By Bob Greene
Ekaterina Makarova beat fifth-seeded Angelique Kerber 7-5 6-4
Jeremy Chardy beat sixth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro 6-3 6-3 6-7 (3) 3-6 6-3
Carla Suarez Navarro beat seventh-seeded Sara Errani 6-4 6-4
Laura Robson beat eighth-seeded Petra Kvitova 2-6 6-3 11-9
Nicolas Almagro beat eighth-seeded Janko Tipsarevic 6-2 5-1, retired
Zheng Jie beat ninth-seeded Samantha Stosur 6-4 1-6 7-5
“We are only halfway through the tournament but it felt like a final to me.” – Novak Djokovic, after he survived a tight five-hour, fourth-round battle with Stanislas Wawrinka.
“I think it’s the best match I’ve ever played. At the end I was really close and I was really sad to lose. It was a great disappointment for sure.” – Stanislas Wawrinka, who lost the fifth set 12-10 as he fell to top-ranked Novak Djokovic.
“It was close to being a great day. And now, it’s not such a great day.” – Samantha Stosur, who was two points away from victory before Zheng Jie won five straight games to shock the ninth-seeded Australian 6-4 1-6 7-5.
“When you’re a young person, you just don’t think it’s ever going to end, and you’re on top of the world. Now I realize, all these opportunities, I try to make the best I can of them. I love the game, and while I’m here I’m going to go for it.” – Venus Williams, at the age of 32 in her 19th year on the WTA tour.
“Oh, I’ll be out there. I mean, unless something fatal happens to me, there’s no way I’m not going to be competing. I’m alive. My heart’s beating. I’ll be fine.” – Serena Williams, after injuring her ankle during her first-round victory.
“I’m very happy to win today, but I don’t play for the records. Even when I lose, I still enjoy it. Of course, every time I lose … it’s tough. But still I enjoy playing. I love tennis. I like practice. I like games. I like the tour. I’m enjoy it a lot.” – Kimiko Date Krumm, whose first-round victory over 12th-seeded Nadia Petrova made the 42-year-old the oldest winner of a women’s singles Grand Slam tournament match.
“It’s nothing. Just I eat a lot; I sleep a lot. Last night I was in the bed before 10. I finished the dinner already 7:30. Sleep before 10 like the kids. Because always after the match or after the practice I’m tired, so I need time to recover a lot. So I sleep a lot; I eat healthy foods; I drink a lot. It’s simple life. That’s it. Nothing special.” – Kimiko Date Krumm on her secret of playing so well at the age of 42.
“Whatever word you want to put on it. At 5-2 up in the third, double break probably is a bit of a choke, yeah.” – Samantha Stosur, who twice served for the match as she lost five straight games to fall to China’s Zheng Jie.
“He’s the last person that deserves anything like that, with his five or six surgeries already.” – Sam Querrey, commenting on his second-round opponent, injury-plagued Brian Baker, who retired from their match with a meniscus tear in his right knee.
“I wanted to finish with an ace so I wouldn’t have to play the point.” – Gael Monfils, who double-faulted on four match points before finally defeating Lu Yen-Hsun 7-6 (5) 4-6 0-6 6-1 8-6 in a second-round match.
“I did not expect to hit 207, I was shooting for 200.” – Serena Williams, after hitting a 207 kph (128 mph) serve, the fastest of her career.
“I feel so much emotion. It’s a great moment for me. Everyone dreams of this.” – Jeremy Chady, after upsetting sixth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro.
“It’s not my favorite part of the job, beating up on the hometown heroes.” – Roger Federer, following his straight-sets win over Australian Bernard Tomic.
“A lot of players, when you play these sort of players like Roger (Federer) or Novak (Djokovic), you lose belief before you get into the match. Eighty or 90 percent of players that play the top guys, like with Roger, you lose your belief. I got in there, I started to think after they mentioned all these grand slams leading up – Wimbledon champion six times, six times US Open champion. Then I was, ‘Oh crap, it’s Roger.’ I tried to block out who’s on the other side of the net, but couldn’t quite do it after that announcement.” – Bernard Tomic.
