A day at the Open
Russell Degnan

In which we learnt why good players are good,
and why Australian supporters deserve their reputation for being dickheads.

Unless your a big doubles fan, Wednesday and Thursday are generally the best days for outside court action at the Australian Open. Most of the under-prepared and out-gunned have been eliminated already, leaving lots of reasonable contests and the odd outstanding match-up. Unfortunately, no games really stood out last Thursday, so I resolved to wander the back-courts, enjoy the sights and sounds and see what turned up.

The first match looked a lot more competiive on paper than it turned out to be. Court 6 played host to the attractive, seeded Gisela Dulko and Aiko Nakamura aided by a sizeable Japanese crowd. But Dulko's game fell apart. She never gcame to grips with Nakumara's solid serve, made an incredibly 34 unforced errors in 14 games (that's almost down 40 every game) and just 4 winners. A better player would have changed a few things, got the ball in play, and tried to hang in there until the groundstrokes started going in. But this one was all over very quickly. At 3-0 and two breaks of serve in hand I left Nakamura to chew on the carcass of the Argentinian to watch the end of Pennetta's mauling of Sucha on court 8.

Court 8 is a lovely little boutique court with some trees and a small grass embankment on one side. Unfortunately one of the open's most comfortable viewing spots is ruined by a double row of seats that obscure the court when you sit down. Despite this impediment, the grass was still more popular than the seats for patrons. Heaven forbid though, that we might want to sit somewhere comfortable and see the tennis.

Myskina's match against Jackson was the opposite of Dulko's loss. This was a match noone wanted to win. Myskina was erratic, but attacking anything with mixed results; Jackson didn't attack short balls, despite having some solid ground strokes, leaving Myskina to lose for herself. And she almost did. She should have lost 6-4 6-0, but managed to scrape back into the first set and win the tie-break before doing the same in the third. Good enough to win, but it was horrid tennis.

Then back to court 6 for some women's doubles. Doubles is often a good place to see big names normally confined to show courts, or younger players. A few years ago I first saw Sharapova play and you could tell she'd be handy. This year it was Nicole Vaidisova. Still 15, but ranked 16, she is tall and solidly built, but has a nice touch. Sugiyama is almost double her age, but still handy, while Hantuchova is proof that you can win grand slams in doubles without being particularly cognizant of its subtleties. The lady in front of us quietly used her as an instructive guide for her daughter in incorrect court movement. I suspect however, that this was all lost on the bloke who told Hantuchova he "wanted to f*** her" as she went to serve. If he was trying to put her off he succeeded, but women's tennis can probably do without fans like that.

Noticing that Hrbaty was involved in a trademark five-setter on court 18, we went and watched the last few games. 10-8 in the fifth is a fair game, so its a pity we only saw the end, but fortunately, the game on Vodafone was to prove almost as good. Ferrero didn't play especially bad tennis; he just didn't play as well as he might. His opponent, the lowly ranked Serbian, Tipsarevic, was coming out of qualifiers so he had the form to turn it into a dog-fight. Like Myskina though, Ferrero is good enough to win when it matters. The turning point came when he broke back, after Tipsarevic had a point to lead 4-2 in the fourth set. It was never in doubt after that, but it was a close thing.

Finally, as night came in, Martina Hingis came on court, and neatly disposed of Emma Laine. We only stayed for the first set in a game that was never a contest. If players can force Hingis back behind the baseline she will probably still struggle, but against Laine that wasn't going to happen. It is good to see her back though, not least because she adds something else to a sport dominated by long-limbed sluggers. If only she came to the net more.

Idle Summers 24th January, 2006 02:38:10   [#] 

Comments

We should play tennis sometime?
We should play tennis. Where can we hire courts in the area? Flagstaff gardens? Melbourne Uni?
BridgeGirl  24th January, 2006 09:18:26