Team VA's Wonderings

Monday, January 22, 2007

Have a break

I’ve never been to all 5 days of a test match; there have been a couple of occasions when I was scheduled to, but the games had an early finish. So the last 5 days at Melbourne Park have probably been the most full on sport watching I have ever done, although the Olympics were certainly more emotionally intense. I’ve been surprised just how much I have thoroughly enjoyed it; I’ve not watched much tennis before, so I may have been lucky. The poor matches have been over quickly, while the 3 and 4 hour jobs have been enthralling. I’ve had a nice mix of seeing players I want to win and match ups, where I’ve had no partisan preconceptions. It’s nice to be having a rest today, although I am writing this while Hingis plays on the telly: I’m back on Wednesday night for what I think will be a men’s quarter, then for the men’s semis and ladies final. My predictions haven’t been much cop-Mauresmo went yesterday, so did Gasquet, Hingis is a break down and Roddick’s doing well. Still Federer’s still there. Should not have said that-if he doesn’t make the semis I will be seriously gutted. My only problem has been heavy eyelids brought on by too many late nights out.

Anyway, what happened on my last day before heading to Rod Laver? For a number of reasons I didn't start at the Vodafone arena this morning:
There was play on the outside courts, so I knew Vodafone wouldn't be full.
The Tommy Haas game on Vodafone didn't appeal.
Due to the weather I hadn't seen much on the outer courts
With the Vodafone roof shut, I'd hardly been outside at all.
My tan was suffering.
I hadn't been on show court 3.
So I headed to see Ashley Harkleroad play Daniela Hantuchova. I’d seen both of them play doubles and they'd been noticeably the best players on court in their respective matches, so this looked the pick of the matches that were up first.

This is show court 3

This is essentially court 5-Rod Laver, Vodafone, Margaret Court and Show Court 2 are all ahead of it, but this still takes 3,000. I’ve no idea how this compares to the other 3 slams, but I thought that was pretty impressive. Sat in the right spot, you also get a view of the big screen. You really need to be cross eyed, but I was aware that Mauresmo lost and that Roddick won the first. My match was quite a long one.

For the record:
Daniela Hantuchova bt Ashley Harkleroad 6-7, 7-5, 6-3
This was a cracker. 6 breaks in the first set; Harkleroad up 4-0 in the second; Hantuchova gets going, looks a certain winner; Harkleroad ups her level in the third; at a set all and 3-3 I wondered about a monster 3rd set. That wasn’t to be, but it took nearly 3 hours for Hantuchova to win and she definitely deserved it. I picked the right match, Tommy Haas won his easily.

There was a real contrast in the emotional states of the two players-Hantuchova needed to be behind to get aggressive and play her best. She was emotionally inexpressive-during the game all we got were fist clenches (not pumps); once, on a crucial point, it was a double clench. I think she needs her doubles partner to consistently get the best of her. It seems Ashley needs her doubles partner to keep her on an even keel: we had racket throwing, towels snatched off ball kids and a drama queen ending. She let her racket fall to the ground and then the tears started-she clearly thought she was a lot closer to winning than she was. Given her behaviour, which cost her the crowd, it amused me that Ricky Ponting is Ashley’s president.

You do worry a bit for Hantuchova-I remember hearing at Wimbledon one year that she’d been struggling emotionally to refute reports of anorexia, bulimia or both. She won’t be the only player to have lied about her weight on her biog (I met an Aussie, who reckoned Serena was 15-20 kg more than the programme said), but I doubt any other player is saying she weighs more than she actually does. You really do want to feed her-her legs are smaller than other folk’s arms.

Still she made it through a long match, so what do I know. So, Harkleroad stopped crying, Hantuchova went for some lunch (I hope) and I was off to Margaret Court for some Mardy Fish, great name, but no accompanying tantrum.

I missed the end, as the rain came and I headed for Vodafone. Good news for Fish fans, he went through in 4. One last note on the first match, it was the first time I saw the winner leave before the loser, who spent a lot of time blubbing in her chair. I know I’m not very sympathetic, but she did behave like a total brat.

Nicole Vaidisova bt Elena Dementieva 6-3, 6-3. Er, what was that? The 7th and 10th seeds produced a scrappy non-contest, while the equivalent men's match (Ancic and Roddick) went to 5 on Rod Laver. 3 or 4 of Dementieva's games came from Vaidisova's nerves, who was good if inconsistent. But how is Dementieva seeded 7? Watching her serve is like watching a bad no 11 bat-you feel sorry for her and a little embarrassed that she knows you're watching. It's so bad, she must be self-conscious. She won two of her 9 service games, lost her ball toss at least 10 times and hit faults that would have upset me. I felt sorry for her. This didn't hold the arse end of a cheap candle to the Hantuchova match.

Tommy Robredo bt Richard Gasquet 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4. This match was delayed by 40 mins or so as they didn’t get the roof shut before the rain came and some of the drying methods are none too sophisticated.

But they do look after the ball kids.

The roof is magic tho-when the sun is shining they constantly adjust it to keep the court in sunlight, but the line judges in the shade. I thought Gasquet would win this, he’s been so good against Monfils, with a mixture of consistency and brilliance. I knew nothing about Robredo, however. From what I saw yesterday, he’s a bad tempered bruiser who can mix hard hitting with breath taking winners. I couldn’t tell if Gasquet was a bit off, or Robredo was just too good. The bad news for Tommy is it’s Roger next.

I may have to wear my thick walking boots a bit more. No word yet if they’re getting on planes.

Speaking of planes, John arrives here tomorrow.



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