Welcome back to Slam Cast, a new segment at TTI for 2016! Following each round at a Grand Slam, the each member of the TTI crew will get together and deliver our favorite moment from the previous round — a (moderately witty) observation, a match that we want to rave about, a player that let us down, etc. Without further ado, we present TTI Slam Cast: Australian Open R2.
SAM: Fernando Verdasco is Who We Thought He Was
On Tuesday, Fernando Verdasco displayed one of the greatest offensive performances in recent memory, blasting 90 winners past Rafael Nadal. On Thursday, in his second round match against Dudi Sela, he…didn’t do that.
It’s not a surprise to see Verdasco crash out to anyone these days, but the second round featured several upset-causers backing up their big wins against beatable opponents — and after he came back from 2-4* in the first set, it felt like Verdasco might continue that trend. He lost the next two sets in rather meek fashion, and couldn’t complete a fourth set comeback.
What hurts the most about Fernando “Verdasco–ing” yet again is what his draw going forward would have looked like. Sela will play Andrey Kuznetsov for a spot in the fourth round, with the winner getting either Gael Monfils or Stephane Robert.
Wasting an opportunity like that has to hurt at this point in the Spaniard’s career. It’s doubtful he’ll ever have a draw as soft to make a major quarterfinal. But after all, he was dealing with the Curse of Beating Rafa, and………….the Curse of Massaging Radek?
NICK: Feliciano Lopez Going Against the Spanish Grain
A stat: Feliciano Lopez has now played in 56 consecutive Grand Slams dating back to the 2002 French Open.
Last night, Lopez defeated Guido Pella of Argentina 7-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-7, 6-4 in four hours and thirty minutes. As the ITF Tennis twitter handle pointed out last night, this match made a little bit of recent history.
Lopez, currently ranked No. 19 in the world, fascinates me.
On the surface, his game may seem very bland, but If you watch him play more and more, it becomes quite clear that he has a very diverse skillset. Lopez has one of the best lefty serves of our time, is an underrated mover/defender, can finish at the net, introduces a ton of variety off his backhand side — which he hits with a ton of underspin, and can pack a punch with his forehand when given time.
Lopez currently has 398 tour level victories and will simultaneously reach the second week and get win No. 400 if he wins his next two matches. #notbad
RENÉ: Keep Up Upsetting
As the women’s draw has seen more than half of its seeds bundled out ahead of the third round, the tired old stories about the women’s game lacking any consistency are coming back up. Sure enough, 14 of the 32 seeded players survived the first four days — despite some notable casualties among them like Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova and Venus Williams.
On the flip side of the coin, most of the women who were responsible for an upset in the first round backed it up with a strong showing in the second round. Zhang Shuai, Elizaveta Kulichkova, Yulia Putintseva and Johanna Konta — just to name a few of them. How’s that for consistency?
There are still plenty of established names in the draw and yes, I’ll be massively surprised if we don’t end up with Serena Williams vs. Victoria Azarenka final. In the meantime, however, let’s enjoy the way the next WTA generation (more than half of the players in the top half are 22 or younger) is knocking at the door.
(At least the WTA has a significant amount of fresh blood ready to make their move — unlike some other tours.)
VIKA: #Umplyfe – The Miniseries
It’s been a banner first week for the next generation of Russian women, but spare a thought for Anastasia Kosheleva — who’s gotten more drama on her courts in the first two rounds than most umpires get in a year.
A member of the next generation of female officials on tour and the only Russian, Kosheleva’s tournament started with the first round match between Heather Watson and Timea Babos — a match that began late on Court 8 and ended well after dark with Watson declining to shake her hand, for no particular reason. Less than a day later, they gave her Barbora Strycova vs. Caroline Garcia. The task of keeping Strycova in line aside, she also had to deal with fans (and, apparently, ushers) who had some questionable knowledge of how tennis works.
Her second round didn’t get any easier, beginning with Carla Suarez Navarro’s 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-2 victory over Greek qualifier Maria Sakkari. The demonstrative Sakkari was, and Kosheleva offered her “a quiet word” (to quote the Eurosport commentators) regarding her grunting after Sakkari broke serve for *2-3 in the final set — which can also be done if an official receives a complaint from the opposing player. That didn’t stop ESPN (or the Internet) from proclaiming Sakkari was officially warned (and bringing it up again, still incorrectly, on Day 4), and dragging Kosheleva for the timing of something she didn’t even do.
After all that: the next day, she got Alizé Cornet — who was doing a lot of this.
Will she ever have a quiet day in Melbourne? At this point, I’d be this skeptical too.
JEFF: The Round in GIFs
Rolling out of bed like this expecting shock overnight results?
Well, I have some good news: the second round finished up with a few less major casualties than the first — but there was no lack of GIF-able moments to look back on.
The marquee match of the second round had to have been a resurgent Eugenie Bouchard vs. an in-form Agnieszka Radwanska. The scoreline wasn’t as thrilling as many had hoped, but the match had many moments of quality — including Bouchard breaking one of the WTA’s best dropshotters with a dropshot of her own.
…she went on to lose 10 of the next 12 games after demonstrating deft dropshot touch.
Speaking of deft touch, Elina Svitolina saved a handful of set points (ultimately to no avail) in the final game of her opening set vs. 18-year-old Naomi Osaka, but none were as lucky as when a meek sliced forehand grazed the net cord and dropped dead on Osaka’s side of the court.
Maria Sharapova also has been pulling out the dropshots in her opening matches, typically surprising opponents who have planted themselves far beyond the baseline to retrieve her punishing shots. Most of them have been quite successful.
That one wasn’t.
Elsewhere, Maria Sakkari and her, um, expressive brand of tennis electrified Margaret Court Arena.
Zhang Shuai backed up her upset of Simona Halep by impressively dismissing Hobart champion Alizé Cornet — making us all question how she could be ranked No. 133 in the world.
And Lleyton Hewitt retired from professional tennis.
No big deal, right? (Just kidding — best of luck in the after-tennis-life, Rusty.)