Archive for January, 2009

 

A Bygone Era…

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

21 years ago Mats Wilander and Pat Cash played an epic final in the first Australian Open to be held at the current venue. Wilander won that match 8-6 in the fifth and it is rated to this day as one of the classic matches of that era.

Tonight these two great champions of the game returned to Melbourne Park to relive that historic encounter, and on this occasion Cash was able to exact some revenge in a good natured match between two friends who set about entertaining a tennis loving crowd.

It got me to thinking about how much the game has changed in twenty one years. A perfect example of this came with Cash, on the wrong side of forty at this stage, sending down some thunderbolts on his serve, with his fastest of the night clocking in at 208kph – pretty quick by anyone’s standards.

I doubt in his heyday he would have been sending down serves of this speed too often, but with the racquet and string technology today, a faster paced game predominates.

What was also great to see once more was the serve-volley play that was the trademark of players such as Cash and Edberg when they were winning championships. Unless there are some major changes to equipment, and a move back to more tournaments on grass, we have sadly seen the last of this style of play.

In a way it was almost poetic that this game was played straight after the semi-final win of Roger Federer, who is one of very few players on tour who would not have looked out of place playing in a bygone era. His more »

 

The Final Push

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

The last few days has been bursting with examples of the trials and tribulations players must go through to win a Grand Slam title such as the Australian Open. It explains this giant of a blog; the past few rounds have been so packed that it’s hard not to get giddy when called upon to write about them. And now, the stage has now been set for the semi-finals, and the elements that nagged at their games in the first few rounds now start to become a gruelling test. The title is so close, yet so far. And there are plenty of things that make a Grand Slam title even harder to grasp for the remaining players.

The heat

With temperatures reaching 40c quite regularly on the courts, the heat has already taken its casualties. Although not playing his best at the time and also beset with cramp, Djokovic struggled against the intense heat in vain; he eventually retired from his match against Andy Roddick in the fourth set. Many others have wilted under the heat to eventually go on to lose the game, but he is now the fourth to have retired from a match due to the heat in the past two days. The quarter-final game b more »

 

Top Seeds Through

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

There are two ways you could look at Serena William’s win today. Your take on it may depend slightly on whether you are a big fan or not.

1) She is a fighter. Today afer losing the first set she showed the fight that we’ve all seen before and ended up winning the match comprehensively. She is here to win this tournament and is hitting some form at the right time.

2) She got a little bit lucky. The first set of the match was played with the roof open, and with today’s temperature hitting over 42 degrees C (108 F) Williams was the player who was really struggling with the conditions. They then shut the roof for the rest of the match and Williams was able to compose herself and claim the victory.

Personally I strongly disagreed with the decision to shut the roof. They knew temperatures were going to soar, so they should have either had it shut for the whole match, or waited until the end of the match before closing it up. For me, changing the conditions mid-match is something that should be avoided.

On a side note, with her win today Serena Williams became the highest paid female athlete of all time in terms of prize money won. You get ten points if you can name the woman she replaced.

On The Men’s Side

Federer won his quarter final last night in such a manner that it had the feel of an off-season exhibition by the end – incredible shots of both power and finesse coming en masse from his racquet. By dropping just three games against a top ten more »

 

No Idea Who’s Going To Win!

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

As the tournament enters the second week I’ve got to you tell you, I’m pretty excited. The form that so many players are showing, particularly on the men’s side has been very impressive. I have found myself switching back and forth numerous times on who I think will win as the various players stake their claims with resounding performances.

After the Federer/Safin game I was convinced Federer would take this tournament by the scruff of the neck. But in his very next match he had to come back from two sets down to win in five against an opponent you’d think would offer him little resistance.

At the start of the tournament I was convinced Djokovic could not win – his confidence was down, he had an untried racquet in his hands and other players seemed more likely.

Then he goes and plays some unbelievable tennis on his way to defeating Marcos Baghdatis, who’s ranking in no way reflects the level of his play in this tournament. Djokovic is moving extremely well, and there was none of the holding back on ground strokes that a lack of confidence in equipment would bring. He is ready to win this tournament.

Unfortuntaely I have missed Nadal’s last two games, but a straight sets demolition of a player of Tommy Haas’s quality is impressive. Fernando Gonzale may have been a little leg weary after his previous two matches went the distance, but again Nadal’s win to progress to the quarter finals seemed very easy.

Outside of these three you have plenty of others that are more »

 

Controversies & Conspiracies

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

Cheating is a topic that you rarely hear mentioned at a tennis tournament, but in the first week here there has been one serious accusation pointed at a player which is currently under investigation.

There was a situation in a match here yesterday between Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Dudi Sela where Sela’s coach was seen to be texting on his mobile phone. Television cameras also picked up footage of Sela peering intently at something he was holding inside his bag, which he later admitted was his own phone.

His explanation for this was that it had been heard vibrating with what he said were messages from friends back in Israel, and he was attempting to turn it off at the request of the umpire.

The matter is currently being looked into by officials, with Sela denying any accusations of cheating.

One thing I have noticed through this tournament is that there seems to be an awful lot of players looking up to their coaches and getting their opinion about line calls before deciding to send it to hawk-eye for a challenge.

While I am most definitely in favour of using the technology, I think players should be doing this without any help from someone on the sideline who often has a better view of the situation than the player.

This is something that officials will have to keep a close eye on this season, and make some sort of stand. They either allow this coaching to occur, or penalize a player for seeking approval from the stands before asking for a challenge.

As it more »

 
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