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A naturalized citizen of Kazakhstan, Mikhail Kukushkin  became the biggest sensation of the tournament after winning two 5-set matches over the seeded players and advancing to the last 16 (he had never passed beyond the second round in majors before). In the third round he survived a weird battle with a 5-set specialist Gael Monfils on Margaret Court Arena. The Frenchman won two opening games, then lost 10 in a row. He looked like a player who’s going to retire but battled back from 2-6, 0:4 to hold game points in the 11th game of the 2nd set. Kukushkin kept composure and was close to get a straight sets victory over the injured opponent serving at 5:4 in the 3rd set – Monfils since then won 11 out of 12 games (!) and led 2:0 in the 5th set. Kukushkin broke back and triumphed thanks to Monfils’s two double faults in the last game, 6-2, 7-5, 5-7, 1-6, 6-4. The Kazakh ran out of gas after two straight demanding meetings, he was unable to win a game on serve in the first two sets against a very fit Andy Murray and decided to retire. Murray now faces Kei Nishikori  who survived a lopsided five-setter with Tsonga on a very hot day, beating the Frenchman for the third time lately, despite losing the first set every time (their second encounter unofficial though, eleven days ago at Kooyong). It’s Nishikori’s initial advancement to the Grand Slam quarterfinals which gives him the Top 20 next Monday, he becomes the first Japanese to play in the last 8 of the Australian Open since Ryosuki Nunoi & Jiro Sato (1932) – the latter, best player from Japan in the history committed suicide at the age of 26… “It was tough [to close it out] because he was still playing well in the fifth”. said Nishikori, “I was having trouble with making returns. I started getting nervous. I was tired, too. It was tough to finish. But still I was playing aggressive on important points. I was making good serves. So that helped me to get the games.”
“Wild card” Lleyton Hewitt  established a record – 16th time in a row in the main draw of the Australian Open overcoming “15” of his legendary compatriots Jack Crawford and Harry Hopman, who played their 15th and final championship in 1940. Hewitt once a man who seemed destined to win the title in Melbourne, after series of injuries and drastic dropping of the ATP ranking, celebrated first week wins like wins of the second week in Grand Slam events in the past. In the third round he stunned a rising star Milos Raonic, exposing all weaknesses of the young Canadian. Hewitt’s best tournament since Wimbledon 2010 came to the end from hands of Novak Djokovic. The Australian tried his best and surprisingly took a set off Djokovic in a hopeless situation (1-6, 3-6, 0:3). The last year finalists, poker-faced Djokovic and Murray are on collision course. Their semifinal potential clash looks fascinating, Djokovic has been in scary form this year, he regained his amazing consistency from the first six months of the previous season when he was able to play every match almost without any lapse of concentration, Murray in turn, seems recently more confident than ever with an 8-time major champion Ivan Lendl in his corner.
Hewitt’s successor – Bernard Tomic won an entertaining third round match with his “mirror” opponent Dolgopolov, avenging three defeats (Tomic hasn’t played more matches against anyone) but in the last 16 he got a free lesson from the former champion Roger Federer. Tomic has had very laborious January, four matches in Brisbane, three at Kooyong, four in Melbourne… He has gathered plenty of experience which should pay off in the next few months, but his bitter defeats to Murray in Brisbane and here to Federer indicate that he still needs a lot of improvement in his game to compete with the big boys. Nevertheless I expect it’s been the last tournament in many years to come in which Tomic was an unseeded player.
Tomas Berdych was booed by the crowd on Hisense Arena after his fourth round match because he didn’t shake hands with Nicolas Almagro. It was a consequence of Almagro’s passing-shot which struck Berdych’s arm and knocked out the Czech in the crucial stage of the 4th set. The funny thing is, the ball came back on Almagro’s side – I’ve never seen such a thing in similar circumstances Berdych fired 28 aces anyway, and won an almost 4-hour battle of flat and uncompromising shots from the baseline, winning three tie-breaks in a row #; he was *5:6 (0-30) down in the 3rd set and *5:5 (0-40) in the 4th – after being hit by Almagro’s hard forehand. Berdych has a great tie-break record in the last twelve months: 22-7 (.758). “I’m really happy to go through to make the same result as last year, and now just try to get recovered from that and to be ready for Rafa. All the past nine matches I lost to him. So it would be nice to try to change it a little bit, but I know that it’s gonna be really extremely tough.” said the Czech.
