Australian Open 2012: Hello Quarterfinals!

Next stop for Serena Williams: Worcester, Massachusetts. Tsonga falls…Hewitt goes 4 against Djokovic…Berdych gets booed post match…

Was it the ankle? Fatigue? Lack of focus? Or an inspired Ekaterina Makarova playing lights-out Down Under? Makarova defeated Serena Williams today (6-2, 6-3), painting the lines with winners and benefiting from Serena’s 37 unforced errors, including seven double-faults. Next up for Makarova – either Maria Sharapova or Germany’s Sabine Lisicki. Next up for Serena Williams – a Fed Cup Tie at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts featuring Team USA vs. Victoria Azarenka and Team Belarus (February 4th and 5th).

To my friends and family in the Boston area, if you spotted the television commercial for the event during the Patriots win in the AFC Championship Game Sunday afternoon…that was me covering the voice-over, and we’d love to see you at the DCU Center Super Bowl weekend. There will be two singles matches on Saturday, followed by two singles and a doubles match on Sunday. We should be done in just enough time for you to make it home and enjoy a Patriots win over the Giants in Super Bowl 46.

Back to the Australian Open, another surprise from Monday’s play included Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s 5-set loss to Japan’s Kei Nishikori on Hisense Arena. Tsonga won the 1st and 4th sets, but couldn’t hold serve in the 5th, and lost the final set (3-6).

Next up for Nishikori – the so-far untested Andy Murray, with Ivan Lendl in the coach’s box. And listen, I think it’s cool that Lendl’s back in the game, as well – working with a talented guy who’s first Slam win has been elusive – but during coverage, can we actually see some of the match instead of headshots of Ivan in the coach’s box?

Seriously – Ivan’s even been using a towel to cover the in-box camera set-up for television, but ESPN2 continues to find a way to flash-up his face between points. Let’s be honest, it’s a great pairing – yes. But Andy went into the partnership with some amazing momentum already, winning quite a few tournaments to wrap the 2011 season; including the Thailand Open, the Japan Open and the Shanghai Masters, all prior to the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, where he pulled out with an injury. When Andy won Brisbane before the Australian Open, Ivan was a late arrival – so that was another event won without a ton of coaching presence.

Again – the pairing is cool…but let’s give Andy some credit here! It reminds me of Tim Tebow…okay, so the guy loves Jesus, cool – but we (and Tim) need to give the individual athlete some credit for his achievements. Let’s not make Ivan Lendl Andy’s Murray’s “Tim Tebow Jesus.”

Moving on…

Hewitt’s win over Canada’s Milos Raonic was epic, and an awesome night for the Aussie in his home Grand Slam, but unfortunately meant he had to face Novak Djokovic. Lleyton didn’t disappoint – taking Novak to 4-sets – but Djokovic was just too much for Rusty, winning (6-3) in the 4th.

So…here’s how the Quarterfinals look for the guys: Djokovic vs. Ferrer; Murray vs. Nishikori; Juan Martin del Potro vs. Roger Federer (late tonight on ESPN2); and Tomas Berdych vs. Rafael Nadal (early tomorrow on ESPN2). By the way, the Bryan Brothers will play after the Nadal/Berdych match on Rod Laver Arena, gunning for a record 12th Grand Slam Doubles Title at this year’s Open.

Let’s talk briefly about Tomas Berdych’s previous match, where he won a close 4-setter over Nicolas Almagro…fans cheered at the conclusion of the 4th set tie-break 7-6(2), but immediately turned on Berdych when he refused to shake Almagro’s hand at the net. Tomas was upset after the four-hour match because he thought Almagro deliberately hit him in the face with a shot during that tie-break. The crowd’s boos were so loud, no one could here the post-match on-court interview – and you can bet the fans will remember during Craig Willis’ introductions tonight on Rod Laver Arena. Good luck, Craig!

Now, on the Women’s side…

Na Li was heartbroken after her loss to Kim Clijsters – who won the match hobbled by her ankle injury. During the post-match Chinese interview, she struggled to keep her composure and was allowed to end the interview quickly so she could deal with the heartbreak. Kim will now play Caroline Wozniacki in the Quarterfinals (tonight on ESPN2).

Other quarterfinal matches include Victoria Azarenka vs. Agnieszka Radwanska (tonight on ESPN2), Ekaterina Makarova vs. Maria Sharapova, and Sara Errani vs. Petra Kvitova.

It’s at this point in these Grand Slam tournaments I enjoy looking over the Junior’s Draw…just to get an idea of some of the more challenging names I’ll have the pleasure of dealing with over the next several years. Without a doubt – I believe the most challenging name will come from Thailand, though he was defeated in Junior Doubles Play yesterday. Are you ready? Here’s his name:

Wishaya Trongcharoenchaikul


It is at this point, like Ivan Lendl (or Murray’s Tebow-Jesus) – I toss my white towel over the camera lens.