Day 1 of the main draw of a Slam is normally pretty fun before the usual things that annoy you come back. The people who think they are instant experts on something that they don’t follow all year round. The gronks who walk around like stoned cattle and find it strange that players get pissed off and then there is the lovable drunk bogan.
Enough of that annoying stuff and onto some tennis. Wasn’t sure of what matches I was going to see besides Seppi and Cuevas but more of them later.
Thiem vs. Leo Mayer
Not sure what Mayer was on at the start of the match but it wasn’t helping. He gave away his first service game. Thiem was quite steady and really didn’t have to press too hard in the 1st set. Alligator wasn’t handling the fast conditions too well. There was one huge air swing he took on the backhand side and it was not as if the ball hit a line.
In the 2nd set Mayer started playing better or maybe he was just less shit. Thiem was playing well within himself and took the 2nd set tiebreaker. The young Austrian dropped the 3rd set which was more due to a lack of concentration than a huge improvement from Mayer.
The match plodded along and Thiem got the business done easily enough in the 4th set tiebreaker.
Brands vs. Estrella Burgos
Big Daniel Brands is a gentle giant but can hit some really good shots though mental strength isn’t one of his best qualities. He was one of the better qualifiers to make it to main draw. He is coming back from injury and a loss of form and this draw was excellent for him.
Last year Estrella Burgos came to Melbourne for tourism purposes just showed up collected the prizemoney and did nothing. This year he played a lead up tournament and fought hard but was outgunned by Brands.
Estrella Burgos was just scrapping whereas Brands was hitting huge. The bigger game of Brands took the first 2 sets and it was looking like a straight sets win as he was up a break in the 3rd. Then Estrella was able to break back and break again to take the 3rd. He was pumped up but even then there was no real feeling of a shift in the momentum of the match. Brands broke in the opening service of game and Estrella Burgos and ran out the match comfortably. Good to see Estrella put some effort instead of the performance last season.
Almagro vs. Benneteau
Wasn’t sure how this match was going to play out since Benne hasn’t played much after being out injured. Almagro had a quiet 2015 played pretty much a full season but didn’t have any huge results.
Almagro was serving very well, he has an underrated serve for sure. It’s very heavy and got some juice on it as well, he was having a lot of success on the wide serve. Benneteau, while he doesn’t have the greatest technique on shots is quite fun to watch as he is prepared to mix it up.
There were some extended rallies that in most cases were won by Almagro with the huge backhand down the line and the forehand was working well. It looked like it was going to be comfortable for Almagro after the 1st set, one thing Benneteau is known for is scrapping hard and was able to take the 2nd set.
It wouldn’t be an Almagro match if he wasn’t irritated about something and there were these two drunk Aussies who were giving him some verbal. Almagro was giving them the glare but managed to settle down and concentrate on the match.
Benneteau tried to come to the net more, this tactic worked to an extent in shortening the points since it was unsure whether he could go 5 sets. Almagro for his part used the 1-2 combo and didn’t rip the first passing shot on the big points. He placed at Benne’s feet forcing to volley up and made a couple of big backhands.
Once Almagro took the 3rd there was only going to be one winner and at the end of the match. Almagro celebrated towards the drunk hecklers, classic Nico.
Cuevas vs. Nishioka
Definitely not the best match Cuevas has played. Nishioka apart from his speed doesn’t have a lot of weapons has the Mariano Puerta style forehand without the clembuterol. It was one Cuevas should have won in straight sets and thankfully he did, this was a kind draw and had to take advantage.
Cuevas was up an early break in the 1st and then got very nervous as he was serving the set out. A couple of double faults with some tight shots and Nishioka was able to break back. The tiebreak wasn’t great in terms of quality but it was close and Cuevas eventually took it 7-5.
He settled down in the 2nd set, serving much better and working the point with the heavier and more powerful groundstrokes to the corners running out the 2nd easily. The same pattern was continuing into the3rd but Cuevas got nervous again and failed to serve the match out. Thankfully he was able to break for the match.
Some days just have to find a solution to get it done.
Seppi vs. Gabashvili
The big Russian started strongly and was into the groove quickly as Seppi was nervous plus the South Tyrolean is not a great starter at the best of times. Cañas looks like he is still juicing, the guy is massive.
Gabashvili deservedly took the 1st set, then after that Seppi eases into the match and while not playing great is able to grind, make more balls into the court. Gabashvili still trying to be aggressive though it’s more difficult as Seppi is hitting better length on the groundstrokes.
The second set tiebreaker was crucial from the point of how the match would play out. There was a call that looked a bit wide and was not called against Gabashvili who was unimpressed with the linesperson and then went off at the umpire having a rant in Spanish. That was the moment steady Seppi stepped up to take the 2nd set.
Gabshvili still pissed off with the call drops his level and Seppi was being his steady self was able to take advantage winning the 3rd. The Russian is making more errors and not hitting as well. Seppi breaks and had some easy chances to make it a double break in the 4th and this was the setting for where the shenanigan started to happen.
Seppi serving for sets and matches is always an interesting thing. Traders have been known to back the opponent in this game and not do poorly. Yes, it was classic Seppi he struggled to get first serves in and was hitting a lot of short second serves which Gabashvili was teeing off on and manages to break back.
There was the rare sight of Seppi having a discussion with the umpire on some calls. One of them was on the other side, but then he overruled one and it was wide. Seppi is calm and even his discussion with the umpire was measured. If it was the Fog, there’d have been animated gesticulations.
Now we come to the tiebreaker, which was a mix of some quality tennis though not when the player was leading and some major passive play from Seppi especially on the match points. Seppi wasn’t able to make many first serves, he hit a couple of good second serves though others were just fodder.
It was fitting in a way that the match ended on a double fault, though I was happy that this doesn’t go 5 sets. As they say, you don’t any extra points for winning in style.