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Australian Open 2014
Where : Melbourne, Australia
Date:Jan 13 – Jan 26
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The big-serving 13th seed, who had been struggling with an ankle problem, gamely played on for 82 minutes before throwing in the towel while trailing 6-2 7-6(6) in his first round contest.
It was not just the players who were struggling with the intense heat in Melbourne as a ballboy on court eight required medical treatment after fainting during Milos Raonic’s 7-6(2) 6-1 4-6 6-2 victory over Daniel Gimeno-Traver.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga fired down 15 aces as he got the better of Italian Filippo Volandri in straight sets.
Tsonga, who lost to Roger Federer at the quarter-final stage last year, overcame Volandri 7-5 6-3 6-3 courtesy of five breaks of serve.
He will now face Thomaz Bellucci, who progressed after Julien Reister retired.
World number five Juan Martin del Potro advanced to the second round with a 6-7 6-3 6-4 6-4 win over American qualifier Rhyne Williams in stifling heat.
The towering Argentine, who won the 2009 US Open, is a dark horse to win his second Grand Slam title having enjoyed encouraging form in the lead-up to Melbourne with victory in the Sydney International warm-up event.
The 22-year-old Williams, ranked 130 in the world, had other ideas as he matched Del Potro’s firepower in a tense first set and closed it out when the fifth seed stumbled in an error-strewn tiebreak.
Del Potro steadied in the second set and cruised to victory in just over three hours to set up a clash with Spain’s 62nd ranked Roberto Bautista Agut.
“I tried to focus for the match in the worst conditions to play,” Del Potro said in a courtside interview. “Really, really hot but the crowd kept me going.
“Hopefully the weather will be better on Thursday.”
Del Potro is unlikely to get his wish, however, with the temperatures forecast to exceed 40 degrees Celsius for the next three days until a cool change on the weekend.
Asian number one Kei Nishikori endured a gruelling five-set marathon in the Melbourne heat before taking his place in the second round with a 6-3 5-7 6-2 4-6 6-2 win over Marinko Matosevic.
Canadian qualifier Frank Dancevic and a ball boy, who both fainted, were the most obvious victims of the searing heat when temperatures hit 41 degrees Celcius on day two of the Australian Open.
Dancevic collapsed during his first round match against France’s Benoit Paire on the uncovered court six. He resumed after medical attention but unsurprisingly ending up losing 7-6 6-3 6-4.
The 29-year-old sat with a bag of ice on his head and had plenty more stuffed into a towel around his neck at chanegovers but he and Paire were completely drained by the end of the two hour, 12 minute contest.
Dancevic said conditions were plainly dangerous for the players.
“I think it’s inhumane, I don’t think it’s fair to anybody, to the players, to the fans, to the sport, when you see players pulling out of matches, passing out,” he told reporters.
“I’ve played five set matches all my life and being out there for a set and a half and passing out with heat-stroke, it’s not normal.
“Having players with so many problems and complaining to the tournament that it’s too hot to play, until somebody dies, they’re just keep going on with it and putting matches on in this heat.
“I personally don’t think it’s fair and I know a lot of players don’t thinks it’s fair.”
A ball boy had earlier required medical attention after collapsing during Milos Raonic’s 7-6(2) 6-1 4-6 6-2 victory over Daniel Gimeno-Traver on the equally exposed court eight.
The tournament’s “extreme heat” contingency plan was put in force for women’s matches, allowing an extra 10-minute break between the second and third sets, but the sliding roofs on both Rod Laver Arena and Hisense Arena remained open.
Under a change to the rules for this year, the decision on whether to stop matches at the tournament is now at the discretion of tournament director Wayne McKewen.
Rather than use the raw Celcius readings to assess the heat, organisers prefer to use the Wet Bulb Global Temperature composite, which also gauges humidity and wind to identify the perceived conditions.
Although there will be concerns about player safety, most competitors followed the line that, although conditions were tough, it is the same for both players.
There was no particular groundswell of support for closing the roof on both main show courts, either, although defending champion Victoria Azarenka said she would not have been against it happening in her match against Johanna Larsson.
“I would love it, I think my opponent would also enjoy that. But it’s fine,” she said. “I think we’re all in the same conditions.”
Roger Federer, the 17-times Major champion, was firmly against closing the roof on Rod Laver Arena.
“I think it should always stay open, honestly. That’s my opinion,” he said after beating Australia James Duckworth 6-4 6-4 6-2.
He added of the heat: “It’s just a mental thing … If you can’t deal with it, you throw in the towel.”
