Things We Learned on Day Six of the 2014 Australian Open


1. Sloane Stephens had quite the presser:

2. Not that I’m surprised, but the media coverage of Caroline Wozniacki’s engagement has been typically sexist and awful. Not only does everyone want to bring up “the rock,” Neil Harman tweeted this (now deleted, so this is my RT) after Wozniacki lost to Garbine Muguruza:

You never see this kind of coverage with the male tennis players. With the women, commentators feel free to speculate about whether their career will be negatively affected. With the men, you hardly hear a word about it.

In Wozniacki’s case, I’m fairly certain she would be struggling to beat Muguruza regardless of her personal life.

3. This is interesting: over at Heavy Topspin, Jeff Sackmann found that although landing a high number of first serves in generally correlates strongly with winning matches, certain players appear to defy the trend, including Novak Djokovic:

While we shouldn’t read too much into any particular jag in this graph, it’s clear that the overall trend is very different from the first graph. Calculate the correlation coefficient, and we find that Djokovic’s winning percentage has a negative relationship with his first-serve percentage.

All else equal, he’s slightly more likely to win matches when he makes fewer first serves.
Djokovic isn’t alone in displaying this sort of negative relationship, either. The three tour regulars with even more extreme profiles over the last five years are Marin Cilic, Gilles Simon, and the always-unique John Isner.

Juan José

1. After all these months of trying to figure out just how good Simona Halep is (and can be), I’m becoming more and more convinced that she’s pretty close to reaching her ceiling. I watched her match against Zarina Diyas (who is two years younger than Halep), and came away more impressed by what Diyas could do with her forehand than anything Simona did. It felt that had Diyas been more experienced and less nervous, she could’ve pushed that match into a decider.

Halep’s lack of a clear weapon from the back of the court, average serve and intermittent desire to control a match still worry me. I want to see Halep tested by a big name, and I want to see it happen on a big stage. Thankfully, Grand Slams tend to present those opportunities. Jelena Jankovic is up next.

2. This is a thought I kept having today: Roger Federer will go from playing against three Challenger-level players in a row to playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who most likely will regain his usual top-10 spot at some point this year. Sure, beating up on hapless opponents helps with confidence, but I can’t imagine any of Federer’s recent foes coming remotely close to preparing him for a player of Tsonga’s caliber. We’ll see how that rematch of last year’s quarterfinal (won by Federer in five tough sets) turns out on Monday.

3. Sloane Stephens keeps improving, even if she keeps having costly blips during matches. Today she was up a break in the first set against a very game Elina Svitolina, only to lose that advantage and soon finding herself having to break serve in order to stay in the set. Which she did, and rolled from there.

The spark in Sloane’s eyes when talking about her upcoming match with Victoria Azarenka (who hadn’t booked her passage to the Round of 16 at that point) was fascinating. I cannot wait to see those two go at it again, given their notorious semifinal last year.

4. While looking for a Spanish interview with Garbiñe Muguruza to confirm the correct way to pronounce her name, I found this:

In case you don’t speak Spanish, I’ll tell you about the bit of that video that I found fascinating. As we know, Garbiñe Muguruza played Caroline Wozniacki in Miami last year. I remember wanting to watch that match, only to find out that it was scheduled on a non-TV court. I was disappointed. However, according to her coach, when Garbiñe herself found out that she wouldn’t be playing on Center Court, she was royally pissed off.

The point is, Garbiñe Muguruza likes the big stage. And today she fully took advantage of a great opportunity to announce herself to the world by beating Caroline Wozniacki once again (all the details can be found in the LiveAnalysis post for the match).

In a way, Garbiñe’s win was way more impressive than had she simply stormed Caroline Wozniacki like she (apparently) did in Miami. Muguruza did seem intent on blitzing Caroline streak early on, and had a couple of break points to go up 5-2 in the opening set. Wozniacki denied her, and turned the tables almost completely: a 4-2 deficit turned into a 6-4 set in favor of the ex-World No.1. Garbiñe seemed a little lost and hesitant; the 20-year-old stopped relying on her big forehand, and was scrambling just to stay with Wozniacki in the second set. Muguruza then faced very real adversity, as Wozniacki created a couple of break points at 4-3, which would’ve spelled disaster. But that’s when Garbiñe steadied herself, fended Wozniacki off, and soon after turned the match in her favor: she took the second set 7-5, and served for the third at 5-2. A little more adversity came her way, as she played a poor service game and got broken, but still found a way to immediately put together an excellent return game to clinch the upset.

