2006 – 2007, Australian Open
Australian Open, Melbourne
January 16-29, 2006; 128 Draw (32 seeded); Surface – Hard
The last Australian Open without the hawk-eye system, and extremely emotional one… Marcos Baghdatis playing just 17th tournament at the main level, stunned four seeded players, including three Top 10ers in a row during night sessions at Rod Laver Arena! ‘Baggy’ delivered an inspired tennis with a grin, which generated for him an enormous support from the Australian crowd (especially the Greek colony). He was stopped in the final by Roger Federer, who collected third consecutive major and cried like a child as he received the trophy from the legendary Rod Laver. Dominik Hrbaty became the fourth man to play four consecutive 5-setters in a Grand Slam event.
First round: John Pye
Third-seeded Lleyton Hewitt survived a scare in the first round of the Australian Open on Tuesday, overcoming Melbourne Park rookie Robin Vik in five sets. Hewitt, who lost in the finals last year to Marat Safin, struggled against the 58th-ranked Vik before closing a 6-4, 2-6, 5-7, 7-6(4), 6-3 victory in 3 hours, 46 minutes. “I would have probably collapsed if I was going to lose today,” Hewitt said. “I just tried hanging in there and waiting for my opportunities. I just bided my time and ended up breaking, but it was awfully close.” Vik, 25, made the second-biggest move into the top 100 on the ATP tour in 2005, jumping 362 places to finish the year at No. 62. He stunned Hewitt with 66 winners, mixing powerful ground-strokes from the baseline with some deft touches at the net. Hewitt hit 56 winners and had 61 unforced errors, improving in the 12 games as he started to dictate the pace of play. He squandered a 5:3 lead in the 3rd set, and saved four break points at 1:3 in the 4th set. Hewitt, who played only three matches since September due to a groin strain, toe surgery and time off for the birth of his first child in December, will play Chela in the next round. Hewitt, in his 30th major and 10th consecutive Australian Open, is hoping to be the first Australian man to win the home major since Mark Edmonson in 1976. Top-ranked Roger Federer of Switzerland dispatched wild-card entry Denis Istomin, cruising to a 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 first-round win at the Australian Open in Melbourne. Federer was broken once, when he was serving for the second set, and faced only three break points in the 83-minute match at Rod Laver Arena. The overwhelming favorite for the title, Federer lost only one point on his serve in the second set until he made three uncharacteristic, erratic errors to give Istomin the break in the second-to-last game. Istomin, a 19-year-old from Uzbekistan, is ranked 195th and playing in his first top-tier event. “It’s never really easy,” said Federer, who met Istomin for the first time in the locker room before the match. “As long as I win, I’m happy – it was a good start.” Istomin twice aced Federer as he held in the sixth game of the second set. He had eight aces overall, against only two for Federer. “I played good today, but had too many unforced errors,” said Istomin, who had 39 unforced errors. It was Federer’s second tour event since losing the final of the season-ending Masters Cup final to David Nalbandian at Shanghai, where he hobbled in on crutches because of an injured right ankle. He defended his title at Qatar two weeks ago and played in an exhibition tournament at Kooyong last week. Federer next faces Germany’s Florian Mayer, who beat South Korea’s Hyung-Taik Lee 6-4, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4. Tommy Haas, the former No. 2-ranked player who upset Federer in the Kooyong exhibition last week, had a 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 win over 14th-seeded Richard Gasquet. Gasquet was one of only four players to beat Federer in 2005. No. 12 Dominik Hrbaty beat Austria’s Oliver Marach 3-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-3. The upcoming finalists of 2011 & 2013 editions, Andy Murray (No. 62; debut at Aussie Open) and Novak Djokovic , were eliminated already in the opening matches: Juan Ignacio Chela ousted Murray 6-1, 6-3, 6-3, leaving Britain without a player in the second round at Melbourne Park; Steve Goldstein  stunned Djokovic 6-2, 1-6, 6-3, 6-2. Both youngsters (18-year-olds at the time) played together in doubles and lost in the first round as well. No. 2-seeded Andy Roddick, his big serve producing only seven aces, downed Michael Lammer of Switzerland 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 in the first round. Masters Cup champion David Nalbandian had some difficulty before overcoming Thai qualifier Danai Udomchoke 6-2, 6-2, 1-6, 6-7(4), 6-1. American Alex Bogomolov  notched his first Grand Slam win in ninth attempt, but was fined $4,500 for verbal abuse and obscene language after his heated first-round match with Chile’s Fernando Gonzalez at the Australian Open. Bogomolov beat the ninth seed 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-3, 6-7(3), 7-5 (4 hours 5 minutes) on Tuesday to set up a second-round match with Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu but the result was overshadowed by an ugly confrontation. Television replays showed the pair arguing angrily during a change of ends as frustrations threatened to boil over. The grand slam supervisors announced on Wednesday that Bogomolov had been fined $3,000 for verbal abuse and a further $1,500 for an audible obscenity. Under the sport’s code of conduct rules, Bogomolov could have been fined as much as $10,000 for verbal abuse. The only two players to have been fined the maximum amount were John McEnroe at Wimbledon in 1991 and Jeff Tarango at the same venue four years later. The 50th-ranked Paradorn Srichaphan led two sets to love, but was overhauled by the 21st seed Nicolas Kiefer and lost 6-7(5), 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-1, 6-2 in 3 hours and 50 minutes. With Paradorn went the last Thai hope at the year’s first Grand Slam tournament following the defeats of Udomchoke and Tamarine Tanasugarn. Paradorn was disappointed to have let slip his lead, but said his body closed down and his serve failed him. “Out there in the last set my body had a breakdown and he played a lot better and I couldn’t really move around the court,” the 26-year-old said. “I was disappointed to lose because I was up two sets and I had two match points.” Paradorn pulled out of last week’s Sydney International, relinquishing a quarter-final appearance with a painful quad muscle to keep himself for the Australian Open. He said he had recovered from the left quad strain and didn’t use it as an excuse for his loss to Kiefer. “The quads were really painful from last week but they recovered in time. They did not hurt at all during the match. It wasn’t about my injury, he played well,” Paradorn said. Kiefer, who took painkillers at the start of the fourth set for an ankle he twisted and forced him out of last week’s Kooyong Classic, said he noticed Paradorn was physically struggling and it drove him on. The Thai sports hero said he paid dearly for his fall-off in serving during the later stages of the match. “There were too many double-faults, 13 is a lot and I think it was caused by my legs, because I couldn’t lift them, jumping and hitting the balls. That’s probably why I lost today,” he said. “I didn’t feel that great after the fourth set, I couldn’t really move, I felt stiff, heavy, but he was down two sets to love and mentally he was strong, he was thinking positively, so good luck to him.” Tim Henman‘s Australian Open challenge was ended at the first hurdle by his Wimbledon conqueror Dmitry Tursunov. Henman won the first set and after losing the next two, led *5:1 in the 4th before losing six straight games to crumble to a 7-5, 3-6, 4-6, 5-7 defeat.
