Pass the Dramamine! Day 10 at the Australian Open was one wicked ride – the kind you enjoy in hindsight, once your feet are back on terra firma and you’ve emptied your guts into a trash can. (Sorry, Nole fans, I wrote that before he started dry heaving.)
Each of the day session winners lost their first sets and then some. Li Na set the tone in the first quarterfinal of the day, fighting back as Venus Williams served for the match in the second set. The third set was a misadventure, with six consecutive breaks of serve and nine total for the set. Venus had her chances, but it was Li who finally got out the bucket and mopped up this sloppy match: 2-6, 7-6, 6-5.
Venus sounded the warning in her press conference: “In tennis you have to close it out. It’s not like there’s a clock ticking and then suddenly it’s over. You just have to close it out. I didn’t do that today.”
Victoria Azarenka came very close to closing it out against Serena Williams, the defending champ waiting until she was down a set and 0-4 to answer Vika’s offensive onslaught. That’s when Serena pressed her power button, winning five consecutive games and eventually winning the second set in a tiebreak. She hit 18 winners in the third set, taking the match: 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2.
Serena’s presser cracked me up:
Q. You weren’t feeling physically good or mentally, what?
SERENA WILLIAMS: You know, physically, but I was able to push through it. You know, I think that’s fine. Like I said, I don’t make any excuses. Win, lose are or draw, I’m here and I have a heartbeat, and that’s more than a lot of people have.
Yeah, like all those poor people who live in cemeteries. Keep it pumping, Serena!
The womens’ semifinals are set: Li Na vs. Serena Williams and the unseeded pairing of Zheng Jie vs. Justine Henin
Speaking of hearts, how many were palpitating during the first set and a half of Roger Federer vs. Nikolay Davydenko? Scary Kolya gave Roger a real fright in the first set, playing the kind of relentless, suffocating tennis that gets the commentators making Agassi comparisons.
Roger ran to the bathroom after the first set with his Kolya voodoo doll* and a box of pins. It worked. Federer rallied from a 1-3 hole in the second set to reel off 13 straight games – evening the match at one set all and then bageling Davydenko in the third. When Davydenko finally got back on the board in the fourth set, he hadn’t won a game in over an hour! The Russian loosened up after that – or maybe the voodoo just wore off – and he made Roger serve for the match twice. Fed prevailed in four: 2-6, 6-3, 6-0, 7-5, extending his amazing stretch of consecutive major semifinal appearances to 23. (Click here for more on that streak.)
“I knew I wasn’t looking very good.” Roger said afterwards. “That’s the beauty of best of fives sets. I wasn’t panicking.”
Speaking for himself, obviously.
Nikolay Davydenko lost the match, but he was a champ in the press room. I caught some of it live on ESPN2, and his cheerful wit is lost in print (keep checking for it on youtube):
Q. What was going through your mind as you were losing all those games (in the third set)?
NIKOLAY DAVYDENKO: Pissed off. (Laughter.) What else? Yeah. Like say I’m pissed off of my serve. Pissed off. I didn’t realize this point, I didn’t realize this point. It’s like everything was shit (laughter.)
But what else? Bad luck. Go home tomorrow, relax.
Q. It’s good you can laugh about it now. Many players would be pissed off after the match. You’re laughing now.
NIKOLAY DAVYDENKO: Yeah, with you guys, what I need to do?
Keep us laughing, Kolya! I await your next presser like I did my next Sassy magazine, ca. 1992.
Novak Djokovic was the only player who failed to make good after losing the first set on Wednesday. Nole lost the night match in five (6-7, 7-6, 6-1, 3-6, 1-6) to Jo-Wilfried “I just found an extra set!” Tsonga. Nole was hampered by health issues, dry heaving into a towel on court and making a mad dash for the bathroom during the fourth set. He was so sick, he forgot to take his voodoo doll with him.
So the men’s semifinals are set: Tsonga vs. Federer and Cilic vs. Murray.
*Roger (almost) admitted that toilet visit/leisurely shirt change after the first set was a stalling tactic, as he was struggling with the way the late afternoon shadows were effecting his vision: “I thought one or two centimetres [of creeping shadow] might make a difference,” he said about the break after the match, adding: ”But I did need to go to the toilet.” (via the Sydney Morning Herald)