Australian Open: QF Exits & Final Four Match-ups

As predicted, the 128-player draw has been narrowed down and it’s the top 4 players in the world who will face off against each other: Rafa-Fed and Novak-Muzz.

QF Combativity Award (Rafa defeats Berdy)

Given the limited pool of remaining players, this is the last edition of the 2012 Oz Open Combativity Award.  This QF Combativity Award goes to —- Tomas Berdych!  I know, he behaved pretty despicably in his R4 match against Nico Almagro.  He defied the basic laws of sportsmanship by refusing to shake Nico’s hand after he had won their match.  In spite of all that, I actually think he gave the most unexpected and impressive performance in the QF draw.

At the end of the day, I have a great weakness for the FH.  While I might stay up to watch a Nalbandian/Federer/Gasquet/Almagro match, simply to observe the poised and calculated aggression of their BHs, I prefer the straightforward play of a FH, which has its own colorful grace.

Berdy has a hard-hitting style of fast serves and flat FHs that can trouble even a veteran player like Fed or Rafa.  Berdy gave us glimpses of his potential in 2010 (his victory over Fed at Miami, along with his victories over Fed and Djokovic at Wimbledon), and he showed what gains a Berdy at maximum capacity could reap.

Since then, Berdy dialed in a series of performances that were low-key compared to his hyped-up “potential.”  To an extent, Berdy’s style mirrors DelPo’s, except the lows are lower.  For the better part of his career, Berdy seems to have been content to settle on a medium somewhere in between high and low  (geared more to the “low” setting).  There was no reason to expect anything special from Berdy in his QF match against Rafa.  Yet, despite his loss, he managed to show up in a big way this match.

Photo: AP Photo

Granted, he also showed us all the reasons he’s earned the nickname “Berd-brain” and other obscenities not suitable for this site.  Still, the fact that he managed to remain in-step with Rafa is a credit to Berdy’s immense skill, as well as Rafa’s mental strengths in prevailing over the firing squad of Berdy’s groundstrokes.

Berdy showed he is probably the greatest mover among the players who stand taller than 6’4″.  There is a slowly growing group of players standing taller than 6’4″.  Among them, I can count DelPo, Berdy, Cilic, Karlovic, Raonic, and Tomic.  Neither one of them is exactly touted for his on-court mobility.  From what I saw, Berdy performed feats of mobility that no one should have expected from a man of his build.  Due credit should be given for that.

Berdy received a surprise hug from Rafa at the net, following his loss.  In his own way, Berdy may have redeemed himself for his poor sportsmanship in R4.

Here’s a quick round-up of the QF action at the Oz Open:

1.Novak – Ferru:

Djokovic may or may not have injured his hamstring during the match.  Either way, the 2nd set of the match took a different turn when he started gesticulating at his body in between points.  Frankly, I don’t know what to think about this any more.

If Darwinian justice prevailed, the “injured player” would naturally lose the match.  End of story.  Yet I’ve seen too many instances of players calling for trainers after an alleged injury, only to be running around at full speed afterwards.  The one thing I will definitively say is this: regardless of whether or not a player takes an MTO or is injured, I prefer players who wear a good face on the tennis court.  As in, don’t stare at your hamstring and yell and  don’t roll your eyes and slump your shoulders like the world is falling.  To an extent, this applies to Rafa as well — while I understand Rafa gets asked unavoidable questions about his fitness, I can’t help but feel skeptical sometimes when he describes an ailment as “unbelievably painful.”  I don’t think anyone needs to hear that unless the pain is truly, you know, as unbelievably painful as he describes it.  And let’s be real, it’s probably not that unbelievable if he’s played through and won matches.  It’s a tricky proposition, talking about or playing through an injury concern.

I don’t know what’s wrong with Djokovic’s hamstring, but I will say I’m not at all fond of the marked change in his behavior, which all too heavily depends on whether or not he’s winning said match.  Ferru had his chances to take advantage of Djokovic’s drop in form, but unfortunately was not able to capitalize.

Photo: Getty Images

Credit to the Spaniard for putting up a tough fight, which may or may not have hindered Djokovic’s health for the rest of the tournament.  Really, it depends on the scoreline at Djoko’s next match, whether his hamstring bothers him or not.

2. Muzz defeats Nishikori:

Muzz made routine work of Kei Nishikori, booking himself another SF showing.  Muzz has had an unexpectedly easy draw at the Oz Open, but he faces his first true test in his SF against Djokovic.  It’s a heavily anticipated match, given the questions surrounding Djoko’s fitness and the expected gains to be reaped from Muzz’s new partnership with Ivan Lendl.