Second round: AP
Top-ranked Roger Federer advanced to the third round of the Australian Open with an emphatic 6-1, 6-4, 6-0 win over Florian Mayer. The 24-year-old Swiss star finished with 38 winners and closed out the 1-hour, 12-minute match with an ace. “It’s so nice to get quick matches in the heat,” said Federer, whose next opponent is 30th-seeded Max Mirnyi. “I thought I handled it well in the heat – I’m very happy with my performance, so it’s good.” Federer was so dominating that Mayer never had a game point after holding serve to pull within 4:5 in the 2nd set. Always a perfectionist, the normally stoic Federer did seem a little annoyed at his 18 unforced errors that accounted for one-third of Florian’s points. And after smacking a lovely forehand crosscourt winner for his third break of the final set, he allowed himself a little fist pump. He finished off the match with a pair of service winners and his eighth and ninth aces, then hit a ball high into the stands. The over-matched Mayer tried a little of everything, charging the net and flicking soft drops from the baseline, but nothing worked as temperatures reached 88. He became increasingly frustrated, shaking his head and even looking to the sky for help. In the longest 5th set of the tournament, in terms of games, Dominik Hrbaty defeated Dick Norman 6-2, 7-5, 5-7, 4-6, 10-8 in 3 hours, 51 minutes. It was Norman’s only 11th Grand Slam tournament; Hrbaty is playing his 37th in a row, a record among current players that began with his debut here nine years ago. The record fits him as neatly as his white cap. Only when all seemed lost did Norman change tactics, attack the Hrbaty serve and feel the relief of a scratch. “The first two sets he just killed me,” Norman said. “Then I attacked his second serve, he got a little bit restless…” At 203 centimeters, Norman is the second-tallest obstacle on the men’s tour; at two sets apiece he was looking like a dam wall. Hrbaty broke him to lead 3:2, but gave it straight back. Four times the Slovak held serve to stay in the match. Any nerves? “No, he was tired already, he was not moving well, I know if I play solid he has no chance to beat me,” Hrbaty reflected. “It was only the question of when I would get the chance to. I was waiting.” It came at 8:8, when Norman stuttered and Hrbaty pounced. Still, there were two double faults as he served for the match, but his belief held. “You always have kind of like, ‘what would happen?’, but if you lose… there is nothing worse.” Andy Roddick beat South Africa’s Wesley Moodie 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 in a no-nonsense, 1-hour, 48-minute match. Roddick had 30 winners and only nine unforced errors against Moodie, the Wimbledon doubles champion. The American got 62 percent of his first serves into play and won 85 percent of those points, allowing Moodie only one chance at a breakpoint in the match. ”I’ll take that most days,” Roddick said. ”I definitely felt Wes was going to come out and play big like he did, I needed to play well today.” Roddick had his own cheering squad that included a group of young women who wore spangled red, blue and silver hats, had letters of Roddick’s name painted on their bare stomachs and chanted cheers for him. With a sprinkling of American flags around Rod Laver Arena, it almost appeared as if Roddick was playing in the U.S. Open. When Moddie netted a backhand on match point, Roddick turned to his vocal admirers, pumped his fist and got a ball from the ball boy that he whacked up to them as they chanted ”USA! USA!” No. 13 Robby Ginepri failed to reproduce his successful marathon efforts of the U.S. Open, falling in five sets to German qualifier Denis Gremelmayr after leading by two sets and 3:0 with a break point. Gremelmayr won six of the last seven games in the third set en route to a comeback 2-6, 5-7, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 victory. Lleyton Hewitt was bounced out of the second round of the Australian Open Thursday, delaying his hope of winning his home Grand Slam for one another year. Argentina’s Juan Ignacio Chela easily got by the third-seeded Hewitt, 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(8), 6-2 to avenge last year’s emotional loss to the Australian (Hewitt erased two match points in the tie-break). The unseeded Chela rarely let Hewitt – or the boisterous crowd – get into the match. Hewitt, a finalist here last year, was hoping to become the first Australian to win this tournament since Mark Edmondson in 1976. But he committed 62 unforced errors and struggled the same way he did in Tuesday’s first-round, five-set victory over 58th-ranked Robin Vik. Hewitt rallied to win that match. This time, Chela squelched his comeback effort after Hewitt took the third set on his seventh set point. Chela, winning consecutive matches for the first time since August, got the last two of his eight breaks of Hewitt’s serve to take a 3:0 lead in the 4th set, then fended off one break point as he held serve the rest of the way, finishing it with a forehand crosscourt winner. Last year, Chela was fined for spitting in Hewitt’s direction during their third-round match. There were no incidents this time. The pair met at the net, shook hands quickly and quietly before Hewitt walked off without even acknowledging the crowd’s applause. ”I’m really happy,” Chela said. ”He won the third set fighting a lot.” Juan Carlos Ferrero wasted two set points in the 3rd set against Janko Tipsarevic, but rallied from a *1:3 deficit in the 4th set to win 6-3, 3-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2. In other 5-set encounter, Marcos Baghdatis, supported by Greek fans, stunned Radek Stepanek, seeded 17th, 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 0-6, 7-5. Baghdatis needed a treatment in the deciding set because of stomach cramps. Italian “lucky loser” Federico Luzzi  couldn’t convert any of his two set points in the 1st set tie-break at Vodafone Arena, and lost to Guillermo Coria  6-7(10), 4-6, 3-6. For the 24-year-old Coria it was the last match won at majors; in turn for the 26-year-old Luzzi it was the best major in career anyway, he never played again in the main draw of a Grand Slam event, suddenly died two and a half years later due to cancer… †
Third round: AP
As Roger Federer sees it, there’s room for more than one Swiss star at the Australian Open. On a day when heat proved the most formidable opponent – temperatures hit 104 degrees – Federer advanced to the round of 16 with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 victory over 30th-seeded Max Mirnyi of Belarus. Federer, top ranked and going for his second Australian Open crown, is happy to see someone else carry the Swiss flag in the season’s first major. “Fantastic. I’m extremely happy she’s back,” he said referring to Martin Hingis’ comeback. “I really hope she can go a long way. Being a Swiss, I’m really excited.” He finished off his opponent in under two hours in the last night match at Rod Laver Arena, completing a day that started with Hingis racing through her third-round match before the scorching sun kicked in. “I’m happy. I haven’t lost a set, I’m through to the fourth round once again,” Federer said. “Everything is feeling good. I have no injuries. I’m a happy person.” 🙂 Andy Roddick had 17 aces in a 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 win over French qualifier Julien Benneteau on Friday, hustling through the third round as temperatures started rising at the Australian Open. The 23-year-old American, seeded second, won 17 of the first 18 points against Benneteau, hitting five aces in his first two service games and racing to a 5:0 lead. “I’m just trying to be aggressive,” Roddick said. He clinched the first set in 19 minutes when Benneteau’s backhand landed long. When the ball came back from Roddick, Benneteau angrily belted it into the crowd. Benneteau held serve to open the second set but Roddick went on a five-game run. He won the set on another error by the Frenchman, who wore ice packs on his neck in the breaks between games to cope with temperatures that reached 91 degrees (35 Celsius). The extreme heat policy was put in effect Friday afternoon when the temperature exceeded 96. New matches on outside courts were suspended for an hour under the so-called heat stress index guideline, which combines the ambient air temperature and court surface temperature. Roddick, who had 28 winners and only 16 unforced errors, said he didn’t mind the heat and wasn’t in any particular hurry despite finishing in 1 hour, 22 minutes. His next opponent is Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus, who beat Denis Gremelmayr 6-2, 6-1, 6-2. No. 11 David Ferrer beat No. 18 Mario Ancic 6-3, 6-3, 6-3, and Fabrice Santoro overcame No. 8 Gaston Gaudio 6-3, 6-2, 5-7, 1-6, 6-4 in an entertaining match that lasted 3 hours, 47 minutes – Gaudio second year in a row lost a 5-set match on Rod Laver Arena. In the 3rd set, both players traded between-the-legs shots in one rally featuring all kinds of trick shots, including Santoro’s two-handed slice forehand. Baghdatis works the ball and the crowd. His rowdy fans at Melbourne Park helped him through and then circled Rod Laver Arena while chanting during Roddick’s match – giving the American a taste of what to expect in the next round. Dominik Hrbaty‘s victories have all been over five sets: Oliver Marach, big Dick Norman and improving Igor Andreev have been dispatched in similar fashion. But at one point in his latest start Hrbaty was looking set to make the long journey home. He looked in control at two sets to one up but lost the fourth and, when he went 4:1 down in the decider, things looked grim. At that stage Andreev was matched at 1.06 on Betfair. But Hrbaty’s stamina came into play once again – he has won 11 of his last 13 five-set matches and 16 of 23 in total – and he dug deep for a 1-6, 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 win. Sixth seed Guillermo Coria was dumped from the Australian Open on Saturday in four sets by French 25th seed Sebastien Grosjean. Grosjean, a semi-finalist here in 2001 and a two-time quarter-finalist, ousted the Argentine 6-2, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 in 2 hrs 52 min in brutal heat (Coria committed 23 double faults – record) and will play Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu in the round of 16 on Monday. Mathieu ousted Luis Horna 7-6(2), 7-6(7), 6-1 coming back from a 2:5 deficit in two sets. Coria sought a medical timeout at 1:1 in the fourth set and dropped serve twice on resumption as Grosjean took charge in searing temperatures under the opened roof of Vodafone Arena. He served for the match twice after Coria broke him in the eighth game but in his next service game he won on his second match point. Spain’s Tommy Robredo  beat American James Blake  for the first time in his career on Friday evening to snatch the last available spot in the fourth round of the Australian Open. Robredo, seeded 16th, had not beaten Blake in four previous meetings, including a Davis Cup rubber that was not completed, but chose his moment perfectly on Friday, winning 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in less than two hours. Blake had gone into the match as favorite despite being seeded four places behind Robredo, following his victory at last week’s Sydney International, but gave himself no chance by committing 46 unforced errors compared to the Spaniard’s 14.
Fourth round: John Pye
Andy Roddick thought he’d get it right at the Australian Open. Stung by a first-round exit at the U.S. Open last August, Roddick skipped the Masters Cup in November to give himself extra weeks to peak for the season’s first major. What he did not figure on, while running miles and pumping iron, was a guy like Marcos Baghdatis  stepping into serves and smacking returns past him with mesmerizing regularity. Baghdatis, a live-wire former junior world champion from Cyprus, hit 63 winners in a 6-4, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 fourth-round win Sunday, advancing to a Grand Slam quarterfinal for the first time, where No. 7 Ivan Ljubicic awaits. When one return winner zipped by him in the last set, Roddick turned to the crowd and asked: “What can I do?” “It’s disappointing when you feel like you’ve put in the work and there are no unanswered questions in my eyes as far as preparation,” he said. “You’re kind of left searching a bit – that’s an uneasy feeling. I don’t know if it’s easy just to shrug off.” Roddick’s loss left fourth-seeded David Nalbandian as the highest-ranked man in the bottom half of the draw, and a likely opponent for top-seeded Roger Federer in the final. A draw that should have opened up instead slammed shut for Roddick. “Most of (the losses) are big opportunities missed – I don’t know how to grade one against another,” he said. “They’re all not fun when you’re in this situation.” Nalbandian, who upset Federer in the Masters Cup final in Shanghai, made the Australian Open quarterfinals for the fourth consecutive year with a 6-3, 6-0, 2-6, 6-2 win over No. 16 Tommy Robredo. He next faces 33-year-old Frenchman Fabrice Santoro, who reached the second week for the first time in 54 Grand Slam tournaments with a 6-4, 7-5, 7-5 win over No. 11 David Ferrer of Spain. “I am still alive, reaching the first quarterfinal of my career,” Santoro said. “I’m going to fight. I’ll be there. It’s good because I always believed in my chance to do it and I think I was proved right.” In 14 appearances at Melbourne Park, Santoro  has only reached the fourth round twice. “Today I knew it was my chance and maybe the last one. I always believed in my chance,” he said. “I’ve said in the past three, four years, that I keep playing tennis because I like the game. I’ve achieved almost everything I expected, except a quarter-final grand slam.” Nikolay Davydenko rallied from two sets and a break down Monday at the Australian Open to reach the quarterfinals and snap Dominik Hrbaty‘s run of wins in five-set matches. The fifth-seeded Davydenko also saved three break points in the last game, winning five straight points and closing the 4-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 victory with an ace. After his 3 1/2-hour win on Monday, Hrbaty had spent a total of 13 hours and 57 minutes on court at Melbourne Park. The No. 12 seed from Slovakia was only the fourth man to play four consecutive five-set matches at one Grand Slam tournament. American Robby Ginepri was the most recent, winning three times in five-setters at last year’s U.S. Open before losing the semifinal in five to Andre Agassi. While Hrbaty had five comeback wins from 0-2 in five-set matches, it was only the second time for Davydenko. After dropping serve in the seventh game of the third set, ”something happened – I tried running,” said Davydenko. ”It was difficult. I tried to fight and was winning the third, fourth and fifth – easy!” Davydenko said he hoped he didn’t face the same situation if he met Federer next round. But if so, ”I try the same. If I lose the first two sets, I try to win the third,” he said. ”If I can’t, bad luck for me.” Roger Federer overcame an uncharacteristic 58 errors in his 6-4, 6-0, 3-6, 4-6, 6-2 fourth-round win over Tommy Haas. “I was really trying to just break his momentum. Tommy was making it difficult for me to play,” Federer said. “To be honest, I like to be pushed like this.”
Quarterfinals: John Pye
Nicolas Kiefer‘s win over Sebastien Grosjean was highlighted by a bizarre point where Kiefer threw his racket into the air during a point. He advanced to the Australian Open semifinals (his only Grand Slam semifinal) with a grueling and contentious 6-3, 0-6, 6-4, 6-7(1), 8-6 win over Grosjean on Wednesday. Kiefer’s in the final four for the first time in 35 majors after playing the longest match of the tournament – 4 hours and 48 minutes. In a bizarre point at 40/30 in the 12th game, Kiefer tossed his racket over the net just after Grosjean – serving to stay in the match – hit a forehand volley into the net. Grosjean immediately appealed for a hindrance ruling, but was denied by umpire Carlos Bernardes and then argued the point with Grand Slam supervisor Mike Morrissey – without success. Kiefer already had been warned twice for using obscene language. One more code violation would have cost him a point. He frequently questioned line calls, losing his cool as he lost the fourth-set tiebreaker and again when he was broken for a second time in the fifth set. The 28-year-old German smashed a water bottle at the changeover, but recovered to break Grosjean again and get the match back on serve. Grosjean had game points in the 14th game but Kiefer earned a match point with a pinpoint lob and clinched it when the Frenchman put a backhand volley into the net. The 14-game final set lasted 97 minutes! Grosjean was more consistent, hitting 59 winners while Kiefer hit 34 winners. Grosjean even won more points (169-160) but was hesitant in the final game. He was aiming for his fourth semifinal at a Grand Slam, and his first since 2001 at Melbourne Park. The days of unfettered progress – or is than un-Federered? – through a Grand Slam event draw seem to have come to a halt for top-seeded Roger Federer of Switzerland. He needed five sets to subdue Tommy Haas of Germany in the fourth round and required some luck and an opponent’s wavering nerve to navigate through a troubled quarterfinal. Federer saved six set points in the third set against No. 5 Nikolay Davydenko of Russia, winning 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(7), 7-6(5), in 3 hours 13 minutes on Wednesday at the Australian Open. Davydenko held leads of 4:1, 6:3, 7:6 in the third-set tiebreaker (earlier 6:5*, 40/15), and Federer called himself “a little lucky” to emerge from that deficit. “You haven’t seen me scrambling too much, especially back-to-back matches,” Federer said. “For some, it might be a surprise.” Which is why he was looking ahead, predicting a potentially difficult semifinal against Kiefer, who has defeated Federer three times in 10 meetings, but Federer has won the last six: “If you look down the results I’ve had with Davydenko, many of them have been tough. Same thing with Haas. So this for me is no surprise. Maybe it is for you. I’m not surprised. Don’t be surprised if it’s going to be tough again on Friday, because I’ve had some tough matches with Kiefer. He’s beaten me a couple of times, so I’m ready for a tough one at least.” David Nalbandian advanced to the Australian Open semifinals for the first time, overwhelming veteran Frenchman Fabrice Santoro, 7-5, 6-0, 6-0, today. The fourth-seeded Nalbandian was down a break in the first set, but reeled off 14 consecutive games to dominate the day’s first quarterfinal. Santoro, 33, and playing in the quarterfinals for the first time in 54 majors, was 13-0 when he got his first serve into play at the start. He won 34 points in the first set, but won only 16 in the next two sets. Santoro had Nalbandian sprinting from side to side, net to baseline, chasing drop shots, volleys and lobs until the 24-year-old Argentine got his ground strokes working and started passing him on both sides. “In the beginning, it was very tough, windy,” said Nalbandian, the Masters Cup champion. “Also, Fabrice has a very special game. It’s not easy to come and hit winners from the first point. In the first set I was a bit nervous – when I got a bit of confidence, I started hitting harder and better, with angles near to the line.” Santoro and Nalbandian exchanged service breaks before Santoro, serving to stay in the set at 6:5, was broken. At 0/30, the Frenchman had a rare ace but on his next point hit a backhand wide before Nalbandian blasted a forehand to the opposite corner to take the set, shouting “Si.’ Unseeded Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis extended his extraordinary run at the Australian Open on Tuesday, upsetting seventh seed Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3 to reach the semi-finals. Baghdatis, a former world junior number one currently ranked 54th, followed his shock win over second seed Andy Roddick with another gritty victory under floodlights at the Rod Laver Arena. Baghdatis played superbly in the first two sets, unleashing his full range of shots to grab a two-set lead before Ljubicic fought back to win the next two and force the match into a decider. Baghdatis, 20, fended off two break points in a tense third game then ripped a cross-court forehand past Ljubicic to gain the decisive break in the next game. Baghdatis squandered seven break points in the opening set before he finally broke 26-year-old Ljubicic in the ninth game off a forehand error. He broke twice more in the second set, the first off a backhand winner and the second off another Ljubicic mistake, before the errors started creeping into his own game. A double fault set up the break Ljubicic needed to grab the third set then another double fault cost him the fourth set as well before he regained his composure in the decider. Baghdatis’ success has sparked a surge of interest in tennis in his native Cyprus. He first picked up a racket aged four and his tennis fan father encouraged him to keep playing. Baghdatis was named “Man of the Year” in Cyprus after reaching the fourth round at Melbourne Park last year and he said he could onl”It’s disappointing when you feel like you’ve put in the work and there are no unanswered questions in my eyes as far as preparation,”y guess what the mood was like back home. “I don’t really know but I think it’s getting crazy, Roddick’s loss left fourth-seeded I think they’re all watching the match,” he said. Baghdatis left his Limassol home at 14 for the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy in Paris. His two older brothers both played Davis Cup for Cyprus. He said one is now a tennis coach while the other is a mathematics professor in the United States.