After year and a half, Juan Martin del Potro comes back to the Top 10. The Argentinian had tough draws in majors during last season, this time took advantage of a very favorable draw, he won his last two matches in impressing style destroying Lu (lost five games) and Kohlschreiber (lost seven games).
The longest match:
3 hours, 54 minutes. Berdych def. Almagro (fourth round)
Most aces: 30 – John Isner, lost to Feliciano Lopez (third round)
15-8 Feliciano Lopez; 9-4 Gael Monfils, 7-3 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 6-2 Alexandr Dolgopolov, 5-1 Kei Nishikori, 4-6 John Isner, 4-0 Mikhail Kukushkin, 3-1 Bernard Tomic
# Australian Open 4-setters with 3 tie-breaks won by one player:
1971: Marty Riessen d. John Newcombe 7-6, 1-6, 7-6, 7-6
1994: Todd Martin d. Stefan Edberg 3-6, 7-6(7), 7-6(7), 7-6(4)
2000: Max Mirnyi d. Antony Dupuis 6-7(3), 7-6(6), 7-6(5), 7-6(5)
2005: Marat Safin d. Olivier Rochus 4-6, 7-6(1), 7-6(5), 7-6(2)
2009: Bernard Tomic d. Potito Starace 7-6(5), 1-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(6)
2012: Tomas Berdych d. Nicolas Almagro 4-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(3), 7-6(2)
Before the tournament withdrew three players who would have been seeded: Florian Mayer, Marin Cilic and Robin Soderling. The last one has been suffering an injury since July 2011.
It’s been a good tournament so far for the local fans. The old legend (Lleyton Hewitt – 181) and the new big hope (eleven years younger Bernard Tomic – 38) moved through to the third round with entertaining matches on Rod Laver Arena. Especially in the first round against left-handers, Hewitt came back from a 1:5 deficit in the 4th set to beat a talented Stebe (I expect he might advance to the Top 30 this season), Tomic survived a 5-setter with an experienced Verdasco, despite two-sets-to-love down and *3:4 in the 5th set.
There wasn’t a triple bagel in the history of the Australian Open, but Novak Djokovic equaled an impressive achievement of Murray, winning 17 games in a row in Melbourne #. The defending champion and the main favorite to the title, did it in the first round after being a break down at 1:2 playing against a weak Italian player Paolo Lorenzi, who stunned through set and a half Nadal last year in Rome. “Obviously I want to get a good start of the year in my first official match in this season,” said Djokovic. “I am satisfied with the overall performance today. It took me a couple games to get into the right rhythm. It’s a bit difficult conditions. I think it was really the hottest day since I’ve arrived here, so trying to get used to that.” The Serb won also first two games of his another match with Giraldo. Astonishing 16-game winning streaks notched also Germans Philipps: Petzschner against Lukas Rosol (6-0, 6-0, 6-2) and Kohlschreiber, who bagelled Monaco in the 5th set in the opening round, and took first 10 games of his second round match with Riba when the Spaniard retired at 0-6, 0-4… “I wanted to win badly [with a] triple bagel,” said Petzschner  playing this season in unusual knee high socks. “Maybe it’s a lifetime opportunity. I’m not sad that I didn’t make it. I was just trying as hard as I could, and it just didn’t pay out at the end.” In the second round the flamboyant German ended Raonic’s impressive streak of 72 games held on serve (counting since his last match of the previous season in Paris) but it was enough only to get a set.
In contrary to Djokovic, his compatriots had more than three-hour opening matches. Janko Tipsarevic prevailed in 4 sets against Tursunov saving 3 set points to avoid a 0-2 deficit (14:12 in a 83-minute tie-break set, one of three longest tie-breaks this season by far) whereas Viktor Troicki surprised me a lot erasing a two-sets-to-love deficit against Juan Carlos Ferrero. In the 4th set Troicki was 5:6 (0-30) on serve, then fought off two ad-match points, and came back from a 0:1* (0-30) in the 5th set to win 4-6, 6-7, 6-2, 7-6, 6-2. This way Troicki known as one of the biggest chokers on the tour, ousted a player who never lost a match point-up ‘the best of five’ encounter during his very long career.