Photo: Getty Images

3. Federer defeats DelPo:

My short take on that match is here.

——–

Yer 2012 Oz Open Semi-finalists:

Federer vs. Nadal

Djokovic vs. Murray

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About mariposaxprs

I play favorites with Juan Martin Del Potro, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, David Ferrer, Feliciano Lopez, Gilles Simon and the long line of mercurial talent that drives me to despair in front of the screen at odd hours during the week.
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12 Responses to Australian Open: QF Exits & Final Four Match-ups

  1. queridorafa says:

    I like your cynicism re: Novak’s “injury”! 😉 It’s fairly common, really (and I do think Rafa is vulnerable to criticism in roughly this regard–although he doesn’t do the on-court drama thing–due to his oversharing; but, as he says, “he doesn’t lie”–which to him I think includes lies of omission?) In any case, it always bugs me, although as ariennalee points out, adrenaline, etc. can make a difference. But the next match will be the test. I’m thinking of how, for example, Venus played/won w/ an adductor tear last year at AO, and then had to withdraw vs. Petkovic. If a player truly has an injury in that area–groin/hip/hamstring/quad (as Rafa did last year)–it’s almost impossible to play on it two days later; it’s just too critical of an area that is used in almost every movement/step. (We won’t talk about Nalby’s hernia wins, as that was probably literally a miracle of god or something…)
    Also, why can’t we all receive a “surprise hug” from Rafa?? I love surprises! 🙂
    Also, love that pic of David!

    • mariposaxprs says:

      With Novak, ever since his post-USO “slump” last year, I’ve felt increasingly irritated with the way he behaves on court when he isn’t feeling 100%. This feeling was magnified at the Davis Cup SF. I feel like he stole all the attention with his dramatics on court.

      I agree Rafa def is a different case, in that he doesn’t make a dramatic play out of his injury concerns when he’s on the tennis court. If there’s one thing I wish Rafa would tone down, it’s his tendency to overshare with the press. On one hand, it’s nice that he’s willing to engage in long conversations with journos. On the other hand, I think he has a tendency to add too much flourish when he’s talking about his injury concerns—describing it as “unbelievable pain” or “the worst pain I’ve felt in my life.” It’s more a semantics issue, I guess — like when Rafa brought up how he was crying in his hotel room the night before the AO, b/c of his knee. I think that’s something he should keep to himself, esp right after a big SF victory over Fed. Perhaps it’s something Benito should work harder to control? 😉 It’s more an image problem, b/c I think Rafa’s unwittingly adding fuel to the fire of his critics, who say “Rafa always complains about some injury.”

      A surprise hug from Rafa is a fine surprise, indeed 🙂 Robotic Berdy doesn’t look like the type to appreciate surprises, but I think even he was pleasantly surprised at the net!

      • Arienna Lee says:

        “With Novak, ever since his post-USO “slump” last year, I’ve felt increasingly irritated with the way he behaves on court when he isn’t feeling 100%.”

        When I was at IW last year, I watched the Fed/Novak match with my friend and her 90+ year-old grandma (a dyed-in-the-wool Fed fan who STILL plays ladies doubles)–she couldn’t STAND Novak’s antics. It was so funny. She kept slapping me on the leg to get my attention whenever Novak rolled his eyes & slumped his shoulders or did that head toss that seems to say “I do that SO PERFECTLY ALL THE TIME, why NOT THIS TIME, YE GODS, WHY??” Then she would roll her eyes a mimic a baby voice and say “Awww, is Mr. Perfect not so perfect after all.” Not only was this hysterical because she is otherwise a highly refined lady, but it was also prescient given the year that was yet to come.

        • mariposaxprs says:

          I would behold the opinion of a 90+ yr-old grandmother who can still play ladies’ doubles!! Yikes, that’s seriously incredible. Sometimes I wonder whether I’d be able to carry heavy groceries/boxes at 40 y.o. (which is a far way ahead of me, but still — the thought of playing tennis at 90+ is just awe-inspiring!)

          I like her reactions to Novak’s on-court behavior too. It would have been quite entertaining to have her commentate a match between Novak and an opponent at a major tournament! Lol at “Awww, is Mr. Perfect not so perfect after all.” I would have liked to hear that live!!

          • Arienna Lee says:

            40 comes way faster than you’d expect. I still have six years to go, and at this point, that seems like the blink of an eye! But yes, playing tennis at 90 was really impressive. Even more impressive? She wore high heels to the tournament. Seriously. We watched tennis from 10 in the morning until after six at night and she wore those heels the entire time. I can’t even do that now. 🙂

            • mariposaxprs says:

              High-heels at a tennis tournament? Yikes. I still haven’t watched a live tennis match at a Masters event (to my eternal shame — I should plan for that someday!) But it sounds like an exhausting endeavor, walking the grounds and sitting out there in the heat. I simply cannot imagine attempting that in high heels, either!