Agnieszka Radwanska is up next for Garbiñe, in a match that will surely be on one of the big courts in Melbourne Park. It should be a fun one.

5. There were times last night when Donald Young played very good tennis. The kind that makes you think that it shouldn’t be that hard for him to be in the top 25. But every time that happened, Kei Nishikori had an answer. Japan’s No. 1 was thoroughly spectacular in his straight sets defeat of the last remaining American man, coming up with incredible defensive gets, booming forehands, and all-around excellence to thwart Young (who served for the first set).

For the first time in ages, I felt Kei knew exactly what he was doing with his forehand. In the past it seemed as if that shot was more hope than certainty for Nishikori. But yesterday he seemed completely in control of that forehand, placing it wherever he wanted. For those of us who enjoy watching Kei play, this was a fantastic development.

Up next for Nishikori is a massive challenge: World No. 1 Rafael Nadal. Last year Kei didn’t really bother David Ferrer in the quarterfinals, so I hope this year he makes more of a mark. He sure played well enough last night suggest he will.

6. I only had to watch about two or three games of Benoit Paire’s match against Roberto Bautista Agut to realize that there was very little fuel in the erratic Frenchman’s tank. Still, many kudos go to Bautista Agut, who backed up his huge win over Del Potro and now has a very real shot at the quarterfinals, given that his rival will be fellow second week newcomer Grigor Dimitrov.

7. Rafael Nadal played a simply spectacular first set of tennis against Gael Monfils. Then he seemed to tweak his foot:

The Spaniard was a little tentative for the next few games, but then appeared to be just fine, rolling over Monfils rather easily (though you could argue that Monfils collaborated in the rolling, particularly in Set 2).

Nadal was in quite the laughing mood by the time Jim Courier flooded him with silly questions after the match ended, which was quite reassuring. Let’s hope that what Rafael felt was just a little twinge that disappeared as soon as it came. Because I want to see the Nadal of that first set go against the usual Australian Open version of Novak Djokovic in eight days.


1. Benoit Paire lost in straight sets to Bautista Agut, but at least he left us with these pictures:

2. The perks of social media:

3. Why wasn’t I invited to dinner?

4. Once again, Sloane Stephens has beaten all opponents ranked below her at a major. The only time she lost to a player ranked below her at a major in the last two years was Marion Bartoli in the Wimbledon quarterfinals–and we all know what happened then.

I agree with everyone who says that Sloane desperately needs to bring this consistency to the non-majors, but I also don’t think that such consistency on the big stages should be overlooked.

Also, as Amy mentioned above, her pressers are amazing:

Q. Andy Murray was saying before the tournament pairing up with a legendary coach is a lot like dating a girl or something, like basically he’s trying to impress that person for the first three months. Do you feel that way at all, like in terms of the pressure or anything with Paul or feeling like you need to impress him with the way you play or fight or practice or anything like that?
SLOANE STEPHENS: No. That was kind of weird. I feel like you just said I was dating Paul and that’s soooo gross. Not really. Not really. I think it was coming in to working with Paul, I had like a couple of options of coaches. He’s in LA, and I honestly had no idea who he was.
And like the first time we had lunch was like super intense and crazy, but I was like it was weird, because it was like an old guy. I was like, I have never seen this guy before. It was creepy.
But, no, I think it’s better that I came in like open minded and like I just like I want to get better. I expressed to Paul everything that I, you know, felt and feel on the court and everything. I think he’s very understanding of that.
We did our thing together. We did pretty good work over the offseason. I didn’t feel like I had to impress him. I think he treated me like I was his child. It worked out good.

