Wednesday January 18th, 2012

No. 8-seeded Mardy Fish grew visibily frustrated with himself in a 7-6 (4), 6-3, 7-6 (8) loss. (EPA)

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Day 3 of the Australian Open was headlined by Mardy Fish's disappointing exit, drama and controversy in the John Isner-David Nalbandian match, and players taking their frustrations out on their rackets. Here's a roundup of the day's action.

What happened

American flame-out: If not for Isner's heroics, winning a grueling second-round match against Nalbandian 4-6, 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (5), 10-8, the American men would have gone 0-for-4 on the day (more on the Isner-Nalbandian drama here). Donald Young played horribly to get dumped 6-3, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 by Slovakian qualifier Lukas Lacko. Nothing was working for Young: His first serve wasn't landing in, he was bullied around the court on his second serve and he hit 10 more unforced errors than winners (37 to 27).

Over on Rod Laver Arena, Sam Querrey couldn't muster up any answers for Bernard Tomic. Querrey was playing a high-risk, high-reward game that was too inconsistent to be a winning strategy. The American grabbed the first set, hitting 14 winners to the Aussie's three. But it was downhill from there as Querrey's unforced errors started climbing. Tomic won the next three sets to advance 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3), 6-3.

But no American exit stung more than Fish's frustrating three-set loss to Alejandro Falla. Fish was flustered and annoyed with everything. Before we get into that, let's give credit where it's due: Falla was playing at the top of his game, combining power and accuracy to keep Fish running and prevent him from finding a rhythm.

"He played well," Fish said after the match. " He's a good player. He was up two sets to love against Roger [Federer] at Wimbledon [in 2010]. The guy can play."

So props to Falla, and the opposite to Fish for his demeanor. The No. 8 seed looked dejected, smacking his racket on the court and complaining repeatedly to the umpire about Falla's calls for a trainer during changeovers in the third set.

"I was under the impression that you can't get treatment for cramps. I guess you can," Fish said. "I guess you can in the changeovers, and then you can only do it twice. I thought he [the trainer] was out there four or five times, but I guess he wasn't."

In fact, it seems that no one on the ATP knows the rule on cramping. Isner admitted that one reason he didn't call the trainer when he started cramping at 6-6 in the fifth set is because he thought the rule said he couldn't. And Feliciano Lopez tweeted the same sentiments. Either the players aren't reading the rulebook, or the memo didn't make it out. We'll blame the lapse on someone forgetting to put the cover sheet on their TPS Reports.

Rod Laver Arena or bust: Not even Andreas Beck wanted to see Roger Federer's nine-year streak of playing on Rod Laver Arena broken. The German gave Federer a walkover, withdrawing with a back injury from their scheduled match at Hisense Arena.

"Surprising," Federer said of Beck's injury. "I didn't know anything about it."

And the potential end of Federer's streak of playing on RLA wasn't lost on the four-time Aussie champ.

"I knew it's been a long time since I've been on ‑‑ back then [Hisense] was [called] Vodafone still," Federer said. "But when the draws are such that me and Rafa [Nadal] are in the same section, and you have Tomic, I guess, I expect it to happen.  Especially when I saw that Rafa played on Hisense the first day, I expected my second‑round match was going to be there, too."

But more important than Federer keeping his Laver streak alive, he'll now get three days' rest, which should go a long way in healing any niggles he's brought into the tournament.

"I'll just take it easy this afternoon and come out tomorrow and hit intensely tomorrow," he said. "Then I'll be ready for the next match."

What did Federer do in his previous life to deserve this luck? Please tell me so that I can implement immediately.

Tommy Boy: Nice to see Tommy Haas back on the court and playing well. He played much better than I expected him to in his 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 loss to Rafael Nadal.

"I  think he played well. He played aggressive," Nadal said. "He played with very good second serves. For a few moments his first serve was really difficult to read."

Haas, 33, is looking extremely fit (and yes, I mean that in a shallow way and in a tennis way). The guy has been hitting the gym hard and says that he's trying to get to the point where he can compete regularly on Tour, but it all depends on how the next few months go. If he can't get his ranking up (he's No. 190 now) and has to rely on wild cards, things will get more difficult.

"If you don't get wild cards, then it becomes tricky where you have to play qualifying and maybe go back and play some challengers," the former world No. 2 said. "I'm not sure if I'm up for the task doing that.

"At the same time, when I play at certain moments like today, I feel like I can definitely still play with some of the big guys and maybe still have some success. That's the challenge that I have to ask myself, if I'm still willing to do that after so many injuries, after being on the road now for 15 years."

• Ciao, Francesca: Francesca Schiavone, a quarterfinalist in 2011, won't be able to create any memorable moments this year. She lost to Italian compatriot Romina Oprandi 6-4, 6-3. Last year, she played a 4-hour, 44-minute marathon against Svetlana Kuznetsova, winning 6-4, 1-6, 16-14 in a fourth-round thriller that set the record for longest women's Grand Slam match in the Open era.

But this was not her year. Schiavone ended the match with nine double faults and 35 unforced errors and was atrocious on her second serve. When you barely get 50 percent of your first serves in (54 percent for the match), and only win 28 percent of your second serves, let's just say the match isn't likely to end well.

She wasn't the only seed to fall in her quarter. No. 32 Petra Cetkovska lost in straight sets to Mona Barthel, the German who won Hobart as a qualifier. No. 16 Peng Shuai fell in straight sets to Iveta Benesova, leaving Victoria Azarenka (No. 3), Julia Goerges (22) and Agnieszka Radwanska (8) as the only seeds in that quarter.

Let's go ahead and slot Vika into the semifinals. The world No. 3 looks like she's on a mission after losing only two games through two matches.

Photo of the day

What's that they say? Fourth time's the charm? Marcos Baghdatis smashed not one, not two, not three, but four rackets in the span of 35 seconds during a changeover in his second-round loss to Stanislas Wawrinka.


Go figure

99... Minutes it took for Isner and Nalbandian to complete their 10-8 fifth set.

2... Games dropped by Azarenka through two rounds.

43... Aces hit by Isner in his second-round match, compared to just seven by Nalbandian.

187... Total points won by Nalbandian, six more than Isner.

Video of the day

Nalbandian joined in on the smashing good times during his five-set loss to Isner.


Bits and bobbles

• "FISH FALL." That's how the scoreline was abbreviated on the internal feed during the Fish-Falla match. From now on, I'm relying on those abbreviations for match predictions.

Tommy Haas (right) had nice words for Rafael Nadal after their match Wednesday. (Abaca)

• Things I learned about Isner on Wednesday: He eats salt during the changeover, he's peeing clear and his shirt-ripping move to celebrate his win was a tribute to his good buddy and Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.

• It's official: Andy Roddick and Serena Williams are in the mixed doubles draw. I already feel pity for all the other teams that will have to return their serves. In a related note, I'm buying stock in helmets.

• Haas and Nadal exchanged some nice words at the net after their match. "I just basically said that this might as well be my last time on Rod Laver Arena," Haas said. "Who knows if I'm back here. Who knows if I ever play there again. I just said that it's an honor to compete against him, and I wish him well."

They said it

• "Maybe I forgot to sign in. She'll kill me for that. She told me to sign in. I didn't sign in. Whoa, thanks for reminding me. [Laughter.] Gee, I knew I forgot something the last few weeks."

-- Bernard Tomic, after being asked why he hadn't signed in for mixed doubles with Jelena Jankovic yet.

• "So everybody arrives late because they thought that I am late, no? I usually am very late, so they know that.  "

-- Rafael Nadal, on reporters arriving after his press conference had started.

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