Friday, January 13, 2017

Australian Open Qualifying : The circus has come to town

This is a bit delayed but this was due to technological failings. A laptop battery that was worse than Gimeno-Traver’s backhand on his worst day and a camera giving me more attitude than Fabio Fognini. So it wasn’t laziness this time but these issues have been fixed and since we have a rain delay it’s the time to update on my findings so far.

Qualies are among the best times to visit Slams unlike the others the Aussie Open qualies are free, this in addition the venue which keeps expanding, with courts disappearing and some existing ones getting upgrades. Apart from the coaches, spouses, the spectators tend to be the diehards, gamblers or people with little to do. This is where the simmering starts, the final day of qualies bring some heat as there is so much on the line. There is the extra purse, the additional points for making a main draw and if they are lucky win a match or two which can help kickstart the season.

1st Round

Kavcic vs. Donati: This wasn’t much of a match. While Kavcic had an excellent week in Bangkok, the foot has been playing up and in his own words he was lucky that Donati was injured. There were some back issues, he was hitting out a bit in the second set but went up for a serve, then retired.

Daniel vs. Setkic : Daniel after the Sevilla Challenger struggled to finish outside the top 100. He is definitely good enough to be solid lower end top 100 player with the odd big run in a 250 clay event though he does need to be more aggressive.

Taro Daniel

Setkic served for the set, but Daniel broke and once he managed to take the 1st set he was never in danger of losing. There are times when you play well and don’t win, an example I’ll expand on later in this piece and then there are the days where you only need to be less shit than the opponent. I like Taro Daniel he is a pretty cool guy, hope to interview him eventually. He has a tough one against Melzer next.

Ghem vs. Souza : Matches between fellow countrymen are never easy unless you’re the guy who is so much better than everyone else. There is a dynamic that makes it different to regular matches. Ghem started well but Souza was fighting hard and ready to pounce on any lapses by Ghem, which duly came in the 2nd set.

The third set was some good tennis thankfully it wasn’t marred by an overrule from Pascal Maria. In the game where Souza got the break it was 0-15, Ghem hits a skyhook smash which lands right on the baseline and Maria overrules to which Ghem isn’t amused.

Andre Ghem

Souza is serving for the match and Novo Hamburgo’s finest starts to become more aggressive especially as he was match point. Ghem starts playing closer to the service line which is what he should be doing, since he’s not exactly the fastest man around the court. At least a Brazilian is through.

Ruud vs. Gabashvili: The legend of Norwegian tennis and father of Casper Ruud is here, the great man Christian who made it to number 39 in the world. This is definitely a case of the kid having more talent, but best of all he has a good attitude on court for the most part.

For those people who don’t know Christian Ruud make the 4th round of the Aus Open on the old Rebound Ace he played against Goran Ivanisevic on a 43 degree day it went for ages as well. It was least 50 on the court, those were the days.

Gabashvili was hardly hitting his second serve and Ruud was taking advantage. It was a solid performance but he wasn’t happy with it, that’s a good sign he knows he can get better. At this age it’s about getting the experience. It wouldn’t surprise if he finished in the top 100 at the end of the year barring injuries. The match ended on a note when Gabashvili smashed a ball of court and it almost landed in Hisense.

Conflicting Emotions

Ghem vs Kibi : Novo Hamburgo’s finest started very slowly maybe he was thinking about the situation where it’s a huge opportunity instead of focusing on the job at hand. He lost the first set easily which was enough to wake Ghem up who was able to step up his game and win easily in the end. Credit to Tennisportalen for the photo below

Ghem through to the final round

Stepanek vs. Kavcic : The best match on paper and it was easily one of the best qualie matches I have seen. Next week there won’t be many first round matches better. Both of these guys without injuries are easily top 100 players. Stepanek, the man is so crafty someone who has made the most of his talent which is something to be admired. Kavcic the dogged fighter who hasn’t had a full year on the circuit for 3 years at least. He was battling foot problems, it’s a different issue to the foot which was operated on.

Steps made a solid start and Kavcic was finding it more difficult to hold on serve and this cost him in the end. In the 1st set the game he lost on serve apart from one shot was through a donation of errors.

Kavcic started playing better in the 2nd set he was able to hit better length on his shots making it more difficult for Stepanek to reach the net. In the early part Kavcic was hitting his backhand pass exclusively down the line, which the crafty Stepanek was awake to. They were playing some quality extended rallies opening the court up with Steps trying to get to the net as often as possible while Kavcic hit a couple of outstanding backhands lobs to keep him on his toes.

The Slovenian played a quality tiebreaker and was able to take it on probably the only backhand Stepanek missed for the match. At the start of the 3rd set he took a timeout to check on his foot, not sure that was the time to do it. Kavcic takes the early break but he has been serving issues with hitting faults into the net, the toss got too far out in front and or he wasn’t able to reach up to it.

They continue with the extended rallies with many angles, plenty of slices to vary it up and Steps threw in some well timed dropshots which worked to throw Kavcic out. The crafty Czech breaks back and he was playing well as he hit some clean forehand winners in this set.

Both players are really into the match, the crowd are entertained which is why the ending was so disappointing for the level they played. In a final set advantage when the player is a worse server it’s always better to serve first. Kavcic’s serve just fell away in the final game served 2 double faults and one on match point.

Overall it was an outstanding match, tennis is a brutal sport can’t hide behind a team mate. There are sometimes you play well and lose, then there are times when you play shit and win. You don’t get style points for winning or winning well. If Kavcic can get over the foot issues have a solid 3-6 months then the ranking will look after itself.

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