Giving tennis more than a shot

Australian Open – Day 1 Wrapup: The Five-Setter Day And The Rising Star

If there is one thing that we can say about the first day of the Australian Open, it is that it was all but boring. High drama, incredible shotmaking, Australian heat and tricky conditions were part of what the day brought us, along with a few upsets, some more surprising than others. The first day of action really made it worth spending the night up to follow it all, along with the emotion that inevitably came with it.

 

Slight scare for del Potro

I should know it. I should be used to it by now. Still, every time, I’m getting caught. So we’ll make things clear once and for all: Juan Martín del Potro is a slow starter. This said, I cannot tell it will help me in the long run. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure it won’t help me at all. It never helped before, it did not help yesterday and I don’t believe it ever will.

 

Photo: REUTERS/Darren Whiteside

Yesterday was not really different, as the slow start lasted the time of an abysmal set, where Adrian Mannarino really did whatever he wanted with the 11th seed. With the help of his tricky lefty backhand, the Frenchman gave quite a scare to many who hoped to see the Argentine go far in the tournament. And Delpo’s performance did not help in the least: the serve was not functioning well, the groundstrokes lacked precision, the forehand was powerless.

 

After this first set, however, things almost got back to normal for the Argentine, even though his first serve percentage still remained low, something I definitely hope will improve as Delpo gains pace during the tournament (yesterday’s was only his third match of the season). However, the rest of his game, particularly on the forehand side, got better and better as the match progressed, and while the unusual lefty shots of Mannarino continued to give him trouble, Delpo’s ranking and experience prevailed in the end for a 2-6 6-1 7-5 6-4 win that will have him face Blaz Kavcic in round two.

 

An avalanche of five-setters

Of the 32 first-round matches that were played yesterday, nearly the third of them (nine) went to the limit of five sets, three of them comebacks from a 0-2 deficit, ranging from the most spectacular (Bernard Tomic over Fernando Verdasco (22)) to the most bizarre (Alexandr Dolgopolov (13) over Greg Jones). I will definitely not get into details for all the matches, but these two are worth stopping on.

 

Bernard Tomic d. Fernando Verdasco 4-6 6-7(3) 6-4 6-2 7-5

Most of us saw this match as being the match to watch on Day 1, if only for entertainment value, and we were not disappointed. Under a scorching heat in a packed Rod Laver Arena, young Aussie Bernard Tomic and veteran Spaniard Fernando Verdasco fought it off for more than four hours, a roller coaster battle that left no one indifferent, from the fighting spirit of the former to the implosion of the latter.

 

"A Diet Coke doesn't go with Big Macs!" (Photo: Andrew Brownbill/AP)

First of all, I have to get back on Verdasco’s ridiculous outfit and get it over with. Not so many years back, I really liked Adidas’s outfits, but I must say that since two or three seasons, the kits are absolutely ridiculous and Verdasco’s “Electricity With High Energy” outfit was more like a wig-and-makeup free version of Ronald McDonald’s costume than something that befits, in my opinion, a tennis court. In other words, Verdasco looked ridiculous. Furthermore, I must admit that Tomic’s grit notwithstanding, his tennis of the last three sets matched this qualification as well.

 

As I mentioned, the conditions on RLA were absolutely brutal for the players and they had to sit with ice bags on their feet, neck, head during the changeovers to cool themselves down.

 

Bernard Tomic was indeed an exhausted winner, after a four-hour battle in pretty harsh conditions (Photo: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

At the beginning of the match, and for the first two sets and a bit, Bernard Tomic looked in no way like he did in Brisbane and I was wondering how much he really had put into his fitness during the off-season. Then he started to feel the ball a little better, to somehow regain energy and to fight more for his shots instead of attempting to stay in the shady corner of the back court for the majority of the rallies.

 

Meanwhile, it was the complete opposite for Verdasco, who started making even more errors and being all in all like we’ve seen him for nearly a year now: erratic, scrappy… and moody.

 

A well-deserved win by Tomic, no doubt, but a match that Verdasco should never had lost. With this, the Aussie signed his second 0-2 comeback (the first one was in Wimbledon, last season, against Igor Andreev) and will meet Sam Querrey in the second round.

 

Alexandr Dolgopolov d. Greg Jones 1-6 4-6 6-1 6-1 6-2

Photo: Greg Wood/AFP/Getty Images

If there was a bizarre match during the first day of the Open, it really was this one. Strangely energy-less, the usually feisty Ukrainian really let us think and see that something might not be completely right with him, as he was clearly dominated for the first two sets by the surprising Australian wild card, who took the first two sets 6-1 and 6-4 in very little time.

 

However, things took a drastic turn after that second set, when Greg Jones was attended by the trainer for a problem with his foot. At the same time, Dolgopolov seemed to have regained some of his usual energy and the match completely turned around, which led to one of the quickest 0-2 comeback I’ve ever seen.

 

Later on, Dolgopolov apologized for the scare on Twitter and explained that maybe his blood condition (he suffers from a blood illness) might have been the problem. Like him, I hope not.

 

 

In the second round, Dolgopolov will meet German Tobias Kamke, who made short work of Victor Hanescu, 6-2 6-1 6-2

 

In the other matches…

Juan Mónaco is being attended to by the trainer for an ongoing wrist issue during his match against Philipp Kohlschreiber (Photo: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images)

There is nothing more to say of the other matches, except for the defeats of seeds Jürgen Melzer (31) (vs Ivo Karlovic, who had never until yesterday won a set off the Austrian), Ivan Ljubicic (28) (victim of the heat and a 0-2 comeback from Lukas Lacko), and Juan Mónaco (25) (in a tough five-setter vs Philipp Kohlschreiber, which Pico ended with a groin injury – which explains the fifth-set bagel – on top of an existing wrist injury, and of whose match you can read an excellent recap on his website).

 

A surprising win for Argentine Carlos Berlocq who, by defeating qualifier Jesse Huta Galung 2-6 6-3 7-6(3) 6-3, won his first career singles match at the Australian Open and gets a meeting with Ivo Karlovic as a reward.

 

Sadly half-surprising was also the defeat of Nikolay Davydenko, who was beaten in five sets by Flavio Cipolla 6-4 4-6 3-6 6-2 6-1. It appears like the end is near for Kolya, which is what made me sad in his loss.

 

Finally, in the wee hours of the morning, Roger Federer (3) won his 60th match at the Australian Open, a routine 7-5 6-2 6-2 win over Alexander Kudryavstev. Quite a milestone again for the four-time champion!

 

You can see the full men’s singles results here.

 

To be continued…

There is another win that needs to be written about but this one really, to me, deserves its own entry. 

 

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