1. I’m now glad I didn’t stay up really late for Rafa-Bernie.
2. Because of John Isner’s retirement and Philipp Kohlschreiber’s withdrawal, one of the following four players will reach the second week of the Australian Open: Stephane Robert, Michal Przysiezny, Blaz Rola, or Martin Klizan.
3. This was funny:
Q. Another record which I think you have is that you’ve won the ATP Edberg Award For Sportsmanship I believe more than anyone. What does that award mean to you, and how cool is it having that guy as your coach now?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, a bit weird, and I think I won it more than he did (Laughter.) That’s my favorite thing about the award.
4. Frank Dancevic says he saw the cartoon character Snoopy before passing out during his match against Benoit Paire:
The world No.122 called being asked to play in temperatures of 42C in Melbourne ‘inhumane’ and admitted he believed an unexpected guest had appeared on Court Six.
‘I was dizzy from the middle of the first set and then I saw Snoopy and I thought, “Wow Snoopy, that’s weird”,’ Dancevic said. ‘I couldn’t keep my balance anymore and I leaned over the fence and when I woke up people were all around me.’
5. Andrea Petkovic’s reaction to losing to Magdalena Rybarikova:
— Andrea Petkovic (@andreapetkovic) January 14, 2014
1. If you told me that it would be a good idea to hold a huge outdoor tennis tournament here in Houston, I’d say great. Let’s do it. But if you told me that it would take place right at the beginning of August, I’d say you’re out of your mind. Houston is unbearably hot at that time of the year, and no human should be forced outside. Not even supremely fit professional athletes.
And yet, the Australian Open continues to take place in the blistering Australian summer. It’s the same damn story every single year, and nothing will change. Because that’s how tennis works.
But do let me state that it’s absolutely nonsensical to subject the best talent our sport has to offer to brutal conditions like the ones in Melbourne on Day Two of the Australian Open.
2. I remember Rhyne Williams as a soft spoken, polite young man from his unexpected run to the Houston semifinals last year. Today, the man from Tennessee put on a show against World No. 5 Juan Martín del Potro, making the latter work extremely hard for the ticket to the second round. I thought he moved extremely well, served well, and generated quite a bit of awe from the crowd when some of his forehands rivaled Delpo’s in terms of violence.
It was a brave, fearless display, albeit in defeat. Hopefully we get to see more of Rhyno in 2014.
3. Yaroslava Shvedova is a mess. She was up 5-1 on Sloane Stephens, and had “breadstick points” on the American’s serve. They were wasted, so Shvedova had to serve out the set at 5-2. She double faulted three straight times, and then sent a backhand way wide off of Sloane’s serve return. Translation: she broke herself at love. Sloane held serve, so Shvedova tried to serve out the set once again at 5-4. This time she didn’t fail as spectacularly as the first time, but she still failed, gifting Stephens two free points due to double faults. Not long after, Stephens would take a set she had no business winning, and later, the match.
Shvedova has immense pace off her groundstrokes, and moves very well around the court. But she’s completely devoid of confidence in the crucial moments of a match. Which makes sense if you consider the fact that she’s just 18-20 in WTA-level matches in the past year, with only one quarterfinal appearance to show for. As Roger Federer would say, a pity.
4. Just days ago I saw Kei Nishikori wilt in the Brisbane heat against Lleyton Hewitt. That was a best-of-three match. Today, Nishikori survived a five set tussle against Marinko Matosevic (who has never won a slam match, mind you) in worse conditions. That’s what you’d call swift progress.
5. Like many out there, I was excited for the Bernie Tomic-Rafael Nadal first round match. I decided to do the first LiveAnalysis of 2014 for that match.
It lasted a set, and Bernie injured himself in the first game of the match. As Podmaster General would say, BAD LUCK KLAXON.
6. Before I forget: Nike’s kits for the young guys out there are an absolute abomination. Here’s the Aussie brigade of Kyrgios, Kokkinakis, and Bernie:
What happened to Nike Tennis? So far, the overall Australian Open grade for the apparel behemoth lies somewhere between a D+ and a C.
