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.

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