A couple thoughts about “baby Federer” Grigor Dimitrov . The young Bulgarian played his first 5-setters in career at majors. His game-style is more pleasant to watch than other youngsters, but I’m afraid the lack of the fighting spirit and physical liability may cost him losing many important matches in the future. I expect he will be entertaining to watch at the biggest arenas but don’t expect from him gathering the biggest titles…
“At 28 years old, it’s kind of surreal. But it’s very exciting.” said Alex Bogomolov Jr. , who at the advanced age for a tennis player, participated in a Grand Slam event as a seeded player for the first time – in the Slam he had missed the last five editions, he also played it for the first time under the Russian flag (he changed his nationality in December last year). It didn’t help to reach the last 32 for the first time in Melbourne, however, Boggy led three times with a break in the deciding set against Llodra (the match consisted of 19 breaks of serve!).
A player with similar name – Alexandr Dolgopolov  became a revelation of the previous Australian Open eliminating much more higher ranked opponents (Tsonga, Soderling) after lopsided 5-setters. He has already won two another lopsided 5-setters at the Australian Open 2012, this time against much more lower ranked opponents (Greg Jones, Tobias Kamke). In the second round he fought back from a 1:3* (30 all) deficit in the 5th set on Hisense Arena. Later on, at match point down (*5:6) in a 5-stroke rally, his forehand clipped the line and a moment later caught Kamke contre pie with a backhand down the line winner. It was a funny match with enormous running on both sides because both players prefer similar style of play.
In the most entertaining meeting of the first four days, on Margaret Court Arena, John Isner  fired 43 aces ## to battle past David Nalbandian  in the second round. The Argentinian was two points away from taking the victory at 5:4* in the 4th set, in the deciding set he held 3 mini-match points at 8:8 against the slightly limping Isner. The American head off the danger twice with baseline rallies, at the third break point he hit an ace and Nalbandian began to argue with the chair umpire Kader Nouni because he didn’t allow to challenge the ball (too late decision by Nalbandian to use the hawk-eye according to the referee). “Fat Dave” called the supervisor but it only ended up with a loss of concentration. In the following game he led 30-0 but lost four consecutive points. Interestingly both players were involved in similar matches (4th set tie-break, 5th set with a two game advantage) last year, but with reversal luck (Nalbandian beat Hewitt, Isner lost to Cilic). “It was a lot of fun, first off,” said Isner after a 4-6, 6-3, 2-6, 7-6, 10-8 victory in 4 hours 41 minutes. “Very similar to my match here last year where I lost 9-7 in the fifth on that same court. I told myself I didn’t want to repeat that effort. I wanted to actually win that one. It felt really, really good to win it“. The angry Nalbandian after the match threw a bottle of water at staff member and was fined $8,000 for that misbehaviour. Bad energy was in the air…
…there was an amazing outburst on the same court in the following match. The former finalist Marcos Baghdatis  who is rather associated with good manners and friendly attitude, sitting on his chair during the changeovers, broke four racquets in 40 seconds (!!) being two breaks down in the 4th set against Wawrinka. The Cypriot literally devastated the first two Tecnifibre racquets, dealing with another two he didn’t even bother taking them out of the plastic wrapping 😀 The furious attack cost him a $1.250 fine. Well, he suppressed negative emotions too long…
French veterans and doubles partners, Julien Benneteau and Nicolas Mahut won their matches on day 4, grabbing second sets with five set points down in a process. Benneteau outlasted his compatriot Simon 7-5, 7-6(8), 1-6, 3-6, 6-2 on Court 6 in the last match of the second round, coming back from a *2:5 (15-30), 3:5 (set point) in the 1st set and saving another set points at *5:6 (three) and in the tie-break (two) of the 2nd set. He celebrated the victory on his back, his one month younger friend Mahut on the knees. He dig out of a big hole as he managed somehow to beat a newcomer Ito of Japan in four sets, although he was 1-6, *1:4 (deuce) down, later on saved a set point at 4:5 and a quadruple set point in the vital tie-break.