It was the “other” player from Switzerland who nearly knocked defending champion Novak Djokovic out of Australian Open. But by the time the five-hour, two-minute marathon had ended, Djokovic has escaped the upset bid by Stanislas Wawrinka 1-6 7-5 6-4 6-7 12-10. “He deserved equally to be a winner of this match,” Djokovic said of Wawrinka. “I give him a lot of credit. He showed his qualities. He was the aggressive player on the court. He was playing well, mixing it up, using the right tactics and serving really well. I was just trying to hang in there and fight and give every drop of energy.” Djokovic is seeking to become the first man in the Open Era to win three successive Australian Open titles. He came close to not making it to the second week of the year’s first Grand Slam tournament. They both lost serve to begin the final set, then battled evenly until the 22nd game where Djokovic held three match points before finally winning. “He had a lot of chances to win this match,” Djokovic said of his Swiss opponent. “All the credit to him. I feel sorry that one of us had to lose.”
Serena Williams had a painful start to the Australian Open. The American scared herself and fans when she turned her right ankle in her first-round match. Then she hit herself in the head with her racquet. “That’s it, I’m done, I’m done,” the tournament’s third seed joked when asked what other surprises she might have. “That was it. Just wanted to do two things. Now I got it out of the way.” Serena was leading Edina Gallovits-Hall 4-0 when her foot caught and she fell awkwardly to the court, clutching her right ankle. She was helped to her courtside chair and a WTA trainer assessed and re-taped her already heavily taped ankle. She returned to the court and won the next four points to break her opponent’s serve. When she held to close out the first set, she received additional treatment for the ankle. Then, in her second-round match against Garbine Muguruza, Williams hit herself in the face with her racquet, drawing blood. “I think it happens to everyone, but I have never busted it wide open like that,” Serena said. “So, yeah, I was like, ‘Oh, no. I can’t have a tooth fall out.’ That would be horrible.” Instead, it was her opponents she was putting out of the tournament. She beat Gallovits-Hall 6-0 6-0 and Muguruza 6-2 6-0.
STILL NOT THERE
David Ferrer will move up to number four in the world when the new rankings are published after the Australian Open. But just because he’s now passed the injured Rafael Nadal, Ferrer doesn’t believe he’s that close to the Big Four of men’s tennis – Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Nadal. The four have won 33 of the last 34 Grand Slam tournament titles, with only Juan Martin del Potro grabbing the US Open crown in 2009. Although he has been ranked fifth in the world at the end of the last two years, Ferrer has never reached a Grand Slam tournament final, being a three-time semifinalists in the four majors, including twice last year. “Is very difficult to win a Grand slam because there are the top four,” said the Spaniard. “In this moment, the last three or four years, they are better than the other players. … You have to play your best or more than best to beat these guys. Hopefully I can beat them in the Grand Slams sometime.”
Everything seemed to be going right for Samantha Stosur. Then things changed dramatically – and quickly. Stosur was two points from winning her second-round match when China’s Zheng Jie won five straight games to stun the Australian. The final point came on Stosur’s ninth double-fault of the match. “Obviously it’s a hard one to take when you get yourself into a winning position and you lose five games straight,” Stosur said. “It just kept happening, point after point after point.” In 13 appearances at the Australian Open Stosur has never made it past the fourth round. She became the first Australian woman to win a Grand Slam singles title in more than 30 years when she captured the US Open in 2011, a year after she reached the French Open final. “At 5-2 I felt great,” she said. “Then all of a sudden it obviously went away quite quickly. Crazy things start popping into your head. You make an error and you tighten up a little bit.” In her on-court interview, Zheng apologized to the crowd, which was heavily rooting for Stosur. “It’s amazing I could come back,” she said.
Brad Drewett is stepping down as head of the ATP after being diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease, which is also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The 54-year-old Australian was appointed ATP Executive Chairman and president just 12 months ago. He will continue in his role until a successor is found. As a player, Drewett reached a career-high singles ranking of 34th in the world in 1984 and was ranked in the top 20 in doubles. He has been a part of the ATP for more than 35 years, as a player, ATP Player Council member, ATP Player Board member, as CEO of the International Region and tournament director of the year-ending event before being named to the top spot. Roger Federer, president of the ATP Player Council, said in a statement that it was “sad news for all of us at the ATP and the entire tennis community. He is well liked and respected by everyone and has done a tremendous job in leading the ATP over the past 12 months, overseeing some major initiatives and a record-breaking year in 2012.”
