Things We Learned on Day 11 of the 2014 Australian Open


1. Agnieszka Radwanska certainly wasn’t in the “Aga Zone,” but credit goes to Dominika Cibulkova for absolutely steamrolling the World No. 5. Much has (rightly) been made of Cibulkova’s inability to close out matches, but that wasn’t a factor in the semifinal. She stuck to her smart, aggressive gameplan, and didn’t try to overdo it or back off and become passive.

I sometimes forget how young Cibulkova is. At 24, she’s been around long enough for the tennis community to consider her a veteran, but she has plenty of time for her game to develop. As a fellow short person, I love watching her play. She refuses to abide by the stereotypes of the way short players “should” play. She’s not a grinder. She fires off big serves and pummels the ball as hard as anyone much taller. Like any player who hits the ball so hard, she can produce cringeworthy lowlights. But she’s hard to beat when she keeps those errors to a minimum.

2. I love the post-match press conference transcripts from unlikely finalists Stan Wawrinka and Dominika Cibulkova. So much happiness.

3. Reporters continue to ask cringeworthy personal questions to WTA players. Business as usual:

Q: If you win the Australian Open, do you think you’d find time to get married?

4. Stan Wawrinka had an interesting way of describing why Tomas Berdych lost:

Q.  Did your win over Djokovic, did you have the experience of beating Novak you’ve become a different player confidence wise?

STANISLAS WAWRINKA:  Yeah, more confidence with myself.  More confidence to go for the match, to finish the match also.  But, you know, last year I play four times against Tomas.  He beat me the first in Davis Cup, but then I won three times.

He was always the one who was a little bit choking few moments, a little bit down, and that’s what happened today again.

4. This is just amazing:

5. The Australian Open is tough. I can’t stay up to watch matches that start at 3:30 a.m. in my timezone, and then I mean to watch replays, but can’t find the time. Berdych-Wawrinka (and unfortunately Fedal) will join the list of matches I’ll be watching well after their completion once the tournament is over.


1. Ouch. Look, to be fair, I did say that the Aga Zone wasn’t an everyday affair. I thought that she would struggle against Domi, but not to that extent. After such an emotional and taxing win over Azarenka, she just simply didn’t have anything left. Of course it’s frustrating, especially as a fan, to see two great opportunities for at least a slam final slip through her fingers at in the last seven months. But, for some odd reason, after this, I really do feel like she’ll be back and have another few opportunities at grabbing a slam.

However, the girl is going to have to find a way to manufacture a second gear. She is so calm and low-energy regularly that her version of “flat” is nearly comatose. I understand that the scheduling was rough on her and that her legs were gone, but really, there had to be a way to at least fake enthusiasm for a major semifinal.

In her post-match press conference, she was as gracious as ever:

Q. You’ve played a semifinal before in a Grand Slam. How did that help you prepare for today?

AGNIESZKA RADWANSKA: Yes, well, I think every match at a Grand Slam is a very good experience, of course.
I mean, I feel good. Like, you know, of course it’s always a little bit pressure because it’s the semifinal of a Grand Slam. But I didn’t feel nervous that way.

Of course I wanted to win. It’s very disappointing, especially that I didn’t play, you know, the top 5 player. It’s a little different as well. I think she have one of the best tournament that she’s play in her career.
Well, good for her.

“Well, good for her.”

2. But don’t get me wrong–I am in absolute awe of Domi. She was dynamite on court yesterday, taking full advantage of every single short ball that Aga gave her with punishing conviction. Her boundless energy, aggression, and powerful shotmaking are a pretty lethal combination when they’re all working in unison like they have been throughout the fortnight.

Plus, she’s just a blast to have around, isn’t she?

Q. You’re ranked outside the top 10, but do you believe the way you’re playing at the moment you’re a top 10 player?

DOMINIKA CIBULKOVA: You know, this top 10 talk, I don’t want to talk about it anymore. So many years that everybody kept telling me, You should be top 10; why you not top 10? I’m just not.

Q. You said on court that you felt your energy or your fire early in your life. When did you sense that you were born with that?

DOMINIKA CIBULKOVA: I don’t know. I have it since I was little kid, you know. When I play my best tennis, that’s where you can see like the power and the fight. You know, you have to have something extra if you want to be one of the best tennis players and you are not the tallest, as I said.

So, yeah, this is what is my extra.

And what an extra it is.

3. Who says that the ladies of the WTA can’t be friends?

Q. You’re pretty close friends with Marion Bartoli. How much did you draw from her Wimbledon win?

DOMINIKA CIBULKOVA: She was a big inspiration. When she won the Wimbledon, we are very close friends, we are one of the best friends, so I knew she was working like so hard for it, so she was the one who deserve it so much.
Yeah, when she won it I knew like everything is possible. Yeah, it was nice.

Q. Did you talk to her during this run here?

DOMINIKA CIBULKOVA: Yeah, of course. Straight after my semifinal she came into the gym to me. She hugged me. We were both crying. She was so happy for me.

4. Genie Bouchard was not the best player on the court in her semifinal against Li Na, at least not yet, but I continue to be incredibly optimistic about her future. I must say that I was not really a Genie believer (or should I say “belieber”) before this tournament, but after watching her composure on the court and in press, and seeing how much she has improved over the last year, I think she is the real deal.

But, you know, BE CAREFUL, GENIE.

5. Well, Li Na is back in the final of a major. This is her third Australian Open final in four years, a beyond impressive feat, and for the first time, she’s the one with the spotlight and the pressure on her shoulders. She handled the moment like a champ in the semis against Genie, and while I think Domi will trouble her more than the young Canadian did, I think Li will finally get her well-deserved second major.

6. You can read more of my thoughts on the upcoming ladies’ final here.

7. I watched Berdych/Wawrinka in a sleep-deprived haze while writing another piece, so I don’t know how good my analysis of that is going to be, but gosh, am I thrilled for Stanislas Wawrinka. His improvement over the last year has been slow, steady, and startlingly impressive, and he has the game and the mindset to continue to make an impact in slams in the future.

For now, I hope he enjoys this, and comes to his first slam final ready to rumble.

Berdych showed great sportsmanship at the end of the match, too. He might have lost the match, but he’s won the Twitter war: