5th Week – Davis Cup (1R)

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First round 2012 Three notable players who had been nominated (Janko Tipsarevic, Nicolas Almagro, Radek Stepanek), skipped the weekend (injuries). Serbian fans should be happy Novak Djokovic didn’t follow suit despite his effort in Melbourne, last year he’d pulled out … Continue reading

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Australian Open – Day 14 (Final)

Final 2012     Final 2011

(1)Novak Djokovic d. (3)Andy Murray    6-7(2), 7-6(3), 6-3, 6-2    [3:40 h

murray_djokovic_ao13Their second straight major final, third consecutive meeting in Melbourne, only four pairs met thrice in a row at the Australian Open before # Each of these encounters of two 25-year-old men featured different colors of clothes (White vs. Green, White vs. Red, Dark Violet vs. Dark Gray respectively), different outcome of sets (3, 5, 4 respectively) as well. The 2013 final was like a chess game: both players were very conservative, glued to the baseline and mainly focused on well developed patters of winning service games, which caused a new record of Grand Slam finals in terms of holding consecutive service games from start ## Murray didn’t even lose a point on ad-court delivering his 1st serve-in over two sets! The first blood, literally, came in the 7th game (15-all) of the 1st set when Djokovic dived on the back of the court and won a point with two subsequent strokes after a drop-shot. He looked more solid out there (Murray saved four break points at 2:3 and another one at 3:4), however, at the end of the set he seemed a bit paralyzed – led 6:5* (30/15) when his ground-strokes became very tentative and lost seven points in a row; when he entered the tie-break scoreboard at 0:4, it happened as he barely hit the line with a shaky overhead. The crisis of uncertainty was extended to the first two games of the 2nd set, the Serbian apprehended it at 0:1 (0/40) gaining two points with comprehensive winners, Murray wasted one of those break points sending a backhand long.

djokovic_ao13_finalAnyway the Scot led 6:5* (30-all), so he was two points away from a two-sets-to-love advantage, repeating the outcome of the first two sets of their previous Grand Slam final, but this time Djokovic was much more better adjusted than at the critical stages of the previous set, and struck an overhead to get a 40/30. He displayed immediate self-confidence of the highest order in the tie-break, in which at 2-all unusual thing occurred – just before Murray’s second serve, a feather emerged out of nowhere in front of him. He halted his service motion, removed the feather from his sight, and committed a double fault a few seconds later… After the 2nd set Murray took a medical time-out for the treatment of right-feet blisters; in the first few games of the 3rd set he was still moving very well. The opening point of the 8th game was consisted of 36 strokes (longest rally of the match), ended up with Djokovic’s inside-out forehand winner – first check. This rally brought reminiscence of their murray_featherAustralian Open final two years before when Murray had lost a 39-stroke rally and didn’t recover after that. To some degree it was the same case this time, the Scot lost his serve on third break point in that game, and counting from 3-all in the 4th set he lost 9 out of 11 games to the end of the event. Hypothetically, if hadn’t been tie-breaks at majors, Djokovic would have won “1st set” 17-15 after almost three hours of play! Murray’s demeanor afterwards could suggest as he lost such a long set instead of being a break down in the 3rd set. His  pretty long service streak was broken as well as his fighting spirit. Since that 8th game of the 3rd set, with every point Djokovic seemed more and more fresh & confident while Murray’s physical struggle more and more evident. He had a break point at 1:0 in the 4th set only to witness Djokovic’s service winner. Fifteen minutes later or so, the Serb already leading 3:1 showed amazing commitment in defense sensing the approaching success, and it was check-mate – the glum Murray served a double fault facing a break point and the final was virtually over. Admittedly Murray led 30/0 in the last two service games of Djokovic, but the Serb twice found a new gear being down to get four consecutive points, in the farewell game Murray was running like crazy during three consecutive points to no avail. The championship point was actually as unspectacular as the whole final – Murray netted his forehand, and Djokovic celebrated in squatting position. The leader of the ranking collects his third consecutive Australian Open title, it’s something no-one achieved in the Open era before, in the entire history just two players managed to do that: Jack Crawford in years 1931-33, and Roy Emerson, who got five titles in a row short of the Open era (1963-67). “I have to try and look at the positives of the last few months, and I think I’m going the right direction,” said Murray, now the three-time Aussie Open finalist (2010-11, 13). “This is the first time I’ve beaten Roger in a Grand Slam over five sets. djokovic_ao13_championI think I dealt with the situations and the ebbs and flows in that match well. I know that no one’s ever won a Grand Slam, the immediate one after winning their first one. It’s not the easiest thing to do.” Djokovic, who grabbed 35th title (6th major), said: “Winning it three in a row, it’s incredible. It’s very thrilling. I’m full of joy right now. It’s going to give me a lot of confidence for the rest of the season, that’s for sure. There were a few turning points in the match. Maybe one of them was the second game in the second set when I was 0/40 against the breeze. He missed a few shots. I managed to have that crucial hold. After that I felt just mentally a little bit lighter and more confident on the court than I had done in the first hour or so.” They have played eight matches against each other in the last 12 months, including two last Grand Slam finals, and I assume they’re going to meet in a major final at least once more in 2013 ###. Stats of the match.

Doubles final:
(1)B.Bryan/M.Bryan d. R.Haase/I.Sijsling 6-3, 6-4

# Most consecutive matches at Australian Open:
3 – Steve Docherty vs. Robin Drysdale (1977-78) *
3 – Mats Wilander vs. Johan Kriek (1983-85)
3 – Ivan Lendl vs. Stefan Edberg (1990-92)
3 – Jim Courier vs. Stefan Edberg (1991-93)
3 – Novak Djokovic vs. Andy Murray (2011-13)
* Two editions in 1977
# Number of consecutive service holds in Grand Slam finals from start:
31Novak Djokovic vs. Andy Murray (Australian Open 2013)

28 – Pete Sampras vs. Patrick Rafter (Wimbledon 2000)
25 – Pete Sampras vs. Jim Courier (Wimbledon 1993) & Pete Sampras vs. Goran Ivanisevic (Wimbledon 1994)
## Comparison of the finalists:
Age 25.8; tournaments 146; finals 35-19 (6-4 majors); matches 476-123; tie-breaks 138-81; five-setters 18-6
Age 25.8; tournaments 149; finals 25-14 (1-5 majors); matches 389-124; tie-breaks 113-72; five-setters 14-6
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Australian Open – Day 11+12 (SF)

Semifinals 2012     Semifinals 2011

2nd semifinal: Friday

(3)Andy Murray d. (2)Roger Federer     6-4, 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-2    [4:00 h] *

