Sunday January 25th, 2015

MELBOURNE -- The balls have been inflated, as the hype for local players. Madison Keys has recalled Madison Bumgarner with her precocious power. One four-time champ—Roger Federer—is headed home, a victim of the upset bug. Another four-time champ—Novak Djokovic—is a good bet to take a fifth.

We’ve had the lowbrow: viral videos of vomiting, shots to the groin and racket smashes. We’ve had Tim Smyczek venturing on the high road. The draw is Dudi-free and Peer-less. The women’s side is flush with Americans, and some even have names other than Williams. The men’s is a mix of usual suspects and newcomers. Overall, it was a hell of a first week. Now, as Smyczek would say, “Play two.”

As of Sunday local time, herewith our midterm grades.

A

Tim Smyczek

First the obvious trope: During a week when the absence of sportsmanship dominated pre-Super Bowl chatter, his impromptu rendition of do-the-right was particularly welcome. But he should also be heartened by his play, taking Rafael Nadal deep into a fifth set with deceptively powerful striking.

Tennis
Madison Keys stuns No. 4 Petra Kvitova to advance to round of 16

Victoria Azarenka

Even with fashion demerits, the former No.1 made quite a statement. She may be unseeded but, suddenly, she is a contender.

Nick Kyrgios

Think the Aussie teenager likes the big stage? He's won a dozen matches at majors including the four (and counting) he's won here in Melbourne.

Williams-Williams

Still going strong. And funny enough, the older sister may be playing the better tennis of the two.

American women

Six were still in the draw by the middle weekend. It’s not just the volume, it’s the diversity of style. After the Williams sisters, Madison Keys is the clear-cut best of the bunch, her defeat of Petra Kvitova doubling as an arrival. But there’s plenty of talent behind her.

Melbourne Age

Just terrific coverage from the local paper, day-in, day-out. Bookmark this site.

Week One

An overall grade of A. Record crowds. No real controversies. Cooperation of mother nature—which is to say no oven-like conditions. Plenty of dramatic matches. Old faces, new faces, relentlessly global faces. Good week for the sport.

B

Maria Sharapova and Rafael Nadal

In the second round, both former champs were pushed to the brink—in Sharapova’s case, the absolute brink, match point. But both survived and advanced, which is all that matters.

Tennis
Mailbag: No. 1 seeds Serena, Djokovic look to defend their place at the top

Coco Vandeweghe

Slowly but steadily climbing the ranks and her win over Sam Stosur was first-rate. But she offered surprisingly little resistance in a highly winnable match against lower-ranked Madison Brengle.

Denis Kudla

He will be a creditable pro for years, not least because of his professionalism. But Kudla’s failure to convert match points on his serve against Feliciano Lopez will haunt him for a while.

Larry Fitzgerald

Nice to see him come to the site, sit in anonymity, and genuinely appreciate the tennis. But doesn’t someone who works outdoors in Arizona forfeit the right to complain about the heat at a sporting event? (We jest.)

B-minus

Roger Federer

Gracious in defeat, no surprise there. But his flat-as-Kansas performance against Andreas Seppi qualifies a bad loss by any measure.

Lleyton Hewitt

His fighting instincts remain; which has transformed his image. But he did squander a 2-0 sets lead against a lesser (and older) player.

C

Ana Ivanovic

The fifth seed—and a former finalist here—took a shuffle-step backwards when she lost her first match to a qualifier. Disappointment will be mitigated by an injury—which she gamely didn’t mention as an excuse—but her nerves were in evidence, too.

Tennis
Mailbag: Analyzing Federer's early AusOpen loss to No. 46 Seppi

Women’s seeds

14 of 32 didn't get out of the second round.

Scheduling favoritism

Slippery, meet slope. Slope, meet slippery.

Closing

Whatever happened to Alex Bladwin’s ABC?

In match after match, frontrunners let leads evaporate. Challengers like Kudla and Alexandra Panova and Smyczek and Camila Giorgi couldn't finish off upsets. (Even a string of favorites to win—Ferrer and Bouchard—let leads shrink before finally completing the job.)

Requests for twirling

In a word, ick. But Bouchard’s response (intentional or not) was pitch perfect, less righteous indignation than bemused pity at how lamely backdated it felt. “I mean, yeah, I don't know. An old guy asking you to twirl, it was funny.”

 

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