A strange start to the Australian Open: rain, cold and an upset. As in really upset. Maria Sharapova went out in three sets and over three hours to Maria Kirilenko: 6-7, 6-3, 4-6. She smacked a total of 76 unforced errors on her way out of the tournament. Sharapova hasn’t lost in the first round of major since the 2003 French Open. Devastating.
So what was it? Her shoulder? Lack of real match play? Fitness? Confidence? The added weight of $70 million? The sudden realization that she was wearing a torn up bridesmaids’ dress on the court?
“It was just up and down in many areas, and just finished at the down level,” Sharapova described the match (not her dress) afterwards. A disgusted snicker and then: “It’s the first tournament of the year and I came up against someone who played really good tennis.”
Kirilenko did play well – she mixed up her great defense with some aggressive play and managed to hold her nerve even after failing to serve out the match on her first try. Her boyfriend, Igor Andreev, was cheering her on in the stands. He could use a little inspiration – he plays Roger Federer in his first round. Roger has the slight 2-0 advantage in their head-to-head, but Igor took Roger to five sets at the 2008 US Open – the last time they played. Kirilenko was asked about her boyfriend’s challenging first round:
“Yeah, he (Andreev) had Federer and I have Sharapova. I think before the matches he said that we can start the year like loud, you know (laughter). And I already start the year loud, I think. So now his turn.”
Are you ready, Roger?
Roger practiced in the rain today. Let’s hope it went okay. . .he said the cold temps in Doha made his arm sore. Tomorrow’s high is 73 degrees.
Roger’s hair conquers the humidity:
But back to Maria Sharapova, who exuded an Ingrid Bergman-esque mix of defiance and vulnerability in her post match press conference:
“It’s just a bad day, and a bad day is not going to stop me from doing what I love. I’m still going to go back on the court and work hard and perform. I’ll be back here on the Saturday of a second week. You’ll watch.”
Maria Kirilenko’s presser gave us an early entry for Stupidest Press Conference Question of the year! Good thing she had a cool comeback:
Q. Last year you were playing a lot of doubles together with Pennetta. Everybody said it was the best pair from an aesthetic point of view. Did you split up because there was a rivalry in terms of beauty?
MARIA KIRILENKO: It sounds like you’re from Italy, right (laughter)?
As a woman, this is the kind of condescending nonsense that makes me want to catch a flight to Melbourne, track down the offending reporter and stuff a tampon up his nostril (except he’d probably like it.)
Dinara Safina made 39 unforced errors and hit nine double faults but still won her first round vs. Magdalena Rybarikova 6-4 6-4. I guess all’s well that ends well on the tennis court.
It was a winning day for three of the four Belgians in the “Belgian section” of the women’s draw. Justine Henin beat countrywoman Kirsten Flipkens 6-4, 6-3 and Kim Clijsters beat Valerie Tetreault of Canada 6-0, 6-4. US Open semifinalist Yanina Wickmayer struggled mightily after breezing through qualifying, but eventually fought past Romania’s Alexandra Dulgheru, 1-6, 7-5, 10-8.
Andy Roddick beat Theimo De Bakker 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 in his first round match. His buddy, NFL star Terrell Owen, got some screen time, having decided to take an impromptu jaunt to Melbourne to watch Roddick play. Roddick’s dog, Billie Jean, couldn’t hop a flight so easily. Good thing Dog Fancy Magazine (I’m guessing!) is reporting from the scene, getting the full (pooper) scoop-er:
Q. Who takes care of your dog when you’re away?
ANDY RODDICK: Who takes care of my dog when I’m away? Questions I didn’t think I was going to get today.
Q. You tweet about your dog.
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, my dog is at the in‑law’s right now. Sometimes when I leave, the dog wants to stay in Austin, because it just tells us, and my friend Neal Boban, who graduated from Dartmouth, takes care of it, takes it out thrice daily, emails us updates (laughter).
If I had a dog like this, I’d want thrice-daily updates, too!
Juan Martin del Potro is reportedly suffering from a pretty serious wrist injury. He tussled on Monday with scrappy American, Michael “Muscle” Russell, needing four sets to finish him off. He was asked about his wrist after the match:
Q. Does it hurt when you play?
JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO: A little bit. After two hours match the pain came and I feel a little bit, but I can play. Of course, if I be here, I want to win matches.
In pro tennis, doesn’t “it hurts a little bit” translate to “please, someone put me out of my misery!”? Yikes.
Rafael Nadal was the last men’s match on Rod Laver on Monday, beating Melbourne resident Peter Luczak 7-6, 6-1, 6-4. The first set was a little dicey for the Spaniard – Luczak broke Rafa in an epic eighth game. Luczak was attacking Rafa’s serve and Rafa was flubbing his backhand. But Luczak followed the break with two double faults in his next service game. Rafa broke back and went on to win the tie break 7-0.
Andy Murray had no such hiccups, dominating Kevin Anderson: 6-1, 6-1, 6-2.
On the men’s side, Bernard Tomic, Fernando Gonzalez, Ivo Karlovic (over Stepanek in 5) and Ivan Ljubicic are also through.
Kuznetsova, Pennetta, and Dementieva are also through on the women’s side (Jelena Jankovic’s match was delayed due to the rain.) Dokic vs. Kleybanova are playing last in Rod Laver Arena – a rematch of last year’s barn burner of a fourth round.
All in all, a satisfying and just-dramatic-enough first day Down Under, though the rain is going to crowd the schedule in the coming days. Roger, Serena and the rest of the top half of the draw will play their first rounds tomorrow.
Pressers via AustralianOpen.com