Very important victory for Murray from psychological point of view on different levels; most of all he has beaten Federer at a major for the first time on fourth attempt, moreover it’s his first win with two tie-break drops, and the first time he prevails despite losing a 4th set tie-break (previously won all 8 tie-breaks he’d played while leading 2-1 in sets). The start of the semifinal could be tricky for Murray because he appeared for the first time in night session this year (he had been complaining on it a bit) whereas Federer found himself fifth straight round under these circumstances. The Scot hadn’t any problems to adapt under floodlights though, and got his first murray_ao13_sfbreak as early as in the 3rd game on fifth break point. Surprised me that Federer was serving much more below his abilities from the beginning (Murray out-aced him 21-5, holding quite easily all service games until the 4th set), perhaps he was afraid of Murray’s aggressive returns on second serves. The Swiss managed to hang in there with help of tie-breaks, that part of the game he knows better than anyone in tennis history as far as only singles is concerned. In the first tie-break at 5-all Murray tried to nail an overhead a la Pete Sampras‘ slum dunk style, but hit the ball with the top of his frame, and Federer passed him after a slow bounce with his backhand. The second tie-break was less interesting, however, that set was the most entertaining that evening: Federer finally broke his opponent, led 4:1*, at 4:3 for him (adv. Murray) there was confusion due to linesman’s call ‘out’ and immediate ‘correction’. The Scot instead of replying the point chose ‘challenge’, lost it, the point as well, and was challenge-less. Yet the unfortunate argument with Enric Molina didn’t distract him, he broke Federer second time in that set in the 11th game, and serving for the win led 30/15. At that moment Federer showed his masterclass, won a point with a clever-into the body-overhead, followed up by a backhand down the line, and made a solid BH-return after Murray’s service bomb which blindsided the Scot forcing his casual error. Federer caught the momentum, grabbed 10 out of 12 consecutive points in total, and improved his tie-break record against the Scot to seven to one. Murray stepped onto a new mental ground then, he’d never lost two tie-breaks in a 5-set match before, it’s murray's boxalways tough situation when you have won much more points than your rival (150-135 for Murray after four sets), but you are at two sets apiece, especially if that rival is named ‘Federer’. Murray confirmed he is very well prepared both, physically and mentally, held easily four service games, and broke the Swiss twice, to ’30’ & ’15’ respectively, after the last point he reacted without any gesture of enjoyment, like he wanted to say: “I should have wrapped up this victory in 4 sets, it’s an accident it lasted 30 minutes longer”. No doubt Murray is fully aware of being close to reach No. 1 this season, he has won the last two biggest events (Olympics, US Open) defeating on both occasions world’s best player Djokovic. “It was a tough match,” said Murray. “There was a lot of ups and downs. So it was good to come back after the way I lost the fourth set. I thought I did a good job tonight… I am just happy with the way I responded after [losing] both those sets.” Federer gave credit to Murray: “He beat me fair and square tonight. No regrets from me. I think Andy was a bit better than I was tonight. I think overall he probably created more chances than I did. I had difficulties getting into his service games time and time again.” Because youngsters (guys born 1990-92) are relatively weak, whilst the Swiss is constantly in a great shape, I expect he’s going to reach major quarterfinals on a regular basis until 2016. If he still enjoys travelling, he shouldn’t drop outside the Top 10 until 2018 or 2019 – it’s a time when should emerge today’s teenagers that are totally unknown to the broader audience. Stats of the match

5-setters: 21-17 Federer, 14-6 Murray
# 5-setters between ‘Big 4’ guys, beside parenthesis their 5th set Open era ranking by %:
4-1 Djokovic (Federer 2-0, Nadal 1-0, Murray 1-1)… 6.
4-3 Nadal (Djokovic 0-1, Federer 3-2, Murray 1-0)… 7.
2-2 Murray (Djokovic 1-1, Federer 1-0, Nadal 0-1)… 13.
2-6 Federer (Djokovic 0-2, Nadal 2-3, Murray 0-1)… 96.
* Murray’s coach, Ivan Lendl won one of his many major semifinals with almost identical scoreline, Wimbledon ’86 d. Slobodan Zivojinovic 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-7(1), 6-4.

1st semifinal: Thursday

(1)Novak Djokovic d. (4)David Ferrer    6-2, 6-2, 6-1    [1:29 h]

djokovic_austr_13_D’Joke’s clinical performance, fantastic display of the whole-court coverage and shot-making of all sorts. The Serbian hero was so good that even his coach (Marian Vajda), usually reserved in showing emotions, laughed when his pupil manufactured 1 out of 30 winners (Ferrer 11) to get a first point at 2:0 in the 3rd set with a blistering forehand down the line around the post. The helpless Pics didn’t even show anger throughout – he knew that against Djokovic in that form, he couldn’t do anything. The Spaniard experienced such a severe beat-down in the last year’s Roland Garros semifinal against Nadal, the scoreline was identical, yet the Parisian encounter lasted 17 minutes longer. Djokovic, like Mats Wilander (1983-85) and Ivan Lendl (1989-91), advances to the third straight Australian Open final. He analyzed: “I played incredible tennis. Felt very comfortable & very confident from start. It’s not easy at this stage in semis of a Slam. You need to focus on every point. I didn’t want to give him any points.” Ferrer admitted: “I am trying to do my best very much but I know they are better than me. What can I do?” He has lost all five major semifinals to ‘the better players’ (3 – Djokovic, 1 – Murray & Nadal) #. Djokovic was so relaxed that shortly afterwards returned on court imitating a doctor during a legend-doubles match: Goran Ivanisevic/Pat Cash d. Guy Forget/Henri Leconte 7-6 2-6 [10-7]. By the way, those guys born in the 60s are physically shadows of themselves when they were professionals, which is rather sad, maybe even sadder than the outcome of the first semifinal…

# Multiple Grand Slam semifinalists never to reach a final:
6 – Tim Henman (Wimbledon 1998, 99, 01, 02; Roland Garros 2004; US Open 2004)
5 – David Ferrer (Australian Open 2011, 13; Roland Garros 2012, US Open 2017 & 12)
4 – Sebastien Grosjean (Australian Open 2001; Roland Garros 2001; Wimbledon 2003, 04)
4Nikolay Davydenko (Roland Garros 2005, 07; US Open 2006, 07)
4Tommy Haas (Australian Open 1999, 02, 07; Wimbledon 2009)
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Australian Open – Day 9+10 (QF)

Quarterfinals 2012     Quarterfinals 2011


4th quarterfinal:

(2)Roger Federer d. (7)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga    7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-3    [3:34 h]

federer_pink_shoes_ao13Federer in his new black-pink shoes has won fifth match this year and advances to his 10th (!) Australian Open semifinal in a row. It was an entertaining duel between two most technically diversified Top 10 players, but what significantly separates them is the backhand. Tsonga still struggles with his left side, and Federer exposed it at the most important moments. Actually the scoreline is a bit deceptive because Federer had under control all sets he won from start to finish, Tsonga hung in there with a considerable help of serves (20 aces, Federer just 6). On both tie-break sets the Swiss dropped a 2:0 lead (Tsonga snapped Federer’s 57-game winning streak on serve in the 1st set), in the 5th set he squandered a double break point for a second break twice (at 4:1 & 5:2). He needed five match points in total to finish Tsonga off with an overhead. Very nice revenge for a Wimbledon quarterfinal defeat in 2011, when Tsonga stormed back from a two-sets-to-love deficit. “I love playing against Andy. He’s tactical and he’s a good guy” said Federer on playing Murray in the semifinal.

