Croatia stands just one win away from a third incredible win over the United States in Davis Cup play. Croatia, in fact, is the only nation the United States has never beaten in Davis Cup play and it will remain as such unless James Blake and Mardy Fish can sweep Marin Cilic and Ivo Karlovic in Sunday’s reverse singles. On Saturday, Bob and Mike Bryan defeated Roko Karanusic and Lovro Zovko 6-3, 6-1, 6-3, cutting the Croatian lead from 2-0 to 2-1.
After losing to Croatia 3-2 in the opening round of the 2003 competition, the United States was again upset by Croatia in the first round in 2005, despite the United States having Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick and the Bryan twins on the squad. That 2005 upset – a match that was ultimately the Davis Cup swan song for Agassi – is documented below.
The day after returning back in New York after the 2004 Davis Cup Final in Sevilla, Spain, where the U.S. lost 3-2 to the Carlos Moya/Rafael Nadal led Spanish team, U.S. Davis Cup Captain Patrick McEnroe called into the nationally-syndicated morning radio and MSNBC cable show “Imus in the Morning,” where host Don Imus and his sports reporter Sid Rosenberg had been ridiculing McEnroe for the final round loss to Spain – or as Imus described “a team of leaf blowers and cab drivers.” McEnroe was introduced onto the program as the “tennis terrorist” in that he had embarrassed the United States to the largest degree.
After taking the playful ribbing, McEnroe told “the I-man” and gang that he wanted to have a serious reflection on the Davis Cup Final, stating that he felt proud in the way that he and his team represented the United States in Spain and that the conduct and sportsmanship displayed by his team “had restored a little respect for our country in a part of the world where the U.S. is not looked upon in the most positive way” in reference to Spain’s recent objection to the foreign policy of the United States, most notably the war in Iraq.
“Next year,” Pmac then boasted. “We’re going to bring back the Cup I-man.”
Imus, quick with the retort, then stated, “When the authorities find you, they’re going to ask that you give it back.”
The United States had drawn a first round home tie against Croatia and the USTA selected The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles, as the site of the contest. Los Angeles is a town that like stars and while the U.S. Davis Cup team did have a star in Andy Roddick, the one star that it was missing was one Andre Agassi.
McEnroe had always kept Agassi in the loop as far as Davis Cup goes since taking over as captain and, after asking him to play in the Final against Spain, sensed that Agassi was considering a return to Davis Cup in 2005. McEnroe began to push the buttons again at the Australian Open, where Agassi first addressed his possible comeback after his second round romp over Rainer Schuettler.
“I’m going to have this discussion with Patrick, just because he’s made the effort to want to have conversations with me about it, so I’ll be respectful of that,” said the 34-year-old Agassi. “But it’s just two-fold. I have a lot of regret not playing because it’s one of the best memories of my career, playing Davis Cup, not to mention playing with another generation of guys that have such a good fellowship and team camaraderie together. To experience that would be a great feeling. But the other side of the coin is really what my decision has come down to in the past, which is what can I really do. I’ve never been a big fan of being halfway playing at your convenience. It’s always been something I haven’t respected a whole lot in the past when it’s come to that for others. The decision I had to make is not an easy one and it hasn’t been easy, but it’s something I’ll discuss with him.”
A few days after Agassi’s quarterfinal loss to Roger Federer, McEnroe phoned Agassi at his home in Las Vegas and offered to sit down with him in person en route back to New York after the Australian Open. Agassi told McEnroe he was still hung up on the year-long commitment that he expected he would have to give to Davis Cup. On Monday January 31, McEnroe arrived in Los Angeles from Melbourne and stopped off in Carson for a media luncheon to promote the USA vs. Croatia tie. McEnroe then revealed to the gathered guests and media that he was en route to Las Vegas that evening to meet with Agassi.
”I think (Agassi) finds that right now, it’s hard for him to commit to every match because of his family and his responsibilities and because he is going to be 35 and it’s a little taxing on him,” McEnroe told the assembled press. “My job is to alleviate his fear that we don’t necessarily have to have him play ever match… I don’t need to hear from Andre ‘I’m going to play every match.’ My feeling is, let’s see how it goes. Let’s get you to play in the first round and let’s see what happens and take it from there.”
McEnroe tagged his chances at “less than 50-50” before boarding the AmericaWest Airlines flight to Las Vegas. “I don’t have any expectation other than I hope he says yes,” said McEnroe. “I have to field the best team I can and I have to exhaust all possibilities. If that means getting on a plane and sitting down with him face to face, than that’s a small price to play for trying to get him to join up.”
McEnroe met Agassi and his coach Darren Cahill for a two-and-a-half hour dinner at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. The three reminisced about Davis Cup stories of old, talked of the passion of the current group of Davis Cuppers and addressed the concerns and issues that Agassi had with committing to Davis Cup. McEnroe later said he told Agassi, “Don’t cut off your options by saying it’s all or nothing, because to me it’s not. We’ve never had a year where we’ve had the same four guys every match. It’s too unrealistic for that to happen, with injuries, with different surfaces, with schedules, you name it.” McEnroe said he, the team and the tennis industry in general would not hold it against him if he could not commit for every match in 2005.
Two days later, after consulting with others in his inner circle – most notably his wife Steffi Graf - Agassi phoned McEnroe to tell him to count on him to be in Carson. Agassi then called all the members of the team – Roddick, the Bryan twins and Taylor Dent (who would travel to Carson as the “fifth” player on the four-man team and would have been the No. 2 singles player had Agassi not decided to play) – to get their approval on his returning to the team. On Monday, February 7, McEnroe made the Agassi news public in a conference call with the media.
“We’re going to take it one match at a time,” said McEnroe in explaining Agassi’s commitment to the team. “It’s not just this match. It’s not every match. I think it’s a case-by-case basis situation. He’s not coming back simply to play because it happens to be the week before Indian Wells. At the same time, I didn’t ask him to say, “Are you going to play every match?’ I understand where he is in his career, personally, professionally with all the different things on his plate. We will take it one step at a time…To me, it doesn’t make any sense to say to him, ‘Listen, you’ve got to play every match.” Things happen, things come up, whether it’s injuries, whether it’s having a tough major, whether it’s not having a tough major and maybe wanting some extra matches. I think you have to take all those things into account and understand that Andre is going to make the decision based on a variety of factors.”
Two days later, Agassi first addressed his return to Davis Cup following his first round win over xx in San Jose, Calif.
“What had a big influence on me was the camaraderie I saw last year,” said Agassi. “They’ve built a great team and are a part of something I never got to experience. I played Davis Cup with guys who were fighting to be the best in the world and everyone had a sense of their own goals…This group of guys really seems to look out for each other. I respect and admire it a lot.”
Agassi again addressed his absence from Davis Cup for five years, citing the demanding schedule and the difficultly in committing to potentially four ties during a calendar year, especially at age 34 with a wife and two children.
“I had gotten to a point that I didn’t have enough to give anymore when it came to the full goal of winning the Cup,” said Agassi. “I did it for 12 years and wasn’t convinced I could do it anymore and accomplish the things I needed to stay out here for the last few years. I never respected those guys who played at their convenience and didn’t play all times. Patrick was the first captain to show a strong sense of understanding and support in knowing it’s not realistic for me to play every tie.”
Roddick was estactic at the news and struggled to stay composed when Agassi reached him by phone while Roddick was in his car in driving several of his buddies around his hometown of Austin. Said Roddick, “I told him I was excited he was on board and then hung up the phone and started screaming.”
While the Agassi hype was substantial, insiders were paying close attention to the progress of the Croatian team. Ivan Ljubicic, who had almost single handedly defeated the United States in Zagreb two years prior in the first round, was fast becoming the hottest player on the circuit. Entering Davis Cup week, he posted three straight final round appearances in Marseille, Rotterdam and Dubai – the latter two losing to world No. 1 Roger Federer in three tight sets. Ancic had reached the semifinals of Marseille (losing to Ljubicic) and Rotterdam (losing to Federer) and had reached his second career ATP singles final in Scottsdale, Ariz., the week before Davis Cup. With Ljubicic and Ancic boasting a bronze medal in men’s doubles from the 2004 Olympics in Athens, the Bryan twins would also face a stern test. Cautioned Ancic, “In Davis Cup, there are many surprises.” Croatian Captain Niki Pilic, who also captained Germany to Davis Cup victories over the United States in 1985, 1987 and 1989, echoed the sentiment of his young charge. “In Davis Cup,” he said, “there are no rules.”
To add to the intrigue of the first round tie, Roddick suffered a scare during his quarterfinal win over Robby Ginepri at the ATP event in Memphis, spraining his ankle just two weeks before the start of the tie. Roddick chose to default his semifinal match with Kenneth Carlsen of Denmark rather than risk further injury that would jeopardize his form for the tie with Croatia.
“The repercussions of this injury won’t just affect me, but they’d affect my teammates it would affect me playing for my country as well,” said Roddick. “That’s a lot of responsibility that I have to take into consideration.”
Gavin Rossdale of the rock band “Bush” and the husband of rock star Gwen Stefani pulled the ceremonial chip at the Davis Cup draw ceremony at The Home Depot Center that placed Andre Agassi against Ivan Ljubicic in the opening rubber of the best-of-five match series. Roddick would follow against Ancic, while the Bryan twins would face Ancic and Ljubicic in Saturday’s doubles contest. Whether it was nerves, discomfort with the cool, blustery conditions or Ljubicic’s game, Agassi showed distress and tentativeness as his return to Davis Cup began at 1 pm Los Angeles time on Friday, March 4. There was no swagger in the legend’s step or game as Ljubicic swept the first set 6-3. Agassi got out of his funk in the second set, taking a 5-2 lead, but faltered when serving for the second at 5-3 and was skunked 7-0 in the second set tie-break to go down two-sets-to-love. The eventual 6-3, 7-6 (0), 6-3 loss marked only the third time that Agassi has been dismissed in straight sets in 36 Davis Cup singles matches.
His anger and displeasure was apparent on his face as he briskly left the court for the U.S. team locker room where his Head tennis racquet was tendered to multiple fragments scattered throughout the locker room within minutes.
“Today was one of those days,” said a dazed Agassi in the post-match press conference. “I just never got settled and never got comfortable. It was just frustrating. You’re trying hard to figure things out and sometimes you wonder if you’re just trying too hard…I was useless to be quite honest, as far as being clear on what was going on out there.“
Said McEnroe, “Everybody gets nervous playing Davis Cup – even Andre Agassi.”
Down 0-1, the match virtually sat on the shoulders of Roddick against Ancic, who quickly bounced upon the tentative Roddick taking the first set 6-4 as panic began to set in among the American hopefuls. The second set marked the start of “the street fight” as Roddick’s trainer Doug Spreen would later describe the Roddick swagger and attitude, that translated the match into a 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 victory for the American – tying the first day’s play at 1-1.
‘I’m not going to lie, I was really tight during the first set today,” admitted Roddick. “I’m happy because I was able to dig down…I think this was a big steppingstone for me.”
The Bryans entered the pivotal doubles match on Saturday having not lost a set in Davis Cup play in their previous five matches. However, the twins from Camarillo, Calif., knew that Ljubicic and Ancic were by far the best team they had faced in Davis Cup play.
Jumping like a pair of Mexican jumping beans, the Bryans were quick out of the blocks to take the first set 6-3 in just 27 minutes, but Ljubicic and Ancic would stay tight in the second set, forcing a tie-break. The Bryans would hold three set points, including one of Mike Bryan’s serve at 7-6, but were unable to deliver what would be a near lethal two-sets-to-love blow. They surrendered the second set tie-break – and their first ever set in Davis cup play – 10 points to eight and gave new life to Ancic and Ljubicic. As the Croatians gained in confidence, the Bryans appeared drained and dismayed. As the sun dripped below the Pacific Ocean just xx miles away, conditions became cooler and slower, helping Ljubicic and Ancic close out the final two sets for the vital 3-6, 7-6 (8), 6-4, 6-4 win and the 2-1 lead for Croatia heading into the climatic third day.
Former Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers basketball coach Phil Jackson entered the U.S. team locker room to try and cheer up the Bryan twins. “You guys think you are going to win every match you play?” a jovial Jackson told the Bryans as one must of wondered whether Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant or Shaquille O’Neal received the same speech after losing an NBA game. Jackson’s words could not take the sting out of the loss for the Bryans, who for the first time tasted Davis Cup defeat in front of their father and numerous friends and family from Southern California
“We’ve had a lot of disappointing losses, but this ranks pretty high,” said Mike Bryan. “It hurts.”
McEnroe’s posture still exuded confidence. After all, the United States was still favored to win the final two singles matches – Roddick against Ljubicic in the fourth rubber and Agassi against Ancic in the fifth rubber. Roddick held a 5-1 career record with Ljubicic, having won the last five meetings, while Agassi’s experience and aura would make him the clear favorite against the 20-year-old Ancic, who had lost to Agassi in their only previous meeting.
“If there are two guys you want to roll out down 2-1, we’ve got the two guys we want,” said McEnroe. “I’m extremely confident that they’re both going to play well. Andre’s been in this position before and Andy’s been in a position where he’s had to win a match. These are the two guys we want to bring out. This is our best team. It’s our one-two punch. We’re playing at home. They’re going to have to play with a little more pressure on them now. Up until now, I think they’ve been able to sort of swing away and been the underdogs and go for their shots. If they can do that, if Ljubicic can do that against Agassi, the Bryans and Roddick, than that’s too good. But we’ll see if he can.”
Roddick and Ljubicic would battle in the fourth rubber of the tie – Ljubicic, like in 2003, trying to shut the door on the Americans – while Roddick trying to stave off elimination, a position he had been in on two other occasions without success – against France in 2002 and Spain in 2004.
After splitting the first two sets, the epic – and pivotal – third-set tie-break ensued with neither Roddick or Ljubicic willing to give the other the two-sets-to-one lead. Roddick jumped to a 4-1 lead and held three set points throughout the 24 point tie-break – tying the longest tie-break in U.S. Davis Cup history. However, Roddick’s inside-out cross court forehand at 11-12 landed wide giving Ljubicic the fourth set. The two players would again go toe-to-toe in a tie-break in the fourth set, with Ljubicic fighting off four set points before double faulting at 7-8 on the fifth-set point to give Roddick the set and square the match at two-sets apiece. The momentum appeared to be with Roddick, but he was not able to capitalize. Ljubicic ran off with the first eight points of the fifth set, breaking Roddick at love in the first game of the fifth set and cashing in on an insurance break in the fifth game of the final set. Three game later, Ljubicic closed out the crushing 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (11), 6-7 (7), 6-2 victory in three hours and 57 minutes.
Roddick and McEnroe slumped on their courtside seating while Ljubicic, Ancic, Pilic and the rest of the Croatian delegation danced and sang on the court with handfuls of Croatian fans in the audience waving flags and rejoicing in the historic first round upset. It marked the first time in 105 years of Davis Cup that the United States was eliminated in the first round on home soil.
Ljubicic would become one of only two players to win three live rubbers against a U.S. Davis Cup team on two occasions – joining Mexico’s Raul Ramirez who turned the trick against the United States in the 1975 and 1976 Davis Cup campaigns.
In all, Ljubicic labored for a total of eight hours and 44 minutes over 12 sets over the weekend. His career record against the United States in Davis Cup play now stood at 6-0 – with only Laurie Doherty of Great Britain holding a better record against the U.S. with a 10-0 record in matches against the U.S. in 1902, 1903, 1905 and 1906.
“I have no words, really,” said Ljubicic. “To beat Andre, the Bryans and Roddick in three days….it is amazing.”
