Giving tennis more than a shot

Australian Open – Day 3 Wrap-Up: Crankiness, Injustice, And Rage

If I could describe in only one word the third day of action at the Australian Open, it would definitely be “eventful”. Many things have occured during (and after) the matches, some very good, but a lot, sadly, not good at all. From Mardy Fish’s crankiness and utter lack of class to Marcos Baghdatis’s racquet tantrum, as well as the blatant injustice done to David Nalbandian, there are many negative things that were seen yesterday (although Baghdatis breaking four racquets in 25 seconds was also a little funny).


However, there were also very positive things that we could see, starting with this incredible point, courtesy of Mr. Juan Martín del Potro:


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The most incredible in this point is that del Potro (11) actually succeeded in doing a Gran Willy, he who, about every time he attempts to do one, fails miserably. However, it was again not such a convincing match from the Gentle Giant, who played too passive tennis, waiting for the errors that inevitably ended up coming from Blaz Kavcic’s racquet. His serve, again, was not as good as it should be, and more often than not, he was misfiring forehands rather than firing them.


Then again, it was sufficient to earn himself a 6-4 7-5 6-3 win over the Slovenian and Delpo will face Yen-Hsun Lu in the third round. Let’s hope that his game picks up some pace, as the draw really cleared up him, considering that he now doesn’t have to face a seeded player until the quarter-finals.


The attitude that taints the exploit

The first top 10 player of the tournament has fallen yesterday and it is with absolutely no surprise to most of us that this player was World no 8 Mardy Fish. After all, except for a surprising quarter-final appearance in 2007, Fish had never gone further than the third round in Australia and it was obvious after his performance at the Hopman Cup that this year would be no different.


Alejandro Falla defeated a top 10 for the third time in his career when he topped Mardy Fish in straight sets (Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

It is the identity of the winner that raised more than an eyebrow. After all, Alejandro Falla remains known for having choked what would have been the biggest upset of the last 10 years in Wimbledon 2010, as he served for the match against then defending champion Roger Federer, ended up being broken and losing the match in five sets, the last one being a resounding bagel.


This data notwithstanding, Falla is playing great since the beginning of the season. Now rid of the injuries that marked the end of his 2011 season, the Colombian lost in the first round in Brisbane before making it all the way to the quarter-finals in Auckland, last week, falling in three tight sets to the eventual champion, David Ferrer. Truth be told, having seen Falla play last week, I am in no way surprised that he was able to pull an impressive 7-6(4) 6-3 7-6(6) win over a very cranky Mardy Fish.


Just like in Perth, Mardy Fish was in a very cranky mood yesterday (Photo: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images)

Because just like he was in Perth, Mardy Fish was very cranky. Moody, rude with the ball kids, it obviously was not his day. He ended up the match yelling at the chair umpire, as Falla had the trainer over at changeovers during the third set for what appears to be cramping. If that was indeed the case, according to the rules put in place by the ITF in 2010 for the Grand Slams and the Davis Cup, it should not have been allowed and, consequently, Fish’s rant would’ve been legitimate.


However, the fact that Fish completely lost all concentration from that is entirely his fault and Falla is not to blame for the American’s failure to turn things around and make the match change in his favour.


In the fourth round, Falla will face German Philipp Kohlschreiber, who benefited from the retirement of Pere Riba (blisters). Just a little thing: Riba could have refrained from tweeting a picture of his blisters afterwards.


When an umpire likely steals more than the show

We will never know if David Nalbandian would have won the match or not. We will never know what would have happened with the second serve on break point that wasn’t. What happened was that Kader Nouni once again is talked about for the wrong reasons. The French umpire’s actions at 8-8 40-Ad Nalbandian, were all of the most disgusting and despicable that I’ve seen coming from a chair umpire in such an important match.


Little recap: at 8-8, fifth set, 40-Ad Nalbandian on Isner’s serve, the lanky American serves a bomb that, later, the TV showed was out. The linesperson calls it out, but Nouni overrules. Barely audible over the sound of the crowd, it takes Nalbandian a moment to realize what was going on as he clearly hasn’t heard the overrule (I’m honest, me neither). From the moment he realized it, he asked Nouni what was going on, inspected the mark and challenged. These gestures took the whole of eight seconds. He was denied it.


Then all hell broke loose for the Argentine, who gestured, argued, and all in all was getting angrier with each passing second. Out came the supervisor who, after a few moments of arguing with Nalbandian, denied him the challenge, too, pretexting that it was at the umpire’s discretion. Even John Isner (16) had conceded that Nouni should let Nalbandian challenge!


David Nalbandian argued for long moments with Kader Nouni, who denied him a rightful challenge after what ended up being a wrong overrule (Photo: REUTERS/Toby Melville)


Out of sheer rage, Nalbandian threw his racquet, but the deed was done. Isner served a bomb, won his game and then went to win the match on Nalbandian’s serve, 4-6 6-3 2-6 7-6(5) 10-8.


You can see the whole of the incident here.


The pity of what happened at that moment in the match is that because of it, an incompetent umpire stole what had been, up to then, an absolutely wonderful tennis match, at least from Nalbandian’s point of view. Isner has a great personality, no doubt about it, but his tennis is what deserves rightfully to be called anti-tennis.


This said, Nalbandian worked so much magic (he lobbed 6’9″ Isner no less than four times during the match) and was in such great shape that he was arguably the best player on the court and should have won that match. For instance, his passing shots were, for the most part, formidable, and if he did, indeed, failed to capitulate on some key opportunities, I remained convinced that he should have ended up this match a winner.


David Nalbandian argues his case with the supervisor (Photo: Paul Crock/AFP/Getty Images)


As for Isner, visibly cramping during the fifth set, he was gentleman enough not to call the trainer for it. However, he should definitely, in my mind, have been gentleman enough to concede the point after the incident to Nalbandian, thus getting back at the pre-incident mark (break point down), just to be fair. To me, it would have been the gentlemanly thing to do. Furthermore, his reaction after winning that game, egging the crowd on, was of the poorest taste imaginable, especially considering that he had just been very lucky.


Isner will face Feliciano López (18) in the third round.


As for Nalbandian, he did not mince his words towards Nouni after the match, and if he was graceful enough to praise Isner’s play in the last game of the match, he did nothing to hide the bitter taste this loss has left in his mouth.  You can read his thoughts here. Nalbandian will now be getting ready for the first round of the Davis Cup, where Argentina will face Germany in Bamberg, in a little over three weeks.


Marcos Baghdatis loses it

It was a really moody day for the ATP players and Marcos Baghdatis was the last one to explode. This time, he broke four racquets in the span of 25 seconds, out of sheer rage, during his match against Stanislas Wawrinka (21).


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Honestly, having not seen the match, I cannot find this any other way than very entertaining.


Wawrinka ended up winning the match 7-6(3) 6-4 5-7 6-1.


You can find the full Day 3 results here. Worthy of mention, Roger Federer (3) did not play yesterday, as he received a walkover from Andreas Beck, who had to withdraw due to a lower back injury.


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