3rd quarterfinal:

(3)Andy Murray d. Jeremy Chardy    6-4, 6-1, 6-2   [1:52 h] 

When they met the previous time (Cincinnati ’12), Chardy notched a comprehensive 6-4 6-4 win, but that match couldn’t be an indicator of Chardy’s chances today, because Murray was spent murray_ao13physically and emotionally then, after obtaining two medals at the Olympics… Advancing to quarterfinals of a major, Chardy entered a new territory for himself and nervousness of a newbie was manifested as early as in the opening game as he committed two double faults and made an awful backhand-volley error from comfortable position trying to save a break point. He managed to subdue his nerves and improved in the 1st set from *0:4 (15-all) to 4:5* (30/0), but everything depended on Murray’s brain and hands. Generally speaking the Scot was merciless in exposing Chardy’s backhand hole. The Frenchman needed a lucky net-cord to snap a 9-game losing streak between 2nd & 3rd sets. Murray moves through to the Australian Open semifinals fourth straight year, just like three years ago not dropping a set. Inferior opponents have been gone, if he wins the tournament he will be forced to a bigger effort in the next two matches for sure. Murray: “I thought I did a pretty good job throughout the match. Few games I could have done better on but overall pretty good.


2nd quarterfinal:

(1)Novak Djokovic d. (5)Tomas Berdych    6-1, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4    [2:31 h]

djokovic_austr_13597th main-level match for both! If someone counted on Berdych’s good start thinking that he hadn’t dropped a set in his four matches while Djokovic had played a 5-hour marathon with Wawrinka two days before, was simply wrong. From the beginning no signs of Djokovic’s tiredness, he was moving very well, hitting the ball clearly and intelligently, mixing the pace by flat backhands and top-spin safe forehands. Berdych found the right rhythm as the 2nd set started and an early break in the opening game gave him the set, however, Djokovic almost broke back in the 10th game – Berdych saved four break points showing guts because he struck three winners in the process, pressure was higher as had wasted a set point in the previous game. Intensity at the end of the set cost him a long lapse of concentration.  Afterwards the Serb gained three breaks without exceptional involvement, only when he was serving to win the match, Berdych showed some reminiscence of his 2nd set positive attitude. It caused that Djokovic needed as many as four match points to wrap up the victory with an ace down the T. The best player in the world reaches 11th consecutive major semifinal, Berdych loses QF in Australia third year in succession, he’s so consistent that even two years ago lost sets 1st & 3rd 1-6 to the Serb on the same court (also night session, stayed on court one minute longer). Djokovic remarked: “I was very aggressive out there, going for my shots, which wasn’t the case against Wawrinka. So it’s a good improvement and very encouraging for next match.”

1st quarterfinal:

(4)David Ferrer d. (10)Nicolas Almagro    4-6, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6(4), 6-2    [3:44 h]

Almagro could have screamed in despair at the end of the match “How many times?!” (Janowicz’s catch-phrase) referring to numerous chances he can’t convert facing Ferrer, who could have thought at the same time “Some things have never change” with sarcastic smile… Two Spaniards clothed in white-yellow colors under the friendly Sun (25 Celsius), and a script which had been worked out by them several times in the past… Almagro was very close to notch a perfect straight sets victory: he was serving firmly, hitting forehand precisely, and what’s the most important ferrer_almagro_ao13in my opinion – creating different angles with his top-spin backhand to prevent Ferrer from that what he does the best – dictating the pace with cross-court forehands in both directions. Almagro had three break point chances, converted them all, and was serving at 5:4 in the 3rd set, something  in two previous sets he dealt very well with. This time his arm was “heavier”, couldn’t deliver first serves and lost the game despite being two points away from the new ground. Ferrer got a 5-game winning streak, and the match seemed administrated by him. Almagro reminded himself that in the last couple of years he won matches losing a “won set” which helped him to get a break for a 2:1 lead. He couldn’t capitalize though, it was repeated three times more in the 4th set (!), he was serving twice to book his place in the semifinals – leading 5:4 & 6:5, but every time he choked it. In the 10th game he was two points away again. In the tie-break Ferrer raced to a 3:1 lead, Almagro got back on level terms with two stunning shots, the second one cost him pain in the left groin. If he had been a fighter (or if he’d known Ferrer was on a 13-tie-break losing streak in Melbourne), he would have done everything to close the match out being still relatively close – four points away, but he is not… and during the change of ends he looked more like a guy who had an excuse why he was going to lose once more a potentially winning match. Even though Almagro held his two opening service games of the decider, his body language suggested he was out of sorts and Ferrer’s triumph only a matter of time. The older Spaniard sensed it, stepped up when it mattered, and took the last five games of the quarterfinal. Almagro’s 13th consecutive loss to Ferrer, fourth in a match that should have really won (twice lost match points, two other times served for the match: twice in the Valencia final ’08, thrice today). “I’m [disappointed] with the tie-break, but I need to work more to be ready to play with the top players,” said Almagro. “Today was a big opportunity for me. I’m going to work to be ready for the next [opportunity].” He joins a group of multi Grand Slam quarter-finalists to have never advanced to semifinals #. Ferrer becomes fifth active player to win 500 matches.

5-set barometer: 21-16 Roger Federer, 18-9 David Ferrer, 13-10 Nicolas Almagro, 8-5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
# Most quarterfinals at majors without a semifinal:
5 – Guy Forget (Australian Open 1991, 93; Wimbledon 1991, 92, 94)
5 – Tommy Robredo (Australian Open 2007; Roland Garros 2003, 05, 07, 09)
4 – Roy Emerson (Australian Open 1971; Roland Garros 1968; Wimbledon 1970; US Open 1969) *
4 – Fred Stolle (Australian Open 1969; Roland Garros 1969; US Open 1969, 72) *
4 – Wojtek Fibak (Roland Garros 1977, 80; Wimbledon 1980; US Open 1980)
4 – Vijay Amtritraj (Wimbledon 1973, 81; US Open 1973-74)
4 – Eliot Teltscher (Australian Open 1983; US Open 1980, 81, 83)
4 – Gene Mayer (Wimbledon 1980, 82; US Open 1982, 84)
4 – Younes El Aynaoui (Australian Open 2000, 03; US Open 2002-03)
4 – Hicham Arazi (Australian Open 2000, 04; Roland Garros 1997-98)
4Nicolas Almagro (Australian Open 2013; Roland Garros 2008, 10, 12)
* Emerson & Stolle won majors in the pre-Open era, 12 & 2 respectively
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Australian Open – Day 7+8 (4R)


The most promising players born in the 90s (Bernard Tomic, Milos Raonic) still aren’t capable of making the noise in the second week of Grand Slam tournaments. Roger Federer keeps them in the queue. Tomic and Raonic have different styles but the outcome of their back-to-back matches tsonga_ao13against Federer was the same: 6-4 7-6 6-1, well, Raonic won two games in the 3rd set, but he was broken in that set twice, just like Tomic in his ‘1-6’ set. Thanks to those 2nd set tie-breaks, Federer has surpassed the all-time Pete Sampras‘ record of the most tie-breaks won #. It was a French day in Melbourne: four Frenchmen showed up, all couldn’t advance to the quarterfinals because first match on Rod Laver Arena was an all-French affair of Top 10 players. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga showed bigger strength and stamina overpowering Richard Gasquet 6-4 3-6 6-3 6-2. They met in the fourth round at the Australian Open also five years ago, and Tsonga prevailed in four sets losing the 2nd one as well. Gasquet becomes an eternal fourth round loser at the majors, he is now 1-14 in his Grand Slam fourth rounds (fifth straight major he finishes at this stage). Not surprising that he gently broke his racquet in frustration as he lost his serve for the second time in the last set. It’s his first defeat of the season after eight consecutive wins. “I’m practising well,” said Tsonga. “When you work hard and you’re focused on what you’re doing, I mean, you are obliged to improve again. Even if it takes time, for sure I will improve my game.” A third Top 20 Frenchman, Gilles Simon had little chance to beat Andy Murray, to whom suffered nine consecutive defeats. Murray displayed stable form during a 6-3 6-1 6-3 win, advancing to his ninth straight Grand Slam quarterfinal. Simon seemed physically exhausted after his match against Monfils, but I can’t put the emphasis on it as far as the match with Murray is concerned because the Frenchman presents very similar game-style to Murray, what separates these two it’s the execution, the Scot is simply better at it chardy_aussieopen13which had been displayed in all their previous meetings except the first one. He loves to play in Australia, he has advanced third time to the quarterfinals there, not dropping a set: lost just 22 games in 2011, 33 in 2010, 34 this year. Without losing a set have been Federer and Berdych too, Federer not even broken yet… It’s tough to say where Jeremy Chardy‘s shape comes from. The 36th ranked Frenchman started this year with two defeats, he hadn’t won a match in Melbourne in his three previous trips. Now he is in the quarterfinals after a solid 4-set win over Andreas Seppi, 5-7 6-3 6-2 6-2. Admittedly Seppi had two consecutive 5-setters in his legs prior to the encounter with Chardy, but the Frenchman encountered a 5-setter in the third round as well, he also played a tough 3-set match in doubles on Sunday. Chardy reminds me of Younes El Aynaoui, he sets up strategy on powerful serves and forehands, his double-handed backhand is rather awkward, he usually either replaces it by decent slice or tries to run it around as much as he can. El Aynoaui reached the Grand Slam quarterfinals four times, so maybe Chardy is going to do the same. “After my first win, I feel more relaxed, more confident. Now I’m in a quarter-final,” said the 25-year-old Frenchman. “It’s just like a dream. I played very well on court. I feel very well. I played solid. It’s good for my tennis. I know I can beat everybody. So when I feel confident, I believe in me.” Seppi perhaps wasted his lifetime opportunity to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal, but good start of the year in Australia (SF in Sydney) awards him being a seventh Top 20’er from Italy in the Open era, next Monday.


After routine first three rounds, Novak Djokovic was finally tested, intrinsically it was testing to the limits. His fourth round opponent, Stanislas Wawrinka has been known for many years as a player with one of the purest one-handed backhands in the last ten years or so, who isn’t able to wawa_nole_ao13produce wins over the best guys though. This time he was amazingly close, and besides the famous backhand, he displayed today phenomenal forehand skills, hitting the ball firmly and clearly throughout the match off both wings. He raced to a sensational 6-1 4:1* lead (the Serb lost his serve five times, hadn’t been broken in three previous matches in Melbourne!), Djokovic’s shoes took part in that astonishing scoreline though, he was constantly off balance and changed them at the beginning of the 2nd set. Wawrinka led 5:3 (30/0) on serve when for the first, and actually only time that evening, stiffed his arm to lose almost seven games in a row: Djokovic was broken leading 1:0 (40/0) in the 3rd set. Tie-break of the 4th set delivered fantastic rallies, especially Wawrinka’s three set points were awesome, Djokovic fought off two, but on the third Wawrinka outmaneuvered his rival during a fast rally, and finished him off with a forehand down the line. He broke in the opening game of the final set, but was broken immediately. Later on both players held service games 19 times in succession. Wawrinka squandered four mini-match points at 4-all: the first one was saved by Djokovic’s BH-dropshot, another three evaporated in a consequence of Wawrinka’s errors. The last, perhaps the most painful one, because Nole hit an average 2nd serve and Wawrinka sent a forehand-return long, to be precise the ball was good, but chair-umpire Enric Molina didn’t suggest anything, Wawrinka didn’t use the hawk-eye system. In the 22nd game, the Swiss led 40/15, then saved two match points with brilliant shots, and had another two game points – couldn’t capitalize; the defending champion converted his third match point after a breath-taking rally with a tight cross-court backhand passing-shot winner! After a hug with Wawrinka, Djokovic celebrated just like a year ago overcoming Nadal in the final, he ripped his T-shirt off with a roar. These two matches belong to a narrow group of 4 in which a 5-hour mark was broken in Melbourne #. “We are only midway through the tournament but this feels like a final” said Djokovic, improving his 5-set record when scoreline reached ‘5-all’ in deciding sets to 8-0 (!), however, it was djokovic rips T-shirtthe first time he was pushed beyond “7” ahead from his perspective (six times won 7-5, once 7-6). “When I was 6-1, 5-2 down, I believed that I can come back if I am two sets down. I’ve been in those situations before,” said Djokovic “I know I can recover. I know I have it in me. I wasn’t worried too much about the physical part. I was ready for it. I was ready to go the distance, and I’ve done so. Hopefully I can take that day off tomorrow and recover for the quarters.”  Djokovic’s compatriot, Janko Tipsarevic paid the price for two consecutive 5-setters. His left heel bothered him, unfortunately when he isn’t fully fit – he isn’t eager to play, so he retired at 2-6 1-5 against Nicolas Almagro. It’s Tipsarevic’s seventh retirement at majors, Almagro advances to his first Grand Slam quarterfinal outside Paris, where he three times suffered straight set defeats to Rafael Nadal at this stage. This time Nadal isn’t playing, but it’s not a consolation for Almagro, because his other compatriot David Ferrer is the next opponent. Even though they are Davis Cup teammates, Ferrer is a nightmarish opponent keeping their Head-to-Head at 12-0! Ferrer dispatched Kei Nishikori 6-2 6-1 6-4 becoming the first man to book his place in quarterfinals. Well, the talented Japanese hasn’t physically improved within 12 months – he got seven games, as many as a year before when he lost in quarterfinals to Murray. “It is very difficult to win a Grand Slam because there are the Top 4. In this moment, the last three or four years, they are better than the other players,” said the older Spaniard. “But I am not thinking about if I have the chance to win a Grand Slam. I am only focused with every match I will play.” Almagro stated: “It is a big opportunity for me to be in a semi-final. I’m ready berdych_ao13to fight, I’m healthy and I’m happy with my tennis. I think I’m playing really good. He’s hitting the ball with a lot of confidence, and we’ll see what happens on Tuesday.” In the only match scheduled on Margaret Court Arena (all other fourth round matches of both halves of the draw held on two main arenas), Tomas Berdych has maintained his perfect record this year in Melbourne (12-0 sets), but his 3rd set against Kevin Anderson turned into a titanic battle characterized by uncertainty to the very end. Berdych was playing with tremendous efficiency, and after grabbing first two sets, he led 2:0* in the 3rd. Anderson broke back, and had five set points (all as a receiver), the first one at 5:4, another four in a tie-break: 7:6, 9:8, 11:10 & 13:12. The closest to win the set, the South African was on his second set point as he attacked the net with very good approach-shot, but Berdych surprised him with a backhand passing-shot from difficult position running from corner to corner. The Czech converted his fifth match point when Anderson’s forehand-shank landed a few inches outside the baseline (challenge must have decided the final outcome). Berdych won 6-3 6-2 7-6(13) and remarked: “I think it’s more important to bring the best for the end of the set, and I think I was able to do so. I was many times actually serving the set points down and was able to keep on my serve, which with him is very tough because you don’t know what could happen, especially for your second serve. You can just go for it hundred percent and then you don’t have it in your hands at all.”