Roger Federer advanced to the Australian Open final Friday by beating German Nicolas Kiefer 6-3, 5-7, 6-0, 6-2. Federer was sharp – and occasionally brilliant – in beating the German for the seventh consecutive time (third major in a row – every time in a 4-setter). “I really turned it up when I had to,” said Federer, who won the Australian Open in 2004. The Swiss star broke Kiefer early in the first set to go up 3:1, at one point sprinting from the baseline for a drop shot and flicking a backhand around the post and down the line for a clean winner. In the same game, Federer reached another drop shot and sent a lob over Kiefer’s head that the German hit long. Kiefer won the second set after breaking Federer at 5:6. The German wasted his first opportunity with a weak forehand into the net, but Federer sliced a backhand wide on the next. Federer committed only two unforced errors in the third set – after 26 in the first two sets – to retake control. With Federer serving at 5:0, Kiefer saw his only break point vanish on a shot that was called long but that TV replays showed was on the line (the hawk-eye system kicked off two months later). Kiefer held serve to start the final set, but Federer then won five straight games. Kiefer saved two match points while serving at 1:5, then a third as Federer served in the next game. Federer finished it off with a serve that Kiefer whacked into the net. Swiss flag T-shirts were scattered around Rod Laver Arena, and the crowd was clearly behind Federer against the testy Kiefer, who repeatedly questioned calls. Kiefer was fined earlier in the tournament for swearing and was warned twice about obscenities in the quarterfinals. The top-ranked Swiss went from Australian Open front-runner to overwhelming favorite when his closest contender, fourth-seeded David Nalbandian, lost Thursday to Marcos Baghdatis, the exciteable 20-year-old from Cyprus. As if Federer’s road weren’t already easy enough: Andre Agassi, Rafael Nadal and Marat Safin didn’t show up because of injuries, and Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt lost in the early rounds. Baghdatis rallied to oust Nalbandian, 3-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4, winning 17 of the last 21 points and enduring a break for a late storm when he was three points from winning. In the 2nd set Baghdatis rallied from a *1:5 (0/30) only to lose two games in a row; in the deciding set he leveled at 2 games apiece after an initial 0:2* (0/30) disadvantage, afterwards came back miraculously from a 2:4 deficit. “Everything is first time here: getting to the quarters was the first time, getting to the semis was the first time, getting to the final – I hope it continues,’’ said Baghdatis, who had many Australians of Greek heritage, all dressed in blue, chanting for him inside Rod Laver Arena. Nalbandian, the Masters Cup champion and 2002 Wimbledon finalist from Argentina, is the last man – and one of only four in 2005 – to beat Federer. Baghdatis aims to be the next. “I believe it, my coach believe it, the guys I work with believe, my parents believe it,’’ said Baghdatis, ranked 54th. “I have worked for that… I’m very proud of myself… it’s been amazing.’’ Baghdatis produced some stunning shots – chasing into the corners, stepping into serves and racing to the net to hit 52 winners and only 41 errors. Nalbandian had four fewer winners and 15 more unforced errors. Baghdatis’ winning streak includes victories here over No. 2 Roddick and No. 7 Ivan Ljubicic. Against Nalbandian, he rallied from two sets down and then twice from service breaks in the fifth set. “I just didn’t think – I was in my own world,’’ said Baghdatis, who lost to Federer in the fourth round last year at the Australian Open. Nalbandian, who said he had abdominal muscle pain that affected his serve, was left almost speechless by the loss. “I got a lot of chances to win the match,’’ he said. “I can’t understand how I missed that opportunity.’’ Baghdatis snapped his 9-match winning streak.
Final: John Pye
Always in control on the court, Roger Federer was overcome with emotion while accepting his Australian Open trophy from one of the few people he’s still trying to match. The top-ranked Federer fulfilled overwhelming expectations by beating unlikely finalist Marcos Baghdatis 5-7, 7-5, 6-0, 6-2 in Sunday’s final to claim his seventh Grand Slam title and third in succession. He tearfully embraced tennis great Rod Laver while receiving his trophy. Laver twice swept the Grand Slams, a feat Federer will try to emulate this season – if he finally can win a French Open. Federer wept and was stuck for words at the award presentation. “I was so happy,” he said. “Then I had to go up on stage and speak. This is really too much for me sometimes. It’s just a dream come true every time I win a Grand Slam. I can’t block it out – I’m also just human.””I saw him cry, and I start crying,” Baghdatis said. “He is a great person. He shows a lot. He gives a lot to the people, I think. It’s just so emotional up there. You cannot control yourself.” Federer maintained his perfect record in seven major finals. And, at 24, he’s halfway toward Pete Sampras‘ all-time record of 14 Grand Slam titles. Sampras also was 24 when he won his seventh. Federer, who is the first since Sampras to win three consecutive majors, said he was unusually nervous as an overwhelming favorite against the 54th-ranked Cypriot, a former junior world champion. “The whole fact of being such a huge favorite. And if I lose, a huge upset since I don’t know when,” Federer said. “The whole thing was building up and waiting all day for the night session – that is nerve-racking on top of it. It was really tough for me mentally.” An 11-game winning streak from *5:5 (0/30) in the second set eased Federer’s nerves and took the match away from Baghdatis, who said his problems started when he began to think a huge upset was within reach. Baghdatis’ raucous fans, who grew in number as he ousted second-seeded Andy Roddick, No. 4 David Nalbandian and two other seeded players in the tournament, chanted between points. Dressed as if for a soccer match, they waved flags, cheered and whistled to the end. “I wanted to continue being aggressive… not to give Federer time to play his game,” Baghdatis said. “Maybe I was a bit scared of him. Maybe I didn’t really believe it. Things were happening so fast.” Federer acknowledged being concerned about a massive upset after falling a set and a break behind (0:2 in the 2nd). “I was struggling so much to hold my serve… I was sweating like crazy,” he said. “I thought, ‘Well, if this is going to continue, I’ll probably lose and (only) a miracle is going to save me.” Baghdatis had three game points at 5:6 to force a tiebreaker in the second, but Federer rallied to break on a Baghdatis forehand that was ruled just long. Federer then lifted his level of play, winning 27 of the 37 points in the third set to take control. Baghdatis had cramps in his left calf in the fourth set, and treatment didn’t help. He later said they probably were due to nerves. Federer set up match point with a forehand crosscourt, his 50th winner, and sealed the 2-3/4-hour victory when Baghdatis netted a backhand. Federer’s next career goal is a French Open title. A win at Roland Garros would give him four consecutive majors across two seasons, and he’d be halfway to a proper Grand Slam – last accomplished by Laver in 1969. “Absolutely, there’s some pressure there. I feel it already,” Federer said. Laver twice won all four majors in one season – the first time before turning pro in 1962. Federer’s seven major titles (35 overall at the time) tie him with eight other players – including John McEnroe, John Newcombe and Mats Wilander – and leave him one behind Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, Fred Perry and Ken Rosewall. Perry won them all in the pre-Open era (1933-36), Newcombe (1967-75) and Rosewall across two eras (1953-72). He passed childhood heroes Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg, who had six apiece. “I left my idols behind me now. That means something, I’m very pleased,” he said. “But they’re still my heroes from back in the day, Becker and Edberg.” Sampras won his seventh major in his 22nd try. Federer was playing in his 27th. Their birthdays are four days apart, and they won their seventh Grand Slam titles at the same age. “It’s quite scary if I compare it,” Federer said. “I’m on the same road, but I’ve got to maintain it.” Stats of the final.
Australian Open, Melbourne
January 15-28, 2007; 128 Draw (32 seeded); Surface – Hard
First Australian Open with the hawk-eye system and the last one on a green surface (the green will be replaced by blue color one year later). Roger Federer won the event not dropping a set as the first man in 27 years! He found a medicine even for Fernando Gonzalez, who was playing unbelievable tennis from the third round. A record for the longest tie-break (in terms of points) was leveled, there was also surpassed a record for the latest finish of a match (it will be broken one year later, in Melbourne). Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray notched their first valuable events in Melbourne, emphasized by destruction of dangerous opponents in the first round.