The longest match:
4 hours, 53 minutes. Andrey Golubev d. Mikhail Youzhny 7-5, 6-7, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3
23-18 Juan Carlos Ferrero, 17-12 David Nalbandian, 16-10 Mikhail Youzhny, 16-9 David Ferrer, 15-9 Fernando Verdasco, 13-9 Nikolay Davydenko, 11-5 Philipp Kohlschreiber, 10-18 Ivan Ljubicic, 9-8 Nicolas Almagro, 8-4 Yen-Hsun Lu, 7-4 Julien Benneteau, 7-5 Gilles Simon, 7-6 Danai Udomchoke, 6-1 Alexandr Dolgopolov, 6-7 Viktor Troicki, 5-7 Michael Llodra, 5-4 Sergiy Stakhovsky, 4-2 Jeremy Chardy, 4-1 Marcel Granollers & Kei Nishikori, 4-5 John Isner, 3-6 Juan Monaco, 3-4 Lukas Lacko, 3-0 Mikhail Kukushkin, 2-0 Andrey Golubev, 2-1 Bernard Tomic, Grigor Dimitrov & Donald Young, 2-2 Flavio Cipolla, 2-5 Alex Bogomolov Jr., 1-2 Tobias Kamke & Ryan Sweeting, 1-3 Jesse Levine, 1-4 Rik De Voest, 0-1 Matthew Ebden, Greg Jones & Peter Gojowczyk, 0-3 Illya Marchenko
# Almost “triple bagels” in Melbourne: Murray began his match with Alberto Martin (Aussie Open 2007) winning first 17 games, the final score 6-0, 6-0, 6-1. Four years before, Agassi had won 18 straight games against Hyung-Taik Lee after losing the first one (6-1, 6-0, 6-0).
## Five players to serve the most aces at the Australian Open:
51 – Joachim Johansson (2005 ) 4 sets, lost to Andre Agassi
48 – Ivo Karlovic (2011) 5 sets, lost to Ivan Dodig
47 – Gilles Muller (2009) 5 sets, defeated Feliciano Lopez
45 – Chris Guccione (2007) 5 sets, lost to Olivier Rochus
43 – John Isner (2012) 5 sets, defeated David Nalbandian
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Although he never reached the Top 20, Julien Benneteau  in my opinion deserves to win an ATP title. The Frenchman has beaten in the last few years Federer, Tsonga and Ferrer, he played equal matches against Djokovic, Murray and … Continue reading
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Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Doha and Andy Murray in Brisbane won their titles, respectively 8th and 22nd in similar style. Both players struggled in the first two rounds with much more inferior opponents, especially Murray, who began the tournament losing the … Continue reading
I do not publish a new version of my project Big 3S (Stories, Stats, Scorelines) for the time being, however, I prepared for myself a special, more colorful version of Stories. What’s the main difference between an “old” and a new version of Stories? The former contains 1227 stories, in the meantime I added there 7 stories, plus 27 of this year’s stories – it means that the latter version is called The History of Men’s Tennis. 44 years in 1261 stories (1968-2011). If you want the book in 2012, just buy it using Paypal or Moneybookers (the price is now 10$… there was 19$ in February 2011), and I will send you a special updated copy with my handwriting signature on your e-mail. Statistical digressions in “1261 Stories” have been updated if required, I’ve changed colors a bit and modified partially the font (italic quotes like on my blog, upper index for tie-breaks). You will find there 250 small photos of the best players in the Open era (Andre Agassi appears the most – nine times) emplaced on 350 pages (A4 format), often directly connected to particular stories. Here you can imagine how it looks before converting to pdf. There are three images of women as well (Chris Evert, Tatiana Golovin & Samantha Stosur), on each photo female players with a man of course 😀 The stuff which I could include this year to Stats, you can simply check on my blog looking at the “‘2011 season” page.
It’s a great deal because as you buy it once, I will be sending you updated versions in the upcoming years for free. Just as I have done it for people who bought the “1968-2010” version
I will not keeping the blog in a way I did it throughout the year 2011. Perhaps I will post some statistical/analytical stuff from time to time next year in a style I proposed in the last month. I have to admit the last twelve months on this blog gave me a lot of satisfaction. I wanted to underline historical connection between the current events and the past, sharing with you my tennis-knowledge I generated in the last twenty years, I hope the season ’11 is well prepared here, and might be an interesting material to research the info for tennis fans in the future (if the blog will not disappear suddenly)
My friend Face encouraged me last Autumn to create and keep this blog thus I would like to acknowledge him and people, who shared its knowledge here and were correcting my petty mistakes over the last twelve months: Ai, Albert, Archer16, bry17may, David, Ivan Muhov, J-D, Joca, juan cristobal guzman, statsman, St-Denis, Yves, V.H. et Wanaro Evernden. Thank you very much!
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When you hear Andre Agassi you automatically know he is one of 10 best players of the Open era. Is he 3rd, 5th or 7th? It depends which criteria we adopt, if the fact he won “golden slam” (4 majors … Continue reading
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For the first time in history the Champions Tour “Masters” at the Royal Albert Hall in London, has been divided onto two parts, the one for the best guys of the season, the second one called “Legends” for older guys. … Continue reading