Longest match: 5 hours, 2 minutes. Novak Djokovic d. Stanislas Wawrinka 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7(5), 12-10
Most aces: 19 – Milos Raonic, lost to Roger Federer (three sets)
5-set barometer: 18-6 Novak Djokovic, 19-14 Stanislas Wawrinka
# Most tie-breaks won:
329Roger Federer, 328 – Pete Sampras, 304 – Andy Roddick, 276 – Goran Ivanisevic, 257 – Greg Rusedski
## More than 5-hour matches at Australian Open:
5:53 Novak Djokovic d. Rafael Nadal (2012, final)
5:14 Rafael Nadal d. Fernando Verdasco (2009, semifinal)
5:11 Boris Becker d. Omar Camporese (1991, third round)
5:02 Novak Djokovic d. Stanislas Wawrinka (2013, fourth round)
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Australian Open – Day 5+6 (3R)

federer_ao13Last year: Bernard Tomic played two good pre-Australian Open tournaments and said before his fourth round meeting with Roger Federer that he would beat the 4-time champion, ended up losing 4-6 2-6 2-6 though. This year: Tomic beat Djokovic at the Hopman Cup and said he’s unstoppable, won his maiden title in Sydney, had a 76-game winning streak on serve, presented haircut with stripes above his right ear, but Federer took him down a peg or two again. Tomic’s streak was broken as early as the opening game of the match when he netted a casual forehand. The 20-year-old Australian held another ten service games, the last two with big problems to establish a 4:1 lead in a tie-break. Afterwards he led *5:3 when Federer pushed himself to a tremendous effort in defense to turn the tie-break around. In the end, Tomic won just three games more than last year: 6-4 7-6(5) 6-1 for Federer – his 250th Grand Slam win #. “I think overall we both played a great match… (he) really got the best out of me tonight so I hope he can keep it up,” Federer said in a courtside interview. Players of the tightest tennis elite (Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, David Ferrer, Thomas Berdych, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga) have won all matches of the first week so easily it’s a bit annoying, especially if we consider they met very good, experienced players like Marcos Baghdatis (Ferrer chardy_ao13overwhelmed him 6-4 6-2 6-3) or Jurgen Melzer (he was able to take only seven games off Berdych). “Tonight, it was my best match of the week,” said Ferrer. “I’m very happy to win in three sets against Marcos. It is difficult”. The Spaniard after identical scoreline on the same court (Rod Laver Arena, night session too) upset two years ago Rafael Nadal‘s bid of becoming the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win four consecutive majors. In the context of those easy roads to the last 16, Jeremy Chardy made the tournament more interesting on Saturday. The Frenchman has based his game on two shots: serve + forehand, and when they work properly, he is a tricky opponent. Murray knows something about it because he lost 4 & 4 to Chardy in Cincinnati ’12. In the following match out there, Chardy was trounced by Juan Martin del Potro, despite the Argentine hadn’t fully fit left wrist. Therefore I didn’t expect Chardy would beat Del Potro on Hisense Arena. Chardy found his obsessive serve & forehand rhythm though, and almost ousted the 6th seed in easy three sets! Del Potro saved four break points trailing 2:3 in the 3rd set, at 4:5 (15-all) he won a rally in which Chardy had two overheads and his beloved forehand standing in the box area! The Argentine never came back to win from a two-sets-to-love deficit, but it might have seemed probable for the first time as he had a seppi_ao13break point at 2-all in the deciding set. Chardy escaped with another powerful serve (20 aces in total), broke in the 8th game and finished the contest off with an ace: 6-3 6-3 6-7(3) 3-6 6-3 in 3 hours 45 minutes. “It’s maybe the best [win] of my career,” said Chardy. “I beat Murray last year in Cincinnati. But here it’s something more because it’s the Australian Open, third round, I play a top player. It’s a big win for me. I’m just so happy, I enjoyed it.” A new quarter-finalist at majors is guaranteed because Chardy will meet in the fourth round Andreas Seppi, who outsmarted a 5-set specialist Marin Cilic on Court No. 2. The Croat led 2:0 on serve in the decider only to lose six straight games… 4-6 6-3 4-6 7-6(4) 6-2, after 3 hours 46 minutes, and Kevin Anderson has finally advanced to the last 16 at majors hitting a blistering forehand on a match point. He’d failed four previous third round attempts, but every time he’d faced a top-class player (twice Berdych, once Gasquet & Fish). This time he also met a top-class player, former semifinalist Fernando Verdasco. The Spaniard was three points away from winning the match in four sets, but it happened when Anderson was serving at 5:6 (40/30), so the pressure wasn’t huge on the South African, who fired just 9 aces, but his serve was solid throughout, gave him many free points and opened possibilities to finish rallies off with strokes directly after Verdasco’s returns. “I was very emotional at the end,” said Anderson. “I tried my best to win it at 5-2, it’s a little easier than having to serve it out, I was anderson_ao13pretty happy to see that forehand go by. It would definitely be up there in one of the most important and best matches I’ve played, the only ones in the same ballpark would have been the finals I’ve played at the 250 [ATP World Tour] level. It was one of the most important matches of my life and hopefully I’ll be able to reproduce more of those in the future.” Anderson is the only unseeded player left in the top half of the draw, but his advancement to the fourth round shouldn’t been treated as a big surprise. He’s made significant progress lately and is currently ranked No. 31 while the lowest seeded player, Julien Benneteau was 38th when the tournament kicked off. Benneteau was defeated in five sets on Margaret Court Arena by Janko Tipsarevic, for both players it was second more-than-3-and-half-hours battle in succession. Tipsarevic is unbeaten on tour this year (7-0 record). He next faces Nicolas Almagro, who moved through to the fourth round in Melbourne for the fourth year running. He ousted 7-6 7-6 6-1 Jerzy Janowicz. Almagro wasn’t threaten on his serve the entire match – Janowicz didn’t get ‘deuce’ on return even once (!), in the 3rd set he didn’t show any sign of belief in second consecutive comeback from two-sets-to-love. Richard Gasquet – just like Tipsarevic – hasn’t lost a match so far in 2013. He notched his eight win of the season outlasting Ivan Dodig 4-6 6-3 7-6(2) 6-0. The Frenchman was initially in troubles, but hit an ace at 1:3 (adv.) to avoid a monfils_simon_ao13_double break disadvantage in the 2nd set which allowed him finding the right track, however, he was close to lose the 3rd set as well – rallied from a *5:6 (15/30) deficit, and never looked back since then winning 37 of the last 51 points. Une guerre française d’épuisement masochiste: Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils were harrasing each other with long punishing rallies (72 strokes at most – allegedly the longest rally in Australian Open history!) in the last fourth round match, on Hisense Arena, concluded half past midnight local time. There was a lot of grunting, moaning, back bending, crouching and facial grimaces. Both Frenchmen needed treatment to sore legs. Monfils was complaining on right hand blisters (because of that he played one game using only forehand slices), in turn Simon was precisely indicating pain in his right forearm. Monfils led *2:0 in a topsy-turvy 5th set, consisted of seven breaks. At the end of that set, they exchanged 47-stroke rallies twice splitting the outcome ##. Simon was eventually more clever, and obtained 12 of the last 14 points. There are four Musketeers in the last 16, it’s been the best result for the French tennis in Melbourne since 1998 (Cedric Pioline, Nicolas Escude, Lionel Roux, Guillaume Raoux).

