1. Sometimes tennis feels like a game of foregone conclusions. As we watched Stan Wawrinka push Novak Djokovic to five sets, the assumption was that he wouldn’t get over the hump and beat the World No. 1. And he didn’t. As Nicolas Almagro went up two sets to love over World No. 5 David Ferrer, the assumption was that he would choke. And he did. Sometimes it’s frustrating to watch, but sometimes it’s impressive that the top players manage to be that consistent.
2. Maria Kirilenko is great.
Q. How surprised would you be if Serena didn’t win the tournament?
MARIA KIRILENKO: Well, I don’t care now, to be honest.
3. There’s just a competitive edge missing in Tomas Berdych. Faced with an opportunity to play Novak Djokovic after Stan Wawrinka took him to the brink, Berdych should’ve come out and tried to dictate the terms of the match. Instead, he came out passive and barely made the slightly weary Djokovic work to hand him a breadstick first set. He briefly lifted his level enough to take the second set, but once Djokovic started to dig into the match, Berdych disappeared. I just don’t have any confidence that Berdych will ever revel in raising his game for those big moments. Djokovic played a tremendous match, and in the process demonstrated what a huge canyon separates him from a player like Berdych.
Also, how amusing is it that back before the Davis Cup final, Berdych said there was something missing in Nicolas Almagro’s game, when the same exact description could so easily be applied to himself? Talk about having zero self-awareness.
1. I should start believing in Lindsay’s “Year of Li Na” prediction. I missed the Radwanska-Li Na match, but I was pretty confident that the World Number 4 was going to take care of the Mercedes Benz ambassador in more or less the same fashion she did in Sydney, especially after Radwanska’s impressive dismantling of Ivanovic. Turns out, Radwanska didn’t even win a set. The Year of Li Na it is, then.
2. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you watch tonight’s Ferrer-Almagro match and you’re instantly humbled. To say that it was a devastating loss for the man from Murcia would be a huge understatement. I’ll just add that this is the second horrible loss for Almagro in a little over two months: we all remember what happened in that Davis Cup final fifth rubber.
3. Maria Sharapova is possessed, and I’m not sure who can stop her, given Serena’s recent struggles with her ankle injury. Sharapova has lost all of nine games in five matches.That’s less than two per match, which means she’s been either handing out a bagel, a couple of breadsticks, or one of each kind of pastry. On average!
4. If Novak Djokovic’s forehand can have two more nights like today, he will be very, very hard to stop. The Serb took full command of today’s match with that element of his game, and apart from a second set blip, he never let go. It resembled what Sharapova’s forehand did against Venus Williams a few days ago.
5. After all these years, ESPN still does very strange things with their broadcast. Today, as Almagro earned a two-set lead over David Ferrer, and made everybody wonder if the huge upset was indeed going to happen, ESPN moved us away to the studio for some chatter, and then showed us a meaningless middle-of-set game from the doubles match between the Williams sisters and the No. 1-ranked Italian team of Errani and Vinci. This really happened.
1. “The Year of Li Na” is a thing! I just went back and looked at our Changeover Chat 2013 predictions where I started these proclamations, and I see that I predicted her to end the year top 5 and to make it to a Grand Slam final. Well, she’s still a long way from the Grand Slam final, since Maria Sharapova stands in the way, but her insanely aggressive style of tennis is going to make some noise this year. In fact, I’m not sure what my official pick will be but I will at least consider her for the upset vs. Sharapova. As I wrote in my blog about the match, I was most impressed by her net play. She was 20/24 at the net. Also, she served out both sets on her first try. The Carlos Rodriguez effect is in action.
2. A focused Maria Sharapova is a scary Maria Sharapova.
3. Correct Barry Flatman at your own peril.
@MariyaKTennis I STAND CORRECTED. A COMMON FAILING WITH US BRITS IS A RELUCTANCE TO STUDY OTHER LANGUAGES
— Barry Flatman (@Barry_FlatmanST) January 22, 2013
4. I love Venus and Serena Williams, but a part of me was thrilled to see Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci beat them today. Just like Serena in singles, when the Williams Sisters are in the draw there’s a lot of talk about the “real No. 1” in doubles. And it’s certainly a fair statement – they are Wimbledon and Olympic Champions. But Errani and Vinci have been phenomenal in doubles, and there’s a reason they’re ranked up top. It was great to see the Italians dig deep and pull off the “upset.” Forza!
5. Speaking of doubles, I was sad (though not surprised) to see the epic pairing of Thomaz Bellucci and Benoit Paire go crashing out in the quarterfinals. Oh well. We’ll always have the GIFs.