Sunday, January 13, 2008

Open Wrap Up

Another successful Heineken Open is in the books. It may not have had as much star power as previous years, but the players delivered an exciting tournament with good matches on all six days. The sun was shining most of the time, the crowd was into it, and the players looked like they were in Auckland to win, not just to warm up for Melbourne. Even though champ Philipp Kohlschreiber may not be the most exciting or warmest guy on tour, he played well this week and deserved the title. And who knows, it could be the start of a huge year for the German. He is right next to Andy Roddick in the Australian Open draw…


Centre court. It's still Rebound Ace, but they coloured it blue to help the players pretend they were playing on the same surface as the Australian Open.

Juan Carlos Ferrero.

Juan Monaco.

Juan Ignacio Chela. Lots of Juans this year.

David Ferrer.

Marin Cilic.

Nicolas Massu.

Tag team champions Juan Monaco and Luis Horna.

Xavier Malisse.

Kiwi qualifier G.D. Jones. Brother of Sacha, whose picture you can see in the ASB Classic Wrap Up post.

Michael Llodra.

Julien Benneteau.

Florian Mayer.

Jurgen Melzer.

And finally, Philipp Kohlschreiber, the new champ.

So this is the end for Yellowballin’. I had a great time at the tennis these past two weeks, and life as a tennis blogger has been fun as well. Thanks for reading everybody, and special thanks to those of you who supported this journey into the blogosphere. Enjoy all the tennis you get to watch this year, be it live in person, on the television or on the information superhighway. Seeya.


Saturday, January 12, 2008


Whew, pretty intense final today. Good match, disappointing result. I mean, Philipp Kohlschreiber, really? He’s not in the same league as recent winners like Fernando Gonzalez, David Ferrer, or even Jarkko Nieminen and Dominik Hrbaty. But I’ll get over it. Congratulations Philipp. Have a good season, make a name for yourself, and come back next time. And bring Juan Carlos.

Philipp with two Ps was tough to beat at this tournament. He didn't play amazing tennis, but he made it very difficult for his opponents to break his serve. If you can keep holding serve you're not going to lose matches. Not that Kohlschreiber has a particularly huge serve, he just works very hard during his service games to win all the points. That’s what every tennis player sets out to do I guess, but PK was good at it this week.

The German played well today in his 76(4) 75 victory, but so did Juan Carlos Ferrero. In fact I would say Kohlschreiber was hitting errors more often than JC, but they tended to come at the beginning of games rather than the end, so it didn’t matter. The two men served well (PK started off a bit shaky but raised his first serve percentage when Ferrero began to make him work), and the free points they got from their big serves helped both of them get out of some close situations. After two service breaks at the beginning of the match there were no more until PK finally got one over Juan Carlos at 55 in the second. One more hold (with one tiny break point for Ferrero at 30-40 mind you) and it was all over Rover. Juan Carlos must be disappointed. It’s not as if he had a lot of missed chances to regret, it was a very close match, but if he had hit a few more winners in that tiebreak it could have been a lot different. But if Marin Cilic had finished Kohlschreiber off after being a break up in the third set of their second round match the whole tournament would have been a lot different. You can’t dwell on would have beens in tennis.

It was good to see Juan Monaco and Luis Horna win the doubles title today. They defeated fellow unseeded pair Jurgen Melzer and Xavier Malisse 64 36 10-7 in a close final. Monaco has had a great week in Auckland, reaching the semifinals in singles (improving on his quarterfinal result last year) and now winning his first doubles championship. Plus he has a famous girlfriend who came to watch all his matches. Famous enough to have a Wikipedia page anyway,, check it out. Horna must have been very pleased too, as he rolled his ankle quite badly in his final round of qualifying match on Monday and had to retire. That’s why they’re getting rid of Rebound Ace. But the Peruvian number one looked good in the doubles these past few days so he evidently recovered. The fact that he and Monaco didn’t start playing until Thursday probably helped.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a Heineken Open wrap up post, and then my time as a tennis blogger will have come to an end. Can’t believe I haven’t put up a picture of Juan Monaco in his tight shirt yet, we’ll rectify that tomorrow. For now, here’s your 2008 Heineken Open champion, Philipp Kohlschreiber. Neat trophy.

Ferrero And Kohlschreiber Get The Ws

Juan Carlos Ferrero is very close to winning his first title in a long time. The Mosquito (is that what people call him? Weird.) came through his semifinal against Julien Benneteau 63 64. Benneteau may not have played quite as well as he did against David Ferrer last night, but he was still pretty tough. Ferrero fought hard to save break points a bunch of times (including after being down love 40), and one break of Benneteau’s serve was enough to win each set. Ferrero has been good this week with things like that. He hasn’t looked consistently awesome, but has come up with the goods on the important points, often with a spectacular shot out of nowhere. And the man can hold his own in a baseline rally, but that goes without saying, he’s Juan Carlos Ferrero.