Longest match: 4 hours, 43 minutes. Gilles Simon d. Gael Monfils 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 1-6, 8-6
Most aces: 26 – Milos Raonic, defeated Philipp Kohlschreiber (three sets)
5-set barometer:
17-8 Janko Tipsarevic, 16-12 Fernando Verdasco, 15-7 Marin Cilic, 12-11 Andreas Seppi, 10-5 Gael Monfils, 10-6 Gilles Simon, 7-6 Julien Benneteau, 6-2 Jeremy Chardy, 5-5 Kevin Anderson, 4-6 Juan Martin del Potro
# Most Grand Slam matches won:
250Roger Federer233 – Jimmy Connors, 224 – Andre Agassi, 222 – Ivan Lendl, 203 – Pete Sampras
## The longest rallies of three rounds:
Six longest come from the Monfils-Simon match (!):
72 (Simon), 47 (Monfils, Simon), 45 (Simon), 42 (Monfils), 35 (Simon)
34 – John Millman won against Tatsuma Ito
33 – Richard Gasquet won against Ivan Dodig
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Australian Open – Day 4 (2R)

The hottest day this week – 38 Celsius most of the day (102 Fahrenheit). A main favorite beside Djokovic, Andy Murray spent only 101 minutes on Hisense Arena in these difficult conditions, overpowering Joao Sousa [100] of Portugal 6-2 6-2 6-4. “It’s good to get it done in three sets because physically, it’s very demanding,” Murray said, “When you’re playing in that heat, it’s very, very tomic_brands_ao13difficult to focus when you’re really out of breath.” A very plausible Murray’s quarterfinal opponent, Juan Martin del Potro dropped just eight games as well, finishing Benjamin Becker with four consecutive aces. Murray next faces Lithuanian qualifier Ricardas Berankis [110], who stunned in three quick sets Florian Mayer. The 22-year-old Berankis made a great debut in Australia two years ago reaching the third round, but was sidelined four months soon afterwards, with a right pelvis stress fracture. Bernard Tomic lost his serve in a 6th game of the 1st set against Nieminen in Sydney’s quarterfinal and hasn’t been broken since then #, which means he holds 76 service games in a row! ~1/3 of them against Daniel Brands in a tough battle, all four sets requiring a 5-all situation. Brands isn’t an ace machine, but when his 1st serve percentage is high (66% today), he is tough to break; Del Potro survived against him in three tie-breakers last October (Vienna). In the 4th set against Tomic, Brands fought off seven match points (!): one at 4:5, another two at 5:6, a triple match point at 3:6 in the tie-break, and 6:7 – thrice serving aces, he had his only set point in that set at 8:7 – Tomic responded with a service winner down the T, and clinched on eight match point just under three hours, 6-7(4) 7-5 7-6(3) 7-6(8). The match featured 49 aces combined. “I was surprised [with] the way he played today… it was a really tough match,” said Tomic. Also a big problem with converting match points had Blaz Kavcic [93] on Court No. 3. His rival, James Duckworth came back from a 2:5 deficit in the deciding set, saving one match point in the process, and a triple match point at 5:6. When he was serving at 6:7 began to suffering cramps. His big serve (25 aces, Kavcic 23) allowed him to hold two more games, but he wasn’t able to do anything at Kavcic’s last four service games though. After 4 hours 52 minutes (seventh longest Australian Open match), the Slovenian could celebrate his epic victory as the Australian youngster kavcic_celebrates_2rd_ao13sent a forehand long. A couple hours later on his Twitter account, Kavcic wrote he had received morphine because of exhaustion – officials denied it, saying he got an appropriate muscle relaxant… Gael Monfils, similarly to Tomic and Kavcic, had blown several match points before won the final point of his match against Yen-Hsun Lu, however, Monfils couldn’t capitalize on his serve, he needed six match points in one game, serving double faults on four occasions (23 overall – equaled Guillermo Coria‘s record of Aussie Open ’06)! Earlier, at 5:6 (0/30) the serve helped him to avoid elimination from the tournament; the final score 7-6 4-6 0-6 6-1 8-6. Last year at Wimbledon, Denis Istomin ousted Andreas Seppi 8-6 in the 5th set being two points away from defeat, this time the Italian made a sweet revenge surviving a 5-set struggle (7-6 5-7 6-7 7-6 6-2) in 4 hours 7 minutes, being two points away from loss at 5:6 in the 4th set.

Longest match: 4 hours, 52 minutes. Blaz Kavcic d. James Duckworth 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-7(3), 10-8
Most aces: 29 – Gael Monfils, defeated Yen-Hsun Lu
5-set barometer:
16-9 Jarkko Nieminen, 11-11 Andreas Seppi, 10-4 Gael Monfils, 8-6 Yen-Hsun Lu, 7-4 Denis Istomin, 3-3 Ivan Dodig, 2-1 Blaz Kavcic, 1-1 James Duckworth
# Tomic’s 76 consecutive service games held:
Sydney: 12 – Nieminen, 11 – Seppi, 16 – Anderson; Melbourne: 13 – L.Mayer, 24 – Brands
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Australian Open – Day 3 (2R)

