Giving tennis more than a shot

Australian Open – Day 1 Roundup

 

It was an eventful first day at the Australian Open, where no less than 10 matches went to the limit of five sets, one seed fell, others trembled, and we already had our first (very) late night finish.

 

Let’s recap some of the day’s events.

 

Veterans mount big comebacks

Among the 10 matches that went to the limit, four were comebacks from 0-2. However, only two were successful, and both came from the racquet of seasoned veterans.

 

[23] Mikhail Youzhny d. Matthew Ebden, 4-6 6-7(0) 6-2 7-6(4) 6-3

As mentioned in my match preview, the Russian had won the only previous encounter between the two players, in Basel, a non-equivocal 6-3 6-1 round-of-16 triumph.

 

Considering Youzhny’s inconsistency, able of the best and the worse, sometimes even in the same match, and the recent results of the Aussie, this might have been, at first glance, an open encounter. However, having seen how well Youzhny played in Doha, falling to eventual runner-up Nikolay Davydenko, but in perfect control of his exquisite shot making, the veteran started with an extra edge coming into this match.

 

If Youzhny dropped the first set, he was quick to take a two-break lead in the second. He even came to set point, serving at 5-1, but he just, quite simply, appeared to collapse, which resulted in Ebden recovering both breaks and taking the tiebreak 7-0.

 

Mikhail YouzhnyThe tide turned in favour of the 23rd seed, when he took the third set, 6-2, never conceding a break chance to his rival.

 

The Aussie had a few chances to take the match in the fourth set, and even a match point when Youzhny was serving to stay in the match at 4-5. It was, however, to no avail. The veteran took the set 7-4 in the tiebreak, and the fifth set, completing the comeback in a 3:59 duel.

 

After the match, Ebden was quite philosophical and upbeat despite losing such a narrow encounter:

 

“For me, it was a very enjoyable match. I’m very happy with a lot of the improvements I made. I think my physical shape, I’m a lot fitter and stronger than I was. I’ve had a lot of improvements out there. My return of service, my backhand, all that’s improved a lot. Obviously got me to match point. Big deal.

 

Yeah, it’s how tennis goes some days. He won the point; I didn’t. It was a close 7 6, one break in the fifth.

 

But I’m obviously very happy with the way I’m playing. I’m a lot more confident. I feel I have a much more complete game now than probably the last year.

 

Yeah, to lose is never fun. It’s not the aim at all. But if I keep going the way I’m going, keep improving like I am, keep playing like that, I was proud of my mental effort out there as well. I kept fighting every point. He hit some great shots. He’s a quality player. He’s been to semis of slams. I gave the best I could. It was a tiny bit short.

 

I think if I keep playing like that, I’m going to win a lot of matches this year.”

 

In the second round, Youzhny will face up-and-coming countryman Evgeny Donskoy, which should be a very interesting clash of the generations.

 

[31] Radek Stepanek d. Viktor Troicki, 5-7 4-6 6-3 6-3 7-5

I mentioned it in my preview: Radek Stepanek is one of the veterans to watch and should have the better of Viktor Troicki… as long as the body holds up.

 

Radek StepanekIt seems like the body held up nicely, as the 34-year-old Czech came back from a two-set deficit to have the better of his opponent. However, it came close to disaster for Stepanek in the decisive set, as he let go of a two-break advantage.

 

In the end, there was no harm done for the veteran, as he broke for the match the third time Troicki served to stay in it.

 

We should be treated to an enjoyable match of old-fashioned veteran’s tennis in the second round, as Stepanek will face 31-year-old lefty Feliciano López.

 

Close, but no cigar

Two other players were nearly able to pull the 0-2 comeback, only to come short in the deciding set.

 

Alex Bogomolov Jr, who has been struggling for over a year after his wonderful 2011, ended up losing to Brian Baker, who took the match, 7-6(4) 6-3 6-7(0) 3-6 6-2, in 3:42.

 

It is, nevertheless, the match between Tatsuma Ito (photo) and John Millman that remains in mind. If you look strictly at the match statistics, the Aussie should never have lost it.

 

Stats

 

Tatsuma ItoHowever, this is exactly what happened, as Millman’s nerves failed him near the end of the last set, and despite an appalling amount of unforced errors (on both sides, since Millman had 80 of them, 102 for Ito), it is the Japanese who came out victorious, 6-4 6-4 3-6 0-6 7-5, in 3:29.