Julien Benneteau looks like one of those dangerous players who are capable of playing magnificent tennis and scoring big upsets. But until he strings some of those good results together to get that big breakthrough there’ll be question marks concerning his reliability. Benneteau reached the quarterfinals at the 2006 French Open, but that’s as breakthroughish as he’s got. An ATP title breakthrough could have come this week in Auckland, he was playing well enough, but Ferrero won the right points today. I’ll take notice next time I see Benneteau’s name in a draw, that’s for sure.

I was glad Ferrero won that match. Philipp Kohlschreiber had knocked out Juan Monaco earlier in the day, and let’s face it, a Benneteau-Kohlschreiber final would have been a little weak. The German won his semifinal convincingly 62 61, but he was helped out by a poor performance from Juan Monaco. Monaco looked terrible today. Juan didn’t start off that badly, but after he lost his serve for the first time the frustration began to show. It soon became clear that Kohlschreiber wasn’t going to let Monaco break back in a hurry, and then the Argentine’s whole game unravelled. Monaco was hitting everything long, and only won two service games in the match, both in the first set. Kohlschreiber did a good job not letting himself drop to Monaco’s level. It was obvious the 3rd seed was having a bad day, so PK sensibly kept the ball in play until Juan made the errors. He knew if he concentrated on his own game the victory would come, and it did.

I’m a fan of Monaco’s so this was a bit disappointing. A final between him and Ferrero would have been something special. But after the match Monaco played doubles with Luis Horna and looked great. He was having a good time on court, smiling and laughing with his partner, as well as getting pumped up for the important points. It’s good to know that Monaco is a player who can recover quickly from a bad loss. And his focus paid off. Monaco and Horna won both their quarterfinal and semifinal doubles matches today, and tomorrow they’ll face Jurgen Melzer and Xavier Malisse in the final. Melzer and Malisse were fun to watch in singles this week (both made the second round) and look good together as a pair. They’ve each had some success in tag team tennis so we’ll see how they go tomorrow. The doubles will be the first match on centre court at 1pm.

So it’ll be JC vs PK for the 2008 Heineken Open Championship. The Auckland tennis season is almost all wrapped up. It’s not over yet though, and hopefully the final will be a good match and a good fight. Actually, to be honest as long as Ferrero wins it I don’t care if it’s a good match or not, but a tennis blogger shouldn’t say things like that. Pretend I said something noble like “May tennis be the true winner on the day”. Yeah, that’s good.

Here’s Philipp Kohlschreiber. I like the yellow shirt.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Ferrer Gets Owned, Juan And Juan Fight To Win

When 7th seed Philipp Kohlschreiber, 4th seed Juan Carlos Ferrero and 3rd seed Juan Monaco all won their quarterfinal matches I thought, coolness, four seeds in the semifinals. But no, no coolness, as 1st seed David Ferrer was upset by Julien Benneteau in the evening session. Nobody saw this one coming, and the 64 60 scoreline is a bit shocking. Ferrer didn’t start off too badly, just the one break in the first set, no big. I assumed he’d come back strong in the second and teach Benneteau a lesson. But the only person taken to school was David Ferrer, as you can see by the score. The top seed, defending champion and world number 5 looked like none of the above as he hit more and more errors and Benneteau hit more and more winners. I like Ferrer a lot, so I’ll stick up for him and say that Benneteau played very well, having one of those days when everything went in. But it was a bad day at the office for the man who’s supposed to be the best returner in the game, and I hope this doesn’t hurt Ferrer’s confidence too much as he tries to repeat the stellar year he had in 2007.

Juan Carlos Ferrero overcame Nicolas Massu 46 63 64 in the match of the tournament so far. I’m not the best judge of how high the quality of the tennis was, but I can tell you that this was a great fight. Massu has been intense all week and looked like he really wanted this one, maybe even a bit more than Ferrero. But the Spaniard fired himself up after he lost the first set, and his passion was evident as he fought hard to come back and win the match. The two traded breaks in the third set before Juan Carlos broke Massu in the final game to seal the deal. They had a bit of a manly hug at the net afterwards, that got a cheer. Now the former French Open winner and US Open finalist (that’s proof he can do well on hard courts right there) will face Benneteau in the semis. How awesome would a Ferrer-Ferrero semifinal have been? Great fun to say aloud as well. Ferrer-Ferrero. Roll the rrrs. But never mind.