Roddick was crushed, irritable, devastatingly angry and disappointed. He slumped in front of the microphone in the interview room and was asked to share how he was feeling.
“Probably not in words you would understand,” he slurred. “It’s tough to describe. Really, really bad….There’s no worse feeling than losing a match in Davis Cup in our sport, especially when your teammates are counting on you.”
“It hurts a lot,” said McEnroe, who spoke with the press after coaching Bob Bryan to a three-set win over Roko Karanusic in the dead-fifth rubber that made the final verdict a 3-2 win for Croatia. “After getting to the final last year, starting off at home with our best team, it’s disappointing.”
In the battle between two former Australian Open champions, Roger Federer (won in 2004, 06-07) knocked out Marat Safin (2005). Safin had his little chance only in the third set. Federer was leading 4:1 in a tie-break with two mini-breaks but lost awhile his concentration after Safin’s foot fault on second serve. The Russian argued with a linesman and moment later was 5:4 up. Federer served very well twice and converted first match point with amazing backhand passing-shot.
“I lost today probably to the better player, one of the greatest ones in the history of tennis,” said Safin. “I really hope for him to be so I can tell the story to my kids that I played with him. I think it’s a nice story.”
Serb Novak Djokovic lost first set in the tournament against the Bosnian-born Amer Delic. There was very close to play a five-set match because at 5:4 (40-15) in the fourth set, Delic had double setpoint on Djokovic’s serve. The defending champion fought off the danger with an ace and lucky netcord that forced Delic to make an error.
“I need some matches like this to feel really what is Grand Slam all about,” said Djokovic.
The 36-year-old Santoro was playing in his 66th Grand Slam championship – the Open Era record amongst male players. In his final match in Melbourne lost to Andy Roddick 3-6 4-6 2-6. Santoro had break point (triple break point in all) only in one game – when Roddick was serving to win the second set. “Respect is an understatement,” Roddick said about the Frenchman. “The longevity he has had is an accomplishment in itself.” “This has always been one of my favorite places” said Santoro who reached in Melbourne his only Grand Slam quarterfinal in singles, three years ago, and won here twice the title in doubles (2003-04).
Fernando Verdasco has been in great form since last year’s tournament in St. Petersburg. The Spaniard confirmed his aspiration to be a Top 10 player with a convincing win (6-4 6-0 6-0) over Radek Stepanek. Verdasco was break down at 3:4 and won 15 games in a row since then, and took a revenge for a defeat to Stepanek in the final at the Brisbane Internation two weeks ago.
Verdasco sets up 4th round clash with Andy Murray who won his match in similiar circumstances. The Scott won 11 consecutive games in a 7-5 6-0 6-3 win over Jurgen Melzer.
James Blake extends the lead in matches against his easiest opponent Igor Andreev to 6-0. The American has also the same H2H against Arnaud Clement and Nikolay Davydenko but against Andreev won the most sets, defeated him inter alia in three different Grand Slam tournaments (they have never met only at the French Open).
Fernando Gonzalez prevailed an epic match at the Margaret Court Arena against Richard Gasquet. Gasquet won easily first two sets and had match point in a tie-break of the third set - risked a backhand return then, and the ball landed on the tape. Gonzalez won third set on 7th setpoint. Gasquet began to struggle with the pain in the right leg and right arm, and lost quickly fourth set but didn’t give up. At the beginning of the fifth set, the Frenchman changed own tactics, attacked more often to the net and builded up the speed of the first serve to play shorter rallies. Despite the pain Gasquet was winning service games comfortably and had his chances to take a decisive break: 4:4 (40-15), 7:7 (40-30), 10:10 (40-30) but experienced in tight matches Gonazalez saved all break points and waited first match point in the 22nd game of the final set. Gasquet saved it with beautiful forehand cross but lost next two points and the match, firstly Gonzalez played a gentle backhand lob, then finished the match with backhand down the line from the baseline. The match lasted 4 hours 9 minutes and both players won 191 points (Gasquet more in the final set (71-67).
“He was playing like a super hero,” Gonzalez said of Gasquet. “I couldn’t do anything. You have to keep fighting and wait for your chances. When we went to the fifth set I feel really good – I feel the favourite for the match.”
Marcos Baghdatis after overcoming Mardy Fish in straight sets became the only unseeded player who advanced to the last “sixteen” but it’s tough to call it a surprise because Baghdatis is a former Australian Open finalist. Baghdatis last year along with Lleyton Hewitt made a record – their match was finished at 4:33 a.m. This time beating Fish, Baghdatis setted up the record of the 2009 tournament – the match was finished at 1 a.m.
