I swear I’m going to make better match selections. When I look back on what matches I chose to watch today, I’ll probably never understand myself. But they were spontaneous decisions based on a number of factors, such as timing and which matches were in their best stage to start following. For example, I avoided matches where match had gone underway and the first set was very one-sided. I’ll come up with a different formula, based more on what players I want to watch, and forget about the rest.
It was a relatively underwhelming day in Melbourne Park. I guess this is the result of watching one-sided tennis, patchy play and not a whole lot of top players. I started off with Lukasz Kubot and Nicolas Almagro, from early in the third set. Well, I was originally going to watch Mardy Fish, but walked in and saw that Daniela Hantuchova was playing. She just shouted ‘Come on’ about six times in two games, which I thought was horrible, then I headed off.
Kubot is probably one of the most aggressive players you’ll see on the tour. He’s tall and strong, and takes advantage of it as much as possible by leaning in, and putting all of his body weight into his shots, which also allows for easy transitions into the net within a few steps. His volleys are excellent. Because of his massive reach, he can finish a lot of points up there that many other people wouldn’t be able to.
The key difference was Almagro’s serve, because he was winning a lot of cheap points on his first serve, whereas Kubot’s was much more unreliable. It’s a very simple, fluid service action. It’s amazing how much he gets off it.
Due to Kubot’s aggressive play, he frequently dominated what would happen in this match either winning or losing points. He was going for broke almost all the time when returning serve. In the end, Kubot had something like 55 errors while Almagro had 11. It’s very rare that an unforced error count is that lopsided while the match is still relatively close. It was fitting that Kubot’s errors would cost him the match. One thing I’ve noticed is that Almagro tends to shout ‘Vamos’ quite passionately. It makes me feel his emotion… for a brief while.
Not really sure what to do next, I ended up going to see Stanislas Wawrinka play against Benoit Paire, or in other words to watch Benoit Paire self-destruct and make huge amounts of errors. Maybe he was injured though, as he did take an injury time-out in the second set. When I first started watching, I thought it was funny seeing Paire trying to slide around the court, probably completely ruining his shoes in the process. I don’t know how much he does that normally. I don’t know whether I stopped paying attention, or that he didn’t do it anymore afterwards. It obviously became less appealing once he was losing by huge amounts.
The other thing about Paire was that he was running around his forehand to hit backhands frequently. There was one shot which was clearly on the forehand side where he elected to hit a backhand! His backhand’s not even that great, just reliable. The way he was hitting the ball and his movement was very, very upright like he didn’t want to bend down at all. Maybe it was related to his injury.
The court was surprisingly quite full for this match. People were probably just waiting for Baghdatis. Wawrinka was hitting the ball quite hard and striking the ball well, but the whole time I was watching this match, I was thinking of leaving, and so I did after watching a set and a half. Sometimes I want to watch just enough so I can blog about it – what an idiot.
I went on to watch Bernard Tomic’s comeback against Fernando Verdasco on the big screen, which was awesome. All those down-the-line winners in the fourth set and clever slice backhands. In the fifth set, Verdasco started to open up the court better moving the ball around from side-to-side and not getting caught up with Tomic’s slice backhand all the time. But I really loved that match point where Tomic slowly rallied with Verdasco then hit that slice backhand down-the-line only to open up the obvious forehand winner down-the-line. It totally captured how Tomic had made his comeback in the match, by creating those little openings for those down-the-line shots then nailing them.
I just went randomly walking after that, caught a very short player in the corner of my eye, then realized that it was Olivier Rochus. Took a look closer then noticed two short players! The other one was Bjorn Phau. I stood there for a while evaluating whether I should watch the match. These guys have very aesthetically pleasing one-handed backhands, so that was a positive point. They also have great point construction and movement, though Rochus would definitely be better at point construction. His accuracy is great to watch. Rochus was grunting very loudly as if to make a strong point that he was trying very hard here.
This match really could have been a very entertaining match, had the match been like the first few games that I watched. But the rest were awful, just because Phau was awful. He was making a large amount of inexplicable errors of trying to hit the ball hard down the middle then missing. He shouldn’t be trying to play aggressively when he isn’t even doing anything with the ball. Maybe he had an injury, because I did see him bend over one point feeling out his leg muscles. I kept watching for longer than I should have, wishing that it would get better.
But after Rochus went up a break in the third set, I had a look at the fifth set of Donald Young’s match against Peter Gojowczyk. Switching over from Rochus’ match to this, it all seemed so unprofessional technically and mentally, but then again they were in the fifth set and probably spent. I think all that happened was that Young was serving terribly, so Gojowczyk took advantage of it by going up a service break and making a few backhand down-the-line winners. But being up a break was too much for him and he surrendered it straight away with some terrible errors, then Young picked up his serving and won comfortably after that, while Gojowczyk self-destructed. I would have never guessed that Gojowczyk was German, couldn’t really understand why he was getting an ‘Auf gehts’ in there by a supporter.
After a long day of having to deal with the annoying hot weather, it was good to finally get to the night session where David Nalbandian played against Jarkko Nieminen. Based on the quality of players, this match really should have been better than the other ones, and so it was at least in terms of consistency. I really enjoyed watching the players battle it out, as it seemed like there was no easy or reliable way to win points here.
I enjoyed watching Nalbandian’s awesome angles, dangerous enough to guarantee winning the point and being able to open up the court on the next shot, whereas many other players could hit a backhand crosscourt yet not really get anywhere near a point-ending shot. It just goes to show how a little difference makes a big difference, though that is also because Nalbandian is quite good at following up his most effective shots into the net.
Apart from that, it also surprised me how sometimes Nalbandian could come up with these spectacular shots from a losing position in a point, which would allow him to turn a rally that he looked almost certain to lose back into his favour. He can create those same trademark angles even from the defensive. Nalbandian was down break points on his serve at 3-3, then he saved them with some good play, then somehow that elevated level continued on to Nieminen’s service game where he broke serve and served it out.
Nieminen had some injury issues in the second set. It probably affected his serve more than the rest of his game. The rallies were still competitive, though Nalbandian’s consistency had gone down in the second set, which was probably what contributed to the close scoreline. It was such a shame that it ended in a retirement since I didn’t want the match to end. It was a good matchup which allowed me to see plenty of rallies, since neither of them had dominant serves.