First round: (Reuters)
Top seed Roger Federer survived a ragged start to beat German Bjorn Phau 7-5, 6-0, 6-4 in the opening match of his Australian Open title defense on Monday. The Swiss world number one lost his serve three times in the first set and trailed 5:3 against the 27-year-old ranked 82nd in the world. “There were more breaks than normal today, more ups and downs but he played well and came up with some good shots so there was not much I could do,” Federer told a news conference. Federer quickly upped his game to power through the second set in customary smooth style. He broke Phau again early in the third set but the German hit back to level at 3:3 and started to cause the defending champion problems again with his raking groundstrokes and consistent serve. The 25-year-old Federer, seeking his 10th grand slam title, showed signs of losing his cool but he fought back from 40/0 down to break Phau once again and clinch victory on his third match point in 1 hour 47 minutes. Ninth seed Mario Ancic recorded a 6-4 6-3 6-2 victory over Japan’s Go Soeda, 18th seed Richard Gasquet beat Italy’s Filippo Volandri 6-4 6-4 6-2, while Jan Hajek‘s retirement while trailing 3-0 in the first set handed Juan Carlos Ferrero a place in the next round. Sweden’s Joachim Johansson was also forced to retire (right foot injury) after just two games of his clash with Spain’s Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. For 24-year-old Johansson it was the last match in Grand Slams. Veteran Australian Wayne Arthurs survived in a match that for a long time looked like being his last at an Australian Open. The 35-year-old dropped the first two sets of his first round match against Stefan Koubek of Austria, only to fight back and win the next three. Arthurs won 1-6, 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 6-2, 6-3 coming back from a 0:2 deficit in 3rd and 5th sets. The Australian, who is playing in his last national championship, put an indifferent first two sets behind him to take the third in a tie-break (Koubek led 4:2 in that tie-break). He celebrated with a timid fist pump before dominating the fourth set and closing out the match with a classic display of serve-and-volley tennis. The 2005 Australian Open champion Marat Safin reclaimed Rod Laver Arena last night, surviving a tense five-set first round clash to advance at Melbourne Park. Safin, who missed out on defending his men’s singles crown through injury last year, outlasted German Benjamin Becker 5-7, 7-6(2), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in his first game on centre court since beating Lleyton Hewitt in the 2005 final. Becker, who achieved fame by beating Andre Agassi in the US Open in the American’s final match last year, pushed Safin throughout a memorable match which finished well after midnight. In a see-sawing contest, Safin eventually took the whip-hand in the fifth game of the final set. He broke Becker’s serve after six deuces to break the German’s heart and set up the victory. Safin’s next match will be against unseeded Israeli Dudi Sela on his way to a possible third round match-up with Andy Roddick. The evening also featured one of the longest matches in Australian Open history, with Czech Lukas Dlouhy beating Teimuraz Gabashvili of Russia 6-3, 6-1, 6-7(5), 6-7(5), 16-14 in 4 hours, 46 minutes. The pair took more than three hours to complete the final two sets before Dlouhy eventually won through. The longest duration for an Australian Open singles match remains Boris Becker‘s 1991 win over Omar Camporese. Safin missed defending his crown at Melbourne Park last year because of a knee injury and didn’t win a title on tour for just the second time in eight years as he struggled to regain peak form. But he believed tonight’s match could be a turning point to lift him back to his previous lofty heights in 2007. “I can’t say it was a really beautiful match – it was a lot of fighting,” Safin said. “It’s difficult to play after you’ve been injured for a long time. Hopefully this match will give me the confidence to keep on going.” Second seed Rafael Nadal made light of the searing heat to crush American Robert Kendrick 7-6(6), 6-3, 6-2 in the Australian Open first round at Melbourne Park today. The 20-year-old Spaniard had to work hard to come from behind and win a tight first-set tie-break but he then turned on the power to overwhelm the world number 90 on Rod Laver Arena. Fifth-seeded American James Blake withstood a first-set tiebreaker, then pulled away for a 7-6(8), 6-2, 6-4 victory over Carlos Moya, a former French Open champion once ranked No. 1. Blake and Moya met in the Sydney International final last weekend, already knowing they’d face each other in the first round of the Australian. At the trophy presentations, Moya joked that he and Blake had an agreement: If Blake won the Sydney title – and he did in three sets – Moya would win in Melbourne. Blake laughed as he accepted that trophy for the second straight year and did his part to keep the gag going. He said he had his fingers crossed when the pact was made. “I was lucky to get through that,” Blake said of his Sydney win. “And he’s definitely not the guy I wanted to see in the first round here. But I felt great.” The future finalists, 19-year-olds: Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, notched impressive wins over experienced opponents. Djokovic stunned Olympic gold medalist Nicolas Massu 6-1, 6-1, 6-0 in 81 minutes, Murray almost triple bageled Alberto Martin in 69 minutes! The Scot dropped the only game leading 5:0* in the 3rd set. “I think if you look at all the juniors who played poorly last year, Djokovic, Gasquet, Monfils, all of them won pretty comfortably so I think we are all maturing,” Murray said. “Last year was obviously difficult but I feel like I’m playing much better this year.” Australian Chris Guccione lost a five-set thriller against Belgian Olivier Rochus. Guccione was trailing two sets to one before lifting to win the fourth set tie-break and level the match. The 21-year-old held four match points in the 10th game of the fifth set leading 5:4, but Rochus was able to steady and eventually win the fifth set 9-7. Also David Nalbandian escaped from match points down (two) to beat Janko Tipsarevic 6-7(5), 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-0, 2-1 ret. in 3 hours 19 minutes, fighting back from a *2:5 deficit in the 3rd set. “I was tired from the first point,” admitted Tipsarevic afterwards. “It’s not tennis any more, it’s who is going to last longest in the sun.” Andreas Seppi and Bobby Reynolds co-created a new record for the latest finish of a match (3:34 a.m.) overcoming the previous record from Tokyo ’06 when Benjamin Becker beat Jiri Novak at 3:24 a.m. local time. Seppi survived 6-1, 6-7(4), 6-7(5), 7-6(3), 6-3 saving a match point, and snapped his 10-match losing streak at the main level! Meanwhile, Mardy Fish sank Ivan Ljubicic in a 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-4, 6-4 fashion. Ljubicic, a quarter-finalist here a year ago, has suffered first- or second-round losses in six of his eight career trips to Melbourne. He’s bowed out in the opening round on four occasions. Other American to win in four sets was Andy Roddick, who overcame a shaky start against French wild-card Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, rallying from *2:5 in the second set to win 6-7(18), 7-6(2), 6-3, 6-3. The 2003 U.S. Open champion was constantly critical of chair umpire Carlos Ramos, calling the Portuguese official a “glorified scorekeeper” after a call that gave Tsonga a set point at 11:10 in the first tiebreaker. Roddick, who wasted four set points in the tiebreaker (7:6 – ace, 9:8 – FH volley, 13:12 – ace, 15:14 – FH volley), thought one of Tsonga’s balls was three inches over the baseline. Video replays are in use on Rod Laver Arena, the center court at Melbourne Park, for the first time at the Australian Open, but not on any other courts. The sixth-seeded Roddick was playing on the second showcourt (Vodafone Arena), so he could not ask for a replay. “I think I got a little first-round jitters,” Roddick said. “I played better as the match went on. I hope I can get better in the second round.” The American star said at times he was scared in the first set against the 21-year-old Tsonga, who was playing only his sixth match in a top level ATP event. “Absolutely, to say the least,” Roddick said. “I was wondering if we were ever going to finish the tiebreaker.” Tsonga’s  fourth main-level tournament, second Grand Slam, at his previous GS he met Roddick as well, in Paris ’05. In Melbourne ’07, they leveled for the fifth time a record for the longest tie-break in terms of points. Below all the longest Grand Slam tie-breaks (three longest ones occurred at majors):
Wimbledon 1973: Bjorn Borg d. Premjit Lall 6-3, 6-4, 9-8(18)
US Open 1993: Goran Ivanisevic d. Daniel Nestor 6-4, 7-6, 7-6(18)
Australian Open 2007: Andy Roddick d. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-7(18), 7-6, 6-3, 6-3
Wimbledon 1980: Bjorn Borg d. John McEnroe 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7(16), 8-6
US Open 1993: Mats Wilander d. Jaime Oncins 7-5, 7-6, 7-6(16)
US Open 1987: Ken Flach d. Darren Cahill 1-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(15)
Australian Open 1992: Omar Camporese d. Lars-Anders Wahlgren 6-4, 6-2, 7-6(15)
Wimbledon 1992: Sandon Stolle d. Chirs Wilkinson 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(15), 6-4
Second round: John Pye
Defending champion Roger Federer advanced to the third round of the Australian Open with a 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Jonas Bjorkman today. It was Federer’s second lopsided win over Bjorkman in the last three Grand Slam tournaments. He beat the 34-year-old Swede in straight sets in the Wimbledon semifinals last year as a warm-up to beating Rafael Nadal in the final. Bjorkman relied on drops and some improvised shot-making to work Federer around, but it rarely worked consistently in the match that lasted 1 hour 35 minutes. Federer maintained his record of never dropping a set against Bjorkman. “Jonas is a great guy; he always puts up a good fight,” said Federer, who is chasing a 10th Grand Slam title. “Today it went my way. I’m playing pretty well right now.” The heat that forced dozens of matches to be delayed until after sundown yesterday had relented by this morning, with matches on all courts starting on time in temperatures around 90 degrees. It was about 10 degrees cooler in overcast conditions two hours later when the Federer-Bjorkman match began. Marcos Baghdatis, the Cypriot who took last year’s Australian Open by storm, was blown away by Gael Monfils in the second round yesterday. The Frenchman captivated the hearts and minds of everybody in the Rod Laver Arena with his astonishing athleticism, massive serve and forehand, and colossal exuberance in a 7-6(5), 6-2, 2-6, 6-0 victory. Baghdatis had only ever lost to Federer here – in the fourth round two years ago and in last year’s final – but on this occasion the combination of an inspired opponent and the weight of expectation dragged him down to the mundane. “I wasn’t here, I wasn’t in the match,” he admitted. “Everything went so fast, I couldn’t control anything. I tried to fight, to find a way, but nothing was working. He deserves it. Gaël played a great match. He was very aggressive, playing deep all the time. I couldn’t find a solution.” A year ago Baghdatis, with his posse of Greek supporters, drew the Australian crowds into his dream, but here the coruscating ground-strokes that felled all but Federer were missing, while his brilliant touch deserted him. It was all a little sad, or would have been had not Monfils’s unfettered joy shone as bright as the arena’s floodlights. Monfils’s best slam run to date came at Roland Garros last year when he won three five-set matches, including a first-round victory over Britain’s Andy Murray. Nobody is as quick around the court as this gangling Frenchman, while James Blake, the American world No. 5, believes the youngster’s forehand is the fiercest of anybody. One hit last night was timed at 196 kph (122 mph, 5th game of the 1st set). Marat Safin, the champion in 2005, was two points from defeat against a qualifier, Israel’s Dudi Sela, before the rain came down in Melbourne. When the roof in the Vodafone Arena was closed