(1)Rafael Nadal (ESP) d. Tommy Haas (GER) 6-4 6-2 6-2
(13)Fernando Gonzalez (CHI) d. (24)Richard Gasquet (FRA) 3-6 3-6 7-6(10) 6-2 12-10 – 1 MP
(12)Gael Monfils (FRA) d. (17)Nicolas Almagro (ESP) 6-4 6-3 7-5
(6)Gilles Simon (FRA) d. Mario Ancic (CRO) 7-6(2) 6-4 6-2
(4)Andy Murray (GBR) d. (31)Jurgen Melzer (AUT) 7-5 6-0 6-3
(14)Fernando Verdasco (ESP) d. (22)Radek Stepanek (CZE) 6-4 6-0 6-0
(9)James Blake (USA) d. (18)Igor Andreev (RUS) 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-1
(5)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) d. (q)Dudi Sela (ISR) 6-4 6-2 1-6 6-1
(7)Andy Roddick (USA) d. Fabrice Santoro (FRA) 6-3 6-4 6-2
(21)Tommy Robredo (ESP) d. Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE) 6-1 6-3 6-2
Marcos Baghdatis (CYP) d. (23)Mardy Fish (USA) 6-2 6-4 6-4
(3)Novak Djokovic (SRB) d. (LL)Amer Delic (USA) 6-2 4-6 6-3 7-6(4)
(8)Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) d. Gilles Muller (LUX) 6-7(5) 7-5 6-3 7-5
(19)Marin Cilic (CRO) d. (11)David Ferrer (ESP) 7-6(5) 6-3 6-4
(20)Tomas Berdych (CZE) d. (15)Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) 4-6 6-1 6-3 6-4
(2)Roger Federer (SUI) d. (26)Marat Safin (RUS) 6-3 6-2 7-6(5)
The oldest participant of the tournament, 36 year-old Fabrice Santoro amazed the spectators once again overcoming 5-7 7-5 3-6 7-5 6-3 Philipp Kohlschreiber, 11 years in his junior. Santoro wasted triple setpoint in the first set but didn’t collapse and came back from a break down in the second and fourth set. In the fifth set Kohlschreiber at 3:5 saved triple match point with risky shots. After another rally the Frenchman had cramps, got a warning for an extension break between the points, risked a return, went to the net and finished the match with an overhead after 4 hours 5 minutes!
“Today I lost because it was best-of-five, which makes me very mad. Santoro will not win anything more here” stated the embittered German. “I can’t say I have no chance at all for the next round. It’s going to be tough for sure. I will see Friday morning when I wake up how good is my body, how bad is my body” replied Santoro who had played first match in Melbourne before the youngest player in the draw, Bernard Tomic was born.
Less luck in a five-setter had Santoro’s compatriot, Paul-Henri Mathieu who has lost 6th match in career after winning first two sets. This time Mathieu lost to “lucky loser” Amer Delic despite a 4:1 led in the fourth set.
The biggest surprise of the day was made by 25 year-old Yen-Hsun Lu of Taiwan who didn’t pass earlier second round in a Grand Slam event in 12 attempts. Lu defeated one of the best specialist of those events – David Nalbandian, also in five thrilling sets 6-4 5-7 4-6 6-4 6-2. In the final game of the match Lu fought off six break points before finished his second match point.
“Everybody knows Nalbandian is one of the best backhand players,” Lu said. “So I thought he’s ready for a forehand return. So I just changed my mind and went to his backhand all the time. I served six times to his backhand on break point and I won all the points.”
Former finalist Marcos Baghdatis was losing 3-6 0:4 to the Swede Robin Soderling but managed to win in four sets, Soderling had problems with blisters since the second set.
Australian big hope, 16 year-old Tomic began his first match at Rod Laver Arena saving 6 break points against Gilles Muller. The teenager won surprisingly the first set 6-3 but hadn’t any arguments to defy the powerful opponent in the next three sets. Muller finished the match serving two out of 27 aces.
“He’s played unbelievable. I was lucky to get that first set. He didn’t start serving well” said Tomic.
Player from former Yugoslavia, Maric Cilic and Janko Tipsarevic are the first pair who have played twice this year against each other, similarly, like in Chennai, Cilic lost one set but won the other ones without too much trouble.
High-quality match at Hisense Arena played Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Ivan Ljubicic (6-7 7-6 7-6 6-2). The Croat won first set in a tie-break and had his chances in the next two sets which also finished after tie-breaks. Last year’s runner-up Tsonga was forced to save one setpoint in the second tie-break and triple setpoint in the third tie-break, two of those setpoints saved on return playing dropshots what is unusual in those circumstances. Tsonga sets up the meeting with the only qualifier who advanced to the third round, Dudi Sela of Israel.
“Tonight my back was very stiff. But I won, and I’m happy of that. I think I’m playing better than last year. I’m a little bit more confident maybe in my game.” said Tsonga, one of the four seeded Frenchmen in the top half of the draw who won their matches on Thursday. One of them, Gilles Simon was close to lose 0-2 in sets but from 6-7 4:4 (0-40) completely dominated his opponent, big-serving Chris Guccione and even outaced him (14-12).
In the inner Croatian battle between Ljubicic’s compatriots, Mario Ancic ousted in five-sets Ivo Karlovic. Karlovic after this loss becomes a player with the worst five-set record (0-10) in the history of tennis. Karlovic has overcome the retired Austrian Markus Hipfl (0-9 in years 1996-2002).
Talented Ernstest Gulbis has been eliminated in the 2nd round in the 7th consecutive tournament! The young Latvian lost this time to Igor Andreev despite 4:2 up in the 5th set. In the 10th game Gulbis led 40:0 on serve only to lose quickly 5 points ina row without commitment. The Russian similarly like Amer Delic has won both matches in Melbourne this year after five-setters.
Easy wins notched Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, James Blake and Fernando Verdasco – all advanced to the third round winning both rounds without a serious danger in a set.
(1)Rafael Nadal (ESP) d. Roko Karanusic (CRO) 6-2 6-3 6-2
Tommy Haas (GER) d. (q)Flavio Cipolla (ITA) 6-1 6-2 6-1
(24)Richard Gasquet (FRA) d. (WC)Denis Istomin (UZB) 6-3 6-4 6-4
(13)Fernando Gonzalez (CHI) d. Guillermo Canas (ARG) 7-5 6-3 6-4
(12)Gael Monfils (FRA) d. Stefan Koubek (AUT) 6-4 6-4 3-6 6-2
(17)Nicolas Almagro (ESP) d. Fabio Fognini (ITA) 6-2 7-5 6-0
Mario Ancic (CRO) d. (25)Ivo Karlovic (CRO) 5-7 7-5 4-6 6-4 6-3
(6)Gilles Simon (FRA) d. Chris Guccione (AUS) 6-7(5) 6-4 6-1 6-2
(4)Andy Murray (GBR) d. Marcel Granollers (ESP) 6-4 6-2 6-2
(31)Jurgen Melzer (AUT) d. (q)Andreas Beck (GER) 5-7 7-6(7) 6-4 6-3
(22)Radek Stepanek (CZE) d. (q)Michael Berrer (GER) 6-3 6-2 6-7(3) 7-5
(14)Fernando Verdasco (ESP) d. Arnaud Clement (FRA) 6-1 6-1 6-2
(9)James Blake (USA) d. (q)Sebastien de Chaunac (FRA) 6-3 6-2 6-3
(18)Igor Andreev (RUS) d. Ernests Gulbis (LAT) 6-4 6-4 5-7 3-6 6-4
(q)Dudi Sela (ISR) d. Victor Hanescu (ROU) 6-3 6-3 6-2
(5)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) d. Ivan Ljubicic (CRO) 6-7(4) 7-6(8) 7-6(7) 6-2
(7)Andy Roddick (USA) d. (q)Xavier Malisse (BEL) 3-6 6-2 7-6(1) 6-2
Fabrice Santoro (FRA) d. (32)Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) 5-7 7-5 3-6 7-5 6-3
(21)Tommy Robredo (ESP) d. Viktor Troicki (SRB) 6-1 6-3 6-0
Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE) d. (10)David Nalbandian (ARG) 6-4 5-7 4-6 6-4 6-2
Marcos Baghdatis (CYP) d. (16)Robin Soderling (SWE) 3-6 7-5 6-3 6-3
(23)Mardy Fish (USA) d. Simone Bolelli (ITA) 6-4 6-1 7-5
(LL)Amer Delic (USA) d. (28)Paul-Henri Mathieu (FRA) 1-6 3-6 6-3 7-6(3) 9-7
(3)Novak Djokovic (SRB) d. Jeremy Chardy (FRA) 7-5 6-1 6-3
(8)Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) d. (q)Florian Mayer (GER) 6-1 7-5 6-2
Gilles Muller (LUX) d. (WC)Bernard Tomic (AUS) 3-6 6-1 6-4 6-2
(19)Marin Cilic (CRO) d. Janko Tipsarevic (SRB) 6-2 6-3 4-6 6-3
(11)David Ferrer (ESP) d. (q)Dominik Hrbaty (SVK) 6-2 6-2 6-1
(15)Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) d. (WC)Brydan Klein (AUS) 6-3 6-4 6-4
(20)Tomas Berdych (CZE) d. Brian Dabul (ARG) 6-1 6-1 6-3
(26)Marat Safin (RUS) d. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (ESP) 7-5 6-2 6-2
(2)Roger Federer (SUI) d. (q)Evgueni Korolev (RUS) 6-2 6-3 6-1
16 year-old Bernard Tomic (No. 768) made the biggest surprise of the first day, eliminating Potito Starace 7-6 1-6 7-6 7-6. Tomic who has been playing just second tournament on the main level (debuted two weeks ago in Adelaide) becomes the youngest player who won a match at the Australian Open (16 years and 103 days), and the second youngest who appearanced in the main draw of this tournament. Tomic’s compatriot Lleyton Hewitt, was 15 years and 337 days old when he lost in the 1997 first round to Sergi Bruguera. Tomic astonished favourable Australian crowd on the Margaret Court Arena holding nerves in tight situations what is characteristic for experienced, much more older players. The Australian prodigy was losing 2:4 in the third set and 1:4 (0-30) in the fourth, saved also two set points at 4:6 in the last tie-break! It’s just fourth case in Australian Open history that a player won a four-setter winning three sets in tie-breaks (previously did it Todd Martin, Max Mirnyi and Marat Safin). “It’s a dream come true to win a first round in my first Grand Slam,” said Tomic. “I’m just thrilled that I could pull off a win today. With the crowd behind me, it was an unbelievable experience”.
In the second round Tomic will face Gilles Muller who survived an epic match with Feliciano Lopez. Muller won 6-3 7-6 4-6 4-6 16-14 after 4 hours 22 minutes. In the final set Muller didn’t face a break point, had break points in three service games of the Spaniard, first match point at 12:11. In the 30th game of the final set, Lopez was broken to love. It’s third longest match in the Australian Open history (Open Era) in terms of games – 72 (the record – 83 games – belongs to Andy Roddick and Younes El Aynaoui since 2003).