Although it was unclear whether it was connected with the heat, China’s Peng Shuai vomited on court during her 7-5 4-6 6-3 defeat to Japan’s Kurumi Nara.
There were also minor snags caused by the heat with France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga saying he struggled with his footing as his shoes softened and Caroline Wozniacki concerned about her water bottle.
“It was a little warm out there today,” the Dane said after beating Lourdes Dominguez Lino 6-0 6-2.
“Every time in the changeovers, ice bags, ice towels, everything … I put the bottle down on the court and it started melting a little bit underneath, the plastic, so you knew it was warm.”
With temperatures tipping 40 Celsius (104F) at Melbourne Park, the 24-year-old Belarusian looked out of sorts in the opening stages, giving the feisty Swede two opportunities to serve for the first set.
Despite battling back to win a tie-break 7-2 and then cruising through the second set to complete a 7-6 6-2 win, her patchy performance early on convinced Azarenka she had to brave the heat once more to work on her game.
“I mean, it’s not easy, those conditions. You can’t escape those. It’s pretty hot out there,” the world number two said after her practice session.
“I think … the ball with the conditions bounce a lot different and a lot higher, which suited her.
“It took me a little bit of time to just adapt and find my range and find my hitting zone.
“Sometimes it can be tricky, you know, to just find your range, as it was today a little bit.”
Azarenka is bidding to become the first woman to win three successive Australian Open titles since Martina Hingis achieved the feat from 1997-99.
However, her performance in the first set would have done little to frighten her challengers for the title, particularly hot favourite Serena Williams.
Larsson, ranked 91st in the world, had chances to serve out the first set when leading 5-4 then 6-5, only for Azarenka to break back both times and force the tie-break.
The Swede’s resolve appeared to melt away in the heat, as the heavy topspin forehands that had been forcing Azarenka deep into the backcourt started to sail long and wide, and the world number two raced to a 4-0 lead she never looked like relinquishing.
Azarenka sealed the first set after 72 minutes, then broke to love in the third game of the second to give her the buffer she needed and cantered to victory in 106 minutes.
“She really played well. She went out for her shots (and) I was expecting a tough match,” Azarenka added of the clash in the midday heat that was reportedly causing plastic water bottles to melt.
“It’s never easy .. when you play somebody who is probably a lot higher than you are in rankings, they just have nothing to lose.”
Azarenka, who faces Czech Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova in the second round, said she would continue her practice routine on Wednesday, even though temperatures are expected to be over 40C again.
“Oh no, no, I will definitely go and practice,” she said when asked if it might be better to stay out of the Melbourne heat. “You’ve got to prepare yourself.
“Maybe I won’t hit for two hours, but definitely going to go out … just try to keep the things that has been working before, what I was working on in Brisbane and my off season, and just try to reproduce it more and more and be disciplined with that.”
Isner was trailing Martin Klizan of Slovakia 6-2 7-6 in the first round of the Australian Open before retiring because of an ankle injury he first suffered at the Hopman Cup earlier this month.
The American, who missed the Melbourne tournament last year because of a knee injury, won the title last week in Auckland but felt more pain in practice on Tuesday and was not sure if he would be able to complete his match.
By playing, Isner guaranteed himself at least the first-round loser’s prize money of A$30,000.
Had he pulled out before the match a lucky loser from the qualifying event would have been promoted into the main draw.
“I think in a situation like that, maybe a rule could be put in place where the person who pulls out gets compensated 75 per cent, 80 per cent, maybe even 100 per cent of the first round prize money,” Isner said.
Slovenian Polona Hercog prompted criticism earlier on Tuesday when she retired after one game of her women’s singles match against Alize Cornet of France.
Hercog also collected A$30,000 for her 10 minutes of first round action.
“I would be in favour of a rule change because (Hercog) earned her spot in the main draw and if she’s hurt, you don’t want to go out there and play one game,” Isner said.
“But I think she deserves to be compensated in some way and have a lucky loser come in and play for second-round prize money and points.
“At this point I would think the lucky loser is just happy to get in.”
The American said he was confident he would be fit to take his place in Jim Courier’s US Davis Cup team for the home tie with Britain which begins in California on January 31.
“I have two-and-a-half weeks, I believe I can make it,” he said.
“That’s my goal, to be 100 per cent fit, not 95 per cent, because Courier’s not going to put me out there if I am not 100 per cent.”
Isner’s defeat leaves world number 51 Sam Querrey as the highest ranked American remaining in the draw.
The 16th seeded Japanese got the better of his Australian opponent after three hours, 40 minutes in the full glare of the sun on court two, sealing the victory when an exhausted Matosevic slapped a backhand into the net.
