Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tales From The Outside Courts

The side of the draw playing today is my non-emotional investment side (ie. no Federer, no Mahut), so today was sort of my off day at the Australian Open. This is not to say, however, that I did not have excellent times watching excellent tennis. Because I did.

Walking through the gates at Melbourne Park (and walking out again fifteen-odd hours later, knowing you'll be back there not long after) is magical. I've been to a few of the tournaments around Australia - Sydney, Brisbane, Hopman Cup - and while they are all excellent (especial props to the Hopman Cup) there's a buzz at a Slam. There are good vibrations in the air. Things are going to happen. Magic is going to be made.

And magic is made - not just on Rod Laver Arena, not just on Hisense, not just on the show courts. At every court there is magic. One of the most magical moments I've had this week was on Court 14 (arguably the most remote court in the complex) watching Mahut win his first round match. Watching tennis on TV, it seems like the main arenas are all there is. When you are there, there are so many other stories to be told on the outside courts that you miss otherwise.

Like Alexandr Dolgopolov. The media has been silent on him - he hasn't played anyone big yet - but MAN, has this guy got game. He took four sets to beat the also very talented Benjamin Becker (aka Becker-no-relation) today, but I was super impressed. He has a great serve, a massive forehand, and he can volley like nobody's business. He plays Jo-Wilfried Tsonga next, and I would not be surprised at all if he gives the big guy a run for his money. Watch out for this kid in the future. He has MAJOR talent.

And he is man enough to wear an Alice band. I respect that.

I also saw Youzhny play today. He earned his membership to the Roger Federer Let's Win Two Sets Then Lose Two And Give People A Heart Attack Club by winning the first two sets over Blaz Kavcic, then dropping two before coming back to see the fifth. I only saw the fifth set, so I can't talk about the rest of the match, but Youzhny certainly played very well. And I saw his salute live!

But that wasn't what I meant to talk about. Kavcic is another one of those stories that you only find on the outside courts. I saw some of his first and second round matches, and he is an absolutely outstanding talent. I really think we are going to be seeing a lot more of him in the future. He is a story that is not going to be on the outside courts forever.

Same with Santiago Giraldo. I saw him play - and lose to - Marin Cilic today, but he has some massive potential. He hits the ball hard and hits an excellent slice... and when he hits it, he makes a whoosh sound. How can you not love that?

For the first time this week, I sat and watched an entire match that did not involve Nicolas Mahut on an outside court. I don't normally do this - I'm flitting from court to court to court - but it was so hot today that there was no way I was giving up the patch of shade I found! Luckily for me, the match was a great one - John Isner vs Radek Stepanek. Throughout the match, you could actually see the cogs in Isner's mind turning as he figured Stepanek out. He played crap in the beginning - he lost the first set and smashed a racquet in spectacular fashion - but then... he worked it out.

There is a lot to be said for a thinking tennis player - indeed, any good tennis player needs to be one. I feel like Isner sometimes gets dismissed as being just a serve, but he really does have a multidimensional game. His volleys in particular are outstanding. I think he will make mincemeat of Cilic in the next round - Cilic was better than I expected him to be against Giraldo, but he's nowhere near where he was last year - and might even take a set off Rafa in the next one, if Rafa isn't zoning.

I'm really hoping Rafa is zoning in the third round, though. But even if he isn't, he is going to take Bernard Tomic TO F%^&ING SCHOOL. And that is all I have to say about that.

Tonight was my last night in Rod Laver Arena, and there was no way it could live up to the previous two. But it didn't do so bad. Stosur had a really high quality win over Dushevina - definitely the best I've seen her play this year - and then Baghdatis/Del Potro was entertaining, if a little short. I would have loved to see the fifth in this match, but JMDP couldn't do it for me. I am a little concerned about his ongoing wrist problems, however - he had the trainer out three times for it, and there was one instance where he actually DROPPED HIS RACQUET in the middle of a service action. On a break point. Has anyone ever seen that before? I haven't.

But I missed, it seems, the moment of the day. However, I've heard alllll about it. Good on you for taking Todd Woodbridge to task, Kim Clijsters. You are awesome.

1 comment:

Bronze said...

Isner is a great argument for watching tennis live, imo. Agree that his attempts at point construction are way more visible courtside than on the screen.