    • Arienna Lee says:

      You are right, indeed, QR! Venus is a great example. I am very eager to find out whether or not all that running Novak did against David aggravated a real injury that Novak was actually trying to hide. I kinda can’t wait for this QF either… too bad I’m about to go sleep through it.

  2. Arienna Lee says:

    Going out on a limb with Berdie! Well, I might not quite agree with you, but I can respect (and understand) your decision very well indeed. In fact, I think that the award could have gone to many from Rafa, to David, to Kei… there’s also Fed, of course. Do you qualify for the Combativity Award if you dominate a quality opponent from wire to wire?

    It’s so difficult to wade into the injury territory, isn’t it? I don’t like a “gamer” and I know they’re out there… but it’s so hard to understand why people would “act” more wounded they they are. So many studies have proven that our body language informs how we actually feel. Smiling MAKES us happy. Straight shoulders MAKES us prouder. Of course, the body language is more superficial than a feeling coming from deep within, but still, it seems risky for a player to fake “feeling bad” or pretend to lose momentum.

    From what I saw in the match, Novak seemed to strain something in his leg & go all tentative for a bit… but he never called the trainer (at least not in the 2nd set) so we know he couldn’t have been that scared. Besides, endorphins, adrenaline, cortisone… they all do funny things to our experience of pain. I remember during my first marathon I somehow ran my last three miles a full minute faster than I had trained for. I could kinda tell that my thighs hurt, but really, it didn’t seem so bad. The next day I couldn’t even step off the sidewalk curb without excruciating pain! I would never have guessed I was shredding my muscles so severely, because I felt so invigorated by the challenge… and all the chemicals in my system made it so I literally couldn’t feel the pain.

    Anyway, long way round to saying that you’re raising a very interesting topic of discussion. In my opinion, Novak wasn’t consciously faking… I’m guessing that his injury was the type you can work “through” in a match… I’ll be very interested, however, to see whether or not there were any ill effects the next day. Let’s see how he moves against Murry.

    As far as Rafa is concerned… I think he’s got a real neurotic streak. Fear = pain The over-sharing is another issue entirely 🙂

    • mariposaxprs says:

      That’s a good point! For the Combativity Award, I tend to pick players who lost their matches, although I did pick Kei for his R4 win. There’s a strong argument for Rafa and Roger in their QF performances too. Fed’s performance over DelPo was a pretty clear-cut case of combativity (to my eternal sadness). As was Rafa’s tough grind over Berdy. I figured since both Fed and Rafa advanced to the SF anyway, there’d be more to see of them. I’ll have to work on deciding on a basic set of criteria for the Combativity Award! I guess I had super-low expectations of Berdy before his match, so the fact he made it a tough one qualified him in my eyes. I kind of hope he keeps it up (he prob won’t).

      What I disliked about Djokovic is his tendency to turn each injury concern into a dramatic production. Once something gets torn/injured, every camera shot of him includes him rolling his eyes or acting like a petulant child. But I agree, to accuse him of gaming is dangerous territory. I can see how adrenaline could mute the pain for an athlete, so it’s tough to call them out on an MTO, w/o having all the information. I hope it doesn’t become the elephant on the court in his SF against Muzz.

      Yea, I think that’s the point I wanted to make about Rafa, that he naturally is a bit neurotic about injuries, as is DelPo. I think the small problems I have with Rafa’s tendency to over-share have more to do with the way the media interpret his words, rather than Rafa himself.

      • Arienna Lee says:

        To tell you the truth, watching Andy clutch body parts, and seeing Novak roll his eyes while they both slump their shoulders and scream to the heavens is part of the reason I want to watch the match. This behavior doesn’t make them favorites of mine, but I do think it’s going to be kinda funny. Unless they both go all “robot,” and then I’ll have to hope that the actual tennis is interesting 😉

        • mariposaxprs says:

          Hah, I guess it can be entertaining and funny, but when I’m cheering against either one of them (as I usually am, at the business-end of a major tournament), it becomes simply unbearable! To clarify, I still am a haphazard Muzzard fan. But by the time he reaches the QF of a tournament, I’m not so sure anymore. Usually, at that point, there’s someone I like better. That shouldn’t take away from the fact that both Muzz and Novak are incredible tennis players though. As loath as I am to admit it, that much I can acknowledge!

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