much of anything other than mope around in the first round match vs. Dlouhy, he looked more comfortable and solid in the second round vs. German Michael Berrer. He took the opportunity to practice a shot he rarely uses: the lob. He also took the opportunity to practice another shot nobody ever wants to make one time, let alone twice in the same match: the whiff. As the match went on it became so bizarre that it made me wonder how a talented upstart like Donald Young managed to lose to this guy in the first round. Even ESPN commentator Patrick McEnroe said that Berrer was playing like nothing more than "a glorified park player", and Jimmy Connors couldn't stop giggling at Berrer's amateurish errors. If you saw the match, can you blame him?

Roddick vs. Berrer comedy show highlights

Andy was in no danger of losing this match and seemed content to hang out on the baseline and wait for Berrer to make an error. Andy's laziness in early rounds vs low ranked players is a source of consternation to his many fans who wonder if he can up his game in time versus a more dangerous opponent. Many expect German Philipp Kohlschreiber to play the spoiler vs. Andy in the third round. If Andy shows up playing this kind of dinky, moonball tennis then he will lose. Andy is aware that Kohlschreiber is a bit on a hot streak right now, so I think he knows he needs to flatten that forehand out more, play more aggressive, and to quit futzing around ten meters behind the baseline.

Roddick's comments after the match show that he didn't treat the match as anything more than a hit-and-giggle session:

"I had fun out there tonight, and I kind of played a little bit differently out there. I enjoyed myself."

"It's a little bit of a cold night and I knew the ball wouldn't carry through the court too much. I was content to let him hit the ball hard and try to bully the ball around. It was a good workout ahead of my next match."

"I think I'm aware of the fact that [Kohlschreiber's] been steadily rising in the rankings. I have played him a couple of times and I'm definitely aware of his recent form, winning in Auckland and winning his first two matches here. So, you know, I think I'm more concerned with his recent form than the tales of Kohlschreiber since '05."

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Posted January 15, 2008

R128: Roddick def Dlouhy 6-3 6-4 7-5

"MARRY US, ANDY!" A public proposal for Andy Roddick. (right-click for larger image)

Not much to say except that was one awful first round match. Delete-worthy, really. Sure he won in straight sets but quality-wise, it was terrible. I was expecting that Andy might use the opportunity to practice flattening his forehands, maybe get in some net practice, work on his return game, etc. but he did none of those things. Instead he stayed back and just kind of pushed the ball back and forth all day long. He didn't look comfortable out there much. He did just enough to win while his opponent self-destructed. Judging by his grumpy demeanor and constant head-shaking, he wasn't thrilled with his play, either. Justin Gimelstob said afterwards that Andy hit for another half hour right after the match ended, so that's a good sign that he felt he needed to "hit it out" some more to loosen up a bit. One messageboard fan said, "Not to defend Andy's crappy play, but I wonder how much he was thrown/irritated by waiting for the Jankovic-Paszcek horror fest to finally end?" Good point. I know I was getting irritated by the minute waiting for the women's match to end and Andy's to start.

I would post match highlights except that the highlight for me was that it ended. Here's hoping a better version of Andy shows up in his second round match with Germany's Michael Berrer tonight.

Actually, there is one cool highlight to show you. ESPN gave us this: "Andy Roddick and the Art of the Press Conference".

So how do you like Australia's new "Smurf Turf" (as branded by Sports Illustrated)?
COLORFUL DEBATE: The new bright blue Plexicushion playing surface installed for this year's Australian Open is not really an issue for Andy Roddick or his closest supporters. "I don't really care, half my family is color blind anyway, so it doesn't matter."

The sixth-seeded Roddick rallied to beat qualifier Lukas Dlouhy of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 in the opening round Monday, afterward describing the new playing surface as slow and gritty.

But when it comes to the color, Roddick doesn't seem to care.

"I think that's something where people are watching on TV," he said. "I don't think it really matters to us too much."

Top-seeded Roger Federer on Sunday came out in support of the bright blue color, saying he preferred it to the green Rebound Ace surface of previous years.

"Oh, yeah, because you could tell that it bothered him a lot throughout the years," Roddick joked of Federer's success on the green surface, on which the Swiss star won the 2004, 2006 and 2007 titles.

Andy and other Americans are featured on the new cover of Chinese Tennis magazine this month.

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