Thursday, January 27, 2011

Australian Open 2011 - Random Thoughts

by Savannah

The women's semi final between Li Na of China and, as Craig put it so well, the computer ranked WTA #1 Caroline Wozniacki was a tale of two matches.
The first match saw the "defensive minded" Caroline Wozniacki win the first set 6-3 over a Li Na who couldn't find the court. Li's groundstrokes were not sharp and her shot selection was suspect. The rout continued into the second set and for awhile it looked as if the WTA would get it's wish and have it's top ranked player reach a final to start off the year. Instead Na began to steady herself and hit winners forcing Wozniacki to have to play. At the end of the match there was no avoiding the fact that Li Na had 38 winners to Caroline Wozniacki's 10. That's ten winners in a three set match that lasted over two and a half hours. As one of the talking heads lamented "You can't expect to win a match with only ten winners". No you can't. There were a lot of posters on Twitter who were saying Wozniacki's career as a contender is over. I don't go that far. I think she'll continue to win lower level tournaments. Unless the draw breaks for her in a major she is always going to have problems in the later stages of a major. There is no getting around that.

The big win for the WTA was the focus on the personalities of WTA players we the public never hear from and rarely see. To say Li Na charmed the public after her win last night is putting it mildly. We got to know Francesca Schiavone through her on court play and saw potential stars of the future like Petra Kvitova . These women have handed the WTA the opportunity to change their marketing of the tour to focus on the players not an image.

The first men's semi final featured the bottom of the Draw and as usual would have given Roger Federer an extra days rest since the second semifinal will be played at 7:30p Saturday Melbourne time.
Do I have to say it again? A soft draw does not a champion make. I don't think Federer played a seed until he faced 19th seed Stanislas Wawrinka who played so poorly people were sarcastically asking how much Federer paid him to take a dive.
All humor aside Novak Djokovic will be getting that extra day of rest. He was not intimidated. He played solid, fully focused intelligent tennis throughout the match. When he overcame the 5-2 lead Federer had built in the second set there was no doubt that he would win the match. When it comes to the top ranks of the ATP tour no one is there who will play as if he's in awe of The Name as Marcos Baghdatis said by way of explaining his choke against Federer a few years back. Put simply Djokovic outthought and out played Federer.
Much was made of the possibility of Rafael Nadal holding all four Slam titles by the media. It was as if no one wanted to entertain the possibility that at the end of the day Roger Federer would not hold any. I watched the replay on Tennis Channel this morning and that fact was mentioned almost in passing by one of the talking heads.

I only made one prediction about the Australian Open and that was that Caroline Wozniacki would not go deep. She made the semifinals so I guess my prediction was off.

We won't know the second ATP finalist until later this morning on the Eastern coast of NY. Will Djokovic win his second title or will a new King of Melbourne be crowned? I call this match a toss up. If David Ferrer plays the way he did the other night against an uninjured Andy Murray things could be very interesting to say the least.


TennisAce said...

Damn. That is all

Savannah said...

You brought me up short TennisAce. Damn what?

TennisAce said...

Savannah, I expected Novak to win that match yesterday. I really did. You know why. Federer is 29 years old. Will be 30 in August. He has been playing some tough matches during this AO, despite his form coming in. He played a long gruelling 5 set match against Simon where he could have easily lost. Novak is either 22 or 23 years old and playing with supreme confidence. In a battle such as that, who would you expect to win?

If you take what I have just said into account, it did not matter how many rest days or who Federer faced prior to this, he would have lost to Djokovic. He served about 5 aces. His serve did not have the pop like it used to especially in the early part of the tournament and indeed in the latter half of the season. As someone who looks at stats etc., that means that he is not getting as many free points as he usually does and that would have given Novak many chances to get the rally going. About the only thing that Fed did wrong was stop being as aggressive as he was in the first set, but even then I still feel that Novak would have taken him out.

As for the Stan match. Stan has beaten Fed 1 time in 6 meetings prior to this. What makes you think that he would have beaten him in a quarter final of a Slam? There was no prior history of him ever pushing Fed in a major so why would he start now? Stan's game is limited. He played well against Roddick because Roddick no longer has a winning ground stroke apart from his serve. In that scenario, Stan would have won. Not against Fed who had other options and a winning h2h. That is why I said damn.

Savannah said...

Thanks for clarifying.

I think what raised eyebrows at the Fed/Stan match was that Stan had been playing well coming into that match and that he looked as if he'd forgotten how to play tennis he was so bad.

The thing that got me is that the commentators on ESPN2 here said that the Federer team was having a meal - lunch I guess - and in the center of the table was a newspaper with the headline "Nadal Out". The commentator went on to say that that showed the Federer camp was very aware of his top rival (their words) being out and that he, Federer, had every opportunity to make the final.

I think that Federer and his team came into that match expecting to win it. Once again I say that the soft draw gave him a false sense of confidence about where his game was. The cakewalk over Wawrinka was the icing on the cake. Djokovic looked ready to cave in the second set but he didn't. And that, as they say, was that.

TennisAce said...

You should really listening to the ESPN2 commentators. So what if Fed's team was reading the newspapers. Federer has always said that he is a fan of the game and he keeps himself informed as to what is happening with all aspects of the game, this includes what is happening on each side of the draw. When asked in press conferences about other players, he can respond in a concise manner and tell you who is playing well and who is not. That is someone who respects his opponent and believes that every player is a challenge.

After his match against Simon he told Courier what was going through his mind regarding Simon. He knew Simon had won Sydney. He knew that he had arrived late to the tourney and he knew that he was jet-lagged. That is someone who is studying his opponents and not taking chances. Not someone who really could care less about what is happening around him.

As for cakewalk, come on now, the man has a winning h2h against most players outside the top 10, why would he not get cake walks. Do you think that Marcos Daniel was a player who would test Nadal? How about Bernard Tomic?

I say this all the time there are not many players who have the game to beat both Fed and Nadal and that is the reason that despite match ups these guys will 90% of the time win matches.

It has nothing to do with scheduling etc, but all about someone taking their future into their own hands and going out there and playing. Novak did that. Let us see if he can take it one step further and actually win the whole thing.

Craig Hickman said...

Stan didn't bark once in his match against Federer, which means he wasn't in it to win it. Wasn't in it at all, quite frankly.

Federer could do whatever he wanted. Easy to play glorious tennis when you feel no pressure.

No, Savannah, cupcake draws don't make champions. I said when the draw was released he would waltz into the semifinals (that a player coming back from a long absence due to bad knees could take him to five sets should tell you everything you need to know about Raja's form in this Slam) and his campaign would likely end there.

That it ended in straight sets, even to Djokovic, reaffirms everything you need to know about Raja's form in this Slam.

TennisAce said...

Craig said: "That it ended in straight sets, even to Djokovic"

OK, it cannot be both ways. It is either that Fed got a cakewalk, he was in poor form or Novak played out of his mind to get the win. The fact that you put "even to Djokovic" tells me that you are of the view that if he was not in good form he would have beaten Djokovic. Which is it? Is he beatable? Is Novak not good enough to beat him?, or did he get a cakewalk draw and a player as inferior as Djokovic could beat him.

Why should Stan bark? They are compatriots. In the same breath do you expect Troicki and Tipsy to bark when they play Novak? Do you expect Querrey to pump his fist when he plays Roddick. These guys are professionals and some of them are friends off the court, but they compete against each other all the time.

On another note, how about Troicki never bringing it when he plays Djokovic, or does that only happen to Fed and his team-mates. Last time I looked Marco always plays Fed tough. Stan played Fed tough in Stockholm. He lost, but he still put everything into that match.