Sunday January 24th, 2010

It's Saturday. It's Sunday. It's April. Regardless of what time it is in your precinct, here in Melbourne we're halfway through with our first major. Which means it's time for our 2010 Australian Open midterm grades

Nadia Petrova: Notoriously erratic Russian veteran is riding a hot streak here. She pulls off a whopping upset, humiliating Kim Clijsters, and then backs it up, beating Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Justine Henin: Many happy returns. Not just winning, but winning with typical grit.

Men's draw favorites: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Nikolay Davydenko, Andy Murray, Andy Roddick, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga all cruise into week two.

Chinese women: Na Li and Jie Zheng both remain.

Donald Young: Young no more? Atlantan qualifies, wins his first match and gives Lleyton Hewitt a good match in Round 2. An auspicious start to the year.

Mother Nature: When was the last time you heard players complain that the conditions in Melbourne were too cool?

Big boys: Attention NBA general managers: four players in the round of 16 --Marin Cilic, John Isner, Ivo Karlovic and Juan Martin del Potro -- were 6-foot-6 and up. Cilic is the last standing.

Louk Sorensen: There is a little known fatwah: one must give as much publicity as possible to an undersized Irish qualifier with a German accent who reaches the second round of a Major.

James Blake: Loses in second round dropping still another five setter, but gives del Potro a real fight in the process. This is Exhibit A re: the importance of being seeded.

Alicia Molik: Comeback stalled on account of a classic choke job. But all credit to her for owning up to it.

Ana Ivanovic: A second-round loser, as the slump continues. Until she fixes the serve, her game lacks foundation. Time to hire a full-time coach.

Maria Sharapova: Was it just two years ago that Sharapova won in Melbourne without dropping a set? Another Slam, another early exit, this time at the hands of Maria Kirilenko.

Kim Clijsters: The strangest result of Week 1, Clijsters -- the pick by many to win -- mustered only one game against Petrova and was uncharacteristically sour afterward.

Small bladders: You're trouble, as it were.

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