“Nish! Nish! Nish!” chanted the large Japanese contingent in the crowd, who had more than held their own against the vocal locals, particularly as the tiring players slugged it out in a deuce-heavy final set.
Nishikori, watched by new coach and former French Open champion Michael Chang, next meets Serbian Dusan Lajovic as he bids to match, or even better, his run to the quarter-finals at the “Grand Slam of the Asia-Pacific” in 2012.
Men’s number 21 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber withdrew from the tournament with a recurrence of a left hamstring problem before his match against Aljaz Bedene, who was instead defeated 7-6(3) 6-3 6-0 by French lucky loser Stephane Robert.
Three of the “Big Four” of men’s tennis also get their campaigns underway on Tuesday with Roger Federer having braved the daytime heat against local wildcard James Duckworth and Andy Murray to come. World number one Rafa Nadal faces Bernard Tomic in the relative cool of the evening.
The fourth seed has had a low-key build up to the first grand slam of 2014, with recovery from back surgery having limited his game time.
However there were clear signs that Murray was back to his grand slam-winning best on Hisense Arena – even if his opponent was out of his depth.
Soeda, the world No 112 from Japan, showed plenty of willing, but he could find no answer to the array of shots coming at him from the Wimbledon champion.
Soeda did serve out the opening game to love but that was as good as got for the 29-year-old as Murray claimed the next nine games without barely breaking a sweat – which was no mean feat as temperatures in Melbourne topped 43 degrees.
The first set came and went in 23 minutes, with Murray playing some delightful tennis – with his serve, in particular, looking a real dangerous weapon.
Although Soeda showed a little more fight in the second set he could do little to stop the Murray onslaught.
Murray’s intensity levels dropped a little at the start of the third set – and it was perhaps understandable given his lead, the level of his opponent and the oppressive heat.
Soeda was unable to take full advantage, though, and his resistance was broken once again in the seventh game.
Murray consolidated before breaking Soeda once again to clinch the match in impressive style.
Murray said: “It was my first grand slam game since back surgery so I was taking nothing for granted. I am really happy to win in straight sets.
“When you haven’t played for a while you are pretty stressed out before the match and nervous to know how the back is going to respond. But it felt good today so hopefully I will wake up tomorrow with no after effects of the match, but it has been a good start for me so hopefully I can keep going.
“I always get good support here. It is a tournament I have come close at in the past with three finals and a semi-final as well. I am more confident than I was a few years ago but I am lacking a bit of match practice. I need the crowd behind me so hopefully I can go one better.”
Tomic appeared to be struggling throughout the set in the hot Rod Laver Arena conditions and withdrew when Nadal served out the set 6-4.
The withdrawal was greeted with boos from sections of the crowd who had hoped to see the Aussie push the world No.1.
The Tomic-Nadal match was delayed by more than an hour after Lleyton Hewitt rallied from two sets down but came up short against Andreas Seppi.
Hewitt had a match point at 5-4 in the deciding set but couldn’t convert, then was broken by Seppi in his next service game as the Italian grabbed control and served out the match 7-6 6-3 5-7 5-7 7-5.
Earlier, Aussie teenager Nick Kyrgios announced his arrival as a future star with an impressive four-set win over Benjamin Becker in the first round of the Australian Open.
Kyrgios battled shoulder problems throughout the latter stages of the match but was still too good for Becker, winning the fourth set in a tiebreak to record a 6-3 6-7 6-2 7-6 result.
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Fellow Aussie Marinko Matosevic lost out after an epic five-set struggle in sweltering heat at Melbourne Park.
The Melburnian went down to Japan’s Kei Nishikori 6-3 5-7 6-2 4-6 6-2 on Show Court 2 in temperatures exceeding 40C.
Storm Sanders and James Duckworth also suffered early exits, Sanders in three sets at the hands of Italy’s Camila Giorgi and Duckworth in three to Roger Federer.
Other Aussies in action today include Lleyton Hewitt facing Andreas Seppi and Bernard Tomic playing world No 1 Rafael Nadal in the most mouth-watering clash tonight.
MELBOURNE, Australia — “Enough. Enough. Enough,” says The Head. “Just stop. You keep talking up Roger Federer, willfully blind to what should be obvious.”
“What are you talking about?” says The Heart, caught off guard.
“He’s 32 years old, barely able to see his prime in his rearview mirror,” says The Head. “He’s won one major in the last 47 months. In the last six months alone, he’s lost to players named Stakhovsky (who?), Delbonis (wha?), Brands (huh?) and Lleyton Hewitt, who’s even older. The thought of him beating Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic in a best-of-five-sets match? Come on. In sports, gods become mortals. You can’t wish it away.”