On the other side of the spectrum, Adidas has produced mostly excellent stuff (with the traditional exception of the Stella McCartney line), and Fila has been surprisingly sharp. Uniqlo gave the nice kits to Nishikori and not Djokovic this time around, and Lotto is, well, Lotto.
At any rate, it’s just weird to see so many hideous Nike kits out there.
1. Ugh. John Isner. I have such mixed feelings. On one hand, I feel really sorry for the guy. He spent all offseason trying to fix his knee issues, completely changing the way he trained and the way he worked out, only go all the way to Australia and hurt his ankle. Being a professional athlete must be the most frustrating thing in the world, sometimes.
But, I mean, if his ankle was so hurt after Hopman Cup, WHY did he play Auckland? He had already gotten match-play experience in Perth. I mean, he won the title there, but his draw in Australia was good this year, especially after Kohlschreiber pulled out. I think he’s going to be able to contend at 250s until the end of his career, but I think he only has a couple more years where getting to the quarterfinals of a slam is a realistic goal. Why not prioritize that now?
2. I wrote about the frustrating but inspiring Venus Williams for Sports on Earth. I’m going to try and test out that patience thing.
3. What was I talking about again?
Fog MACHINE. MT @RomiCvitkovic: Dude. #abs RT @Nicarzani: Italy's No1 #FabioFognini cools off pic.twitter.com/vIBhipMwmX
— Juan José Vallejo (@juanjosetennis) January 14, 2014
4. Italians. It was great to actually see Andreas Seppi show some grit. I’m pretty sure he had a .05% chance of winning that match once Hewitt had come back from two sets down in front of his hometown crowd and then had a match point on Seppi’s serve, but Seppi pulled out an ACE when it mattered and then won the next three games to pull it out.
I honestly didn’t know he had it in him.
5. Sloane Stephens showed some tenacity coming back from a 1-5 deficit in the first set against Shvedova and finding a way to pull the match out in straights. A first-round loss here would have been a disaster. However, let’s get down to the important things:
Q. Talk about what it’s like to be back here, what you expect of yourself for this coming season.
SLOANE STEPHENS: It’s always good to be back here. I love being in Australia. I think the most disappointing part of my trip so far has been that I went to Pizza Napoli and they have changed into the Vietnamese restaurant. I think that was the most disappointing thing.
Q. Did you still eat there?
SLOANE STEPHENS: No. They were like renovating. They changed the entire inside. They’re open on Monday, but I’m devastated about that.
Q. The big question is now that your pizza place is no longer in play, how can come up with another go to place?
SLOANE STEPHENS: I found another go to place. It’s called … I don’t even know what it’s called. It’s called Cecconi’s, something like that. It’s so good. I found a replacement, don’t you worry.
Q. What kind of cuisine are we talking?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Italian. They have great gnocchi. But it’s a ragu sauce this time. You should try it. I’ll get you the exact name and maybe you can try it out. But don’t go when I go because you’ll be like creeping on me.
6. Ladies and gentlemen, Gilles Simon was on crutches two days ago after twisting his ankle in Kooyong and having the doctors tell him that he needed 4-6 weeks to heal. Every outlet reported that he was out of the draw, because, you know, HE COULDN’T WALK.
But Simon’s match wasn’t scheduled until Tuesday, and so he decided to play. He then went out into dangerously hot conditions and played for 4 hours and 32 minutes, finally beating Daniel Brands 16-14 in the fifth.
Here’s what he had to say after the match:
Q. Can you talk through your decision whether to play today or not play today given your injury from Kooyong.
GILLES SIMON: Well, I just try my best to be ready for the match. Was in really bad shape after Kooyong on Saturday. I think I just got lucky that the recovery was that fast for the ankle.
Still, it was very limit to go on court today. It’s always a tough decision to make. Like you go, and I think this time I got pretty lucky. Maybe you can just lose 2‑1‑1, and have a different feeling at the end. Would prefer to go full for sure.
You know, I just have a call to make. I say, Okay, it’s not easy that everybody saw me with the crutches. If I just go and I’m ridiculous, I guess no one’s going to talk good about me.
