Nine days into the Australian Open and I’ve officially succumbed to time-zone induced ADD.
Last night, five set matches were just too much for me. I delved in and out of several and by the time I found one captivating enough to watch in full I was beaten by the clock – retiring to bed at around 10am with Aleksandr Dolgopolov and Bernard Tomic poised at one set all.
As a result, what follows will be completely devoid of any meaningful analysis so you should probably just save your energy and close the window now.
As I said, I only properly watched two sets of the match between Dolgopolov and Tomic but what I did see was absolutely fascinating.
There were as many sliced backhands in the match as in the rest of the tournament put together and if the two players can emerge as rival slam contenders in the years to come then the future of tennis is in good hands.
The pace of the match was refreshing with both players averaging about 15 seconds between points, regardless of scoreline or previous rally length.
If was also a pleasure to see two tactically minded players trying to outthink each other on court, though getting dragged into such a chess match was probably the Ukrainian’s downfall in the end.
Of the two, he was much more comfortable in taking control of the point and generating his own pace. The match was on his racquet but too often his concentration (and first serve) vanished on big points.
However, given that he led the head to head 3-0 prior to tonight, it’s hard to question his game plan and had he executed just a bit better on the biggest points he could have won in straight sets.
Tomic has already made figuring out how to win matches where he looks second best for long periods his trademark, and the 21-7 tiebreak record he has compiled on the main tour suggests a player who raises his level when things really matters.
While his on-court intelligence is something to admire, there is plenty to dislike about the guy and coming from someone who has displayed such an arrogant sense of entitlement so often in his young career, the incident in the first game of the fifth set wasn’t exactly a shock.
It was gamesmanship at best, downright cheating at worst. I’m leaning firmly towards the latter but judge for yourself.
You could possibly defend Tomic on the basis that it was an instinctive reaction to an out call from the crowd and that the decision thereafter was for Carlos Ramos, but it still leaves a very sour taste.
Still, the match did not hinge on that call and it would be a shame if it overshadowed the what was an enthralling match-up.
Another match I sampled was Roger Federer v Ivo Karlovic, notable for three amazing points from 5-5 in the first set tiebreak.
A superb baseline rally from Karlovic, a genius and slightly lucky get/lob from Federer, and a return winner of the type that has crushed Andy Roddick’s spirit so many times over the years.
A final match to intermittently catch my attention was John Isner’s five set defeat to Feliciano Lopez.
It was a contest the Spaniard should have wrapped up in straight sets against a jaded-looking opponent but despite some major wobbles in the second and fourth sets, he never actually looked like losing.
The American clearly hadn’t recovered fully from his marathon victory over David Nalbandian and though it might seem harsh to criticise the conditioning of a player his height, he’s going to need to back up long five setters if he’s ever going to establish himself as a true contender in the second week of majors.
With his return game (or lack thereof), he’s going to be playing a hell of a lot of them for the remainder of his career.