R3 Combativity Award — Allez Richard Gasquet!:
Although the obvious pick for R3’s Combativity Award is Lleyton Hewitt, who just defeated Canadian hope Milos Raonic in 4 tight sets, I want to give a shout out to Reeshard instead.
I honestly did not think he could defeat Tipsy, mainly because Tipsy seemed to be on a streak with his finalist run in Chennai and his impressive showing at last year’s WTF. Also, Tipsy recently talked about aiming to reach the top 5 in 2012. However, Gasquet was able to match Tipsy’s aggression with his trademark backhands and his strong shots off the forehand wing. The first two sets were closely fought, with Gasquet emerging the winner.
I think it was Todd Woodbridge who observed that contrary to conventional wisdom, it’s actually Reeshard’s FH that decides whether or not he wins the match. I guess that speaks to the contrast between the strengths of Reeshard’s steady 1HBHs and his sometimes shaky FH wing. Given his history of losing after initially taking the first two sets, this win was not assured by any means. However, Reeshard maintained his calm and aggression. It was a beautiful sight. Still, Reeshard’s 6-1 domination of Tipsy in the 3rd set was partly attributable to Tipsy’s obvious tanking. I don’t think Tipsy was injured, but in the 3rd set he was barely running for the ball and his demeanor had the air of resignation that re-directed all momentum to Reeshard. Even the commentators noticed and rightly criticized Tipsy for his lack of effort in the 3rd set.
Conclusion: Tipsy should take acting lessons on how to better disguise the art of tanking. Reeshard now has a R4 date with Ferru — this will be an exciting match. While I still prefer Ferru to prevail, I’d like it if Reeshard could make it a competitive match. The talent is there by droves. But as is so often the case (eg. N A L B Y), it’s the other tools in the box that don’t always measure up to said talent. Reeshard is also fussy, which may cut him down in front of a competitor like Ferru. Still, props to him for making it this far.
Future of Tennis? Bernard Tomic defeats Aleksandr Dolgopolov:
The much-anticipated match between the two youngsters lived up to its hype. Tomic and Dolgo are both crafty players, who rely less on power shots and aim for out-witting their opponents through wrong-footing tactics and slicing-and-dicing techniques. From what I saw of the match, it was definitely a creative display of talent that did not always take place on the baseline. In that sense, it was a departure from the power baseline rallies of today.
While journos hailed this match as the “new face of tennis,” I’m not sure I’m fully on board with that proclamation. Dolgo is definitely a fun player to watch and I admire him for attempting to combine his slices with aggressive shots. However, some of the endless BH slice rallies between Dolgo and Tomic had me questioning, “Well, if everyone is tired of baseline power rallies, how soon before they tire of endless BH slice rallies?” Just because it’s a shiny new toy doesn’t mean you won’t tire of it soon.
In any case, due in part to some dodgy decision-making by Bernie Tomic, Bernie emerged the victor at the end of 5 sets. Bernie faces a R4 encounter with Fed. I am counting on Fed to put a halt to the Australian media’s frenzy to designate Bernie as the second coming. Bernie used a fake challenge to possibly trick Dolgo into losing a point. Fed is an infinitely more polished veteran (he’s won 70 titles to Bernie’s 0), who is not afraid to mince words when push comes to shove.
I’ve retreated from rooting for Bernie to sitting on the fence. I’d like to see more of how he comports himself when playing against his greatest idol, Federer. This is an additional thing that irks me about Bernie. He speaks harshly of “lesser players,” yet immediately assumes the on-bended-knee position in front of greater players. He really ought to pick one standard and stick to it — par exemple, DelPo: It doesn’t matter whether DelPo’s playing Olli Rochus or Rafa Nadal. He’ll throw his shoes or argue heatedly with the umpire, regardless the stature of the opponent (He really shouldn’t, but my overall point stands).
Best shot of the Oz Open (So far):
The most entertaining point goes to Nico Almagro of Spain. He defeated Fed’ s compadre Stan in straight sets, in impressive fashion:
How does any other country than Spain have a chance to win DC with talent like this?
Notable R3 Exits:
Alexandr Dolgopolov (13th seed), Milos Raonic (23rd seed), Janko Tipsarevic (9th seed), Juan Ignacio Chela (27th seed), Gael Monfils (14th seed — Gael had an injured back, but managed to level the match from 2 sets down. Then he lost the match on a DF in the 5th set), Stanislas Wawrinka (21st seed).