But, I mean, normally I just don’t pay attention. I just see the guy I’m facing. I know the guy has a good serve. I know he’s weaker from the baseline, so I know I can serve full. I mean, I never serve that many aces in a match.
I know it’s 40 degrees. Okay, we never know, just try, just go, everything can happen. I go, but then I got lucky.
Q. Were you able to play pain‑free?
GILLES SIMON: Oh, no, I’m not playing pain‑free. Far from that. No, it’s really painful.
But you decide what you will do on the court. I was just focusing on this. When he broke me after the third game, I say, Oh, it’s going to be a difficult day today.
Finally he got tight and I think I used it very good. I played a lot of serve and volley. I felt I couldn’t run from the baseline, so I was trying to keep it short to break to rhythm, to give no rhythm to this match.
The conditions helps, because when it’s 40 degrees you just miss everything because everybody is so slow. I just managed to play relaxed, focused on what I had to do, what I could do. Then I got lucky because I think he could win this match 15 times.
Q. Down 2‑1 in the sets, did you think about retiring?
GILLES SIMON: No. I decide I will go on court and then I see. Even if it’s 6‑1 in the fourth, it’s okay.
For me knowing that I’m really not in a good shape, just to go on court, play already 7‑6, I said, Okay. At least I had a chance, even to win this set, to create some pressure, something. Then if I lose, I’m okay with it. Like I know it before I go.
So that’s why I manage to play very relax. It was very important, because for him it was a very tough match, very complicated. You could see every time he was hitting a good stroke like it was a winner. I think he played like 111 winners, so I just had to pick up one side every time.
So he was in a really bad situation playing someone very relaxed. He knew he had everything in his hand and he had many occasion. Finally he lost this match. He must feel pretty sad now.
7. A look at Marinko MAD DOG Matosevic’s 0-12 record at Grand Slams.
I think what I’ve learned from this is that Gilles Simon and “Mad Dog” should do all pressers from now on. Gulbis is so last year.
“He must feel pretty sad now.”
I agree so much with Juan Jose. It will never cease to amaze me how reckless it is to hold this event outdoors in these conditions. But like you said, that’s unlikely to change. If players, ball kids and fans throwing up and passing out won’t do the trick then what will it take for things to change?
Will you guys be liveblogging more days or was that just for day 1? I hope the liveblogging comes back.
I had no idea Gilles Simon was so brave… er, stupid… er, insane…
I don’t even know how you do that.
Also, is Sloane Stephens back? I don’t mean re: her tennis, I mean re: her press conferences. That little blurb might have been the most delightful thing I’ve read today. I hope she’s back to being fun and maybe a little silly again.
Gilles Simon is still a tit.
Regarding the weather, equating the heat in Houston (or Brisbane) to the heat in Melbourne is not the fairest comparison.
Houston heat in the middle of the American summer is swampy and muggy and disgusting, you can’t even breathe because the humidity levels are so high. Even Kei Nishikori recalled similar humid conditions in Brisbane. In Melbourne, reports state that humidity levels were low, and that makes a really big difference when it comes to heat exhaustion. Yes, it was hot, and there should be a hard rule when it comes to measuring the heat index and stopping play, but the players mostly got on okay. I honestly don’t think the heat affected the tennis.
Federer would never close the roof. That’s just crazy.
I went to the Aussie Open last year, and I think it got up to 106 on one of the days we were there – absolutely sweltering. Felt like I was being cooked alive and I wasn’t even doing anything strenuous. (and I was even sitting in the shade of Rod Laver arena – I couldn’t imagine watching a match outside in the sun). The heat is dry heat though, very little humidity. I feel for the players having to go out and perform in this heat. I think they should seriously look into changing the date of the Aussie Open to April or something to get better conditions for the players. This date might line up better for the other grand slams anyways.
I will say though that among the 3 slams I’ve been to (Aussie, Wimbledon, US), I’d say Aussie is the best one. They have the most roofs of any of the slams (now with 3), the ticket plans are very affordable, and every seat in Laver arena is open to anyone to buy. We literally were sitting 9 rows away from Maria Sharapova at Laver, whereas at US Open you are banished to the 3rd deck where you can barely make out who is who.
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