Also Lopez’ compatriot and Davis Cup teammate, David Ferrer played very long match but with better end. Ferrer needed almost 4 hours to overcome Dennis Gremelmayr 6-1 6-7 6-1 6-7 6-4. Ferrer wasted set point in both losing sets but converted first match point in the fifth set, and improves his great record in five-set matches to 10-2.
In the next round Ferrer will play the two-time Aussie Open quarterfinalist, Dominik Hrbaty who withstood 39 aces from John Isner (19 aces in the first set!). Hrbaty is playing 300th tournament on the main level. The other veteran, Fabrice Santoro knocked out former No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero in four sets, having 100% efficiency at break points (8/8).
The two big favorits in the bottom half of the draw, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic won their matches in straight sets but both were close to drop one set: Federer saved setpoint against Andres Seppi, Djokovic was losing 0:4 and 3:5 in third set against Andrea Stoppini. “I was a break down in two sets. Managed to come back, which is important. As defending champion there is a pressure. But it didn’t affect me today, no. I’m still trying to find the rhythm” said Djokovic.
First match in a Grand Slam evnet for three years has played Taylor Dent. The American came back recently after the 2 1/2 years break, caused by a fractured vertebrae. Dent lost in five sets to “lucky loser” Amer Delic.
The main favorite for the title, Andy Murray needed only 45 minutes to advance to the second round. His opponent, Andre Pavel playing first ATP match since February 2008, was forced to withdraw due to a back injury. Pavel announced that he will finish career in Bucharest later this year.
In one of the most anticipated first round clashes, between past Australian Open finalists, Fernando Gonzalez overcame Lleyton Hewitt 5-7 6-2 6-2 3-6 6-3. “I knew it was going to be tough against Lleyton,” said Gonzalez. “He’s a great player, a great competitor. This was the first official match of the year. So I’m happy the way that I did it, and a little bit tired. But it’s fine now.”
Very good form showed the best player in the world Rafael Nadal and last year’s runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Both players won one set 6-0 and hadn’t any problems in the other two stes. “I think I am OK,” said Nadal. “But I was for two months outside of competition, so maybe I need a little bit more matches to get the rhythm.” In the similar style won his match Fernando Verdasco a contender for a Top 10 player.
Victor Hanescu made one of the most impressive comebacks in the Grand Slam history. The Romanian lost first two sets easily (3-6 3-6) to Jan Hernych but managed to win another three (7-6 7-6 8-6) being in each of them on the edge of defeat: Hernych was serving for the match in the third and fifth set, had also one match point on serve in the tie-break of the third set, and another match point at 5:4 in the fourth set on Hanescu’s serve. The match lasted 4 hours 32 minutes, the longest match of this year’s tournament so far.
Also dramatic five-set matches (with the help of good service performance) won former Top 10 players, Ivan Ljubicic (25 aces against Kunitsyn) and Guillermo Canas (22 aces against Kindlmann). First five-set win in sixth trial notched Nicolas Alamgro (28 aces against Massu) who didn’t win a match in Melbourne in four previous attempts. Bad 5-set record (2-7) has improved Igor Andreev too, coming back from a 0-2 deficit against unexperienced young Canadian, Peter Polansky.
(1)Rafael Nadal (ESP) d. Christophe Rochus (BEL) 6-0 6-2 6-2
Roko Karanusic (CRO) d. Florent Serra (FRA) 6-3 1-6 6-3 3-6 6-3
Tommy Haas (GER) vs Eduardo Schwank (ARG) 6-3 6-3 6-4
(q)Flavio Cipolla (ITA) d. (29)Dmitry Tursunov (RUS) 4-6 6-2 7-6(7) 7-5
(4)Richard Gasquet (FRA) d. Diego Junqueira (ARG) 6-7(5) 7-6(3) 6-3 6-4
Denis Istomin (UZB) d. Vince Spadea (USA) 6-2 7-5 6-4
Guillermo Canas (ARG) d. (q)Dieter Kindlmann (GER) 3-6 7-5 5-7 6-0 7-5
(13)Fernando Gonzalez (CHI) d. Lleyton Hewitt (AUS) 5-7 6-2 6-2 3-6 6-3
(12)Gael Monfils (FRA) d. Martin Vassallo-Arguello (ARG) 6-1 6-3 7-5
Stefan Koubek (AUT) d. Mikhail Youzhny (RUS) 6-3 6-2 6-2
Fabio Fognini (ITA) d. Andrei Goloubev (KAZ) 3-6 7-6(7) 6-4 6-2
(17)Nicolas Almagro (ESP) d. Nicolas Massu (CHI) 6-4 6-4 3-6 5-7 6-3
(25)Ivo Karlovic (CRO) d. Daniel Gimeno (ESP) 6-3 6-4 6-4
Mario Ancic (CRO) d. (q)Wayne Odesnik (USA) 7-5 6-4 4-6 6-2
Chris Guccione (AUS) d. Nicolas Devilder (FRA) 6-4 6-2 6-4
(6)Gilles Simon (FRA) d. Pablo Andujar (ESP) 6-4 6-1 6-1
(4)Andy Murray (GBR) d. Andrei Pavel (ROU) 6-2 3-1 ret.
