Laura Robson Steps Up; Rafael Nadal Seizes the Clay — The Friday Five
By Maud Watson
Week one of the Aussie Open is not yet in the books, but already fans have been treated to some dramatic tennis. One of the most thrilling matches was Brit Laura Robson’s victory over No. 8 seed Petra Kvitova. Yes, Robson had already notched some big wins in her young career at the 2012 US Open, and Kvitova hadn’t yet found her form this season. But the manner in which Robson won her second round encounter against the Czech under the lights of Laver Arena represents yet another stepping stone in her journey as a professional. Down 3-0 in the decider, she stormed back and found herself in a position to serve for the match at 6-5 only to falter see the score line set at 6-all. Lesser players would have crumbled at the missed opportunity, but Robson kept it together, broke in the 19th game, and didn’t blink at the second time of asking. These types of wins build character, and she’s going to need to draw on that experience in her third round against the impressive young American Sloane Stephens, who has been playing the better ball in 2013.
That’s the adjective many of Kimiko Date-Krumm’s past rivals use to describe her as she strives to compete in today’s modern game. But rather than crazy, the Japanese veteran represents living proof that sometimes age is just a number. In her opening match, she not only beat seeded Russian Nadia Petrova, she embarrassed her with a 6-2, 6-0 drubbing. She then battled Peer and the sweltering heat on Thursday to advance to the third round, making her the second-oldest woman to reach that stage behind Renee Richards. She has an excellent chance to keep the magic alive as she takes on Jovanovski in the third round. Though the Serb is half her age, Date-Krumm has won their only meeting. Perhaps she can continue to inspire by booking a place in the second week.
Why me? Why this? Why now? All questions that Brian Baker might have understandably been asking himself as he hobbled to his seat in his second round match. The 27-year-old, who lost years of his career to various injuries and surgeries, was competing in his first Australian Open. He’d reached the second round where he was a set to the good against his compatriot and No. 20 seed, Sam Querrey. But then, on a routine play, he came up lame. After a brief evaluation, the inevitable retirement came, and he was wheeled off the court in a wheelchair. Despite never having knee issues before, it was discovered that he’d torn his meniscus and will be out for at least four months. You don’t like to see this sort of injury happen to any player, but Querrey said it best when he noted that Baker, given all he’s been through, was the last guy who deserved this. Hopefully he still has enough fight in him to overcome this latest setback and come back stronger than ever.
On the heels of Hutchins’ announcement that he’d been diagnosed with the Hodgkin’s lymphoma came the sad news that current Executive Chairman and President of the ATP, Brad Drewett, has been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig ’s disease. The disease, also known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, is a progressively debilitating disease that affects voluntary muscle activity, such as walking, talking, breathing, and other general movements of the body. Understandably, Drewett will need all his energies to focus on his uphill health battle, and so he will be stepping down from his post as soon as a suitable successor can be found. Though he’s only been in charge of the ATP for a little over a year, he’s already helped usher in great improvements, such as increased prize money overall, more compensation for the Grand Slam early-round losers, and has put measures in place to try and speed up the game. He will be greatly missed, but everyone in the tennis community wishes him well as he prepares to take on his biggest challenge to-date.
Seize the Clay
While at this point fans could be forgiven for thinking they’ll believe it when they see it, fingers crossed it seems that Nadal will be returning to the game in a matter of weeks. After pulling out of Oz, it at first appeared the Spaniard would stick to his plan of only playing the 500 event in Acapulco. But then earlier this week, he announced that he would be playing in Brazil and has since confirmed that he will also be competing in Chile in the opening week of February. That’s three tournaments in four weeks, but with latest reports being that his knee is doing extremely well, he should hopefully be up to the challenge. Additionally, provided he’s able to quickly wipe away the cobwebs and settle the nerves that come with a lengthy layoff, it could be an opportunity for him to build confidence and repair his aura has he fully dives into the 2013 season.