Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wimbledon Highs and Lows: Day Six

By Steve Pearce at Wimbledon

Posted June 26, 2011 11:42:00
Updated June 26, 2011 11:44:00

Good start by Jarka here on Centre Court. She's going for her shots (which she has to) and she's held her first service game with some ease. Now you may need some background, as we've flown straight into this.

It's day six and there's the last two Australians in action at the All England Club. One is Jarmila Gajdosova (Jarka), and the other is Bernard Tomic, but more about him later.

Let's focus on Jarka as she's first on Centre Court, after the traditional first Saturday welcome to a host of sporting stars including Australia's own 1958 champion Ashley Cooper. The welcome for the armed forces personnel who volunteer their time to help run these championships is particularly uplifting.

After the formalities it's back to the tennis. 3-2 to Wozniacki on serve in the first set. No hiccups for either player to this point and we've played 13 minutes.

A poor service game though hands Wozniacki a crucial break of serve 11 minutes later and at 5-3 she can serve for the first set. A couple of missed first serves, some poor placement on the second and a netted backhand could prove costly, and probably will.

The Australian isn't far off though at 30-all in the next game, she's in control of the next point but a beautiful back hand lob lands on the baseline and Wozniacki takes the set on the next point. At this level the margins are wafer thin, and it's going to be tough from here against the top seed.

Jarka then plays her best game of the match so far, beginning to dictate play with her deep pounding groudstrokes, moving the Dane around probing for the opening. Now can she break? The answer is not quite, but she's getting closer.

Then trouble as a backhand into the net is followed by a backhand from Wozniacki that just catches the line for love-30. A mis-hit forehand flies long and 15-40 and two break points. Two nice volleys at the net save them both.

But then another unforced error on the backhand hands a third break point to the Dane, and her incredible defence eventually forces the error from Jarka and she's a set and a break down on Centre Court.

A cross court backhand brings up a break point for Jarka, but she doesn't take her chance and Wozniacki hits back with a forehand winner. It's 3-1. Now a backhand wide puts Jarka under immense pressure at 0-30, but with impressive serving and groundstrokes she digs her way out.

She is finding her range and some good angles but can she find the consistency to break the Dane? The backhand is still the problem. Too many errors and too many free points for Wozniacki.

We've played an hour and it's nearly over for the Australian. 2-4. Amazing defence from Wozniacki makes it a tough game to hold, a missed forehand handing Caroline a second break point.

A backhand (you guessed it!) goes wide and that's 5-2 and a set down in an hour and two and that's it.

A couple of minutes later and that really is it. She had to be at her best to beat Caroline, but sadly she wasn't quite at the level needed and we're down to one. Not a bad effort, but still just short of what's needed to beat the really top players. Neither down nor up, just middle really, par for the course.

You have to say for Bernard Tomic to be the last Australian standing is an achievement in itself for the 18-year-old whatever happens on court number one this afternoon. For Jarka, she's got to play far more consistently against players who give her absolutely nothing like Caroline, who had just five unforced errors for the match. Gajdosova had 12, and importantly served just 53% of her first serves in against 70% for the Dane.

Let's move on.

It's Davis Cup in a few weeks, in fact a bit less, and the new captain Pat Rafter just had a word with a few of us here. Hewitt is looking a likely starter for the tie in China which is quite surprising and along with Tomic and the odd support act; maybe Australia might be halfway to getting a competitive team back together. Not competitive yet in the sense of winning the thing, not that they can do that this year anyway.

All this reminds me that last night, Tennis Australia threw a bit of a bash for John Newcombe to celebrate the anniversary of the last of his singles wins here in 1971.

Most of the tennis hierarchy is in London at this time of year, and therefore it was a very packed 'Australian' house last night that celebrated all things Newcombe, with a barbecue and a couple of beers. Inside of course, because it's been raining all week, but it was well attended and so it should be.

It does also appear that Rafter's captaincy of the Davis Cup team has thawed relations between Australia's top two men. Not thawed to the point of speaking much or arm around the back type of thawing, but a thaw none the less. If it's the case it can only be to the benefit of all. And Australian men's tennis needs a boost.

Excellent start from Tomic. He's broken Soderling to 15 with a mixture of great defence, good returns and superb passing shots. He's held comfortably too and leads 3-0. For good measure he breaks him to love this time and it's 4-0. Now it's 5-0 and we've played 12 minutes. Am fairly sure this is happening so will just pinch myself hard to check.......yes, it's real. What a start for the 18-year-old. Soderling has no idea what's happening.

Belatedly, he wins a point. But he looks stunned. Brilliant back hand winner from Tomic. But the Soderling takes a game. 14 minutes in. The next game goes to love and Tomic takes the set in 17 minutes 6-1. Absurd. A couple more of those and we'll be done inside the hour.

Two break points saved by Tomic in the second game of the second set. Could be pivotal. Great hold by the Australian, his slice on the backhand is definitely the shot Soderling is enjoying the least.

The trainer is then on for the Swede who's feeling dizzy on court and has had an upset stomach for a couple of days. He says he's been taking Voltarin. They give him something else and we carry on, but he doesn't look great. But then again neither would you if you were being pummelled by Tomic.

Two more break points for Tomic both saved by the Swede at 2-2. Now another. The slice again provokes the error with Soderling's footwork all over the place and it's 3-2.

It looks like once again an Australian will lead Soderling by two sets to love here this year.

But now Tomic is getting involved in some heavy hitting and the Swede's liking that. A serve and volley to finish and that'll do it for 4-2. And then after an hour and seven minutes on court it's two sets to love 6-1, 6-4. What's the script from here?

At 3-4, we're treated to two of the most marvellous rallies you'd wish to see if you enjoy the sliced backhand. Both points have more than 10 exchanges over the net by a mere whisker, with the spoils shared by each player. But the match itself is going the way of Tomic.

Soderling's serve is coming under increasing pressure again, but he holds his nerve and leads 5-4. Now the pressure is on Tomic. This is where it all changed for Hewitt on Thursday. But Tomic holds with ease and it's 5-all. Maybe this story ends with a tie-break?

Xavier Malisse is leading Jurgen Melzer in their match and is looking the likely opponent for Tomic on Monday. A backhand down the line makes it 30-all on Soderling's serve, then Soderling nets a forehand and it's break point for the Australian.

He saves it with an ace on a challenge. Dramatic stuff. A sprayed forehand and it's another break chance. This time the Swede goes wide with the forehand and Tomic is on the brink.

But suddenly Tomic has tightened up and the errors come - a sprayed forehand which gives up two break points. He saves one with an ace.

Then Soderling is a 16th of an inch wide with a forehand. It's Deuce, that would have been a tie-break. Then the Swede is just long with his trade mark forehand and it's match point. The Australian takes it with his first opportunity with a big serve out wide and it's fourth round time for Tomic. 1 hour 52 minutes. That is a significant win for him and for Australian tennis.

Afterwards, Tomic can hardly contain his pleasure at the win and Soderling is grumpy and short on plaudits for the 18-year-old. But never mind, he's heading back home and Tomic will play Malisse on Monday.

Tags: sport, tennis, england

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