Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sleepless in Melbourne

Sleepless is the best way to put it. It's 1:30am as I write this, back in my hotel room, after just having returned from the exhilarating Nalbandian/Hewitt five set match. I've been at Melbourne Park since 10 in the morning. That's a very long day of tennis - and I'm going to do it all again tomorrow!

I started my day with a leisurely wander around the practice courts (harder than it might sound, as there are eight, four on each side of the site, and it takes about ten minutes to bash your way through Grand Slam Oval to get there) before settling down for a bit to watch Kai-Chen Chang and Bojana Jovanovski. Yes, I went to a WTA match. I upheld my word. I caught the first set, which Chang totally let slip out of her grasp after being a break up. But Jovanovski... well, she is one to watch.

I then intended to catch some of Youzhny and Ilhan, but it was crazy full there with shouting Turkish fans, so I opted for the slightly tamer (in crowd size, not in tennis) Kavcic/Anderson, where I saw Anderson take the first set. I then thought he was destined to win the thing, but I was wrong. Oh, how I was wrong. As I will elaborate later.

It was back to the back courts after that - yes, I was trying to stalk players in their practice sessions; no, it didn't entirely work - where I caught about a set and a half of the all Brazilian battle between Thomaz Bellucci and Ricardo Mello. This might have been my favourite back court match of the day, because this match had it all - extreme tension and big hitting and some real flair that you don't often see outside of the Frenchies. Bellucci was on top when I was watching, but looking at the score, Mello came back and took a couple of sets before Bellucci closed it out. I'm not surprised. He was playing very well. These are seriously two very watchable players.

...but I stopped watching them after a bit, because, you know, trying to catch some matches and practices and suchlike. I caught a bit of Schwank and Mayer, but the all-Argentinian battle didn't have anything on the all-Brazilian one, so off did I take myself, intending to go and see Falla/Lopez, but ending up...

...back at Kavcic/Anderson, where ALL HAD CHANGED. Seriously, Blaz Kavcic. Watch out for this guy. He has tons of game - like, tons. I understand why he was #1 seeded qualifier! He has mad skillz. Anderson serves out of a tree - as seen in the first set - but by the fourth set, which was what I saw, by which time Kavcic was up two sets to one, Kavcic had almost totally neutralised it. He worked it out, and he played an outstanding fourth set tie breaker after coming back from a break down. He is going to be awesome soon.

Then away! for Federer was practicing. Not much to say here, except that I nearly got crushed in a Federiot. Seriously, it was crazy. People who want autographs are deadly.

I tried all day to find Mahut practicing, but it didn't work, so I gave it up after a while and decided just to watch some bits of matches instead... except for one small thing. Every match I walked into seemed to immediately end. I caught the last couple of games of Isner's match, the same with Gilles Muller's... then I caught a whole set of Alisa Kleybanova's, which would have been awesome if the set hadn't been 6-0. I betook myself round to Clement/Seppi after that, which was only just starting, but lo! no sooner had I done that than it was time to head into Rod Laver Arena.

There's not much to say about the Safina/Clijsters match. Kim played great. Dinara really didn't. It was a bit embarrassing. (Though considering what was coming next I'm glad it was short, or I'd still be there!) I will say this, though - while Safina's ball toss is still ridiculously high, it is not as high. Nor as wonky. Progress has been made. Though Clijsters is clearly not the one to try it out on!

And then... the match.

Hewitt and Nalbandian were always going to go five sets. Everyone knew this. It was always going to be an epic. It had the potentially to be Isnutically long, though thankfully it wasn't. But what I wasn't expecting was the real, incredible quality of this match. Seriously, it was OUTSTANDING.

This wasn't a good draw for either guy in the first round. Hewitt deserved better than this, with the way he was playing - put him against another one of the players seeded in the 20-odds and I think the result might have been different. But I suppose there's always going to be that history between Nalbandian and Hewitt, that old tension, and I really think that is what pushed Nalbandian over the line in the end - the desire not to lose to someone he doesn't like.

But their history aside, this match was outstanding. It was literally impossible to pick the winner - Hewitt had two match points on which he did not capitalise - and it see-sawed dramatically. The crowd were behind Hewitt, of course, but it didn't seem to bother Bandy at all - if anything, he fed on it. The length of the rallies was astounding and the shotmaking, well...

...suffice to say it totally made up for the not-so-good night session the night before!

Win of the day: Nalbandian. That had to be sweet. Though I'd like to put my hand up for Bellucci as well.
Loss of the day: Ivanovic. Didn't see it, but this is not a good thing to happen for Miss Muffet.
Players in dangerous form: Both Nalbandian and Hewitt, not that Hewitt will get a chance to show it. Also Nadal.
Players to watch in the future: Kavcic. Bellucci. Mello. Jovanovski.
Things for Jodi to do tomorrow: Watch more WTA instead of just a token match. And also FIND MAHUT PRACTICING.

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