It was always going to be a tough act to follow for the men in Brissie. There was no way A-Rod and the Worm were ever going to be able to live up to Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin, simply because they are A-Rod and the Worm, and not, say, Sampras and Agassi, back from beyond the tennis grave.
But they did their level best. Some of the drama in the match was so improbable it seemed manufactured, but at least there was drama and it wasn't a one-sided blowout, a la Stepanek's previous victory over Gael Monfils. I watched this one from the comfort of my couch in Canberra rather than from the lofty heights of the upper tier in Pat Rafter Arena, and I'm almost glad I did. Clijsters/Henin was a great way to end Part 1 of the my Australian tennis tour. This match would have been an unnecessary epilogue.
But back to the match. Roddick started serving strongly and Stepanek started reading it well and playing all court tennis, and it was very tight in the first set. The set really could have gone either way, but it had a Roddick-esque flavour to it... even though I felt like Stepanek really hadn't finished opening up his box of tricks yet. However, I was wrong about the box of tricks, because Stepanek absolutely collapsed in the first set breaker and for the first half of the second, during which time Roddick spanked him like a red-headed stepchild.
So Roddick's up 4-1 with a double break. So, coincidentally, was Clijsters yesterday. Maybe that set some kind of precedent, because Stepanek paused, steeled himself, and woke up again. I don't want to make any kind of comparison to Clijsters/Henin here, but it was odd how the second sets of both finals featured this kind of epic comeback. This is what I meant about some of the drama seeming manufactured - it seemed so unlikely that both finals could have risen-from-the-dead second sets.
Except they didn't, really. Stepanek lost the tiebreaker (after being down 6-1, saving five match points, then eventually losing 8-6). So this was a straight sets affair, and it was a fun enough match to watch. But after Clijsters/Henin, it just felt... bah.
Now how often do people compare an ATP and a WTA match and say that? Slightly left of never, I would say.
For some reason, these Australian tournaments attract big name women and not so big name men. I am not sure why this is. Like Sydney - Alisa Kleybanova, at #29ish, was the last direct acceptance to the draw and something like nine of the top ten women are there. The men... not so much. They seemingly only play in the Middle East and if they play anything, they play Kooyong. (Though not Roger this year... he's withdrawn from the big K.) I wonder why the blokes and the ladies feel the need to prepare so differently...
Other weekend winners include Nikolay Davydenko (in imperious fashion), Marin Cilic and Yanina Wickmayer. Good news for Belgium!
Roger: older and not quite out
6 months ago