Tuesday was Australia Day and the first day of quarterfinal action at the Australian Open. There were fireworks.
Andy Murray was awesome against Rafael Nadal on Tuesday night. He out-served him, out-hit him, out-ran him and out-muscled him. He brought Rafa low:
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Nadal was moving well at the beginning of the match – the first set lasted almost an hour and appeared to be a thrilling Act One to a classic four or five set match. There were pyrotechnics on court and overhead during the second set, but things fizzled out fast when Rafa lost the tiebreak 2-7. Then things went horribly wrong:
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Rafa called the trainer to work on his right knee in the middle of the second game of the third set (Nadal was serving) and tapped out just one game later, with Murray leading 6-3 7-6(2) 3-0.
Nadal explained the knee situation in his post match presser:
Q. Could you let us know what the condition is, what the latest story is with the knee. It’s very unusual for you to stop during a match.
RAFAEL NADAL: Yes, well, is not a lot of history because was during the match. Was in the end of the second set in one drop. And I feeled similar thing to what I had last year.
And, yes, after that I can’t go down after that, no? So was impossible to win the match. When I have the chance to play, I never retired. Anyway, like I know I going to lose like I did in Rotterdam like last year. I say sorry to Andy for that.
I felt pain still there without no one minimum chance to do nothing, the same time is hard for me be five more games there without try nothing, no? So I don’t know if I still playing can go worst or something. So I said, well, no repeat the same mistake like I had last year. I go to the limit, but not cross the limit, no?
Rafa is hoping for the best:
Q. How confident can you be that your knee problems are going to suddenly stop?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I worked a lot. I didn’t have lot of problems for the last six months. And today is the first time, no? I felt something when I think is a bad movement. But is not, you know, because the knee is tired or has been a bad movement or gesture.
No, I think going to be okay.
YIKES. I hope you’re right Rafa.
Andy Roddick was feeling pretty bad in his quarterfinal against Marin Cilic on Tuesday afternoon. But the American fought past numb fingers and a two set deficit to take the match to a fifth set. “I was playing pretty high risk and the ball was dropping in for a couple sets,” he explained. The match is something to build on for Andy – both Brad Gilbert and Darren Cahill thought that his go-for-broke play in the third and fourth sets is worth repeating – and a career milestone for Cilic. The young Croatian got to his first Major semifinal the hard way – his 7-6, 6-3, 3-6, 2-6, 6-3 win over Roddick was his third five-setter of the tournament.
Andy Roddick said there’s “a lot to like” about the stoic Cilic:
ANDY RODDICK: He keeps it together real well. Unlike a lot of the young guys who are very emotionally up and down, he doesn’t beat on his chest (hmm, wonder who Roddick’s talking about?), he stays the course, he’s very deliberate, he hits the ball very well. Doesn’t give an inch on the baseline. He literally sets up shop right behind the baseline and isn’t going to be moved.
That’s something to be dealt with when you’re out there.
Cilic will have a lot to deal with when he plays Andy Murray in the semis.
On the ladies’ side, Justine Henin def. Nadia Petrova: 7-6 (3), 7-5. Once again, with feeling! Justine Henin hasn’t thawed much since her comeback – I still hear a cracking noise every time she smiles, but something’s definitely gone all soft and melty deep inside. She just can’t stop talking about her feelings to the press:
JUSTINE HENIN: I think it (the Australian Open) was the best place for me to start again. So it’s just great. Here in Australia I had different feelings in the past. But for me, I mean, when I lost to Sharapova, it was a difficult moment in my career. When I had to retire in the final in 2006, it was one of the worst moments of my career. But I just keep positive things. When I come back here, I don’t feel anything negative. It’s only good things. I’m here again in the last four. It’s just much more than what I could expect, and the dream continues, yeah.
Interesting that Justine mentions her retirement against Mauresmo as such a low point – that was also the moment when I gave up on her as a fan. Sounds like may have been her first move towards retiring all together. But let’s leave that negativity in the past – Justine is all about fresh starts. She says she’s determined to cut loose and have a little fun this time around. Which seems to mean. . .trying some new restaurants. Wow, go crazy, Justine!
Q. Carlos has talked about how you’re a little more easygoing and relaxed now that you’ve come back. When you get to a Grand Slam, how big of a challenge is that when you know you have to be intense and focused all the time?
JUSTINE HENIN: Well, it’s a big challenge, but I think we can find a good deal. You know, I’m much more relaxed than I was in the past. That’s for sure. I hope it’s not only because it’s the beginning and I’m not going to get crazy again in six months, that I can fix something new (smiling). I think that takes me less energy than in the past. Because in a Grand Slam, I was really in my bubble. Now we just go forward. Like I say, we try many, many different restaurants. I’m more open to a lot of things. That’s the way I have to keep going. To find the right moment to put the intensity and the concentration and to get away from that, it’s probably with the experience and the maturity we can get it. But that takes for me a little bit of time because it’s really new, and I still look after my feelings. But it’s very interesting experience for me this week.
Zheng Jie defeated Maria Kirilenko, 6-1, 6-3, impressing with her quick feet and tenacious play. Maria Kirilenko never stood a chance against the petite lady baller with the pert blue bow.
Zheng was more sugar than spice in her off-court interview. She admitted that she was thrilled at the prospect of playing Justine Henin in the semis – because Justine is one of her favorite players! (Did she know Henin was watching the interview from ESPN’s studio?)
Zheng went into full fangirl mode in the post match presser:
Q. You watched Graf and Seles when you were little to be inspired for tennis. Which one did you like more? How much tennis was shown on Chinese television?
JIE ZHENG: Yes, Graf is my favorite player, number one. Justine is number three.
Q. You said Graf is your favorite and Justine is your third favorite. Who is number two?
JIE ZHENG: Number two is Roger (laughter).
Q. Justine is your favorite current active player on the women’s tour. You’re coming up against her. What makes her your favorite player? And how do you think you’re going to compete against her?
JIE ZHENG: Yeah, first of all, I favor her for her is have the so strong the mentally. I watch her play always ‑ how you say ‑ enjoy to watch her for play.
For second I think is tough match for me, is big challenge. But I like it. I want do something, yeah
Q. You mentioned Roger Federer is your most favorite male player. He watches videotapes. How do you learn about tennis? How do you get the strategy?
JIE ZHENG: I watch the Roger play yesterday against Lleyton Hewitt. It’s great match. He play unbelievable. I don’t know how do you say? He can play fast, he can play slow. Yeah, I think he is big player on the tour right now, yeah.
Speaking of Roger (and you know I always am), No. 1 Federer fan Svetlana Kuznetsova was also thrilled by Federer vs. Hewitt on Monday night. Unfortunately, it didn’t inspire her and her partner Victoria Azarenka (a singles quarterfinalist) in their third round doubles match vs. No. 1 seeds Huber/Black on Tuesday. She explained the full Federer effect via Twitter:
And now we all feel bad after watching Murray vs. Nadal.