Marcel Granollers (ESP) d. Teimuraz Gabashvili (RUS) 6-4 7-6(3) 4-6 6-0
(q)Andreas Beck (GER) d. Colin Ebelthite (AUS) 7-5 6-1 6-0
(31)Jurgen Melzer (AUT) d. Kei Nishikori (JPN) 7-5 6-2 6-1
(22)Radek Stepanek (CZE) d. Nicolas Lapentti (ECU) 3-6 6-3 6-4 6-4
(q)Michael Berrer (GER) d. Carsten Ball (AUS) 6-2 6-4 6-3
Arnaud Clement (FRA) d. Sergey Stakhovsky (UKR) 6-3 2-6 4-6 6-2 6-1
(14)Fernando Verdasco (ESP) d. Adrian Mannarino (FRA) 6-0 6-2 6-2
(9)James Blake (USA) d. (LL)Frank Dancevic (CAN) 6-4 6-3 7-5
(q)Sebastien de Chaunac (FRA) d. Steve Darcis (BEL) 2-6 6-3 0-6 6-2 6-2
Ernests Gulbis (LAT) d. Albert Montanes (ESP) 6-3 6-2 6-3
(18)Igor Andreev (RUS) d. (q)Peter Polansky (CAN) 5-7 3-6 6-4 6-3 6-4
(q)Dudi Sela (ISR) d. (30)Rainer Schuettler (GER) 1-6 6-2 6-4 6-4
Victor Hanescu (ROU) d. Jan Hernych (CZE) 3-6 3-6 7-6(7) 7-6(2) 8-6 – 2 MP
Ivan Ljubicic (CRO) d. Igor Kunitsyn (RUS) 4-6 7-6(3) 7-6(7) 5-7 6-3
(5)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) d. Juan Monaco (ARG) 6-4 6-4 6-0
(7)Andy Roddick (USA) d. (q)Bjorn Rehnquist (SWE) 6-0 6-2 6-2
(q)Xavier Malisse (BEL) d. Michael Llodra (FRA) 7-6(8) 6-1 6-1
Fabrice Santoro (FRA) d. Juan Carlos Ferrero (ESP) 6-3 6-2 6-7(5) 6-2
(32)Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) d. Samuel Querrey (USA)
(21)Tommy Robredo (ESP) d. Bobby Reynolds (USA) 6-2 7-5 6-1
Viktor Troicki (SRB) d. Alberto Martin (ESP) 6-3 3-6 6-2 6-4
Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE) d. Thomaz Bellucci (BRA) 6-3 7-5 6-4
(10)David Nalbandian (ARG) d. Marc Gicquel (FRA) 6-1 4-6 6-2 6-3
(16)Robin Soderling (SWE) d. Robert Kendrick (USA) 5-7 6-4 6-4 7-5
Marcos Baghdatis (CYP) d. Julien Benneteau (FRA) 6-3 7-6(5) 6-2
Simone Bolelli (ITA) d. Kristof Vliegen (BEL) 7-6(5) 7-6(3) 7-5
(23)Mardy Fish (USA) d. Samuel Groth (AUS) 6-7(3) 6-4 7-5 6-0
(28)Paul-Henri Mathieu (FRA) d. Jarkko Nieminen (FIN) 6-2 4-1 ret.
(LL)Amer Delic (USA) d. Taylor Dent (USA) 6-4 3-6 4-6 6-3 6-4
Jeremy Chardy (FRA) d. Marcos Daniel (BRA) 6-4 6-4 6-1
(3)Novak Djokovic (SRB) d. (q)Andrea Stoppini (ITA) 6-2 6-3 7-5
(8)Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) d. Michael Zverev (GER) 6-3 6-4 6-2
(q)Florian Mayer (GER) d. (q)Lamine Ouahab (ALG) 6-2 6-1 6-2
(WC)Bernard Tomic (AUS) d. Potito Starace (ITA) 7-6(5) 1-6 7-6(5) 7-6(6)
Gilles Muller (LUX) d. (27)Feliciano Lopez (ESP) 6-3 7-6(5) 4-6 4-6 16-14
(19)Marin Cilic (CRO) d. Kevin Anderson (RSA) 6-3 6-2 6-7(4) 6-3
Janko Tipsarevic (SRB) d. Oscar Hernandez (ESP) 4-6 6-1 6-3 4-6 6-0
(q)Dominik Hrbaty (SVK) d. John Isner (USA) 7-6(4) 2-6 6-2 7-5
(11)David Ferrer (ESP) d. Denis Gremelmayr (GER) 6-1 6-7(6) 6-1 6-7(4) 6-4
(15)Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) d. Ivo Minar (CZE) 6-1 2-6 7-5 7-6(9)
Brydan Klein (AUS) d. (q)Bjorn Phau (GER) 6-4 6-3 4-6 6-3
Brian Dabul (ARG) d. Philipp Petzschner (GER) 6-1 6-2 6-4
(20)Tomas Berdych (CZE) d. Robby Ginepri (USA) 6-4 6-4 6-3
(26)Marat Safin (RUS) d. Ivan Navarro-Pastor (ESP) 6-3 6-3 6-4
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (ESP) d. Agustin Calleri (ARG) 3-6 7-6(5) 6-2 6-0
(q)Evgueni Korolev (RUS) d. Carlos Moya (ESP) 6-3 6-1 7-6(7)
(2)Roger Federer (SUI) d. Andreas Seppi (ITA) 6-1 7-6(4) 7-5