The match of the day occurred on Court No. 8, where 22-year-old Jerzy Janowicz took on Somdev Devvarman. The Indian has slipped to No. 551 after missing most of the 2012 season with a shoulder injury, but he reminded on Wednesday that he was a top 100 player once. In a very tense tie-break, he blew a 5:1 lead, then saved four set points to take it after 79 minutes. The third and only s.p. on Janowicz’s serve was crucial – Devvarman played a shaky forehand which might have clipped the line. Janowicz thought otherwise and exploded, collapsing to his knees and yelling janowicz_ao13_at the umpire (Marija Cicak): “How many times!?”, referring to earlier alleged bad line-calls. The Pole was frustrated in the 2nd set, and when he lost it, seemed quite disinterested for a while. It helped him to let loose though. Over the next two and a half sets, he was hitting winners all over the place, especially from the forehand side (41 winners overall!). Devverman was completely helpless, seemingly bothered by his left wrist, but powerful strokes caused blisters on Janowicz’s right hand, and things got complicated – the Indian rallied from a 1:4 (15/30) & *2:5 deficit. At 5-all Janowicz forgot about the blisters and a new series of massive shots (inside-out FH winner on second match point) booked his place in the third round. “What did I learn today? [That the] most important thing is you have to fight for every single ball till the end. I was losing already two-sets-to-love and I kept on fighting,” said Janowicz, whose Russian peer – Evgeny Donskoy [82] arrived in Melbourne with an infamous 1-11 record (St.Petersburg ’10: his only win), now has already won two within three days after a 5-set victory over compatriot Mikhail Youzhny 3-6 7-6(3) 6-2 3-6 6-3. Brian Baker has unbelievable bad luck to injuries. He had suffered plenty of them, and when it seemed that nightmares of surgeries are behind, he’s going to take another longer break from the sport because of injury. In the 3rd game of the 2nd set he pulled up lame as he was running to the ball after winning 1st set against Sam Querrey. “Something rubbed back and forth and… I couldn’t straighten my leg. I’ve never had knee problems in my life,” he said after leaving the court with tears in a wheelchair. “He’s the last person that deserves anything like that, with his five or six surgeries already,” Querrey said of Baker. “He does everything right, treats his body great, just trying to come back, and then something like that happens, it’s just so unlucky.” Baker had a reasonable chance to make his Davis benneteau_ao13Cup debut next month against Brazil. Querrey faces Stan Wawrinka, whose opponent (Tobias Kamke) retired as well – the German did it after two full sets being 3-6 6-7 down. David Ferrer won nine opening games against “lucky loser” Tim Smczek, but the American of Polish origin, started to hit solid shots and pushed the Spaniard to a 4-set work, even rallying from a 1:3 deficit in the 3rd set (6-0 7-5 4-6 6-3). Court No. 6 is a lucky place for Julien Benneteau in duels with fellow Frenchmen. Last year, he survived a dramatic 5-setter with Gilles Simon, this time struggled past Edouard Roger-Vasselin 4-6 7-5 7-6 7-6 in 3:34 hrs, being on verge to lose all winning sets (two points away in sets No. 2 & 3, saved four set points on return in the last set). Two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic, showed no mercy during night session against Ryan Harrison on Rod Laver Arena. The 20-year-old American was improving with each set in regard of games (1, 2, 3) and time (20, 30, 41 minutes), to no avail. At the same time, Djokovic’s compatriot, Janko Tipsarevic was involved in a dramatic contest with Slovakian Lukas Lacko on Showcourt No. 2. It looked like a routine 3-set victory as Tipsarevic broke in the opening game of the 3rd set after 7 ‘deuces’ having a two-sets-to-love cushion. Lacko broke back immediately and took control over the match for two sets. In the decider, both guys delivered entertaining flat ball-striking, ‘Tipsy’ had two match points leading 5:2*, Lacko leveled and could do it once again in the 12th game as he led 40/15. The Serb managed to get four points in a row, the last two with cross-court passing-shots.

Longest match: 4 hours, 0 minutes. Jerzy Janowicz d. Somdev Devvarman 6-7(10), 3-6, 6-1, 6-0, 7-5
Most aces: 20 – Evgeny Donskoy, defeated Mikhail Youzhny
5-set barometer:
18-12 Mikhail Youzhny, 16-8 Janko Tipsarevic, 16-15 Jurgen Melzer, 4-5 Lukas Lacko, 2-2 Jerzy Janowicz, 1-0 Evgeny Donskoy, 1-1 Roberto Bautista Agut, 1-3 Somdev Devvarman
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Australian Open – Day 2 (1R)

haase_murrayThe second day was in my opinion much less interesting than the first one. Matches of main favorites were so short that will soon evaporate from memories of fans. Andy Murray dropped just seven games to Robin Haase, whom he hardly defeated two years ago at US Open. “If you aren’t nervous, it shows that you’re really not that bothered,” said Murray. “When the nerves are there, sometimes it can be for 10, 15 minutes before you go on the court or the beginning of the match or the evening beforehand.” The Scot is on a quarterfinal collision course with Juan Martin del Potro – the Argentine committed only eight unforced errors during a 6-1 6-2 6-2 win over three months older Adrian Mannarino. They met in the Australian Open first round also last year, and Del Potro needed four sets then. The potential Murray-Del Potro encounter is highly expected because they haven’t met since November 2009. “I’m obviously very happy with this first-round match, so total control. He can be a tricky opponent, but I guess his playing style doesn’t disturb me that much overall. I’m happy I was able to play a clean match out there today.” said Roger Federer after dismissing Benoit Paire 6-2 6-4 6-1 – this year’s debut of the Swiss maestro. Gael Monfils, in his first Grand Slam match since last year’s Australian Open, hit as many as 15 aces in the 1st set against Alexandr Dolgopolov, but lost it squandering a set point in a tie-break. The Frenchman added just 9 aces in three following sets, but it was enough to move further (6-7 7-6 6-3 6-3). Both entertaining players entered the Margaret Court Arena in yellow T-shirts, it’s a color which dominated this year’s Aussie Open clothes. Qualifier Amir Weintraub [196], who had helped Israel in winning a play-off tie last September, notched first Grand Slam win at the age of 26. He’d failed all seven previous approaches in GS qualifying rounds. Di Wu [186] became China’s first man in a Grand Slam event of the Open era. Wu made this milestone in history of Chinese men’s tennis thanks to a “wild card”, which he earned by winning an Australian Open qualifying tournament last year in Asia. The last Chinese man to play singles in a Grand Slam tournament was Mei Fu-Chi, who won a round in 1959 at Wimbledon (in the second round lost to Torben Ulrich, a father of Metallica’s drummer Lars). Australian spectators will have to wait at least another year for a reasonable number of home pupils in the second round to cheer for. Only 2 out of 8 Aussies advanced to the last 64, and one of them – James Duckworth [223] – had plenty of luck of being Tomic’s 2nd round comrade, as he met on Tuesday his friend, equally unexperienced Benjamin Mitchell [334] on Court No. 2. It was a lifetime opportunity for both 20-year-old local “wild cards”, and they left on court everything they have, strongly supported by enthusiastic crowd. The sturdy Duckworth was close to win in four sets (two points away), afterwards choked a bit in the 5th, but his powerful serve (28 nieminen_2013aces) made a difference in the end – it’s the longest match of the first round. In other 5-setter, which was also concluded after a 14-game final set, Jarkko Nieminen attested once again that he’s one of the smartest and most resistant active players. The Finn rallied from a 2:4 deficit in the 5th set against Tommy Haas, at 5:6 he saved a match point with a serve & volley action – something he doesn’t apply often. It irritated the moody Haas, who committed two consecutive double faults in the following game. Nieminen serving to win the match, first surprised Haas with an amazingly slow serve (113 kph) that caused a return error, then struck two fast aces in a row and celebrated his 7-6(3) 4-6 6-3 4-6 8-6 victory falling on the ground. One German lost a match point-up meeting, other (Florian Mayer) won from a match point down. Mayer saved two match points in a very long 4th set tie-break (9:10, 11:12) against American “wild card” Rhyne Williams, who was trying to get his first main-level win in fourth attempt. Mayer survived 2-6 3-6 6-2 7-6(12) 6-1.

