Things We Learned on Day Five of the 2014 Australian Open


1. Serena Williams’ win over Daniela Hantuchova reminded us why Williams is so hard to beat, even on her bad days.

2. For some reason, this happened in Serena’s presser:

Q. You love to laugh but you also have a serious side. You have your schools in Africa and have read Mandela closely. Mandela’s message was pretty much forgiveness and reconciliation. Work with the springbox for reconciliation, put his jail in the front row of the inauguration. Do you think that spirit could affect your thoughts about what happened in the desert? There is a new generation of people who would love to see you there. Would that ever cross your mind as a possibility?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, it actually crossed my mind a couple days ago, or after I saw the movie.

Q. Do you think you would? It would be such a wonderful event for American tennis and for your career. Do you think that’s something you might consider in the future?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Like I said, it crossed my mind not too long ago when I went to see the movie. I thought about it.

Q. And your thoughts on that movie? Pretty strong, eh?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Right now I don’t know. I just have to focus on this tournament. But I think Mandela was a really amazing man. I felt really honored to have a chance to meet him, get to know him a little bit, and get to know his story a little better.

3. Ugh.

4. Since reading that ice baths might do more harm than good to athletes, I’ve idly wondered whether any of the top players eschew this recovery method. I have my answer now:

Juan José

1. There is little one can say about Jerzy Janowicz’s performance in his straight sets defeat to Florian Mayer, except to mention these tidbits from the press conference:

I don’t understand why Janowicz felt compelled to show up in Australia if his foot situation is as problematic as it seems (if you want more details, read his post-match presser). Playing injured is never a great idea, and it’s a worse one for a very tall man to play professional tennis on a bad foot (the NBA is littered with tragic stories about big men with foot injuries that don’t go away).

There are only two silver linings to Janowicz’s Australian Open adventure: 1) He defended last year’s third round points and 2) He somehow beat two people without much (if any) preparation (while playing at a level one would be generous to call mediocre).

But we’ll have to see if the ill-advised trip down under has any more health consequences for the unpredictable Pole. Hopefully there won’t be any, and once the foot fully heals he’ll be able to get back in shape.

Still, I wish Janowicz had looked at what Rafael Nadal did last year: sitting out a Slam and starting a comeback at a few very small events with a diluted fields seems more and more like a fantastic decision many players out there could emulate.

2. Alison Riske competes extremely well, and she’s improving at a very good rate. She’ll be in the top 50 for the first time in her career once the new rankings come out after the Australian Open, which is remarkable. Still, she was over-matched today against a focused Angelique Kerber. However, facing top 10 players is the best kind of lesson a lower-ranked player like Riske can get: no amount of practice or small events will replicate the things someone like Kerber can do on a tennis court.

3. Day 4 was crazy, but Day 5 was mostly a dud, with some unnecessary rain delays to boot. May things pick up tomorrow, now that the extreme heat is finally due to go away.

4. I was very disappointed in Sam Querrey’s performance against Fabio Fognini tonight. I had high hopes for the match, since it seemed like Querrey was turning a corner of sorts. And Sam actually started tonight’s bout in promising fashion: he had a set point at 5-2 in the first set, and served for it at 5-3. However, that’s when the match turned, and Sam seemed quite devoid of ideas on how to generate a comeback of any kind.

More than anything, I was perplexed by Sam’s bizarre tactical gameplan. He kept peppering Fognini’s backhand, as if it were a weak shot that would break down eventually. It struck me as unacceptably naive, since you don’t have to watch all that many Fognini matches to figure that the Italian’s backhand is extremely solid. Not only that, but Querrey’s ill-advised strategy left his Deuce court (or forehand corner) exposed, which Fognini was quick to recognize and exploit with some easy-looking backhands down the line.

Worse was seeing that despite the mounting evidence of the futility of that initial gameplan, Sam never really adjusted, and went meekly into the night in straight sets.

If you’re a fan of American men’s tennis, this is when you shake your head and sigh.

5. With all of that being said, BOW DOWN TO THE FOG MACHINE:

6. I watched very little of the Gasquet-Robredo match, but I do recall reading on Twitter that Gasquet had taken the opening set. I immediately thought that Robredo would end up winning in five sets anyway. Later, I was proved wrong, but only slightly: Tommy Robredo won in four sets.

7. Djokovic-Istomin wasn’t all that entertaining, but those who stuck with the match until its conclusion were rewarded with a sequence of unabated brilliance, courtesy of Denis Istomin. The overmatched Kazakh summoned the mighty powers of the Tennis Gods for the entirety of the fifth game of the third set, and produced a string of jaw-dropping winners, one after the other. It was like watching a highlight reel that didn’t have any cuts.

Djokovic was impressed, and gave Istomin a thumbs up as he headed to his chair. Later, once the World No. 2 sealed his passage to the third round, the Aussie commentator talked about how nobody who had seen that match would ever forget that fifth game of the third set. And he’s probably right.

So you might want to check YouTube for some highlights at some point. They’re not there yet, but I’m pretty sure somebody will upload that entire insane game soon. (EDIT: Here you go!)