and play restarted Safin banished his earlier uncertainties to win 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-0 and set up a third-round match against Andy Roddick, who had a straight-sets victory over Marc Gicquel of France. “Before the rain came I was lost,” admitted the Russian, who has climbed back up the world rankings to No. 27 following knee surgery in 2005. “I was struggling on my serve, and couldn’t return his. When it began to drizzle I asked for the lights and then I asked them to stop the match because it was really a little bit slippery. I wasn’t being an asshole but I used the situation to my advantage.” Reigning two-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal and Tennis Masters Cup runner-up James Blake were among Thursday’s second-round winners at the 2007 Australian Open. Former Aussie Open runner-up Lleyton Hewitt also advanced here on Day 4. The second-seeded Nadal, last year’s Wimbledon runner-up, got past German Philipp Kohlschreiber 7-5, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 in Thursday’s nightcap at Melbourne Park. Kohlschreiber struck 11 more winners than Nadal (48-37), but the German also piled up 58 unforced errors in the setback. A fifth-seeded Blake, off to a perfect 6-0 start this season, committed only 13 unforced errors in a 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 thrashing of his fellow American Alex Kuznetsov, who piled up 36 miscues on his way to defeat. Blake’s match in Rod Laver Arena was the first in the books for the men on Day 4, as brief rain delayed the start of the outdoor matches. The American already has one title under his belt this year, as he captured last week’s Sydney International tournament. A 19th-seeded Hewitt moved on by handling Canadian Frank Dancevic 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. Some other serious contenders h Roddick said. ere notched Day-4 wins, as third-seeded Russian Nikolay Davydenko drubbed Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller 6-4, 6-0, 6-3 and No. 8 Argentine David Nalbandian drove past Ecuador’s Nicolas Lapentti 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 (it was their second Grand Slam match, previously met at Wimbledon ’02; they played eight sets in total, all finished 6-4) 🙂 Tenth-seeded Chilean Fernando Gonzalez struggled past rising Juan Martin del Potro 7-6(7), 4-6, 6-7(3), 6-4, 4-0, as the Argentine retired in the fifth set. “Gonzo” will tangle with Hewitt here on Saturday. Meanwhile, 12th-seeded German Tommy Haas handled Serbian Ilia Bozoljac 7-6(3), 6-1, 6-3; 13th-seeded Czech Tomas Berdych blitzed Aussie Robert Smeets 6-3, 6-2, 6-4; and No. 15 Brit Andy Murray topped Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 7-6(4), 7-5, 6-4. “It was really tough today,” said Murray. “The conditions were very warm and my feet were burning. I would rather be playing indoors, but I’ve done a lot of fitness training and I’m hoping that it pays off in these conditions.” Murray lost his serve three times in the opening set but broke back each time and took the tie-break to put himself in command. He also trailed 4:1* (30/15) in the second set but hauled himself level and went on to take the set, clinching it after Verdasco has received treatment for blisters. Murray paid tribute to a gutsy if erratic opponent who gifted too many points in the conditions to pose a serious threat. “He did a lot of running and he has a great serve and forehand,” he said. “There were a lot of rallies and it was difficult, but I had great support and that helped pull me through.” Juan Ignacio Chela beat 17th seed Jarkko Nieminen 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, and looking ahead to their match Murray said: “He’s a really good player and it’s going to be really difficult. He beat Hewitt here last year but if I play my best and have good support from the crowd, maybe I can win this time.” – referring to a loss to Chela in his first appearance in Melbourne a year before… The Scot avenged that defeat with a straight sets win.
Third round: (AP)
Defending champion Roger Federer maintained his imposing start to the Australian Open with another straight sets victory in the third round. Federer, yet to drop a set in the tournament, took just over two hours to dispose of the 25th seed Mikhail Youzhny 6-3, 6-3, 7-6(5) at the Rod Laver Arena. The top seed squandered three match points during the third-set tie-break but closed out the match at the fourth attempt. He will meet 14th seed Novak Djokovic in the fourth round after the Serbian downed Thailand’s Danai Udomchoke 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 6-1. The 19-year-old Djokovic insists he will approach playing the world number one in a positive frame of mind. “If I go with the white flag on the court, what am I doing here?” he said. “I have nine wins in a row now, but that doesn’t mean if I play Federer that I’m going to stop here, that I’m already giving up. I will do everything to win. I’m going to be motivated, that’s for sure.” Federer about his first Grand Slam meeting with Djokovic, with whom will co-create the biggest H2H at majors in terms of number of confrontations, said: “Of course, I’m the big favorite. This is maybe his big moment where he can maybe make a name for himself no doubt. But he already missed that opportunity twice. Usually when I beat a guy twice, I know how to play him. I hope I can take advantage of that.” Also advancing was American Mardy Fish, who went through after Australia’s Wayne Arthurs retired from their third match while trailing 3-0 in the opening set. Eighth-seeded David Nalbandian of Argentina came from two sets down and fended off three match points Friday to beat Sebastien Grosjean of France 5-7, 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-4, 6-1 in the third round of the Australian Open. Nalbandian also came from two sets down in his opening match against Tipsarevic when the Serbian player retired because of heat illness in the fifth and deciding set. Tipsarevic served for the match in the third set. Against No. 28 Grosjean, Nalbandian saved the match points at 4:5 in the third set, coming back from 0/40 to win the game and later force the tiebreaker. In a match that lasted nearly four hours and featured 15 service breaks, Nalbandian took a 3:1 lead in the final set with a stinging backhand down the line on break point. The Argentine dominated the rest of the deciding set, breaking Grosjean in the sixth game – his eighth service break of the match – and held serve to win with an ace. “I prefer winning in three sets, but it’s not that simple sometimes,” Nalbandian said. Sixth seed Andy Roddick knocked 2005 champion Marat Safin out of the Australian Open in a tight match. Roddick won 7-6(2), 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(2) in a match that lasted more than three hours on a humid Melbourne evening. The match was a bad-tempered one for the Russian, who clashed with the umpire over line calls and whether the court was playable after a rain delay. Safin was officially warned at one point, but his American opponent kept his cool to reach the fourth round. The first set went to a tie-break, but Roddick had no problems closing that out. Safin, who had complained about flash photography in the crowd during the first set, became visibly more angry with himself and all around him during the second set, but he still managed to blow his opponent away 6-2. In fact it seemed Safin was playing better the angrier he got, and he seemed on top in the opening exchanges of the third set. But at 2:2 in that set the Russian slipped on court and took the skin off some of his fingers. The trainer repaired the damage, but it was a crucial moment. I was so disappointed with the officials. I can’t describe how I feel A break of serve soon after led to Roddick taking the third set 6-4, and at the change-around ahead of the fourth set it began to rain on a hot, humid night in Melbourne. The roof on the Rod Laver Arena was swiftly closed, and the court mopped, but when the umpire called “Time” only one of the players was ready to resume, and that was Roddick. Safin complained that the court was too wet, and was officially cautioned. Later in the same set, he complained to the umpire about a line call and was seen on television to clearly swear. Roddick, with coach Jimmy Connors in the stands for the first time since the death of his mother, remained composed, and as the fourth set went to the tie-break there only looked like one winner. The American, will now face Mario Ancic in the last 16 after the Croatian crushed 22nd seed Dominik Hrbaty of Slovakia 6-3, 6-2, 6-1, said the presence of Connors had inspired him. “For him to go through what he’s been through in the last couple of weeks and to hop on a flight and show up this morning and stay up, it’s just great,” he said. “I’m real excited that he could make it down here.” Safin was furious with the officials. “I was so disappointed with the officials. I can’t describe how I feel,” he said. “They have been so pathetic on this subject. It was a joke. They are so blind, they don’t want to see anything, and I’m going to say it in front of everybody because it’s a nonsense for me. The guy comes and says to me it’s not wet. The guy never played tennis in his entire life.” [ Pascal Maria was the chair umpire in that match. ] Lleyton Hewitt‘s hopes of winning his home Grand Slam disappeared for another year as an inspired Fernando Gonzalez knocked him out in a third round match at Saturday. The Australian 19th seed saved three match points before losing 6-2, 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 to the Chilean 10th seed, ending a long and and a soggy day at Melbourne Park. Gonzalez outclassed Hewitt in the first two sets but the gritty 25-year-old Australian refused to buckle, battling back to produce his best tennis of the match and hold up the classy South American. Gonzalez earned his first match point in the fourth set with Hewitt serving at 3:5 and he led 40/15 on his own serve at 5:4, only for the fist-pumping Australian to unleash two devastating winners. Battling the crowd at Rod Laver Arena as much as his opponent, Gonzalez finally sealed victory in 2 hours 40 minutes with a raking forehand which the former world number one just could not get back. “It’s always going to be hard to come back against a guy playing like that, swinging like that. I was nearly able to turn it round but it was always going to be a tough ask,” Hewitt told a news conference after his 11th unsuccessful attempt to win the Australian Open. Gonzalez, who made just two unforced errors in the first two sets, acknowledged his hot streak. “I played unbelievable for two sets and I was doing whatever I wanted with the ball,” said the 26-year-old Chilean who next plays American hopeful James Blake, who ousted his compatriot Robby Ginepri 7-6(7), 7-5, 6-2 saving a set point in the tie-break and four set points at 4:5 in the 2nd set on return. “That’s a match that without confidence there’s no way I could win,” Blake said of navigating crucial set points against Ginepri. “Going for my shots on set points, it shows just how close tennis is, how quickly it can change, how close all the guys are on tour. Cause if you change literally two points in that whole match, it’s a completely different match. If he wins the set point in the first set, four set points in the second, any one of those goes a different way, that’s a whole new match.” Second seed Rafael Nadal displayed his burgeoning confidence to good effect with a 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 demolition of Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka to reach the fourth round. The muscular Spaniard needed a fraction over two hours to dispatch the 31st seed and finished the match with a wonder stroke, a forehand that clipped the baseline and had observers shaking their heads with incredulity. Wawrinka, 21 is a year older than Nadal and considered a fine prospect, but was broken seven times by the Mallorcan and looked decidedly lightweight. Nadal came into the first grand slam of the year with doubts over his fitness after pulling out of the Sydney International with a groin strain but is emerging as a challenger to champion Federer. “I played my best today for sure,” said Nadal after equaling his previous best Australian Open performance.
