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Australian Open tennis diary (days one and two)

Roar Pro
18th January, 2012
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On the outside courts early in a grand slam, you often get top-20 players against qualifiers, wildcard winners, and lower-ranked players who managed to earn their spot in the draw.

This is where as spectators you can see dreams being made for these lower-ranked individuals, dreams that mean just as much as for the top seeds trying to win the tournament.

Watching the reaction of Australia’s Olivia Rogowska after her maiden victory in the Australian Open main draw on her fourth attempt was clearly a special moment for her.

Earlier we had watched Greg Jones, playing in his first main draw Australian Open, lead the 13th seed Alexandre Dolgopolov two sets to love in what looked like being a shock upset.

Unfortunately for Greg the challenge of playing and winning his first five-set round one match in 35 degree heat was too much.

Jones’ struggles to play out the match were difficult to watch for the supportive crowd, but they were also admirable when an easier option of retirement would have seemed like a better way out.

Hopefully for Jones, his efforts inspire him to bigger things this year, and to come back next year fitter for his second attempt at the main draw.

There is always plenty of drama on the outside courts in the first few days of a Grand Slam. The mini triumphs and devastations are as enthralling as the warm ups for the big guns in the stadiums next door.

Day two is little different, with first-round matches from the other half and a buzz around the outside courts. From an Australian point of view, the daytime success of wildcard James Duckworth was washed away by the straight sets loss of Australia’s number one player Samantha Stosur.

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In what bordered on a predictable display of nerves and anxiety, the US Open champion struggled to play the convincing tennis she managed at Flushing Meadows last September.

Credit must be given to her opponent, Romanian Sorana Cirstea, but how the pressure gets to Sam so badly in Australia is difficult for us to understand. Sure we all want you to win Sam, and will support you to the end, so why does the fear of losing rear its ugly head so much more here than in other tournaments around the world?

Tennis is predominately an individual game and a player will either in their mind carry the weight of the world, or only the weight of their own expectation. Stosur, when in Australia, obviously can’t shake the former mindset.

Staying on Centre Court for the evening session saw Australia’s main Grand Slam hope of the past decade, Lleyton Hewitt, break the record for the most consecutive appearances at the Australian Open. While the local papers and indeed Channel Seven would be excited by having Lleyton as the prime time match early in the week, most tennis fans would be more excited by Duckworth and Tomic’s round one wins than Lleyton’s triumph.

In typical Hewitt fashion he managed to grind out a win against a player many years his junior in age and experience. Cedrik-Marcel Stebe of Germany has a career ATP record of 4-6 and was playing in his second grand slam.

With Stebe leading 5-1 in the fourth set with the match destined for a fifth, his shirt collar all of a sudden had a bit of extra thread and was tighter than a pair of 1980s footy shorts. Experience was the key in this match. Hewitt had it, Stebe didn’t, but he gained some for next time.

Hewitt’s win was a win for the papers and Channel Seven, as it means a round two match-up against Andy Roddick to look forward to. Although judging by the interactive question posed by Seven last night on whether Tomic or Hewitt would progress further in the tournament, more than 80 percent thought Tomic.

That’s a definite changing of the guard.

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