1. I was pretty excited about Querrey/Fognini, but I should have known better. Fognini was just the better player in every single aspect of the game today, and Sam completely lost his luster after getting a 5-2 lead in the first set.

And now, just like that, Donald Young is the last American man standing. Ladies and gentlemen, the Quisner years:

2. And that’s why Li Na is Li Na and Lucie Safarova is Lucie Safarova. I just knew the second that Safarova saw that first match point fly by, that she was done–even though there was still over a set to go! We’ve seen that match before, I do believe. (Way too many times.)

Some fun presser excerpts:

Q. For all accounts, I guess you probably should have lost that game today. How does it feel to come through it with a good win?

LI NA: I think the five centimeters save my tournament. If she hit in, I think, Whole team on the way to the airport (smiling).

Q. You had a bunch of unforced errors in the first set. Your forehand was all over the place.

LI NA: Yeah.

Q. Would you like there to be a challenge system in life in general so if your husband is late you could challenge him or if your coach is giving you a hard time you could challenge him? Would you like a challenge system in life as a whole?

LI NA: No, I don’t want to do that. I only want to challenge on court. Because I feel my coach, my husband, my physio, they doing fantastic job. I don’t want to challenge against them, no.

3. Here’s something I don’t say that often– Kudos to Ana Ivanovic. The Serb, who has always loved Australia, came back after dropping the first set in tough fashion to win her match in three sets over Stosur. She didn’t let the raucous crowd get to her–she could even be seen laughing at their antics–and she played better as the match went on. Her forehand was as close to 2008 levels as I’ve seen it, and when combined with her movement and aggression, it was just a joy to watch.

4. Kevin Anderson is still in the draw? For some reason, I had thought he was out in the first round. That happens with at least one player every year.

*Checks* Ah, so I see that in the first round he came back from two sets down against Jiri Vesely and won the match. Then in this round he came back from two sets down against Roger-Vasselin! Not bad.

Unfortunately, Anderson gets Berdych in the fourth round. Anderson is an abysmal 0-9 against Berdych. All meetings have come in the last two years, and he’s actually lost to Berdych at the Australian Open for the past two years.

5. So yesterday was crazy for me and I didn’t get a chance to scour through the transcripts like I usually do, and therefore I missed all of this nonsense from Delpo:

Q. How much did you know about him coming into this match?

JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO: I know him very well. I think he play a great match during the four hours. It’s tough when you play very high level during four hours. Tough to beat the opponent. I was close.

But in every moment what I have, he play unbelievable shot. In breakpoint down, he serves well. He made winners with forehands, backhands, and he play always to the line very often during the match.

When you don’t have that little lucky on your side, it’s another thing negative to play. And I think he did really well.

Q. You came here as one of the top favorites in a tough section of the draw. Is this tournament unlucky for you? You haven’t produced your best tennis here before.

JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO: I like the tournament. I think this year the courts are faster than years ago. For Bautista’s game is much better.

But I’m still confidence playing this tournament. I think sometimes the favorites lose very early in a Grand Slam, like Federer in Wimbledon or Rafa, and then other ones in the US Open. Here is my chance to get out very early in the tournament.

But the season just started. I will try to be positive for the rest of the year.

6. A fourth-round match I’m super excited for is Bouchard/Dellacqua. If you listened to the Changeover preview podcast, we thought Bouchard could be here, but we picked Keys as her opponent. But Keys had a meltdown against Zheng, who lost to Dellacqua, which brings us here, ready for a fresh face in the quarterfinals.

It’s been a long and winding road for the Aussie Dellacqua, who has seen year of injuries and surgeries since reaching her career-high ranking of No. 39 in 2008. The past couple of years she’s been relatively healthy, but her success has come primarily in doubles. But now, at 28, she’s back into the fourth round of the Australian Open, with her partner and baby boy by her side, and it’s been an impressive run–she’s taken out Zvonareva, Flipkens, and Zheng without dropping a set!

And, as for the Canadian, Genie and her attitude are certainly worth keeping an eye on–the girl isn’t intimidated by anything. But her “fashiony” sense could use a bit of work:

Q. What is the thought process behind the clothes you’re wearing for this tournament, the style?

EUGENIE BOUCHARD: The clothing? It’s very fashion-y. I don’t think you’d understand it. It’s high waisted. I tuck in the top. Just a different look.

7. Tommy BETTER-THAN-EVER Robredo. (It’s not so catchy yet, but I’m working on it.)

One Response

  1. Diana
    Diana January 17, 2014 at 7:24 pm |

    After watching Querrey losing too Fognini so horribly, I’m even more disappointed(if that is even possible)in Gulbis.I’m *trying* not to lose faith in Ernie, damn it’s hard!
    I am, however, extremely happy for least one of the talented headcases on the ATP is pulling their act together.

    LI NA’s pressers/interviews always put a smile on my face.Really liked her answer to the real life challenge system.

    Delpo….you are still my number Juan 🙁

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