Fourth round: Phil Harlow
Sixth-seeded Andy Roddick beat No. 9 Mario Ancic 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 to set up a men’s quarterfinal against old friend and house-mate Fish. “I felt like at the end of fourth set he had the momentum and was really being offensive in the points,” Roddick said. “I knew that in fifth set, win or lose, I had to turn the tables on the aggression. I was lucky to get through.” Seven years before they met in a juniors final in Melbourne, and Roddick won it too. Roger Federer stayed on track for a 10th Grand Slam with a mostly routine 6-2, 7-5, 6-3 win over 14th-seeded Novak Djokovic of Serbia. Federer was rarely threatened in his first night match of the tournament to upend Djokovic , who won the Adelaide International tournament two weeks ago and was one of the most improved players on the ATP Tour last year, moving to 16 from 83. It was almost as if Federer was welcoming – or warning – Djokovic about his arrival to the big time. Federer faced his first break point of the match – and only second overall – in the second set and netted an overhead smash to allow Djokovic, who was cheered on by dozens of flag-waving Serbian fans, to pull to within 4:3 and get back on serve. But Federer broke again when it counted most – using his patented backhand cross-court to stymie Djokovic when the Serbian was serving to stay in the second set. He finished off Djokovic with an ace on match point. “It looks like he doesn’t feel any pressure, which is really strange because he’s No. 1 and everybody wants to get his spot,” Djokovic said. For Federer, it was a matter of timing his run. “I feel good physically, straight sets every time, a day off – it couldn’t be better,” said Federer, who plays seventh-seeded Tommy Robredo in the quarterfinals. Robredo beat Richard Gasquet of France 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4. The unseeded Mardy Fish made the last eight for the first time at a Grand Slam, beating No. 16 David Ferrer 6-1, 7-6(4), 2-6, 7-5. Fish lived with Roddick and his family for a year in 1999 and said the pair were like brothers. In a post-match interview with former No. 1 Jim Courier, Roddick joked that Fish could repay the rent by losing the quarterfinal. “I have a hard time thinking he’s going to agree with it, but heck, I might as well propose it,” Roddick said. 12th-seeded Tommy Haas upset eighth-seeded David Nalbandian 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 (it was their second meeting, they won’t play against each other more than five years). Meanwhile, the 27-year-old James Blake has never gone beyond the quarterfinals in 20 majors but came into the season’s first Grand Slam tournament confident of improving on that after successfully defending his title at the Sydney International. Instead, it was Fernando Gonzalez advancing to the quarterfinals – 7-5, 6-4, 7-6(4) – for the first time in Melbourne. He got himself out of trouble with aces when he had to, and regularly ripped forehand winners to keep Blake on the baseline. Gonzalez, 26, had a little trouble closing, wasting two match points on Blake’s serve and then getting broken when serving for the match. But he dominated the tiebreaker, getting two mini breaks before closing with an ace, his 18th. Blake had a good outlook to win every set he lost because he led 5:4 (40/0) in the 1st, 4:1 in the 2nd, and 6:5 in the 3rd set. Third seed Nikolay Davydenko wore down Czech Tomas Berdych to seal a 5-7, 6-4, 6-1, 7-6(5) victory and reach the Australian Open quarter-finals on Monday. The Russian was outplayed by the 13th seed in the first set but his unerringly consistent game gradually nullified the 21-year-old Berdych and he clinched victory on his fourth match point in exactly three hours. Berdych saved three match points at 5:6 in the fourth set to force the tie-break but he made two unforced errors to give Davydenko match point and another mistake sent the Russian through to the last eight. Berdych will lose a match with very similar progress in the US Open semifinal to Murray five years later. World number two Rafael Nadal held off a lion-hearted performance from Britain’s Andy Murray to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals. Nadal battled to a 6-7(3), 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 victory in 3 hours 51 minutes (it was finished at 1:51 a.m. local time) to set up a last eight meeting with Gonzalez. Every service game was held in the opener, although Murray did have to save one set point before forcing the tie-break. And Murray rose to the challenge brilliantly as he took it thanks to an awesome serve and two correct Hawkeye challenges. In the 2nd set Murray went from strength to strength as he secured a break to claim a commanding 4:1* lead. But Nadal, far too good a player to stay in the doldrums for long, suddenly found his best form, winning the next five games in a row to turn the set on its head. Murray’s serve fell apart as he seemed to struggle with a side strain. And his malaise carried over to the start of the third set as two double faults in succession handed Nadal another break and a 3:1 lead. But with his prospects looking bleak, Murray turned things around in astonishing style as he broke back before snatching the set with another break in the 10th game. With the clocks ticking well past midnight in Melbourne, a rejuvenated Murray held serve twice. But a crucial turning point came in the fourth game of the set as five break points came and went for Murray, allowing Nadal to hold for a vital psychological boost. Nadal took full advantage of the let-off, breaking twice to set up a final-set decider. The fifth set proved a let down for Murray and his enthusiastic band of followers but it could have all been different if had Murray managed to convert the break points that came his way as he led 2:1 in the 4th set. Instead it was Nadal who took his chances on Murray’s serve to give a cruel twist to the scoreline. “Andy’s a great player and he played with very good tactics. I needed a match like this… I felt good physically in the fifth which was important,” said the Spaniard, reaching the quarter-finals here for the first time. Murray admitted: “I’m definitely not disappointed. I felt like I played a really great match and I played near to the best I can play right now.”
Quarterfinals: Michael Gleeson
Roger Federer set up an intriguing Australian Open semi-final against Andy Roddick with a straight sets win over seventh seed Tommy Robredo. The defending champion eased through the contest, winning 6-3, 7-6(2), 7-5 to reach the last four without dropping a set. Federer goes into the semi-finals boasting a 12-1 career record against Roddick. The two-time champion surpassed Ivan Lendl‘s record of 9 consecutive Grand Slam semi-finals (span between US Open ’85 & Roland Garros ’88) by beating Robredo, who had no answer to Federer’s power and precision. “Tommy’s a great player and he’s really improved his position over the last couple of years, he’s very steady from the baseline, he’s a great runner and he’s putting it together,” Federer said with courtesy. Roddick, under the tutelage of Jimmy Connors, is currently playing some exceptional tennis. The hang-dog slope from baseline to chair has gone and the old Roddick strut has returned. In the first of the quarter-finals here he demolished his fellow American Mardy Fish 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 and might as well have been shooting fish in a barrel. Connors, who won the Australian Open 33 years ago, first of his eight Grand Slam titles, has managed a makeover on Roddick and, if the ugly duckling is not yet a sleek and gliding swan, it is a vast improvement. The power is undiminished but the rallies have become more cerebral and the backhand no longer simply gets the ball back. Roddick is volleying with something resembling competence and occasionally brilliance. All this means that Federer will have more of a challenge on his hands 😀 as he strives for his third title here and his 10th major title in total. Roddick had a match point against him during last year’s end-of-season Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai and beat him just before the Australian Open, albeit in an exhibition match at Kooyong. Tommy Haas was on the fringe of the world’s top 10 eight years ago and, except for 16 months missed with shoulder trouble, has hung around the elite ever since. His tennis has never been considered as fragile as his state of body and mind. “The Davydenkos” of the tennis world seemed destined to always trouble him. Haas is possibly better equipped, certainly better to watch, but so much more prone to the human frailties of emotion. They had played twice before yesterday, both in Grand Slams and both won by Nikolay Davydenko. But Haas overcame, coming back from a break down in the fifth set, surviving a match point, and triumphing 6-3, 2-6, 1-6, 6-1, 7-5. “It was one of my best ones, being down a break in the fifth, trying to hang in there,” Haas said, recalling the flood of memories – all of them bad – from their quarter-final at last year’s US Open, which Davydenko won in five. After being totally outplayed in the mid-sets, Haas began the fourth set with a vow to give his ailments one more change of ends to see if he could continue, and responded to the urgency by breaking serve. Immediately, he was broken back, and at the changeover was so consumed with cursing himself that he apparently forgot his physical troubles. “I think Haas coming crazy, speak by himself, talk, talk, (saying) he can’t play in Australia any more,” recalled Davydenko, who was eavesdropping in German. The defeatist approach worked; Haas went out and broke again, and did not drop another game for the set. The decider was another see-saw, Davydenko breaking first, Haas returning fire with more delicacy from the net. Both missed chances to make further inroads, and even two double-faults as Haas served to stay in the match at 4:5 could not end it. Having saved a match point on a netted Davydenko backhand, Haas took his opening. The Russian successfully challenged an out call facing match point of his own, but Haas served it out, banishing a few demons along the way. According to my stats, it was Davydenko’s first defeat from a match point up in his 168th main-level tournament, which is an amazingly long distance of winning matches once you get a match point. On what was dubbed Latin night at the Australian Open, the Chilean Fernando Gonzalez prevailed over the Spaniard Rafael Nadal in emphatic style, winning 6-2, 6-4, 6-3. The elder Gonzalez appeared for all the world the heir to the world No.1 spot, not a slightly speculative 10th seed Gonzalez admitted after his win in 2 hours and 5 minutes that he had never played better: “I don’t think so. I’m enjoying this very much because I’m playing great tennis.“ Gonzalez’s extraordinary charge through the Australian Open remains intact – “Hopefully I can continue like this for the rest of this tournament.” Nadal blamed injury in part for his demise, saying he had hamstring problems during the match. “I could not run, so it was difficult to play a match like this against such an opponent with pain,” Nadal said. “It’s in not just one place in my leg, in a lot of places.”
