G’day tennis fans. I missed the post for Day 4 of the Australian Open because my sleeping pattern is a mess and I didn’t think there was anything particularly interesting happening anyway.
The biggest stories were that Ferrer retired Hewitt, Verdasco lost to Sela as expected after playing one good match, and Sock lost in straight sets to Rosol, which means Stan’s draw opens up even more. A good example of draws being only a rough guideline.
They rarely work out as you expect.
Federer’s Uninspiring Performance
First of all, let me just say congratulations to Federer for his 300th grand slam win, the first man to do so in the open era.
The third round is usually the point in a slam where you start to get a better of the top players’ form. I think after Day 5’s matches we can make a distinction between the respective forms of the top two players in the top half of the draw.
Djokovic played Seppi, the player who defeated Federer in four sets last year while Federer played Dimitrov about whom I said in my last post that he hasn’t showed me anything to even suggest that he can win a set off of Federer.
Well, I was wrong. Federer won 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4. I only watched the first seven games since I couldn’t sleep and went to sleep after Federer had just broken to take a 4-3 lead. But from what I read and looking at the match stats, it was a mediocre performance from Federer.
So although I was wrong, Dimitrov won a set not because of playing extraordinary tennis, but rather because Federer was below par. I mean 13 aces and 5 double faults, a negative winner/unforced error ratio of 44-58, 4/15 break point conversions, and 29/40 at the net tells you all you need to know.
Nothing special there at all. Very concerning form from Federer in fact if you are a Fedfan. This is nothing surprising of course. Not if you’ve been reading my posts at least. I’ve been going on for some time now about my doubts around Federer’s form.
Sure it’s just one match, but it was another flat and uninspiring performance from Federer. And it’s been pretty much that way since the US Open final. Since then Federer has hardly impressed. And of course, that is to be expected if you keep losing big matches to the same player.
Since the US Open he lost another big final in London to Djokovic, and that was routine. What toll does that take on your morale? Not a good one I would imagine. But like I said it is still only one match so let’s wait some more and see what happens.
Federer now plays Goffin who defeated Thiem 6-1, 3-6, 7-6(2), 7-5. I certainly expect Federer to win just because Goffin is such a lightweight and worships Federer like one of the Federer cult. But I can see Berdych giving Federer real problems if he doesn’t drastically improve.
Berdych defeated Kyrgios 6-3, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 which is a solid win. He now plays Bautista Agut who upset Cilic 6-4, 7-6(5), 7-5. Not that much of an upset in my mind though as I view Cilic as a one-slam wonder.
I think Berdych will defeat Bautista Agut and then we would have a very interesting quarterfinal between two old rivals. Berdych has given Federer plenty to think about in the past and Federer would have to be at his peak to get through that.
But I don’t want to get ahead of myself. They both have to win first.
Djokovic’s Inspiring Performance
What was inspiring about Djokovic’s performance was not so much the quality of the tennis as it was the fact that he saved two set points in the third set tiebreak to win 6-1, 7-5, 7-6(6) and still hasn’t dropped a set in the tournament.
Don’t get me wrong. It was high-quality tennis and the match stats are still good for Djokovic, but I wouldn’t say he was at his peak. But you also have to credit the opponent for that. Seppi is a very awkward opponent as he showed last year against Federer.
Back then I thought it was just Federer who played poorly, but after watching him again against Djokovic today, I realized just what a tricky opponent he is in these conditions. He hits the ball hard and flat and doesn’t make many mistakes.
He is deceptive in that way because he is not a physically imposing player but his technique is such that he hits the ball very cleanly. The tiebreak in the third set was pretty special with Djokovic getting the early break and going up 4-2, then losing four consecutive points to fall behind 4-6 and face two set points, and then winning four consecutive points to win the breaker and the match 8-6.
I don’t remember ever seeing that before. The point at 4-6 in the tiebreak was pretty special but the point of the match came in the second set at 5-5 and break point for Djokovic. It was a 33-stroke rally which ended with Seppi being forced into error and Djokovic triumphantly raising his first in the air.
Djokovic plays Simon next who destroyed Del Bonis. Simon used the recent match-fixing controversy to try some tongue-in-cheek mind games on Djokovic:
— Fabio Valente (@FabioValenteTNN) January 19, 2016
That is quite funny actually and all credit to Simon for his originality. Knowing him, it doesn’t surprise me at all. He is a smart guy who knows very well how to get under the skin of his opponents, both on and off the court.
That said, I don’t know how meaningful it is to try it against Djokovic. Djokovic seems to be immune to any distractions and probably couldn’t care less. He is so focused on the job at hand that he probably didn’t even notice.
Either way, Simon is a tough opponent and this is tennis so literally anything can happen. Djokovic would do very well just to keep his record of not losing any sets intact.
Elsewhere in the Draw
The only players I didn’t mention then is Nishikori and Tsonga who won in four sets and straight sets respectively and now play each other for a place in the quarterfinals. I guess Tsonga is looking better than Nishikori and could win that one.
Then I also want to say that I watched most of Thiem’s match and his mental fortitude disappointed me again. Just not nearly clutch enough on the big points and he has a lot of work to do in that department to become a top 10 player.
His backhand, in particular, is terrific to watch but mentally he is too unstable still and he needs to stop looking over to his camp after every point and become more focused.
The Bottom Half
Personally, I find the bottom half of the draw boring and uninspiring, especially with the departure of Nadal. I don’t even see one match tomorrow that I am interested in watching. Not that I mind. It gives me a chance to get some other things done.
But don’t expect a post from me. Sunday is top half again and then there will be plenty of tennis to watch.
is in your court.