So that was the match of the tournament until the next one, when Juan Monaco narrowly scraped through against Michael Llodra 46 76(5) 76(5). I am so stoked that Monaco won that one. He had to get into the semi against Philipp Kohlschreiber to keep the tournament interesting. I don’t have anything against Llodra, I just didn’t particularly want to see him as my Heineken Open champion. But the recent Adelaide winner played phenomenally, he was acting like a French Pete Sampras. He consistently hit huge first serves, and on the occasions that he didn’t get an ace he would storm the net and put away the return with a big smash. The serve and volley is not dead. It was so effective I thought Monaco was done after the first set. I was ready to come home and write a post called “Who Does Michael Llodra Think He Is?” about how aging doubles specialists shouldn’t beat exciting young up and comers in important quarterfinal matches with dated techniques. I’ve calmed down a little since then, and now I applaud Llodra’s great start to the year and his inspiring use of serve and volley tennis. But boy am I happy Monaco won that third set tiebreak. At 5 games all in the third set Llodra missed a couple of first serves and Monaco broke him to love, but Llodra broke straight back to force the tiebreak. It was exciting stuff. The tiebreak was tense, staying with serve until Monaco hit a textbook forehand past the incoming Llodra on his first matchpoint. The Argentine pumped his fists a few times and shouted a bit, then went off to get ready for his doubles match with Luis Horna, which he also won. The kid’s got guts.

Philipp Kohlschreiber had an easier time with his quarterfinal, defeating fellow German Florian Mayer 63 64. Mayer hit more errors than he did in his wins over Sam Querrey and Juan Ignacio Chela, and Kohlschreiber got through without much hassle. Kohlschreiber behaved today, but he still carries himself like a bit of a villain. Not in real life of course, I’m sure he still sends his mother flowers on Mother’s Day. But there are some players, you know the ones, who, on the court, look like villains. Or heels, as they say in the wrestling world. Philipp Kohlschreiber is a natural heel.

So it’s Benneteau vs Ferrero and Monaco vs Kohlschreiber in the semifinals tomorrow. I’ll be pulling for the two Juans, that would be an awesome final. But there’s a Frenchman and a German who think it will only be an awesome final if they’re in it, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

Here’s a man love moment.

And here’s a better look at Juan Carlos Ferrero in his Lotto gear.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Heavy Cloud, No Rain

The rain stayed away, so there was a whole lot of tennis going on. You’ve got to stay on top of things on a catch up day like this, but that’s half the fun. Heaps to report, so I’m going to focus on the brave players who played two matches today.

Juan Carlos Ferrero looked very good. Play started at 10am with Ferrero taking on American Jesse Levine. Levine put up a good fight and impressed me more than Sam Querrey did on Monday, but Juan Carlos won the match without much drama 64 61. Later in the day Jurgen Melzer stepped up to block Ferrero’s path to the quarterfinals, but the former world number one would have none of it. Melzer showed some guts at the end, saving about five match points in the second set tiebreak, but Ferrero finally put him away 63 76(6). Ferrero’s quarterfinal opponent will be Nicolas Massu, who defeated the Spaniard in the first round last year. More on Massu later.

Top seed and defending champion David Ferrer took to centre court for the first time today, blasting his good friend Oscar Hernandez off the court 61 62 and then defeating Sergio Roitman 61 76(2). Roitman tested Ferrer a little, but the world number 5’s superior shotmaking was too good in the tiebreak. Ferrer looks like the man to beat. Tomorrow he’ll face Julien Benneteau, who upset 5th seed Nicolas Almagro 64 26 62.

Benneteau wasn’t the only Frenchman who had success on the courts today. Michael Llodra won both his first and second round matches in convincing fashion, with his big serve and big plays at the net looking quite hard to handle. First he eliminated loneliest man on tour Hyung-Taik Lee 61 64, before dismissing 8th seed Albert Montanes 63 64. Llodra won the title in Adelaide last week so he’s on a bit of a winning streak. But he’ll have to be playing his best tennis tomorrow if he wants to beat…

Juan Monaco! One of the interesting stories of 2007 was the rise of Monaco, who started his great year by qualifying and then reaching the quarterfinals in Auckland. This year the Argentine with the tight shirt is back as the number 3 seed, but I don’t think he’ll be satisfied with just a quarterfinal this time. Monaco looked awesome today, defeating Thomas Johansson 63 64 and Olivier Rochus 63 63. Last year Juan and Olivier had a long 3-hour battle in the second round, but Monaco took out Rochus a lot quicker this time, showing how much he has improved. His quarterfinal against Llodra tomorrow should be a good one, but it’s the Frenchman who will have to come up with something special to get the W.

