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« Australian Open Day 2: I Dream of Bagels | Main | #SerenaFriday: A Twitter Q & A With Serena Williams »
9:45AM

Australian Open Day 2: Broken Hearts and Tattered Flags

by Kait O'Callahan

Before I set off on my recap of day two, I’d like to share my ‘goal’ for the Open. My brother and I saw 46 live matches at the AO 2011. This year we plan to hit 50. We do not have to see matches in their entirety; nine games or one set is enough. Of course, if a match is good, we will see it out. This goal motivates us to see matches we would normally avoid, and spend less time watching TV. It is also a lot of fun. We started day two off on Show Court 3.

Sabine Lisicki’s abdominal strain is still an issue. Not only could she not buy a first serve in her opening match today, but her little known opponent, Stephanie Voegele, pushes her through three tight sets. Lisicki’s powerful game is streaky but far more dangerous than her opponent’s. She survives to reach the third round, but only just.

Like many other females, I have a soft spot for Ernests Gulbis.  The Latvian man with striking cheekbones and quick wit has captured the hearts of many worldwide, and then proceeded to break them all. It’s business as usual for Gulbis against Michael Llodra. Gulbis is battling the wind, the crowd, his game, and his opponent. Things get tense when Llodra complains repetitively about the time Gulbis is taking - Gulbis allows himself to get distracted, and never recovers. I busy myself in studying the watch on the woman in front of me - it’s a Rolex. An accreditation pass hangs around her neck, and I peer further to try and catch which career change might afford me a Rolex. Turns out she’s a tennis player’s mother. My eyes catch the sneakers of the girl sitting next to me.  It’s Shahar Peer, and she’s talking enthusiastically with her mother about something to do with Wozniacki, Jankovic, and Schiavone. Whatever the language is, at the moment I wish to understand it.

I drag myself away from the error-fest that is Gulbis, and move on to Janko Tipsarevic and Dmitry Tursunov. They’ve split sets, but it is only a matter of time before Tipsarevic’s superior tennis and experience begin to take over. For such a dull match, there’s a lot of whispering about the court. It turns out Sam Stosur has just lost in the first round of the Australian Open. We leave as Tipsarevic ploughs ahead.

There’s only three rows of seating for Elena Vesnina and Stephanie Dubois, and not all of them are full. The chairs almost seem an after-thought, thrown in incase some passionate Canadian decides to cheer on their lesser-known charge. As it turns out, there is many a passionate Canadian. “That’s the one, Steph, that’s the one,” is a chant we hear often, and it quickly becomes annoying, especially as we are firmly behind Vesnina. Dubios’ game can only be described as completely and utterly defensive; not exactly my idea of good tennis. Vesnina splits sets, but quickly falls behind 1-5 in the third. After taking a sip of Coke on a changeover, the Russian springs back to life and appears ready to steal the victory, climbing back to 4-5. But that famous Russian mentality rears its head, and Vesnina chokes the match away on her serve. She’s distraught. She sits down, wipes a tear from her eye, and puts her head in her hands. Beside me, a man who has been waving a tattered Russian flag for the duration of the match finally lets it hang limp. It has all the atmosphere of a funeral. Vesnina signs autographs on her way out. It’s impossible not to feel for her.

Danai Udomchoke isn’t a player I intended to see. But with Margaret Court packed to the brink with eager Tsonga fans, we head over to see Gilles Simon take on the Thai player. Udomchoke’s one-handed backhand is a pleasant surprise, and he hits some crackers up the line to take the third set in the tiebreak. He’s leading two sets to one, and suddenly we sense an upset, but it isn’t meant to be. Udomchoke struggles with a thigh injury and Simon wins in five.

Some matches are just destined to go the distance. Even when we arrive at Court 18 and see Juan Carlos Ferrero leading Viktor Troicki by a set and a break, we still anticipate five sets. Not only does the match end up going to five, it also turns out to be very high quality. Troicki fights back from two sets down despite Ferrero’s excellent play and a very vocal crowd. During the fourth, Troicki appears to let the crowd get on top of him, and Ferrero has a look at match points. Troicki shows tremendous maturity to fight through that patch and force and win the tiebreak. Ferrero looks tired in the fifth, and it all goes the way of the Serbian. He falls to the ground, crosses himself, and thanks his fans. Ferrero throws his shoes into the crowd. With that, we call it a night.

Kait O'Callahan also has her own tennis blog Any Given Surface.  To follow her on Twitter, click here.

Photo by Michael Roche/Tennis Australia

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