Monday, January 22, 2007

Day 7: Sunday, January 21

I am writing this entry after getting back from Monday's matches so it seems an eternity since I went to the matches on Sunday. I actually saw only three matches on Sunday, so it should not be so hard to remember, but two of the matches were in Rod Laver Arena--a good thing since it got much cooler and there was rain again on Sunday. The matches I saw on Sunday were as follows:

WS: Ashley Harkleroad (USA) vs. Daniela Hantuchova, #15 seeded (SVK)
MS: Andy Roddick, #6 seeded (USA) vs. Mario Ancic, # 9 seeded (CRO)
WS: Serena Williams (USA) vs. Jelena Jankovic, #11 seeded (SRB)

The first two matches went the distance, but after watching Harkleroad blow a 5-2 lead in the second set (she had already won the first), I was determined that I would not watch the third set. The most frustrating thing about watching the match between Harkleroad and Hantuchova was that I knew Ashley could win it, that Hantuchova often made unforced errors at inopportune times. But it was windy, and Hantuchova also made better use of the wind. Perhaps Ashley has never played in wind but if she would like a course in how to play in the wind, I would suggest visiting Corpus Christi, TX for a few weeks to prepare. For those who don't know, I taught tennis there for 6 and a half years of my life (and loved every minute of it:-) but it was invariably windy during tournaments (and much of the remainder of the time as well). Winds of 25-35 m.p.h. were not uncommon. So when Corpus Christi hosted the NCAA Men's National Championships in tennis (in 1975 and 1976), the California schools hated it so much because of the wind that they petitioned to never have it there again.

Anyway, back to Harkleroad and Hantuchova. In case you have not heard of Ashley Harkleroad, she was an up and comer a few years ago, and was touted as being the "next Anna Kournikova" from the United States. At that point, it was hoped that she could also do well on the tour. While she did fairly well for awhile, she obviously never became a household name. Advancing to the third round in the Australian Open was pretty good for her, but she could have gone a round further imho. Ultimately, Hantuchova won the match, 6-3 in the third set.

When Harkleroad and Hantuchova split, I decided to split as well. For some reason, I had asked on Sunday about getting tix to the matches in Rod Laver Arena and found out that there was a box officewhere you could see about upgrading from a grounds pass to a ticket in RLA. The problem was that you could wait in line pretty much all day and then you wouldn't see the matches for which you got a grounds pass. But I decided I would check it out and see if there was a chance of getting a single ticket. By this time the first match had finished, with unseeded teen Lucie Safarova upsetting Amelie Mauresmo. Mauresmo was one of the top players I did not get to see because I could not get tix for venues where she was playing, so I was sorry she lost. I did see her practicing several times (even during the extreme heat, so I can say that she is dedicated). Anyway, it did not take long before a single ticket became available and I was able to exchange my grounds pass for RLA. At this point, Roddick and Mario Ancic had finished their first set and begun the second. In fact, when I found my seat, about 50 minutes had elapsed, which wasn't much considering that it turned out to be a 5-setter.

The one down-side about getting the single ticket in RLA was that I moved into a neighborhood (seating) where I was apparently not wanted, and the animosity I felt from the people next to me was palpable. At first they said I couldn't sit there because someone else had that ticket--i.e., that they had "given" it to a tall, nice young man (actually, I found out later they had "sold" it to him, but you aren't supposed to do that in Australia). I thought maybe I had come to the wrong row, so I asked if I was in the wrong row. The man next to me asked to look at my ticket and sure enough I was in the right seat. But they continued to insist that THEY owned that ticket and I couldn't sit there. Finally, it occurred to them that the nice young man to whom they had sold the ticket (perhaps at a discount:-) had probably sold it back to the box office and capitalized on it at that. By now he was long gone. Meanwhile, back in row KK, I could feel the resentment that these people had toward me and it was not comfortable. As a result, I tried to focus on the match and jot down "field notes" as I have been doing daily for my blog. I could hear the woman two seats down from me whisper to the man next to me, "What's she writing?" He shrugged and said, "I don't know..." (Actually I was writing about how mean they were to me:-) Later, the people who had shown such animus toward me left and I actually enjoyed talking with the people to my left. They wondered about why I was taking notes, so I explained that I was writing about what I saw and heard in terms of social interactions. That was certainly one of the less pleasant ones I have had. So much for that... now for the tennis.

I loved getting to see Roddick play against Ancic. I had heard about Ancic pulling some upsets at Wimbledon a couple years ago when he surprised people with his big serve. Yet, his serve paled by comparison to Roddick's. The serves in Australia are timed in km, so I have been converting them to m.p.h. in my head so that they are more meaningful to me. I can tell you that Roddick had more than a few serves that were over 140 m.p.h. What really impresses me about his game is how Connors has helped him with his attacking game. He no longer hangs back at the baseline and lets his opponent attack, but even his backhand has become more of a weapon. I am really excited for Tuesday's matches since I was able to get a ticket to see Roddick vs. Fish. That should be really fun to see two Americans! I am guessing that they showed coverage of Roddick's match against Ancic, so if you got to see it you know that he won in 5 sets (6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 5-7, 6-4).

Next up on RLA was the match between Serena Williams and Jelena Jankovic, both of whom I had watched in several previous matches. Having watched both, I felt that Serena would win, but I also thought Jankovic would hang in there and not concede anything. That was pretty much how it went, although the score doesn't sound that close with Serena winning, 6-3, 6-2. I don't know about the coverage in the U.S. or elsewhere, but a lot of people here continue to dwell on Serena's fitness (or what they perceive as lack of fitness). My sense is that Serena is more fit than people give her credit for; she has certainly gotten to a lot more balls than she could have if she were less fit, and she seems to be improving with every match. The key thing is that she wants to win. In today's paper, she was quoted as saying that everyday she wakes up and cannot wait to get out on the court. That sounds to me like someone who is ready to play and wants to win. Do not count her out--EVER! She will play Shahar Peer (#16 seeded) Tuesday, so more on that to come.

The matches on RLA were over about 6:30 Sunday so I decided to see what was being played on the outside courts before heading home. As I was leaving the arena, I walked past a man who looked familiar and I realized it was Ken Rosewall, owner of the greatest backhand in the game, again imho:-) I wanted to ask him for an autograph, but did not want to interrupt the conversation he was having so I stood back and waited for him to move on, but somehow, when he finally did, I lost sight of him, so there was an opportunity lost. I should have remembered the lesson learned from Derek Eiler.

Leaving RLA, it was drizzling and quite cool, so I decided I would head home and that's what I did (by way of Starbucks and a tazo chai, of course). Cheers:-)

No comments: