R4 Combativity Award:
While Lleyton Hewitt gave a guns-blazing performance in his loss to Novak Djokovic, in what will likely be his last Oz Open, I’m giving R4’s combativity award to Kei Nishikori. Mostly, I’m still unsettled by the Nalby-Isner incident in R3. Hewitt was one of Nalby’s enemies — the disparities in their respective career accomplishments and the way they will be seen in the rearview mirror make me emo for Nalby. Let the media write their tributes to Hewitt’s grit (and Hewitt does have plenty of grit and determination).
Back to Special Kei! Kei defeated Tsonga in a 5-set match, 2-6 6-2 6-1 3-6 6-3. At their last meeting at last year’s Shanghai Masters, Kei pulled the upset over Tsonga — that was noteworthy. The pair met again at the Kooyong Exho, where Kei won — given it was an exho, that was ho-hum. For Kei to defeat Tsonga in 5 sets at a Grand Slam? That is a remarkable achievement. He becomes the first Japanese man to reach the QF in the Open era (first Japanese male in 80 yrs). Now ranked no. 26, Special Kei has risen higher than the initial “Project 45” projections.
Special Kei faces Murray in the QF. Though Muzz appeared to have the toughest quarter of the draw, he has managed to skate by due to the early losses of Monfils and Tsonga. Credit to Kei for pulling off a major upset! Though Kei lists Muzz as one of his toughest opponents to play, I think he could provide a sterner test than Muzz’s previous opponents. His confidence has definitely grown, since his impressive streak in Shanghai last year.
This video of Tsonga can-can dancing is ironic when you consider that the video’s sub-heading reads “What better way to prepare for a fourth round clash with Japan’s Kei Nishikori than to learn to do the Can Can?” It’s definitely not can-can dancing for Tsonga (he’s wearing the searing red Adidas kit in the video).
Other Bits & Bobbles:
- Rafa defeats Feli: After Rafa’s win, he had an on-court interview. He was asked if he had to play his last match ever, against whom and where would he play? Rafa said Federer at Wimbledon. I was momentarily afraid Rafa would respond “Fed at Roland Garros,” which would have been super-awkward, given their H2H at Philippe Chatrier. Good on Rafa for giving the most sensible answer here!
- Ferru routines Gasquet: The straight-sets victory for Ferru is a surprise, given how well Gasquet was playing in his R3 match. However, Gasquet made the tactical error of planting himself behind the baseline. He was not going to win in long rallies against Ferru, and the strategy did not pan out for Reeshard. Ferru has been flying under the radar this entire tournament. His interview transcript is not available on the AO site — it turns out nobody had English questions for him. To which he had a simply charismatic, Ferru-like reaction.
- Berdy defeats Nico Almagro. Then he steps all over his own feet: This match was very high in quality. From what I saw, Nico played impressively and the fitness work he did in the off-season is evident. However, Berdy powered through and won in four sets, three of them TBs. There was an incident, where Nico hit a desperate running shot that tagged Berdy in the chest. He quickly apologized, but Berdy held a grudge and refused to shake Nico’s hand after the match. Wertheim gives a breakdown in his mailbag of all the reasons why Berdy’s action was misguided. While I don’t think Berdy’s refusal to shake hands was the “one of the most classless things a player could do,” the majority ruling is that Berdy was out of line. The crowd cheered Nico off the court, while they booed Berdy. He’ll be playing against Rafa and the crowd in the QF.
Yer Quarterfinal Lineup:
Novak Djokovic (1) vs. David Ferrer (5)
Andy Murray (4) vs. Kei Nishikori (24)
Juan Martin del Potro (11) vs. Roger Federer (3)
Tomas Berdych (7) vs. Rafael Nadal (2)
Not a QF bad lineup — the top 5 and a solid supporting cast, plus one new face.