The first day of a Grand Slam is always the most hectic, but we kept our eyes peeled for as many noteworthy events as possible at the 2013 Australian Open. Here’s what we learned:
1. Approach Slam warmup tournament results with caution. Case in point: Grigor Dimitrov, who made a great run in Brisbane, crashed out in the first round at the hands of Julien Benneteau in straight sets.
2. The early rounds of Slams are always fun because they provide lower-profile players opportunities to play epic matches. Today, Edouard Roger-Vasselin beat Ruben Bemelmans, 11-9 in the fifth set. Only an early day of a Slam can provide such a spectacle.
3. You can always depend on Fernando Verdasco to play a dramatic five set match at the Australian Open. Last year, he fell to Bernard Tomic in five sets; 2011 he beat Janko Tipsarevic in five; 2010 he lost to Nikolay Davydenko in five; and in 2009 he beat Andy Murray in five, followed by losing a heartbreaking but epic five-setter to Rafael Nadal in the semis.
4. Marcos Baghdatis’ fans in Australia are the best. No contest.
1. Nicolás Almagro is still Nicolás Almagro. He kept his cool for 3.5 sets, but two mediocre tiebreakers meant that he got taken to a fifth set by young American Steve Johnson. Speaking of the former USC Trojan …
2. Steve Johnson shows a lot of promise. He has a great serve, a great forehand, and very decent movement. But his progress on tour will depend almost entirely on how much he improves his horrible backhand. Johnson does a lot of extra work by running around his backhand all the time, and better opponents (or really, other people not named Almagro) will find his backhand easier or punish him for leaving the deuce court wide open most of the time. Still, I loved the way he saved two match points in the fourth set, as well as his attitude throughout the match.
3. Even Ninjas need a wake-up call: Radwanska was down 4-5 to Bobusic, who was serving for the first set. No matter: the Ninja righted the ship in a rather violent way, winning nine straight games to advance to the second round.
4. Angelique Kerber can apparently win matches in straight sets. She obviously needed to come back from a break down in the second set, but still. Progress.
5. Tournament officials wait until the very last minute to tell you important stuff. Jerzy Janowicz was finishing his warm-up with Simone Bolelli when an Australian Open official told him the patch on his shirt (with the logo of a Polish cement company) that covered the Nike shirt had to come off. Something about the size of an advertisement patch on the front of a shirt (because he was allowed to keep the same patch on one of his sleeves). A distracted Janowicz lost his serve in the first game of the match, and then faced more break points in his next service game.
6. When Janko Tipsarevic starts playing as if he were Mario (from Mario Bros.) and he just ate a star, he’s so incredibly fun to watch, and so lethal. Lleyton Hewitt had to suffer Berserk Tipsarevic for a stretch of six games that straddled the second and third sets. And that little stretch ended up deciding the fate of their match.
7. Nike, Adidas, and Lotto have very good security systems in place. That’s the only explanation for why all three brands have opted to use yellow in most of their kits for this tournament. Its as if they agreed to work together. If they had been spying on each other, you bet they would have shown up with different colors.
1. The WTA top seeds are serious. I cannot remember the last time that the women’s event went so in-form on the first day. Hantuchova excluded, all the seeded girls played phenomenally. Sharapova didn’t drop a game, Venus Williams played like she had turned back the clock, and just when we started to worry about Agnieszka Radwanska, she reeled off nine straight games. I feel like this is going to be a special year in the WTA, and the fact that the star players got off to such no-nonsense starts is a very good sign that I am right.
2. I don’t know what to make of it because they weren’t on a TV court, but two of my favorite players were the first two men to make it into the second round. Xavier Malisse and Julien Benneteau both took care of capable opponents Pablo Andujar and Grigor Dimitrov without any drama. Maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks?
3. Mikhail Youzhny makes no sense. Okay, so I’ve known this for some time, but this was the Youzhniest win of all time. He lost the first set for no reason other than a complete inability to find the court. Then in the 2nd set he went up 5-1 and had a set point before losing the set in a tiebreak. Oh, and did I mention he got mini-bageled in the tiebreak? It was a disaster. But then, down two sets to love against a hometown guy, he started playing winning tennis again and took the match in five sets. He’s a special brand of crazy. (I love it.)
4. Madison Keys is the real deal. The future is bright.