Longest match: 4 hours, 26 minutes. James Duckworth d. Benjamin Mitchell 6-4, 7-6(8), 4-6, 5-7, 8-6
Most aces: 30 – Milos Raonic, defeated Jan Hajek
5-set barometer:
20-20 Tommy Haas, 16-8 Jarkko Nieminen, 6-5 Florian Mayer, 1-0 James Duckworth, 0-1 Benjamin Mitchell, Rhyne Williams
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Australian Open – Day 1 (1R)

16-year-old Thanasi Kokkinakis [758] was unknown in the tennis world until the first week of 2013, when he got a surprising chance to pop up out of nowhere replacing Isner and Haas at Hopman Cup. The teenager unexpectedly shared the court with Verdasco and Djokovic which must have pumped him up emphatically. In the first round of qualifying tournament, he pushed Steve Johnson [175] to serving ten times to stay in the match; eventually the boy from Australia lost 4-6 7-6 15-17 after 3:47 hrs, but left the court No. 3 with very good impression. I bet he will be a future star of the johnson_almagrogame… Johnson came back on that court five days later to play the tournament’s opening match against Nicolas Almagro. The 23-year-old American saved a match point with hard serve at 5:6 in the 4th set, then another one with a brave forehand which hit an intersection of baseline and sideline. Despite losing two tie-break sets, Almagro kept his composure because winning service games was easy for him throughout, broke three times in the decider, serving 34th ace (Johnson hit 21) to notch a 7-5 6-7(4) 6-2 6-7(6) 6-2 victory in his first encounter of the year. The 5th set scenario of that match was repeated in two other deciding sets between experienced guys and newcomers. On Hisense Arena, Fernando Verdasco seemed boiled at 1-2 *0:2, but reminded himself that in Melbourne played his career-best tournament (2009), and also with a booming serve wrapped up his 5-set win over David Goffin 6-3 3-6 4-6 6-3 6-4. On Margaret Court Arena, Mikhail Youzhny, who won in Doha two weeks ago his match No. 400, somehow blew a 5:1 (40/30) lead on serve in the 2nd set against Matthew Ebden, afterwards must have used all his skills to get back on track, saved a match point with an attack to the net (one impressive cross-court backhand during the rally), and quite calmly reacted as the umpire announced 4-6 6-7(0) 6-2 7-6(4) 6-3 in his favor (3:59 hrs). Edouard Roger-Vasselin had more luck this time than in his two previous majors: he lost 8-10 in the 5th set at Wimbledon (Garcia-Lopez) and 5-7 in the 5th at US Open (Fognini). The unlucky outcome was almost repeated: he squandered a match point leading 6:5 in the 5th set against Ruben Bemelmans, and faced a scare as the Belgian was serving at 9:8 (30/0). Bemelmans couldn’t capitalize though, and the son of a Roland Garros semifinalist (Christophe Roger-Vasselin made it 30 years ago), won three games in a row to ’30’. Roger-Vasselin also escaped in the 4th set saving a mini-match point at 2:4.
Novak Djokovic is bidding for his third Australian Open title in succession, something no-one accomplished, even Andre Agassi, who was unbeaten in 26 straight matches #, but missed the 2002 edition (triumphed 2000-01 & ’03). The Serb began his title defense with a solid display (6-2 6-4 7-5) against French veteran Paul-Henri Mathieu. “It was a good performance for a first round,” said Djokovic. “I felt I was in control of the match in the opening two sets. It was tough to break [in the third set]. But in the end, that 11th game, I made some good shots, good points, managed to go through in straight sets.” Djokovic’s potential semifinal opponent, David Ferrer still impresses. He needed 110 minutes to dismiss the shortest player on tour Olivier Rochus 6-3 6-4 6-2. Lleyton Hewitt made his 17th appearance in Melbourne tying John Alexander‘s achievement (Fabrice Santoro holds the record with 18), and expectations were high because he’d triumphed at Kooyong two days before, whereas his first round opponent Janko Tipsarevic retired in that event. Well, their match only confirmed that Top 10 guys don’t want to risk anything kuznetsov_ao13a week before majors. Tipsarevic was fully fit, hitting the ball as hard as he could and prevailed a tough 3-setter 7-6(4) 7-5 6-3 in 3 hours 2 minutes reeling off seven games in a row from a 3:5 deficit in the mid-set (Hewitt was two points away from taking two sets). Jerzy Janowicz [26] was approached with a pair of scissors by the umpire and instructed that he must remove an illegal sponsorship logo (Atlas) from his T-shirt after the warm-up. Perhaps it distracted concentration of the young Pole, who lost 15 out of 17 initial points against Simone Bolelli, but saved a double break point at 0:3 (15/40) and notched his first win at Melbourne Park 7-5 6-4 6-3. Janowicz didn’t come to Australia last year, he simply couldn’t afford to that because of lack of required money. The biggest upset of the day produced 21-year-old Russian Andrey Kuznetsov [79] overwhelming Juan Monaco 7-6(3) 6-1 6-1. The Argentine probably doesn’t care about Australia anymore keeping in mind his beloved South American swing awaits around the corner. His last two trips were limited only to Melbourne, last year he was ousted in the first round as well. Kuznetsov’s first Grand Slam win.

Longest match: 4 hours, 25 minutes. Edouard Roger-Vasselin d. Ruben Bemelmans 6-3, 6-7(5), 2-6, 7-5, 11-9
Most aces: 32 – Nicolas Almagro, defeated Steve Johnson
5-set barometer:
18-11 Mikhail Youzhny, 16-11 Fernando Verdasco, 14-21 Radek Stepanek, 13-9 Nicolas Almagro, 12-6 Marcos Baghdatis, 9-9 Viktor Troicki, 8-6 Lukasz Kubot & Fabio Fognini, 3-0 Tatsuma Ito, 3-4 Edouard Roger-Vasselin, 2-1 David Goffin, 2-2 Daniel Gimeno-Traver, 2-7 Alex Bogomolov, 1-0 Roberto Bautista Agut, 1-1 Brian Baker, 1-2 Albert Ramos, 0-1 John Millman, 0-2 Steve Johnson, Ruben Bemelmans, Matthew Ebden
# Longest winning streaks in Melbourne:
26 – Andre Agassi; 20 – Ivan Lendl; 19Roger Federer; 18 – Jim Courier; 17 – Stefan Edberg, Mats Wilander; 16 – Guillermo Vilas; 15 – Johan Kriek, Novak Djokovic
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