Saturday, January 16, 2016

Stephane Robert and Radek Štěpánek turn back time at the Aus Open qualies

Lack of sleep, weather plus a few technical difficulties. Yes, here is a qualie summary,

Robert vs. Bolt

That was the first match that I made it to. Robert started slowly as he has been having some back issues and also he was struggling to read Bolt’s leftie serve.

Robert didn’t panic and once he was able to fix the return issues. In the process he was playing better from the back making less errors which helped him on serve as Bolt pressed too hard as he wasn’t getting the free points as he was in the first set.

Robert definitely doesn’t have much margin for error on the groundstrokes but the timing on the backhand down the line. It would be good for the game if he qualified.

Weintraub vs. Saville

This was on the next court to the Robert/Bolt match. Due to the presence of about 15 Israeli fans it was easy to know who won the point which was helpful.
Managed to make it over there halfway through the 2nd set. Saville just doesn’t have the game at this level on hardcourts, he is one of those guys that would love a longer grass season.

Weintraub was just hitting bigger and the single hand backhand down the line was working well in the hot conditions. He struggles when playing Challengers, but when there is a crowd especially of his own fans he raises his level as can be seen in his Davis Cup exploits.

After Weintraub got the break in the 3rd, he was down 0-40 but managed to hold serve through a combination of good attacking play and Saville not really putting the pressure on.

Khachanov vs. Zemlja

This was one of those tough match ups and the conditions played a factor for sure. Playing a huge server in hot conditions isn’t fun especially when they are having a huge serving day.

Khachanov was serving very well, plenty of pace and hitting good spots. For a tall guy he moves well, yes the forehand is a big shot but he seems to be very sound in temperament. The 50-50s were going his way, the mishits were landing on the line or good spots.

Zemlja wasn’t playing too badly but couldn’t make a proper impression of the Russian’s serve. The game where he got broken in the 1st set was just a dumb service game of errors and the only break that was needed. It’s always playing against guys who give no rhythm and serve bombs.

The second set was more of the same with Khachanov hitting massive serves and forehands. Zemlja being steady but not really penetrating from the ground. Zemlja lost his serve in the 11th game and that was pretty much the end of the match.

Galo Blanco is doing some work with Khachanov who is a good mentor to have for a younger player trying to find his way on the tour.

Stepanek vs. Satral

Sexy Steps was at his cunning best in this one. He doesn’t have the prettiest game but he has a lot of variety which has kept competitive at the advanced age in a tennis sense plus he’ll pull out whatever tricks to win.

There was the timewasting in between points and at the final game where he broke Satral for the match. As Satral was serving at 30-40, Steps put the hand up and said sorry he wasn’t ready.

Come ons thrown directly at the opponent, there was some classic tubing at the net. This all thrown in with the lights going out during the 3rd set and Radek getting on the umpires case. This was a triumph of experience over youth.

Brown vs. Novak

No comment.

Ghem vs. Menendez

This was a frustrating match for the Brazilian. Didn’t start so well but turned it around in the 2nd set with some good serving and big backhands.
Ghem had the momentum but a combo of the heat, a few scattered showers, the wind and Menendez’s typical Spanish tenacity in the very poor man’s Jordi Arrese kind of way managed to frustrate the gaucho.

Both were holding fairly well in the 3rd but the game where Ghem was broken was in reality not great play from Menendez who was getting pissed off with himself. He unlike Ghem put that out of his mind when the point was being played.

Ghem was 30-0 up in the game, but the turning point was a massive gust of wind was blowing. Ghem took his time, but unsure whether he was over. The umpire didn’t indicate during the match that Ghem was taking too much time or told him to hurry up.

Then boom we get the time violation call. Ghem didn’t react very well and lost serve. Menendez holds easily and wins. After the match Ghem was giving it to the umpire and the ATP officials on hand.

Final Round of qualies

Stepanek vs. Alejo Gonzalez

Hard to say much about this except Radek was too sexy, didn’t even need the antics to put off an opponent who didn’t have the game to trouble him.

Yes, Stepanek is just that smooth.

Robert vs. Khachanov

The young Russian started out very well. He was just smashing serves, hitting huge groundstrokes and pounding Robert’s short second serves to race through the 1st set. It was more like when and not a question of if he won the match.

Thankfully it’s never until win you last the point. The turning point was early in the 2nd set where Khachanov had break points on the Robert serve. He missed easy backhands and Robert managed to hold serve while not landing any first serves.

After that Robert was able to get into Khachanov’s service games and reading the returns well. He was able to expose the weaker backhand of the big Russian with some quality timing especially on the backhand side.

Robert takes the 2nd set and then starts feeling the love. He was swinging but not just brainless ball bashing making sure he’s return serve before getting back into the neutral position. He got on the momentum train and it terminated at the platform of success.

Yes, I am delighted that Stephane Robert qualified. He doesn’t have too much time left in the game. The fact he comes from another era in the way that tennis is still clearly fun, not had the flair coached out of him and plays the sport with a smile on his face.

Ah! tennis what a sport it is.

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