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Australian Open diary: Days eight and nine

Roar Pro
24th January, 2012
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Day nine of the Australian Open and the women’s draw gets more interesting as each round progresses. It’s certainly far easier to predict than the men’s draw, where most of us will wait for the semi-finals before we try to predict a winner from within the big four.

On the women’s side, though, picking a winner at the quarter final stage is still tricky.

Watching Caroline Wozniacki a couple of nights ago there was a feeling that this was her time. The unfairly maligned world number one was looking good despite her pre-tournament wrist injury. Not anymore.

Crowd favourite Kim Clijsters did a masterful job accounting for the world number one in their quarter final yesterday, gaining herself a semi-final spot.

Wozniacki will now lose her ranking next week, and will have to look to the clay of Rolland Garros in May if her ambition of winning a major is to be realised.

Losing the ranking can only help her cause.

Clijsters is the defending champion, so it’s ridiculous to be talking of fairytale runs, but when you have beaten two of the favourites already with a rolled ankle, and it’s your last time playing here, then the hype will continue to grow.

Unlike her come-from-behind victory against Li Na in the round of 16, Clijsters led from the front this time, only faltering slightly when Wozniacki stormed back in the second set, before closing it out in a tie-break for a straight-sets win.

Victoria Azarenka will be her next opponent, though Azarenka had the first glitch of her Australian Open campaign. The number three seed dropped the first set against Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska, before crushing her opponent 6-0, 6-2 to book a place in the last four.

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Local favourite Clijsters awaits her, and if Clijsters does win she will have beaten three favourites with perhaps Petra Kvitova to come. Ararenka has not lost a match for almost three weeks, so it’s hard to see that changing tomorrow.

As the local heroes are out of the tournament, would fans on Rod Laver Arena get satisfaction from seeing the newly anointed local villain, Thomas Berdych have Rafael Nadal wipe him from the court in the same manner of some of the seagull flock’s best work this week?

Well, Berdych didn’t read the script. He took the first set in a tiebreak and made Nadal work for every point for the rest of the match in over four and a quarter hours. While not taking the match to a fifth set Berdych might have won back a few fans with his power hitting display.

Hawkeye may still have its sceptics, but the use of the technology on Channel Seven’s coverage showing the players running path and distance in a point is great. What is more impressive though is the tracking on where the serves are being received from.

Astonishingly at times last night Nadal was receiving servers three to five meters behind the baseline. If Channel Nine overdo the use of Hawkeye in the cricket then Channel Seven have it just right at the moment. Let’s hope they do not go into overkill.

Day Eight

Firstly, I am amazed that the teeny-bopper population, having had a month off from Home and Away couldn’t wait one more week before its return this week.

Why, in an Australian Open Diary, do I write about a soap opera that has been a prime time main stay for so long?

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Last night Novak Djokovic completed his match against Lleyton Hewitt at just after 1am on what is effectively day nine. This could have concluded half an hour earlier if Channel Seven actually had some belief that their product of the tennis might actually out rate Home and Away when in the second week of a Grand Slam.

With Maria Sharapova and Sabine Lisicki going the distance in their fourth round match – Sharapova eventually moving through in two hours 15 minutes – the men were not on court until after 10pm. There was a lot of angst last night on social media about the noise of Sharapova’s grunts. While I am not a fan of the grunting per se, there is ultimately nothing we can do unless opponents complain and the WTA brings in a ruling against it.

We have to admire the tennis on display and if it really troubles you, then hit the mute button or wear earplugs. The main issue I have with it is that it is a blatantly a tactic. Otherwise why do Sharapova et al not make the same sounds when warming up?

If it was to be Lleyton Hewitt’s last stand on Rod Laver Arena then I am glad I stayed up to watch it all. At two sets to love and 3-0 down in the third the easy option would have been to go to bed and read about the applause Hewitt received as he walked off the court the next day. Instead a flock of seagulls stirred something in Hewitt and for the next hour and a half he wound back the clock on his career.

It appears that Hewitt has become more loved this year. It’s always the way with champions of the past that have divided public opinion. As the curtain is falling on their careers the naysayers start to hold their tongue a little more. Hewitt took a bow last night by winning the third set against the number one player in the world. It wasn’t necessarily the shot making that was impressive.

Hewitt drew on every fighting quality making Djokovic play one more ball. Admiration for the man who has carried Australian tennis for the past decade flowed last night because he was clearly in discomfort.

It may be the last time Hewitt plays the Australian Open, and most probably the last time he makes the second week. The ball striking of Hewitt last night was aggressive and accurate and would give him hope for the rest of the season. However, Lleyton’s toe and left foot might not afford him the luxury of being able to turn up and play the way he wants in 2013. If it was farewell, then well played Lleyton Hewitt.