For the first time in its nearly century-and-a-half history, Wimbledon was cancelled for a reason other than war as it became the latest major sporting event in 2020 to fall victim of the coronavirus pandemic.
Day three kicked off with the first variation to the opening days of the tournament being the doubles tournament kicking off to watch on the outside courts.
It’s a shame doubles is not more widely played by the top players. The problem if the top players did play doubles though would mean fewer opportunities for lower ranked players to earn their next pool of travel money for the year.
One thing about Grand Slams is the discrepancy between the top players and the lower ranked players that is on display in the first week. A quirkier side is that the lower ranked players inevitably put up an early fight in the first one or two sets before falling away dramatically.
Last night’s score line between Victoria Azarenka and Casey Dellacqua was a case in point. In losing 6-1, 6-0 Dellacqua showed plenty of fight throughout the match however only managed to win a game in the first set.
The men’s side is no different. Reigning champion Novak Djokovic won his round one match 6-2, 6-0, 6-0. His opponent, Italy’s Paolo Lorenzi stayed in the match in the first set winning two games, but then disappeared faster than his countryman captaining the sinking cruise ship in the Mediterranean this week.
At least Lorenzi had an excuse of playing the best player of the past 12 months.
Where ever you look in the draw there are these discrepancies. The power, strength and fitness of the best players is superior to the players that are not regularly playing ATP or WTA tournaments all year round. Unfortunately there are only a number of tournaments outside the Grand Slams where lower ranked players are able to regularly battle against the players they look to emulate.
Another great win by Bernard Tomic last night will give Australia hope for the years to come at the Australian Open. Unfortunately Tomic has a very tough draw this year again.
While he is some chance to challenge the equally enigmatic Alexandre Dolgopolov in the next round, the winner faces potential match-up against a well rested Roger Federer in the fourth round.
Commenced with such high hopes, with four Aussies in action, but ultimately ended with exits from the tournament for a triumvirate of Australian hopes. Messrs Duckworth and Ebden after strong showings early in their round two matches were beaten in four and five sets respectively.
Both players will have fond memories of their best Australian Open performance of their careers.
The other sortie from the tournament was on the woman’s side with Jelena Dokic ending another campaign in Australia in disappointing circumstances against France’s Marion Bartoli in straight sets 6-2, 6-2. Turning 29 in April it appears Dokic’s best tennis is behind her.
Despite her new found personal confidence, her game seems stuck in the early 2000’s with some major changes required in order to find herself in the top 10 again. Mind you Li Na is now 30 and it took her until the previous two years to break through so anything is possible.
The Australian who did make it through was Lleyton Hewitt. Of course I am of the opinion he should have done as his doubles partner Peter Luczak did and announced this to be his last Australian Open. Hewitt almost admitted as much by suggesting he was just happy to be out there and to have another opportunity to play again on Rod Laver Arena in his post match interview last night.
The unfortunate injury to Andy Roddick early in the second set robbed fans of a genuine contest. Roddick bravely fought on until he could no more, conceding the match at two sets to one down.
Obviously there has been a lot of focus on the Australians in the early part of the tournament and as the tournament progress I am sure the green and gold feel will slowly slip away. Away from the Aussies, the number of matches that go the distance never ceases to amaze at Grand Slams.
On the men’s side Isner (isn’t he always in the epics?) and Nalbandian; Dolgopolov and Kamke; Ferrer and Sweeting; Llordra and Bogomolov; Kukushkin and Troicki; Benneteau (a great win) and Simon; Nishikori and Ebden; Almagro and Dimitrov all in just the second round. Eight out of 32 matches or 25 percent.
What surprised me more was that the percentage is exactly the same in the women’s side. 25 percent of round two matches have gone the distance. The unanswerable though is how many of these matches would go to five sets if the ladies had to play five.
I am a support of having the ladies play five sets, possibly from the quarter or semi-finals onwards of a grand slam. However I also think that having the knowledge that you still have sets up your sleeve allows some players to be mentally switched off for a bit longer.