Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Day 3: Wednesday, January 17

After a good night's sleep, I was ready to go for Day 3 but still did not leave for the courts until about 10:40 (since I wanted to post my blog before I left:-). That got me to the courts about an hour later, and it was still the first set of the Women's Singles match between Virginia Ruano Pascual (ESP) and #11 seeded Jelena Jankovic (SRB) when I found a seat in Margaret Court Arena (MCA). Wednesday was much more comfortable, cool and overcast by comparison to Tuesday, but I remembered what John and Bec McMillen had warned about preparing for Australian weather in the summer--i.e., to always wear sunscreen even if it feels cool and looks overcast. So, I followed their instructions to a T:-) Once again, I found a great seat around midcourt, and settled in to see whether Jankovic would uphold her seeding. She was ahead 4-1 when I sat down and held on to win the first set 6-2. Jankovic was noticeably stronger than Ruano Pascual, who reminded me of Arantxa Sanchez Vicario--small, good mover, but sometimes pulls up on her forehand; if she made it to the net, she could be lethal. Ruano Pascual and Suarez are seeded 4th in doubles and have won a number of grand slam doubles titles, so I knew she would be a good maneuverer if she could get control of the points. Unfortunately for her, she could not and Jankovic won the match, 2 and 2.

I was about to depart from MCA after the WS but thought it might be good to stay around for at least the first set of the next match since it featured an American (does the name Zack Fleischer ring a bell? It did not for me, so you may wish to look him up on Australian He was slated to play Wayne Arthurs, one of the Aussie favorites who is in his final year of play and plans to retire after this year. There was an obvious contingent of Aussies filling the stadium after the women's match finished, so I thought I might want to stick around to see what their cheering section was like, and to offer moral support for an American in Oz. Arthurs came out first and, not surprisingly, he was greeted warmly by his compatriots. Shortly thereafter, another player entered the court carrying one racket and looking like he had just wandered in off the streets, with his hair dyed red, white, and blue. This had to be Zack... with one racket only? This could not be good; he would definitely need some moral support. While the Aussies were doing the wave for Arthurs, I watched Zack warm-up to see if I could get an idea of his game. Things did not look promising at first glance. He had a short backswing on both forehand and backhand, and would hardly be able to generate power against the big-serving Arthurs. When they had the coin toss, Fleischman won, and an Aussie fan yelled out: "It's the last thing you'll win today." Sadly, I feared he would be right. After Zack held serve and nearly broke Arthurs, I began to give him a little more of a chance. Still, the crowd was brutal, with lots of chanting for Arthurs. I felt that someone had to take up for Zack, so I bravely yelled, "Go Zack" in about the middle of the first set, with Zack leading 40-love on his serve. He promptly lost the next two points, before finally holding serve. I decided that would be the last of my yelling for Zack. It was a good thing, too, as he won the first set in a tie-break.

Much as I wanted to stay for the completion of the Fleischman v. Arthurs match, I knew that Serena Williams played the third match on Vodafone, and if I had any hope to see it, I needed to get there and work my way up in line. Before her match, Nadia Petrova was slated to play Gisela Dulko from Argentina, so I wouldn't mind seeing if the young girls from Romania showed up to cheer Nadia again. When I got to Vodaphone, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could get in during Petrova's match (second set) as she was about to finish off Dulko. Even better, I got a pretty good seat, down fairly close to the center. But after Petrova's match, I took a chance and moved down to the first row (behind the cameras) and had one of the best seats in the house for Serena's match vs. Anne Kremer (LUX). The match did not disappoint. And I have to say that I think Serena has much more crowd support than Sharapova, so I was surprised and pleased to see that. The first set was a nailbiter, with Serena winning it 7-6 (7-4 tie-break). Kremer was a good player, very consistent, much like Camille Pin who gave Sharapova a run for her money yesterday; however, Serena was mentally tough and seemed to be able to crank it up a notch when needed. Serena won the second set, 6-2 I think it was. In the interview after her match, Serena was asked how she felt about her play. She said she thought she had a tough start, but that Anne played well, and she had to pick up her game; she definitely felt like she was getting back into form, and looks forward to playing more in front of this crowd, adding that it was a fun crowd. Needless to say, her kudos to the crowd drew a big round of applause.

Marat Safin played on Vodafone after Serena finished, which meant Safin had won Monday night, but I had decided to move on to see one of the Men's doubles that featured a former student, Jimmy Thomas, who took lessons when I taught at Hall of Fame Tennis Courts in Canton, OH. He happened to be playing with Paul Goldstein, who had a tough loss the previous night in a four-setter (to Jarkko Niemenen, of Finland, #17 seed). I don't think Jim plays in the Singles. In any case, when I got to Court 10, they were in the second set of their doubles against Alberto Martin (ESP) and Potito Starace (ITA). Goldstein and Thomas won the first set and it looked like they could win in straights, but unfortunately for them, too many net errors led to a tie-breaker in the second set and a third set loss as well. Afterwards, I spoke with Jim and we talked awhile about when he took lessons at Hall of Fame and how he played at Stanford after finishing H.S. It was good to see him play!

By this time, it was beginning to cool off, and I was ready to head for the tram, but decided to stop in on one more match, this on Show Court 2 between Mario Ancic (CRO), seeded #9 and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (ESP). When I arrived for this match, I could hear the Croatian fans cheering wildly since Ancic had just taken the second set to even the match at a set apiece. I decided to stay for the first three games and did just that; it would have been fun to watch more but by now I was spent, and really wanted to get home and get some food in my stomach. When I left, the players were on serve, which meant Ancic was down 1-2 in the third set. I'll let you know tomorrow when I find out who won. In case you wondered about Zack, he only won the first set, so it was curtains after that. Now it is time for me to get back to the televised matches, where Tracy Austin and Jim Courier are sharing commentary duties with Todd Woodbridge. Tonight's remaining match pits Marcos Baghdatis (CYP) vs. Gael Monfils (FRA). More on that later!! Cheers:-)

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