“You are cold, callous soul,” responds The Heart. “Check that: you are soulless. You are writing off the single greatest talent the sport has known. A great champion and popular –”
“Oh, stop with the honor and dignity and ‘great champion’ good guy talk. Look, Heart, we all like Federer as a figure and a figurehead. This isn’t a personal referendum. It’s about irreversible laws of nature.”
“Fine, Head. I’ll restrict this discussion to tennis. He can still play. The flame may flicker, but there’s still heat. He’s still Roger Federer, endowed with unholy amounts of ability. He still moves gracefully, especially when he’s fully healthy. Did you see his match today against James Duckworth? He hit a half dozen shots that no other player would even conceive of, much less execute. The squash shots, the half-volleys, the — “
“Don’t interrupt me, Head. I’m not done. He won 6-4, 6-4, 6-2. Twice as many winners as errors. 89 percent first points won. You keep talking about age 32, like Federer is fit for the glue factory. It was 108 degrees on the court today and, as usual, he barely broke a sweat.”
“Look, Heart, anyone can look good one day.”
“Exactly, my point. Seven good days and you’re a Grand Slam champion. In 2002 you and the other Heads were singing this same dirge, burying Pete Sampras. What happened? He remembered that he was Pete Sampras, regained his confidence, and won the U.S. Open.”
“Key word, Head: confidence. Federer changed his schedule. Federer changed his racket. Federer hired Stefan Edberg in this weird Jedi/soap box derby dad/guru role.”
“Arghhh. This one drives me nuts. If Federer does nothing and keeps to his routines, you accuse him of being stubborn and defiant and delusional. He decides to make some changes and be proactive? You and the other Heads accuse him of desperation. He can’t win.”
“I’m just saying: at some point reason has to trump belief.”
“Why? Since when are sports rational?”
“Suit yourself. Keep whistling in the dark and talking about the Big Four, and hoping.”
“I will. Far as I’m concerned, as long as Federer continues playing, he’ll be a contender to win any Grand Slam he enters.”
“Where’s your head, Heart?”
“Where’s your heart, Head?”
WERTHEIM: Venus Williams’ early exit at the Australian Open elicits questions about her career
If you were Roger Federer and the tennis gods offered you the following two scenarios, which would be more enticing: Win another Grand Slam title, or never win another Slam, but disallow Rafael Nadal from equaling your Grand Slam record of 17?
– Karan, India
• In keeping with my lawyer’s advice, I tend to stay away from hypotheticals, but Karan’s question is too good to pass up. There’s obviously a right answer and a wrong answer here, a high road and low road. Publicly, my answer goes something like this: “I play to achieve, not to deprive others. I want everything on my racket. I want to compete and may the best player win.” Privately, I give this scenario significantly more consideration.
There is one certainty in the tennis world: if it’s the week before a Grand Slam, Rafael Nadal must be complaining about something! Can somebody please remind this dude how petty he sounds whining about fast courts, particularly when he’s won two Wimbledons and two U.S. Opens? Also, as the cliché goes, the surface will be fast for every player. Tell him to stop griping and just go out there and compete. On a related note, a paucity of fast surfaces is just bad for tennis. Even Wimbledon’s playing like a slow hard court these days and that is a travesty.
–Gary Watson, Los Angeles
• Nadal has been asked about the court. Playfully, he says that they play too fast for his liking. I wouldn’t call this complaining, I would call it a guy answering a question honestly. (I would also note that he didn’t play here in 2013, so perhaps he isn’t the best person to ask.)
With all the talk of players hiring Grand Slam-winning coaches, do you think Venus Williams would benefit from that? If so, who do you think would be the best for for her? Chris Evert? Martina Navratilova?
– Brian Brown, Brooklyn, N.Y.
• Another hypothetical! At this point, Venus needs full health more than anything. Why not go off the board: Steffi Graf.
Venus Williams proves she still has her touch with this shot
Have you looked at the women’s rankings lately? Only a few years ago, it didn’t seem so diverse — there were more “ovas” than a fertility clinic. But today, the top 12 women represent 12 different nations. I would argue there is no more truly global sport other than soccer.
– Dale Stafford, Washington, D.C.
• Here’s an interesting theory: The late 1990s and early 2000s were about the Russian Revolution and “ova”-achievers. While it was harder to market, the next five years were about the Slavic Invasion, the Serbs and Czechs. The next wave of players will come from Asia. (Who knows, we might point to Monday’s upset by Thailand’s Luksika Kumkhum over Petra Kvitova as a sea change.) Regardless, Dale’s point is well taken. The globalization is tennis is as remarkable as it is relentless.
