Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wimbledon Highs and Lows: Day Seven

By Steve Pearce at Wimbledon

Posted June 28, 2011 10:59:00
Updated June 28, 2011 11:17:00

So day seven of the Championships has dawned. It's a beautiful sunny warm day in London for the first time this year, when there has actually been tennis to be played. What a perfect day for a Queenslander to play tennis. We shall see.

Bernard Tomic is 18 years old. He was born in Germany before his parents immigrated out to Australia to live on the Gold Coast and bring up their son, who from a young age was quite handy at tennis. He started playing the sport when he was about seven which is around 12 years ago, so we're thinking 1999, the year that Pete Sampras beat Andre Agassi in the final, Pat Rafter was the second seed and made the semis, and another Aussie long forgotten but not yet officially retired - Mark Philippoussis - was seeded seven and made the last eight. So this is what greets the young Tomic when he picks up a racquet in Australia.

Fast-forward 12 years and here is Tomic hitting up with the 30-year-old Belgian Xavier Malisse in a fourth-round match, the last Australian standing in the singles draw. Tomic is just coming off the best win of his career in beating fifth seed Robin Soderling in the third round, and is about to find out what it is to be expected to win a big tennis match.

The Fanatics give us an appalling rendition of the Australian national anthem. There is little tune although your correspondent can hardly talk (just ask Kathy Bedford on ABC Radio), but the fact they are here illustrates the weight of the nation. Tomic's in a cap today because of the sun, so gone is the headband that has become so much a part of his admittedly short tennis career.

It's fourth-round day so there are plenty of good matches on traditionally the best day of top-level tennis in the calendar. Andy Murray v Richard Gasquet is taking much of the attention on Centre Court, but here around the 'Isner/Mahut arena', the attention is solely on Tomic and what he can produce.

And he is certainly producing. He's already a break of serve up when he delivers a beautiful forehand winner up the line to set up another break point. Malisse nets a simple forehand and it's 4-0 in the first set. Reminding anyone of Saturday?

A moment later with some more strong serving it's 5-0 and we've played 16 minutes. Just an argument between Malisse and the umpire delaying things a bit. The Belgian is clearly unhappy, but then again who wouldn't be with this score?

Malisse holds for 5-1. Good serving but he needed it. A powerful forehand cross court brings up a set point... the sliced backhand provoking the error from Malisse and it's 6-1. Thirteen winners to seven and two unforced errors to seven. Good stuff from the Aussie. Djokovic on Wednesday anyone?

A double-fault for Malisse to start the second set. Then another double. But he digs his way out and gets on the board. Can he trouble the Tomic serve? A backhand deep brings up deuce. No problem for Bernie, good serving and 1-1. Now 2-1, good service game for Malisse. Tomic holds. He chooses the right shot quite often for such a young guy. Malisse holds easily again. 3-2.

At 5-5, Tomic again puts Malisse under pressure and after forcing a break point, he hits a wonderful forehand winner down the line for 6-5. Two set points follow shortly after and the 18-year-old makes no mistake.

The racquet of the Belgian now pays the ultimate price for its poor showing today and ends up in a mangled heap, after a lengthy argument with the veteran's left foot. Could make a nice arty piece down the road at the Tate modern maybe?

In the fourth game of the third set, Tomic plays a superb backhand on the turn, almost blind, from behind the baseline at the back of the court for a winner. This is great stuff.

Tomic is well on top now, but Malisse also has nothing to lose and in the sixth game of the third set he forces two break points, but Tomic serves his way out of trouble and then with a diving backhand volley he secures the game. At 4-4, Tomic again senses his chance, as he seems able to do, and with a stunning forehand, a beautiful sliced lob he set up three break points, only one of which he needs after a wonderful forehand winner on the run. It may have been a break point, but it felt like a match point and shortly afterwards, he only needs one of two chances to book his place in the last eight.

Murray meanwhile has just edged the first set in a tie-break against Gasquet in a high-quality hour of tennis on Centre Court.

We'll come back to Tomic as there is more to be said on that, but our fighters from a couple of days ago are engaged in an enthralling battle on court one, with Marion Bartoli a set up against Serena and looking determined. It's 5-5 in the second and a tie-break here is looming, which looks like it will effectively decide the match.

Serving for it at 6-5, there's three match points to Bartoli, but they all slip by, as Serena breaks back and we're at 6-6. Surely she can't dig herself out of this? I have said that before and regretted it.

Soon, we're in the tie-break and we're on serve at 4-5 with Bartoli serving. Ace. Big point. Ten aces now for Bartoli. Brilliant point from Bartoli brings up match point number four on Serena's serve. Ace. Outstanding from Serena. 6-6. Backhand into the net from Williams now off balance and it's match point number five, and it's on her serve. Big serve out wide and it's hers, and the Frenchwoman is back in the quarter-finals of Wimbledon for the second time. It's Serena's eighth loss in the singles at Wimbledon. Ever. One hour 57 minutes, 6-3, 7-6.

And Murray is through too in two hours and five minutes, a straight sets winner over Gasquet on Centre Court. No dramatic two set comeback needed on this occasion.

Then another shock. Well, a shock of sorts, as the top seed but 'major-less' Caroline Wozniacki exits the tournament at the hands of Dominika Cibulkova 1-6, 7-6, 7-5. So the top three seeds are all gone, Serena is out and Venus in trouble. Interesting day on the women's side. Sharapova awaits for Dominika.

Now another Williams is out! Venus is beaten again by the same scoreline and by the same person who beat her last year, 32nd seed Tsvetana Pironkova 6-2, 6-3. She made the semi-finals her last year and has hardly won a match since, but she obviously loves playing here. She's into the last eight again. It's the lefty Kvitova next for her.

It's always a long day to cover this one, and the ups and downs are coming thick and fast. Roger Federer is down for a bit on Court One, but hits back to beat the Russian Mikhail Youzhny in four sets and he's into the quarters. For his long-time adversary Rafael Nadal things are looking much trickier as towards the end of the first set against Juan Martin Del Potro he injuries his foot to the point where he feels he may have broken it. In typical Nadal fashion he has some treatment before overcoming the dangerous Argentinian in four high quality sets of tennis, played at an incredible physical intensity.

Speaking afterwards, Nadal is relieved to get though, but needs a scan on his foot to make sure he's OK for a last eight clash with Mardy Fish. 'Phew'... what a day, it's 10:30 at night and finally we're done. The women's draw is stripped of many big names, but still has Sharapova, Azarenka and Kvitova as the big guns. In the men's, the heavy artillery is all still there, the top four intact, with a few extras thrown in like 10th seed Mr Fish, the unseeded Feliciano Lopez as well as 12th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. And of course, the man who's turned a lot of heads these last few days, Bernard Tomic.

Even the man himself is struggling to explain his sudden upturn in form. From the point where he was two sets and a break down against Igor Andreev in the second round, just about nothing has gone wrong. According to Bernie, it could be the house where he's staying, or maybe it's his lucky shower that he uses in the locker room? If it's busy, he's willing to wait! Either way, he's not sure, and nor is anyone else, but he's riding the wave, so why not jump on and enjoy the ride, it is a bit of fun isn't it? Novak may bring it all crashing down on Wednesday.

Bernie says we'll know by his first return of serve whether he's 'on' or not, and the way he's going, we should all be willing to take him at his word.

Tags: sport, tennis

View the original article here

No comments:

Post a Comment