SOON TO RETURN
Rafael Nadal is expected to return to tennis at the Brazil Open next month. The Spaniard has not played since Wimbledon, mainly because of tendinitis in his left knee. A stomach virus forced him to withdraw from an exhibition event last month in Abu Dhabi and also skip the Australian Open. Nadal is also entered in the Mexican Open in Acapulco, which begins on Feb. 25. He won both tournaments the only other time he entered them, which was in 2005.
It wasn’t easy, but Frenchman Gael Monfils finally got past Taiwan’s Lu Yen-Hsun in a second-round match. Monfils double-faulted on four successive match points before finally clinching the five-set victory. “It was a bit crazy,” Monfils admitted in a courtside interview. “It was like, “I need to hit an ace because I know it’s going to be a double-fault for sure. It was weird. I think I got a big lucky in the end.” Ranked as high as seventh in the world in 2011, Monfils missed a lot of last year with a right knee injury and has fallen to 86th in the rankings.
Two-time defending champion John Isner and rising star Ryan Harrison have agreed to play in this year’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships. Their commitments to the tournament were announced at the same time the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island, USA, revealed that a consortium of global companies have signed multi-year deals to sponsor the only grass-court tournament in the Americas. The 2013 tournament, which will be held July 8-14, will be sponsored by Rolex, Chubb Personal Insurance, EMC Corporation, Alex and Ani, and Corona.
SWEETER WITH AGE
Kimiko Date-Krumm players for just one reason: she loves the game. But she’ll also take the wins and the records that come along with her on-court successes. The 42-year-old became the oldest woman to win a Australian Open singles match in the Open Era when she upset 12th-seeded Nadia Petrova in the opening round 6-2 6-0. “Of course I’m very happy to win today, but I don’t play for the record,” said Date-Krumm, who retired and was out of tennis for 11 years before she returned to the WTA tour in 2008. “I don’t have a target or a dream. I already had big success in my first career, so I’m just enjoying the traveling and talking to the young players. It is fun.” It was her first Australian Open win since 1996, the year she retired. And she had more fun in the second round, downing Israel’s Shahar Peer, who is 12 years her junior, 6-2 7-5. The run ended in the third round when she lost to Bojana Jovanovski 6-2 7-6 (3). “Some people, the player’s mother is younger than me – so it’s like my daughter,” Date-Krumm laughed. “Everyone is almost half age as me, so it’s not easy, but I’ve got nothing to lose so I just try to keep going.” She said she retired at the age of 26 because of the pressure of winning. She had been ranked as high as fourth in the world. “(There was) always too much attention to me. And I was young, so I don’t have not so many space for myself,” she said. “It’s very tough that time, so I don’t like so much tennis, and tour also. … (There was a time when) I don’t like so much tennis. But now I like tennis. I like practice. I like game. I like tour.”
Great Britain’s Laura Robson is making her mark in Grand Slam tournaments. She knocked off eighth-seeded Petra Kvitova at the Australian Open, taking the third set 11-9. At last year’s US Open, the 18-year-old beat both Kim Clijsters and Li Na. “I knew it was going to be very, very tough and trying to return her serve in the first set was very, very hard,” Robson said after her win over Kvitova. “But I knew once I got my returns firing and a bit more confidence on my serve I could get myself back into the match and that’s what I did.” The winner was helped by Kvitova, a former Wimbledon champion, who committed 18 double faults.
Jerzy Janowicz admits he went a little “nuts” when the chair umpire didn’t agree with him. With Janowicz leading 9-8 in a tiebreak, India’s Somdev Devvarman hit a forehand down the line. Janowicz thought the ball was out. The chair umpire, Marija Cicak, ruled otherwise. Evidently believing Cicak had wronged him previously, Janowicz began screaming, “How many times? How many times?” before he dropped to his knees on the court, screaming to the umpire, “I’m begging you.” Devvarman said he was worried about his opponent’s voice. “I mean, the guy was yelling at the top of his lungs and I was like, ‘Dude, just calm down.’” After losing the tiebreak 12-10, Janowicz hit the umpire’s chair and tossed a water bottle across the court, earning him a code violation. Seeded 24th, Janowicz won the four-hour match, 6-7 (10) 3-6 6-1 6-0 7-5. “You can’t control your emotions all the time,” he said after the match. “Actually, I went nuts. I calmed down little bit later on. Sometimes I have problem to control by emotions, but I’m trying to work on this.”
