Well, I am back from the first leg of my epic tennis adventure! Hence the no blogging for a few days - I've been busy watching tennis instead of writing about it. But I am back now to tell you all about it - for oh! what adventures I have had!
Wednesday night, I left work early to catch a plane to Perth. This is no mean feat, because I live in Canberra, which is pretty much as far away from Perth as you can get. Australia is a very big place and crossing the country is no small thing. But there is very little I will not do in pursuit of tennis, and so eight hours in transit it was, starting with a Canberra to Melbourne leg, waiting around for a bit, and then settling in for the Melbourne to Perth journey.
This is a four and a half hour plane trip, so it had the potential to be very dull. I had a trashy book with me all ready to wile away the lonely hours, but a fortuitous flick through the satellite channels on board led to a wonderful discovery - coverage of the Hopman Cup tie between Russia and Kazakhstan. More particularly, this meant coverage of the match between Andrey Golubev and Igor Andreev.
Andrey, Andrey, where have you been all my life?
I don't know if Golubev is one of those players who just comes alight when representing his country or whether something has clicked for him and he has suddenly become awesome. But that's what he was - on fire and completely, utterly awesome. And it wasn't just this match against Andreev, though he had him tied up in all sorts of knots: can you believe that Andreev struck only three forehand winners for the match, and that he didn't have a single winner - NOT ONE - until about halfway through the second set? Incredible. I had the opportunity to see Golubev play in the flesh on Friday - I caught the second set of his match against Philipp Kohlschreiber on Court 1 under the Burswood Dome - and this doesn't look like a one match fluke. If he can consistently play at this level, look for him to make an excellent run in Australia. His performance completely belied his ranking (#133, fyi.)
Let me expound. This dude dominated Igor 'forehand' Andreev from the baseline. He went backhand to backhand with Philipp 'backhand' Kohlschreiber and came out ahead. And he came into net and demonstrated some incredible volleying skills, both in the singles and particularly the doubles. And I'm not just talking one or two sweet shots. I mean shots so good they were freaking terrifying (and can make a cross-country flight seem as short as anything).
His problem in the past has to have been mental and it has to have had to do with consistency. I have never seen him play before so I don't know for sure, but if he had been playing like this in the past, I would have heard about it. So consistency it was. He was very nervous in his first match against Andy Murray and rolled over pretty easily, but to smack down both Kohlschreiber and Andreev like that was pretty special. So if he has suddenly toughened up mentally... watch out for him. Because he will be a wrecking ball of destruction hammering right through the top fifty, mark my words.
He's twenty-two, so he might be a little old for me to adopt in my Stars of the Future fold. But I'm making him my Late Bloomer for the year. Look out for Andrey Golubev. Because you'll hear his name again. Guaranteed.
Roger: older and not quite out
6 months ago