Xavier Malisse also played two matches today. The Belgian with the short haircut has a protected ranking of 31 but isn’t seeded, so I assume that protected rankings get you direct entry into tournaments but that’s it. Malisse got started by shutting down 5th seed Jarkko Nieminen 76(3) 63 in a close match. Nieminen won the Heineken Open in 2006, but since then hasn’t got past the first round, losing to Olivier Rochus last year and now the X-Man this year. But those are some tough draws. Give Jarkko a New Zealand wildcard in the first round next year, he deserves it. Malisse ran into Nicolas Massu in the second round, losing 64 64. Or is that 46 46? Both players were serving well, but when Malisse did play a bad service game Massu pounced on it and took him out. Qualifier Massu looks like a man on a mission, and I’m looking forward to his match against Ferrero tomorrow.

Marin Cilic was in the same boat as Malisse, winning his first match against Tomas Cakl 64 63 but falling to 7th seed Philipp Kohlschreiber 63 67(5) 64 in the second round. Cilic almost won that match and he looks like a great young player. The kid is very tall, has a big serve and can rush the net something fierce. One to keep your eye on. Cilic is very similar to Mario Ancic actually, they're both the same height even, 6 foot 5. As for Kohlschreiber, the German has a bit of an attitude on him. He has no reservations about snarling at ball boys, pointing out line judges’ shortcomings and complaining to the chair umpire. It makes him a more interesting player though. They can’t all be nice guys on court. In his quarterfinal match tomorrow Kohlschreiber will face a more pleasant German, Florian Mayer. Mayer upset the number 2 seed Juan Ignacio Chela 63 76(7). Chela looked vulnerable against King-Turner on Monday so it’s not a huge surprise he went out, but he did have some set points in the second set so it could have gone either way. Mayer played very well though, and could give Kohlschreiber some problems in the all-German match tomorrow. As Mayer said, his goal is to “make it difficult” for the higher ranked players that he faces.

See what I did there? I started talking about the guys who played two matches, but then I seamlessly transitioned into recaps of the other results. Well maybe not seamlessly, but thanks for bearing with me. Smooth like gravel. Quarterfinals day tomorrow, anything could happen.

Sticking with the orange theme here’s a picture of David Ferrer. His outfit may look a little red in the photo, but it’s as orange as a traffic cone. There’s a shiny silver pattern on the shirt as well, it’s retro yet space age. Juan Carlos Ferrero was wearing the exact same thing today, they’re Lotto buddies.

Two pictures today, here's Marin Cilic. He's not Ivo Karlovic tall, but he's still pretty tall.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Wet Wet Wet

Lots of rain today, so not much tennis at all. We got to see Kiwi qualifier G.D. Jones take on Nicolas Massu in their first round match. Jones served well to keep the first set close, but Massu eventually ran away with it 64 62. In his pre match interview Massu said that he wasn’t terribly happy with his 2007 results, but had trained hard over the off season and was looking forward to a successful 2008. The Chilean is always dangerous, and he came through qualifying so he’s got some momentum. Massu will face the winner of Jarkko Nieminen-Xavier Malisse in the second round.

This was all we got to see on centre court before the rain settled in, but while Massu-Jones was going on 7th seed Philip Kohlschreiber and Sergio Roitman both won their first round matches. I also saw a little bit of young Croat Marin Cilic vs qualifier Tomas Cakl. They only got a few games in before the rain hit but I liked what I saw from Cilic. He’s got a good look. That reminds me, Mario Ancic did pull out of his match against Juan Carlos Ferrero. Stomach virus. It’s a shame as the Croatian fans were out in force to cheer him on in their neat chequered shirts, but they got behind Cilic for the short time he was on court. Jesse Levine will take Ancic’s place in the draw and meet Ferrero tomorrow. I think Levine is a good replacement, he was one of the more interesting players in the qualifying draw. The 20-year-old was a sparring partner for Roger Federer last year, that’s a decent claim to fame.

So there are a gazillion matches scheduled for tomorrow, plenty to choose from on all the courts. Some players will have to play two matches in one day, so it will be interesting to see if that has a big impact on anyone’s games. But these Spaniards and South Americans are all very fit. The forecast says there may be a few showers, but hopefully the catch up will be achieved and I’ll have lots to report tomorrow night.

Nicolas Massu’s orange and white outfit is easier on the eyes than the orange and black Juan Ignacio Chela wore yesterday. Maybe we’ll see some more orange tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Into It

Heaps of tennis today so let’s get into it.

It was a good day for the New Zealand men, which is surprising as they usually get annihilated at the Open. G.D. Jones defeated Italian Alberto Brizzi to become the first New Zealander to make it through qualifying into the main draw in 21 years. Tomorrow he’ll face fellow qualifier and Olympic gold medallist Nicolas Massu, who took out lefty American Jesse Levine to qualify this morning. Kiwi number one Dan King-Turner can take a lot of positives away from his close 57 62 75 defeat to Juan Ignacio Chela. If you had told me that King-Turner would push 2nd seed and world number 20 Chela to 7-5 in the third I would have tried to take some of your money. But DKT played the match of his life, and JIC looked a little out of sorts. Fortunately for Chela he did what Vera Zvonareva should have done to Marina Erakovic last week, and put King-Turner away when he had a chance to serve out the match at the end. Big-serving Rubin Statham put up a good fight against 8th seed Albert Montanes, but one break in each set was enough for the Spaniard to win the match 64 64. And did I just say 8th seed Albert Montanes? I guess the field is a little weak this year.

Frenchman Julien Benneteau played Dudi Sela of Israel in a good match on the back courts today. I had seen Benneteau play in Auckland before but Sela was a complete mystery to me. That was then though, and now I can tell you that Dudi Sela has a cool name, a cool earring and a cool one-handed backhand, so there’s plenty to like about the guy. During the match someone in the crowd kept shouting “Hey Jew!” which I thought was rather bizarre. But after a while I realised they were cheering for “Ju”, short for Julien. Makes sense. Ju won the match 64 76(3), and will make a good second round opponent for 6th seed Nicolas Almagro, who took out Jose Acasuso 63 64 on centre court about the same time. Oh, I got to see Jurgen Melzer overcome his Austrian brother Werner Eschauer 64 16 63 on the back courts too, good one.

Before the tournament I would have told you that Sam Querrey had a good chance to do well in Auckland. The draw is full of clay court guys, so a hard court expert like Querrey could do some damage and go far. But the tall American was disappointing today in his match against German Florian Mayer. Querrey’s big serve will always keep him in a match, but he seemed a bit lethargic and lacked some good old fighting spirit. Mayer bundled him out of the Open 75 63.

And finally talented Belgian Olivier Rochus beat another German Michael Berrer 67(8) 62 64 under the lights tonight. Rochus has done very well in Auckland over the years and the crowds love him, which is why he gets these centre court matches. Berrer looked about 8 feet tall next to the diminutive Rochus, and punished the short man with big left-handed serves and big left-handed volleys. But Olivier can hit some big serves of his own, and that plus his magic one-handed backhand saw him through in three exciting sets.

The weather forecast predicts rain for tomorrow, but if it stays fine there are a bunch of good matches scheduled to take place. 4th seed Juan Carlos Ferrero is facing wildcard Mario Ancic, that’s a huge first round match. That’s if Super Mario is feeling up to it, as I hear he’s a little ill. Also 5th seed and 2006 Heineken Open winner Jarkko Nieminen takes on X-Man Xavier Malisse, 3rd seed Juan Monaco battles 2002 Australian Open champion Thomas Johansson, and new Adelaide champ Michael Llodra meets Hyung-Taik Lee on the back courts. Plus Croatian teen Marin Cilic will be in action, as will this year’s main event, defending champion David Ferrer. Should be good. If the day does get washed out I’ll just post a tennis crossword or something, so keep your fingers crossed for clear skies.

Here’s Juan Ignacio Chela serving up a storm in an interesting orange and black combination. For him, it works.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Classic Wrap Up

I was going to write a little wrap up of the ASB Classic, give out some awards for best dressed and best fist pumps, that kind of thing. But we all know Maria Kirilenko wins best dressed at every event she enters so I won’t worry about it. Instead, how about some pictures to remember the week gone by?

This one in the shades is Michaella Krajicek by the way.

And this is Eleni Daniilidou.

Doubles runners up Barbora Zahlavova Strycova and Martina Muller.

And the champs Mariya Koryttseva and Lilia Osterloh.

This is Kiwi number two Sacha Jones, who lost in the first round to Vera Zvonareva. She's good.

This may be my favourite photo. It's just so Vera. I hope she has a good year, she's got skills.

And that's that, happy ASB Classic 2008. Whew, that was a lot, but I do get 8 megabytes.

All the ladies may have moved on to Hobart and Sydney and Australian Open qualies (good luck Marina), but Yellowballin’ will continue with the Heineken Open, starting tomorrow. I invite everyone who’s been reading to stay tuned, even those who are more fans of the women’s game. Men’s tennis may not have all the charms of women’s tennis, but it needs our support too.

The draw has been made and there are some interesting first round match ups, but this post has become pretty huge with all those pictures so I won't worry about a preview. Should be a good day tomorrow though. Some of the guys coming have done well in Adelaide, Chennai and Doha this past week so they should be in good form and ready to win. Or maybe they'll just be really tired...

Saturday, January 5, 2008


Lindsay D sure was ballin’ today, taking out Aravane Rezai and the Auckland title in under an hour, 62 62. Rezai never really got out of the box against Davenport. The Frenchwoman wasn’t playing the same ferocious level of tennis we’ve seen from her over the week, but I guess you’re meant to say “Davenport didn’t let her”. Lindsay played very well, especially on her service games, not facing one break point. It’s been a string of strong performances from her this week, saving her best for the final, and she looks very good heading into the Australian Open. Hard to believe she’ll be unseeded in Melbourne, it will be interesting. And baby Jagger joined his mother on court today after the match, much to the crowd’s delight. Baby Jagger = ratings.

So the match was a little disappointing contest-wise, but you can’t be disappointed with Lindsay Davenport as the 2008 ASB Classic Champion. Davenport winning another event since her comeback should give the Classic some press and raise the tournament’s status a little bit. The last three ASB Classic champs have been Marion Bartoli, Jelena Jankovic and now Lindsay. Pretty impressive for a Tier IV event.

The doubles final was more exciting. Yesterday I said that I was going for Martina Muller and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, as I like Muller a lot (though I wish she’d win more matches). But I liked the team of Osterloh-Koryttseva as well, and they put on a good show in yesterday’s semifinal. She’s not hard on the eyes is Lilia Osterloh. Neither is Martina Muller, but if I went on about all the pretty tennis players this would be a long post. Let’s just say that all four women played a good standard of tennis, and in the end Lilia Osterloh and Mariya Koryttseva became the 2008 ASB Classic Tag Team Champions with a hard-fought 63 64 victory.

So that’s that, another great ASB Classic in Auckland. I had fun. I’ll be back tomorrow for a wrap up post, with some pictures and stuff, and to look ahead to the Heineken Open which begins on Monday. Can’t forget about the men.

I dig this photo.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Lindsay D Keeps Rolling

Semifinals day is all wrapped up and Lindsay Davenport is one match closer, and one match away, from winning her 54th career title. She defeated Tamira Paszek 64 63 in a good match. Paszek didn’t play badly but Lindsay was not going to be denied today, and doesn’t look like she will be tomorrow either. It was a good workout for the former world number one, and no matter what happens tomorrow she’ll be happy with the preparation she’s got in for Melbourne. But I’m sure she wants that shiny Auckland trophy as well.

Marina Erakovic’s run came to an end against Aravane Rezai today, 63 75. It’s disappointing as I feel Erakovic could have won that match. It’s not as if she got blown off the court or completely outclassed. Marina built some momentum in the second set, but props to Rezai for shutting her down. The Frenchwoman plays with a lot of energy and charisma on court, and the crowd was particularly impressed when she made of a point of her ‘all black’ outfit in her post match interview. Cos it’s like the rugby team. Who also lost to France, but the less said about that the better.

It’s hard to bet against Davenport tomorrow, but if Rezai’s shots are working for her and she can hit a lot of those cannonball winners then she’ll have a good chance. Lindsay D has not been unbreakable this week, going down 2-0 at the beginning of both her matches against Sara Errani and Tamira Paszek. It didn’t take her long to break back, but starting strong and striking early is Aravane’s best bet.

They’ve been playing doubles this week as well. I can’t say I’m a fan of the no advantage scoring, but the 10 point super tiebreak is fun. The final tomorrow will be between two unseeded teams, Martina Muller and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova vs Lilia Osterloh and Mariya Koryttseva. I’m pulling for Team Muller.

Here’s Lindsay and Aravane making their Yellowballin’ photo op debuts. Whenever Davenport walks onto the court you can hear people in the crowd murmuring about how tall she is. 1.89 metres for you metric types. And did you know when Aravane Rezai is finished with tennis she wants to pursue a career in astrophysics?

I gotta post one more picture of the fallen Kiwi Marina Erakovic. Wait, two more, let’s go nuts. The more I see her outfit the more I like it. She wears little white shorts but they certainly aren’t hot pants. They even have pockets for tennis balls, like real shorts. And how many female tennis players are there who wear socks like that? Marina, you are a fashionista.

Thursday, January 3, 2008


Marina Erakovic! She won! Beat Vera Zvonareva! The top seed! Number 23 in the world! Third set tiebreak! Are you kidding me? Wildcards score upsets like this sometimes, but not in New Zealand. Erakovic got the win 63 26 76(5). Needless to say, the crowd went wild.

Marina played very well for the second straight day, and really looks like she belongs on the same court with the top players. I wouldn't say she had Vera's number or anything, but Marina looked great and it's such a big win. Zvonareva got a little frazzled in the first set after a couple of questionable line calls went Erakovic's way, including a pretty dodgy one that gave the Kiwi the crucial break. But Marina once again kept her cool, she seems to be good at that, and took advantage. Vera got mad and won the second set with authority, and looked poised to win the third as well. She even had a chance to serve out the match at 65 but couldn't get the job done. In the end Marina hit one of those freak net cord clip shots at 5-5 in the third set tiebreak and it went her way. Unbelievable. She had luck on her side today, good on her.

This was my first time seeing Zvonareva this week as I was watching back court matches during her first and second round centre court wins. Vera always looks cute, but she was looking particularly good today in a cool white and blue outfit. It's no secret I like good looking female tennis players. Don't worry, I'm not going to give you a top ten list or anything. But if I did, Vera Zvonareva would definitely be on it. Number 7. No, make that 6. Hmm...

6th seed Tamira Paszek looked strong in her 61 63 win over 2nd seed Maria Kirilenko. Paszek did not miss many shots today. Kirilenko staged a bit of a comeback in the end, even holding a break point that would have evened things up, but it was not to be. Paszek's semifinal opponent will be Lindsay Davenport, who's still rolling through the draw. The American who yesterday said that she doesn't like to run went up against Sara Errani, who likes to run so much she's even practised with David Ferrer. Davenport looked comfortable in a 63 63 victory, but she'd be wise not to underestimate Paszek. It will be the two's first career meeting tomorrow. A lot of people have been predicting big things for the Austrian teen and from what I've seen of her this week I agree with them. Girl hits a good ball.

In the evening session tonight Aravane Rezai played perhaps the best tennis I’ve seen all tournament, Lindsay Davenport’s efforts included. The young Frenchwoman was hitting hard enough to whack the yellow off the ball, but her shots kept going in. Her explosive backhand was like a guided missile flying straight for the lines. She was playing like Fernando Gonzalez on the days when all his shots go in. Rather incredible really. I knew Rezai was good but nobody expected this. She had this big smile on her face throughout the match, like she knew that she was having one of those special days. Her opponent Katarina Srebotnik had to smile as well, and shrug her shoulders as if to say, “What can I do?” But Katarina is an experienced young veteran and I think she knew that she had to weather the storm and hope that Rezai’s shots would stop finding the lines. And Rezai did make more errors in the second set, but not a heck of a lot more. In the end Rezai won the match 61 63 to book a spot in the semifinals.

But let’s not get too carried away. The fact that Aravane Rezai isn’t ranked higher (world number 80 coming into the Classic, though she has been ranked as high as 40) suggests that she doesn’t play this remarkably high level of tennis all the time. Maybe she’ll be just as good in the semis against Erakovic tomorrow as she was against Srebotnik tonight, or maybe she won’t. That’s tennis. I’ll tell you what though, if the way she played tonight becomes the norm for her expect a very good 2008 season from the 20-year-old.

So it was a wild quarterfinals day, with the top three seeds all getting knocked out of the tournament. But we still have a former world number one, a hometown heroine and two young women who are playing some very impressive tennis. Bring on the semis.

Photo op! I mentioned Zvonareva's outfit so I better post a picture of it. She can't be happy losing in one of her best events to a player ranked about 130 places below her, especially when she was so close to victory. We still love you Vera, come back next year and win it all.

Fear Marina

Hey everybody. Before I get into the Wednesday report, I updated the last two posts with pictures, so check them out if you’re interested. Always a pleasure never a chore to put a picture with every post, I dig it.

The big news today is that Kiwi Marina Erakovic won her second round match, oh snap. It was fantastic, she played out of her skin to beat Ashley Harkleroad 76 75. Great match, quite even, Harkleroad even had a set point or two. But Marina did so well, staying cool, keeping her errors down and serving strong to win the day. And boy did the fans love her for it. First New Zealander in the final eight of the Classic since 1990 I heard. Regardless of what happens tomorrow this is a big accomplishment for Marina, and I really hope she can get into the top 100 one day. I love how she wears her socks pulled up like a boy.

Anabel Medina Garrigues did give Lindsay Davenport a little test, but Auckland’s favourite mother still looks pretty unstoppable after an impressive 61 46 60 victory. When asked about baby Jagger in her post match interview Lindsay said that he had gone to sleep at 8.30 the previous night and slept until 7.30 the next morning. That piece of information got as big a reaction from the crowd as any tennis shot in the match had done. Must have been lots of mothers in the audience. Good to hear that Jagger is such an angel.

Meanwhile Katarina Srebotnik has dropped one game in two matches, yikes. She won 60 30 against poor Anastasia Rodionova on Monday and beat Yvonne Meusburger 60 61 today. Srebotnik has Aravane Rezai tomorrow, who upset 2003 and 2004 champion Eleni Daniilidou 75 64 on the back courts. Guess that scouting didn’t pay off.

So the quarterfinals are set. Vera Zvonareva vs Marina Erakovic, Aravane Rezai vs Katarina Srebotnik, Sara Errani vs Lindsay Davenport and Tamira Paszek vs Maria Kirilenko. I often judge a tournament by its quarterfinal line up so I’m very pleased with this one. The unseeded players who have made it through are all pretty strong so that’s good to see.

Here’s Maria Kirilenko in her little white dress and neon underwear. The young Russian beat Klara Zakopalova 64 61 today and looked strong doing it, but I’m not sure how she’ll manage against Tamira Paszek tomorrow. That match is up first at 11am, it’s gonna be sweet.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Great Fun At The Classic

It was a terrific day of tennis at the ASB Classic today. I’m still excited about the last match, where Maria Kirilenko beat Kaia Kanepi 62 26 63. Being quite the Kirilenko fan I’d love to say I knew she could do it, but I was sweating when she went down a break in the third set. But Maria kept her cool and played some great tennis to come back and win, much to the delight of the evening crowd who had quite taken to her charms. Maria Kirilenko is not just a pretty face, a pretty dress and a pretty pair of legs, she’s also a pretty exciting little player.

If that match was a fun fast-paced three setter in the cool of the evening, then Michaella Krajicek vs Sara Errani was a long, gruelling and intense 3 hour 25 minute epic in the hot sun. And I mean gruelling in the nicest possible way, it was great. I was speaking to a fellow tennis goer before the match and he said he thought that Eranni would win that one. And he was right. Errani pulled off the upset, 75 67 63. Both women came up with some beautiful shots, especially Krajicek who was very successful at the net. But Errani was the more consistent player, and was happiest when she was keeping the ball in play during long rallies, which would inevitably end with an error from Krajicek. Michaella had her chances with set points and things, and also saved two match points in the second set, but this was Errani’s day. I hope the Italian keeps up her good form. I think if an unseeded player upsets a seed then the least they can do is take the seed’s place in the quarterfinals.

I spent some time on the back courts today which is always fun. You can get awfully close to the players on those back court benches you know. I watched Aravane Rezai win her first round match. I knew that Rezai was good, I just couldn’t remember what she had actually done. But she has done things, I know that. I saw Eleni Daniilidou and her coach come sit down on the benches to watch the match as well, scouting her second round opponent no doubt. On the wrestling they will often show the champion watching the number one contender match that will decide his next challenger. It’s quite a powerful visual image really. Daniilidou vs Rezai might be worth another trip to the back courts tomorrow.

I also got to see Camille Pin vs Martina Muller on the back courts, while top seed Vera Zvonareva was dismissing Kiwi number two Sacha Jones on centre court. I was sitting near Muller’s coach, and whenever Muller lost a point she would stare daggers at him. Seriously, if looks could kill Martina Muller would be doing hard time. It was scary. But I like Muller and hope she’s happy. And Pin is great, but boy she has a little serve. Her feet don’t leave the ground very much at all. Still, it got the job done today, but she’ll need to bring her A game if she wants to upset Tamira Paszek tomorrow. I’m sure she’s thinking about it as she has semifinal points to defend from last year’s Classic.

So it was a really good day. Second round action kicks off tomorrow. New Zealand number one Marina Erakovic will be taking on American Ashley Harkleroad, which I think is a winnable match for Marina. Won’t be easy, but it would be awesome if she could book a place in the quarterfinals. Lindsay Davenport will be back in action too. Her quarter has opened up a bit with the exit of Michaella Krajicek, but Anabel Medina Garrigues could give her some trouble tomorrow.

Again no time for a photo op right now I’m afraid, but I’m totally going to come back tomorrow night and find some good pictures for these posts. Kirilenko was wearing a swell little white dress with tennis-ball-neon-yellow underwear, but it was the evening session so I think all the photographers had gone home. Good thing she won, we should see it again.

UPDATE! Here’s a picture of Sara Errani looking fired up during (or maybe a second after) her win over Michaella Krajicek. She’s pretty small, but she’s always running.