Sisters Venus and Serena Williams are arguably the best women’s doubles team in the world. It’s just that they don’t play often. Consequently the sisters were seeded 12th at this year’s Australian Open, even though they have won 13 major doubles titles in their careers, including four at the Australian open and three Olympic gold medals in doubles. They have reached the final in seven of the last 10 Grand Slam tournaments that they’ve played and have never lost a doubles match once they get to the final. “They mean a lot to me,” Serena said about doubles titles. “I mean, people that are winning a lot of singles titles nowadays in the past decade or two decades usually don’t win as many in doubles. So I’m almost even with my singles and doubles.” Serena has 15 Grand Slam singles titles, while Venus has seven. Venus has joked that they have so many trophies they use some as fruit bowls.
Tennis is stepping up to help one of its own. Tennis greats are helping to raise money for retired player Andrew Florent, who was recently diagnosed with cancer. Fans can bid on a private tennis lesson by Jim Courier or play a doubles match against Pat Rafter and Goran Ivanisevic. Then there are two seats at the so-called Legends Lunch on the day of the women’s final, where the attendees will include Rod Laver and Andre Agassi. Among other items to be auctioned are a pair of tickets to both the men’s sand women’s finals, as well as a photo opportunity with the men’s winner. Now 42 years old, Florent was runner-up at the Australian Open juniors boys singles in 1988. He turned pro in 1990 and became a doubles specialist, reaching a career high ranking of 13th in 2001.
Australian Open: www.australianopen.com
Davis Cup: www.daviscup.com
ATP World Tour: www.atpworldtour.com/
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia, hard (second week)
$113,662 Heilbronn Open, Heilbronn, Germany, hard
Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia, hard (second week)
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$690,000 Open GDF Suez, Paris, France, hard
$235,000 PTT Pattaya Open, Pattaya, Thailand, hard
Canada vs. Spain at Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, hard
Italy vs. Croatia at Turin, Italy, clay
Belgium vs. Serbia at Charleroi, Belgium, clay
United States vs. Brazil at Jacksonville, Florida, USA, hard
France vs. Israel at Rouen, France, hard
Argentina vs. Germany at Buenos Aires, Argentina, clay
Kazakhstan vs. Austria at Astana, Kazakhstan, clay
Switzerland vs. Austria at Geneva, Switzerland, hard
Americas Zone: Uruguay vs. Dominican Republic at Montevideo, Uruguay, clay
Asia/Oceania Zone: Chinese Taipei vs. Australia at Kaohsiung, Taiwan; Uzbekistan vs. China at Namangan, Uzbekistan, clay; India vs. South Korea at New Delhi, India, hard; Japan vs. Indonesia at Tokyo, Japan, hard
Europe/Africa Zone: Poland vs. Slovenia at Wroclaw, Poland, hard; Romania vs. Denmark at Cluj Napoca, Romania, hard; Ukraine vs. Slovak Republic at Kremenchug, Ukraine, hard
Americas Zone: Puerto Rico vs. Mexico at Humacao, Puerto Rico, hard; El Salvador vs. Barbados at Santa Tecla, El Salvador, clay; Venezuela vs. Guatemala at Caracas, Venezuela, hard; Peru vs. Haiti at Lima, Peru, clay
Asia/Oceania Zone: New Zealand vs. Lebanon at Auckland, New Zealand, hard; Sri Lanka vs. Pakistan at Colombo, Sri Lanka, clay; Kuwait vs. Thailand at Meshref, Kuwait, hard; Philippines vs. Syria at Lapu-Lapu, Philippines, clay
Europe/Africa Zone: Bulgaria vs. Finland at Sofia, Bulgaria, hard; Ireland vs. Estonia at Dublin, Ireland, hard; Tunisia vs. Latvia at El Menzah, Tunisia, hard; Monaco vs. Belarus at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, Monaco, clay; Moldova vs. Hungary at Chisinau, Moldova, hard; Bosnia/Herzegovina vs. Luxembourg at Sarajevo, Bosnia/Herzegovina, hard; Lithuania vs. Cyprus at Siauliai, Lithuania, hard; Portugal vs. Benin at Lisbon, Portugal, clay