Semifinals: Paul Alexander
Even top-ranked Roger Federer was stunned by his domination of Andy Roddick. After looking vulnerable in some of his earlier matches, Federer was virtually untouchable as he beat sixth-seeded Roddick 6-4, 6-0, 6-2 Thursday at the Australian Open to reach his seventh consecutive Grand Slam final, tying a record set by Jack Crawford in 1934. “This was definitely one of my best matches I ever played,” said Federer, who is seeking his 10th major title. “I had one of these days when everything just worked, I was unbeatable. It’s just unreal. I was playing out of my mind. I am shocked myself.” Federer said. “I thought I would see 50 aces going past me. That’s why I didn’t read the papers today, didn’t switch on the TV, and I just tried to focus on my game.” Federer ran off 11 games in a row from serving at 3:4 in the first set. He blunted Roddick’s powerful serve and whipped passing shots seemingly at will, leaving Roddick flat-footed and staring in disbelief. Roddick won only nine of his 31 net approaches and had only 11 winners. Federer had 10 aces, 45 winners and just 12 unforced errors. It got so bad that Roddick got a huge ovation after whacking one of his few winners, then another when he held serve to end Federer’s 11-game streak. “I caught an absolute beating tonight,” said Roddick, who lost a set 6-0 for the first time in 25 Grand Slam events. “It was miserable. I’m going to try to take this like a man as much as I can.” Federer yielded only six points in the second set to Roddick, who tried to bash a ball into the air after falling behind 5:0, only to lose his grip on the racket and toss it toward the side of the court. Roddick apologized when it hit an Associated Press photographer on the knee, and received a conduct warning from the chair umpire. Tenth-seeded Fernando Gonzalez dominated Germany’s Tommy Haas 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 Friday to reach the Australian Open final. In a performance reminiscent of Federer’s rout of Roddick in the other semifinal a night earlier, Gonzalez was nearly flawless, leaving the 12th-seeded Haas stunned and frustrated with a brilliant array of shots that had the capacity crowd gasping. ”It was a really good day for me,” Gonzalez said. ”I have been playing great tennis. I am enjoying it a lot.” Gonzalez had zero unforced errors in the first and third sets and only three for the match to go along with 42 winners that accounted for more than half of his 82 points. Gonzalez, who had never reached a Grand Slam semifinal before, will face Federer on Sunday evening in the championship match. ”Roger is No. 1 one by far,” Gonzalez said. ”But there is only one match left. I have lost many times to him, but I know that I am playing much better than the last time that we played.” Music from a nearby concert drifted into packed Rod Laver Arena on a brisk Australia Day evening Friday. Fireworks followed the match, but Gonzalez provided plenty before then. Once known for a weak backhand and a fragile psyche, Gonzalez has improved both significantly in recent months and has won over thousands of fans here with his powerful serve and forehand. He was excited about the match statistics. ”I have been playing many years with 45 unforced errors and 3 winners!” he joked. The Chilean ran off 11 points to start the first set, and Haas ended up with only 12 points in the seven games. Gonzalez slipped only slightly in the second set with 12 winners and three unforced errors as Haas, his confidence shattered, spiked his racket once and came close to slamming it into the court on two other occasions. Haas tried to pick on Gonzalez’s backhand, but the Chilean just kept getting back slice after slice until he got a chance to wind up on a forehand and send zingers into the corners. A group of vocal German fans included five young men with ”Tommy Haas” spelled out on their bare chests and ”Bye Bye Gonzalez” on their backs, cheered for Haas between points, but their support went for naught. Gonzalez, who never faced a break point, finished it off with a backhand cross-court winner for his seventh service break.
Final: John Pye
Roger Federer held back the tears this time. He didn’t hold back much else at the Australian Open. Federer underlined his 10th Grand Slam singles title by winning 21 straight sets, saving a set point in Sunday’s final before finishing off Fernando Gonzalez 7-6(2), 6-4, 6-4. The last man to go through a major without dropping a set was Bjorn Borg at the 1980 French Open. The only other man to win the Australian Open without dropping a set was Ken Rosewall in 1971, although he had to play only five matches. “Equaling records, doing something that hasn’t been done for a long time, it’s really nice, no doubt,” Federer said. “All I care about in the end is to hopefully hold that trophy. Of course, now that it’s over, it’s great to think, ‘Wow, you know, not having dropped a set.’ It’s quite amazing.” Rosewall was in the crowd Sunday night, and Federer gave him a nod in a composed victory speech. It was the mere presence of another Australian great, Rod Laver, that reduced Federer to tears the previous year at the trophy presentation. “I can’t force them out every year!” Federer said of his sobbing celebration in 2006, when he accepted the trophy from Laver. “I had a wonderful tournament. A great end. Just because there were no tears doesn’t mean it doesn’t mean anything to me.” He met with Federer in the locker room after the semifinal and said he had little doubt the 25-year-old Swiss star could beat Pete Sampras’ record 14 Grand Slam singles titles, and just about every other tennis record as well. “The best way to beat him would be to hit him over the head with a racket,” Laver joked in a newspaper column. Federer improved his streak to a career-best 36 wins, became the first man in the Open era to twice win three straight majors and has collected six of the last seven Grand Slam titles. He tied Jack Crawford‘s 73-year-old record by reaching his seventh consecutive final in majors. “If somebody would have told me I’d win 10 Grand Slams from mid ’03 till today, I never would have thought there was any chance,” he said. Even before the tournament he had enough points to ensure he will break Jimmy Connors‘ record of 160 consecutive weeks atop the men’s rankings by the end of next month. Although he knows he’s only one-quarter of the way there in 2007, a season Grand Slam is his objective. He was two sets from that last year, when he won the first set of the French Open final before losing in four to Rafael Nadal. That was his only defeat in the last seven majors. Nadal was 26-0 on clay last season and is on a record 62-match streak on the surface “French Open is obviously the next big one for me,” he said. “I’ve made one step further every year now. Went from semis to finals. Got closer to Rafa, as well.” That and three other losses to Nadal were about the only downsides of his 2006 season – he was 91-1 against everyone else and picked up 12 titles. “I think it’s going to be a very interesting French Open for me… hopefully win the title,” he said. “That will be a dream come true. That’s the only way I can make this season a better one than last year. Otherwise it won’t be possible.” Federer saw Gonzalez coming. The Chilean beat former No. 1 Hewitt and Masters Cup finalist Blake before pounding Nadal in straight sets in the quarterfinals. “I knew he was a dangerous player, and the way he’s been going through the draw made me wonder what did he do different this time around,” Federer said. “Especially the win against Nadal – it kind of shocked me. I didn’t believe he was going to beat Rafa so easy.” Federer considered changing strategy against Gonzalez. “In the end I said, ‘You know what, I’ve beaten him nine times, so just take it easy and play your game and hopefully it is going to work out,'” Federer said. “It did.” Gonzalez had the most vocal cheering section Sunday, many with painted faces chanting and blowing whistles and twirling flags as if they were at a soccer game. Federer, as usual, had thousands of backers, too. One fan, dressed in Swiss red and white, carried a sign that summed up the general feeling: “Federer is betterer.” In the end, he was. It was close in the beginning. Gonzalez broke Federer in the ninth game and had a set point at 5:4, but was unable to convert the opportunity netting a forehand. Both players agreed that was the turning point. “I have to congratulate again Roger,” Gonzalez said. “He’s on the way to be maybe the best player ever. He is a great champion who played a really good match today, all week – almost all his life. So I can take a lot out of this tournament.” Gonzalez was the biggest mover in the men’s top 10, moving five places to No. 5 with his run to his first Grand Slam final. Federer’s 46th title. Stats of the final