‘Rafa Slam’ in Tatters:
World No. 1 Rafael Nadal saw his chances of lifting his fourth straight Grand Slam crushed as his left hamstring and a ferocious David Ferrer combined to end the 24-year-old’s dreams at the quarterfinal stage of the Australian Open. It almost echoed the scenes from last year’s Championships where Nadal retired at the same stage whilst trailing Andy Murray due to a damaged knee. “This is a difficult day for me,” said Nadal post-match. “For respect to the winner and to a friend, I prefer to talk about the match. Today I can’t do more than what I did; he played at a very high level. I don’t have to tell you what I felt on the court, but it is obvious I did not feel at my best. I had a problem with the match at the very beginning and after that, the match was almost over.” The 28-year-old Ferrer, who did exceptionally well to concentrate among all the drama, added: “This is one big victory for me, but it’s not like a victory really. He was playing with injury and I had luck. But I played my game.”
Agassi to Join International Tennis Hall of Fame:
The International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island, has announced that Andre Agassi will be inducted in the ‘Recent Player’ category for 2011. The announcement was made at his Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy in Las Vegas. The 40-year-old is one of the most well-liked athletes in world sport and held the No. 1 ranking in tennis for 101 weeks. He won 60 career titles including four Australian Opens and two French Opens as well as one French Open and one Wimbledon title. He won a then record of 17 ATP Masters Events (now Rafa Nadal has 18) and also won the year-ending Championships in 1990. He has two Davis Cup wins to his name as well as an Olympic Gold medal from Atlanta. He is a true American legend and a passionate, if at times enigmatic, ambassador for tennis, and his wife is former tennis star and 2004 Hall of Fame inductee Steffi Graf. “During his 20-year career Andre Agassi recorded some of the most incredible achievements in tennis,” said Hall of Fame Chairman Christopher Clouser. “The energy and excitement that he personally brought to the game inspired generations of players. Today, he continues to inspire people around the world as a dedicated philanthropist, and, therefore, it was only appropriate that we share this news at the school where so many young people benefit from his generosity. Andre is a true champion of the game, and we are delighted to honour him for his contributions and achievements with induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.” Agassi was understandably delighted with the accolade: “I’m truly honoured to be recognized alongside the greatest players of tennis,” he said. “My tennis career afforded me the opportunity to make a difference in other people’s lives and it was truly special to share this exciting moment with the students of Agassi Prep.” Further inductees will be named at a later date.
Schiavone wins marathon tie:
Italian Francesca Schiavone overcame the Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4, 1-6, 16-14 in the longest ever women’s match at a Grand Slam. The mammoth encounter lasted four hours and 44 minutes which beat the previous record of four hours and 19 minutes set by Barbora Zahlavova Strycova and Regina Kulikova at Melbourne Park last year. “It is a fantastic moment for me,” said sixth seed Schiavone of her round of 16 victory. “It is one of the most emotional moments of my life. I just told myself to keep going, do it with the heart and go for it. When you’re in a situation like this, every point is like a match point. You have to keep going. You know that physically you’re tired. Mentally just keep going.” Two-time Aussie Open quarterfinalist Kuznetsova said that it got to the point where she didn’t know what the score was anymore or who was meant to be serving.
Wozniacki Lies to Hopping Mad Journalists:
World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki was forced to apologise to journalists after lying about how she obtained a large scratch on her shin following her fourth round victory over Anastasija Sevastova. She told journalists that a baby kangaroo had lashed out at her while walking through a park rather than that she had slipped on her treadmill because “the story sounded better.” Several news organisations then led with the story. “I’m sorry,” the 20-year-old told reporters, including Bloomberg. “I really didn’t mean to. I promise if I make a joke like this, I’ll make sure to clarify it before I leave. I didn’t think that it was going to spin this way. I heard that to get the story pulled back again was quite a bit of work. So I just thought I would come back and apologize.” This came three days after the Dane had rattled off a series of elaborate answers to what she called “predictable questions” when she heard that some journalists found her media appearances boring. The full kangaroo transcript can be read on The Ticker at Tennis.com.
Dolgopolov At Home with the Stars:
He may have been bettered by world No. 5 Andy Murray in his first Grand Slam quarterfinal but nothing should be forgotten about Alexander Dolgopolov’s mesmerising five set thriller with the Swedish star Robin Soderling in the previous round. The match lasted only two hours and 46 minutes despite going the distance and Dolgopolov was understandably delighted with his performance. “The first set I was struggling, and a break down in the second,” he said after the match. “I came back somehow and started to play better and better with every set. I’m really happy I’m through to the quarter-final. But [it] is going to be like a completely different match. I need to forget about this match and go into the next round. I mean, it’s a good run, and you can make it even better.” The Ukrainian, who says his ambition is to be world No. 1, also revealed an interesting upbringing that has helped ground him on the professional circuit. His father, Oleksandr, is a former pro who has also coached the French Open finalist Andrei Medvedev. Whilst travelling around with his dad he often mixed with the pros and regularly mixed with the likes of Thomas Muster and Marc Rosset. “I met pretty much all the players,” he recalled. “When there’s a kid on tour, all the players try to play with him. I had a nice time.”
Multi-Lingual Federer in it for the Long Haul:
Roger Federer is well known as an accommodating star that always has time for talking to the media. Just as well really, for the 16-time Grand Slam Champion has to participate in press conferences to accommodate journalists fluent in only one of the four languages he speaks. That means when he is finished in English he has to repeat the same press conference again in Swiss, German and then French. Federer joked after his victory over compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka: “Sometimes I wish I never told anybody I learned French.” He then added that he was proud to have learnt another language which lets him connect to different people. He said it’s all part of “what I have to do in the tennis world.” He went on to say: “…it comes at a cost, sure, but I don’t mind it. I try to have fun with it. I have almost, I don’t want to say characters, but I have different humour in all the different languages, which is kind of fun for me, too. Getting to know myself through different languages is actually quite interesting for me.”
Clijsters Ticks Off Woodbridge:
It was all in jest but there was no denying the uncomfortable stance of Aussie legend Todd Woodbridge as Kim Clijsters’ chided the former doubles star on-court for texting a fellow pro stating he believed her to be pregnant with child number two. For the full extent of Todd’s embarrassment, check out the video over at the Los Angeles Times website.
Nole Need for Warning:
Novak Djokovic says he didn’t deserve the coaching violation he received during his fourth round victory over Nicolas Almagro as he believes it was just a knee-jerk reaction from his frustrated coach over a missed forehand. “I missed a forehand and then I turn to my coach—you always make as a player an eye contact with your team,” Djokovic told ESPN. “There was not any intention of me asking for advice from my coach. Okay, maybe he did show me some signals of how I should hit my forehand—it was more out of frustration. Maybe the umpire was right to give me a code violation for that but I think it was wrong because he should have told me, he should have given me a pre-warning…’Listen, your coach is giving you signals that he shouldn’t do, it’s against the rules.’ I would say, ‘Yeah, sure, next time he does it you give me a warning. But not right away, it wasn’t the right time.”
Zvonereva Blocks Out Home Troubles:
It may have seemed a million miles away from sunny Melbourne but the suspected suicide bombing at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport last weekend would undoubtedly been a cause of concern for the Russian stars competing at the Aussie Open. No. 2 seed Vera Zvonereva sported a black ribbon in memory of those killed in the attacks during her quarterfinal victory over Petra Kvitova and was asked how she was coping. “You’re calling back home and making sure everyone is okay, the people that you know. You know, I just tried to put it away. It happened. It is terrible. But, you know, you try to move on.”
Another Record for R-Fed:
The 2011 Aussie Open has seen Roger Federer draw level with Jimmy Connors’ record of reaching 27-straight Grand Slam quaterfinals. The 16-time Grand Slam Champion will probably not have very high odds on him making that record his own, injury permitting, at Roland Garros later this year.
Playing Through the Pain:
Spaniard Fernando Verdasco has announced that he played his entire Aussie Open campaign with a fractured bone in his ankle. He said he plans to speak to his doctor about whether: “…to keep playing or stop to take time off for the bone.” He also said that surgery is “the last option.”
New Direction for Dinara:
Fallen Russian star Dinara Safina has parted with her coach Gaston Etlis following her humiliation at the hands of Kim Clijsters in Melbourne. “[F]ollowing the Australian Open, my coach and I mutually decided to part ways,” the 24-year-old wrote on her official website. “I will keep you posted when I decide on a new coach.”
King for a Day:
Vania King has been named as Venus Williams’ replacement for the USA’s upcoming Fed Cup quarterfinal against Belgium. Captain Mary Jo Fernandez has named King, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Melanie Oudin and Liezel Huber as her team.
Acasuso Is In:
Organisers of the Copa Claro have announced that the Argentine Jose Acasuso has received the first wildcard in to the tournament to be held at the Buenos Aires Lawn Tennis Club between February 12-20. The 28-year-old is a two-time finalist having lost to Gustavo Kuertan in 2001 and David Nalbandian in 2008. It will be his first tournament in a year having been suffering with a left knee injury since the 2010 Movistar Open in Chile.
Is Venus A Fading Star?:
Stephanie Myles of Postmedia News has written a very interesting article about whether Venus still has the dominating presence she so-thrived on for much of her career when she dominated the sport with younger sister Serena. While Serena is still a vastly feared opponent Venus’ increasingly injury-threatened calendar has seen her play less and less over recent years, having not played at all since September before the Open. It can be viewed over at the Montreal Gazette website. Alternatively, head over to the Fox Sports site for Matt Cronin’s view on the subject.
Rafa Limps on in GOAT Race:
It was such a sad sight to see Rafa Nadal struggling to play against compatriot David Ferrer in Melbourne. And falling at the quarterfinal stage means he gains himself only 50 points in the race between him and Roger Federer to see who has the better year. With R-Fed still going in the semis he is yet to score and is all set to move further ahead of his rival in next week’s column.
Roger: 230 Rafa: 130