 

That is experience coming in the hard way for John Millman, who was playing his first Grand Slam main draw match. It is, nonetheless, quite gutting for him.

 

One upset

There has been only one upset in the first day of action, when Andrey Kuznetsov (photo), a very promising young player, defeated 11th seed Juan Mónaco, 7-6(3) 6-1 6-1.

 

Andrey KuznetsovIt is another bad Australian Open for the Argentine, who was playing his first match since the Copa Peugeot, last December, where he lost to Nicolás Almagro in the final. Since then, Pico injured his hand and had to pull-out from the Kooyong exhibition tournament the day before its start. Furthermore, he suffered a leg contracture during the match, which pained him more and more as the it progressed, not even permitting him to fight.

 

Mónaco will head back to Argentina, where he will rest for a few days before starting his preparation, on clay, for the first round of the Davis Cup, but also for the Golden Swing, where he will start with a title to defend in Viña del Mar.

 

Last call, Mr. Baghdatis!

Marcos Baghdatis seems to really like being the last man out of Melbourne Park at night. This time, he did not wait, and on the very first day, like a good barman, he closed the place, defeating Albert Ramos, in 4:15 and a pretty topsy-turvy match, 6-7(0) 7-6(4) 6-4 3-6 6-3, at 0:44 local.

 

It is a pretty tough loss for Ramos, who really gave all he had, but fell short against the Cypriot and his numerous (and as usual extremely vocal) supporters.

 

Other day’s results

  • [1] Novak Djokovic d. Paul-Henri Mathieu, 6-2 6-4 7-5
  • [4] David Ferrer d. Olivier Rochus, 6-3 6-4 6-2
  • [5] Tomaš Berdych d. Michael Russell, 6-3 7-5 6-3
  • [8] Janko Tipsarevic d. Lleyton Hewitt, 7-6(4) 7-5 6-3
  • [10] Nicolás Almagro d. [Q] Steve Johnson, 7-5 6-7(4) 6-2 6-7(6) 6-2
  • [15] Stanislas Wawrinka d. [Q] Cedrik-Marcel Stebe, 6-2 6-4 6-3
  • [16] Kei Nishikori d. Victor Hanescu, 6-7(5) 6-3 6-1 6-3
  • [20] Sam Querrey d. [Q] Daniel Muñoz-De La Nava, 6-7(2) 6-4 6-2 6-4
  • [22] Fernando Verdasco d. [Q] David Goffin, 6-3 3-6 4-6 6-3 6-4
  • [24] Jerzy Janowicz d. Simone Bolelli, 7-5 6-4 6-3
  • [26] Jürgen Melzer d. Mikhail Kukushkin, 6-1 6-1 6-2
  • [32] Julien Benneteau d. Grigor Dimitrov, 6-4 6-2 6-4
  • Kevin Anderson d. Paolo Lorenzi, 3-6 7-6(3) 6-3 6-4
  • Carlos Berlocq d. [Q] Maxime Authom, 1-6 7-6(5) 7-6(4) 6-2
  • Roberto Bautista Agut d. Fabio Fognini, 6-0 2-6 6-4 3-6 6-1
  • Ryan Harrison d. Santiago Giraldo, 2-6 6-4 7-5 6-4
  • Evgeny Donskoy d. Adrian Ungur, 6-4 6-4 6-2
  • Somdev Devvarman d. Bjorn Phau, 6-3 6-2 6-3
  • Lukas Lacko d. Gilles Muller, 6-2 6-4 7-6(3)
  • Édouard Roger-Vasselin d. [Q] Ruben Bemelmans, 6-3 6-7(5) 2-6 7-5 11-9
  • Feliciano López d. [Q] Arnau Brugues-Davi, 6-3 6-2 6-4
  • Guillaume Rufin d. [Q] Julien Reister, 4-6 7-6(4) 6-1 6-2
  • Xavier Malisse d. Pablo Andújar, 6-3 6-1 6-2
  • [LL] Tim Smyczek d. Ivo Karlovic, 6-4 7-6(5) 7-5
  • Daniel Gimeno-Traver d. Lukasz Kubot, 6-7(4) 6-4 6-0 4-6 6-4
  • Tobias Kamke d. Flavio Cipolla, 6-1 6-4 6-1

 

(Photos (except the match stats): Getty Images)

 

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