What are the perks of having a media accreditation in covering tennis tournaments? Do you get free seating/tickets or whatnot? Or do you also get other perks as well? Thank you!
– Nathan, Philippines
• Perks? Where to begin?! The stock option plan. The use of the corporate jet. The on-site masseuse. The driver on call. All the instant coffee you can drink and Saltines you can eat.
Seriously. most tournaments do a fine — and appreciated — job making the working conditions as pleasant as possible. There’s usually a media seating section in the stands. (Though I wouldn’t term this a perk — it can be essential to the job.) There’s usually transportation from hotels to the venue. There’s often a food allowance. Again, if you’re getting into sports media for the perks — and thinking you’re getting the equivalent of free tickets — you’re in trouble.
Kiwi tennis number one Marina Erakovic has beaten 21st seed Sorana Cirstea 6-4, 8-6 in straight sets in their first round match at the Australian Open in Melbourne tonight.
Erakovic saved two set points in the second set tie break in 40 degree temperatures in truley gritty performance after a disapointing start to the year.
“Probably the best I think I’ve performed at the Aussie Open so far,” Erakovic told Newstalk ZB
“I knew going into it it was going to be a tough one and I’ve played Sorana in the past so I knew what to kind of expect. She hits the ball really big and I really tried to dictate as much as I could.”
Cirstea, ranked 22 in the world, broke Erakovic’s serve twice in the opening set, however the world No. 52 returned in kind to break serve three times, before going on to claim the set 6-4.
The second set went to a tie-break, and remained tight at 4-4 before the match see-sawed, Cirstea taking the edge 6-5, before Erakovic levelled again at 6-6.
Erakovic seized the moment and broke ahead to 7-6 before claiming the next point 8-6 to secure her first win of the year.
Having lost in the first round of both the ASB Classic and Hobart International leading into the tournament, Erakovic now looks forward to a second round encounter with Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan.
It is the third time she has progressed to the second round at the Australian Open.
Wimbledon champion Andy Murray showed little evidence of a three-month layoff due to a back injury to beat Go Soeda of Japan 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 today in a first-round match at the Australian Open.
He did not face a break point on his serve, and took advantage of six of his 13 break-point opportunities.
No. 4-ranked Murray has only played two official matches since minor back surgery in September, and said he needs to work his way into the tournament.
He played in the late afternoon on Hisense Arena, when temperatures slowly started falling after a peak of 42 Celsius (108 Fahrenheit) at Melbourne Park
“The air is so hot and a lot of players are struggling out there today,” Murray said. “I’m just glad to get through quickly.”
Murray has reached three Australian Open finals but is yet to win the season’s first major. Since hiring Ivan Lendl as coach, though, he has made his Grand Slam breakthroughs with titles at 2012 US Open and 2013 Wimbledon ending droughts stretching back to the 1930s for British men at the majors.
“I’m obviously more confident than I was a few years ago but I’m just lacking match practice,” Murray said. “I’m desperate to try and win here.
“I’ve had a lot of near misses, I’ve played some of the best tennis of my career here, but it hasn’t been good enough yet.”
Organisers tried to mitigate temperatures in excess of 40 degrees Celsius by providing towels packed with ice, hundreds of bottles of water and an extra 10-minute break between the second and third sets for the women’s matches.
Azarenka had no need of the extra 10-minute break after wrapping up her match 7-6(2) 6-2 despite having her service broken three times in the opening stanza of an absorbing contest and twice facing the Swede serving for the first set.
“First matches can be tricky and the weather is not really helping,” the Belarusian said on court after her win set up a meeting with Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, after the Czech beat Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei 6-1 4-6 6-1.
“But was really glad to win that first set, it was really important and then I played better in the second.”
Meanwhile, Slovenia’s Polona Hercog retired with a shoulder injury after just six points of her first round contest against France’s Alize Cornet on court six.
Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki lost her serve early in the second set but swept into the second round with a 6-0 6-2 victory over Spain’s Lourdes Dominguez Lino.
Azarenka ‘took time to find rhythm’
Victoria Azarenka says her slow start against Johanna Larsson was down to her taking her…
“Was this before the heat? Jeez it was hot out there, felt like I was playing in a sauna or something,” the Danish 10th seed said after her 67-minute contest.
“I was just trying to take the ice-towel as much as I could.”
Romanian 11th seed Simona Halep, who last year won six titles and was named most improved player on the women’s tour, took 54 minutes to beat Katarzyna Piter 6-0 6-1 in the first match on Margaret Court Arena.
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