Q. You are in LA; Victoria has a place in LA now. You share the same agent. Have you ever interacted off court? Have you become besties? What’s your relationship with her?
SLOANE STEPHENS: No. I have literally never seen her in LA. So, no.

Q. So your off court relationship with her is like what?

5. Bless you, JJ. Bless you.

6. Stephane Robert has gone from LL to the second week, and that’s pretty impressive. Read his entire press conference, but especially this part about when he found out he was into the tournament. The crutches fooled him, too:

Q. How long before your first match did you learn that you were in the tournament?
STEPHANE ROBERT: Yeah, they told me like 10 minutes before.

Q. What were you doing?
STEPHANE ROBERT: You know, I open a bank account in U.S. dollars and I was filling a paper for the ATP. So when they call me, it’s not I put this in the rubbish, but, you know, I put this straight in my bag and then I went to see the referee.
He told me, Okay, you’re ready to play? Court 7. Go. I see, I see my opponent, say, Okay, see you on court. And we went and played (Laughter.)

Q. Had you given up hope of getting in? Were you still hoping you would get in? Did you think it was unlikely?
STEPHANE ROBERT: No, no, no, the thing is Gilles Simon was a bit in trouble, you know, his so I knew already. I was in the restaurant, I saw him, and he was with a crutch.
But at that moment I didn’t know what was my position in the lucky loser draw. So I didn’t know that actually I was the No. 1 to get in after Martin Klizan got in.
So I didn’t know, and then the day after I realized, yeah. But I spoke a little bit with him on Monday. He told me he was getting better. So this time I knew he was going to be difficult because, yeah, he’s kind of, you know he knows what’s going on with his body.
Yeah, I was sure he’s gonna play. Right after Philip Kohlschreiber, you know, I was not in the locker room to check, Hey, guys, how do you feel? (Laughter.)
So I didn’t know anything. So that was a really surprise for me. I didn’t know that Philip was in trouble with his thigh, so it was good surprise.

7. I’m so excited Stephens/Azarenka and Tsonga/Federer. I definitely won’t nap through those. (Or at least I’ll try.)

3 Responses

  1. aaditya singhai
    aaditya singhai January 20, 2014 at 11:56 am |

    “Sloane Stephens keeps improving, even if she keeps having costly blips during matches”.
    Interested in knowing if she falls short of her last year’s result and loses with the same scoreline against the same opponent, what improvement is Juan Jose talking about?

  2. Animesh
    Animesh January 20, 2014 at 8:59 pm |

    I guess Halep has not reached her ceiling after all, reaching QF for the first time.
    I love reading the posts on this website but just like other tennis experts on USA tennis posts, most of the contributors in here are inclined to praise American players more than their worth.
    I personally feel that the likes of Harrison and few others would have been playing only the qualifiers if not for few direct entry to main draws they get because of their nationality and mutual-agreements between various countries to help secure wild cards for them in other grand slams.
    Someone local with results like Halep would have been the sweetheart in USA with the kind of improvement she had in the second half of last year.

  3. Joshua
    Joshua January 21, 2014 at 4:03 am |

    You’re right that male players seem rarely to have to deal with speculation about the effect of their relationships on their play — but this is highly unusual behavior in sports media. By volume alone, I’d wager the leading theory in the golf commentary world as to why McIllroy isn’t winning more majors is “because of Caroline Wozniacki”, Jay Cutler, Tony Romo and any other major American athlete who dates a famous woman gets the same treatment, with any slump attributed to the “distraction” of his girlfriend. I suspect we don’t see this in tennis mostly because even the famous women these men date are mostly famous only in their home nations and so the international press doesn’t catch on to anything other than how gorgeous they are and also because tennis players’ wives and even girlfriends are expected to travel with them everywhere which, through sheer force of creepiness, limits opportunities for the media to manufacture controversy. But at heart, this is something that happens to both male and female athletes (and their romantic partners) so it’s hard for me to say it’s sexist per se. And, I’m sorry, but when you get an engagement ring like Caro’s, you absolutely must want people to ask about it. If you wish to be modest about your personal life you can’t then also be immodest about it and expect journalists to look the other way!

Comments are closed.