Sunday January 22nd, 2012

Kim Clijsters shook off an ankle injury to defeat Li Na in the fourth round. (Zumapress)

MELBOURNE, Australia -- On Day 7 of the Australian Open, Kim Clijsters overcame an ankle injury and saved match points to defeat Li Na, Tomas Berdych was booed after winning and Roger Federer took Bernard Tomic to school. Here's a rundown of Sunday's action.

What happened

Kim-possible rally: Clijsters and Li played cautiously as the 17-shot rally unfolded, the tension ratcheted up with each swing. The hobbled Clijsters, down match point in the second-set tiebreaker of their fourth-round match, blinked first. She hit a poorly conceived and badly executed drop shot on the 15th stroke, the ball hanging in the air too long and landing near the service line. Li raced forward and got there with plenty of time, but she tentatively pushed a backhand down the line instead of being more aggressive.

"During the time, of course I was nervous," Li said, adding, "That's just normal. I'm not special."

Clijsters had dodged a bullet. She didn't have to move much to get in position to flick a lob that fell well in. With that, Clijsters had saved a fourth consecutive match point for Li, who couldn't recover. The Belgian went on to win the next two points, celebrating with a ferocity I've rarely seen, and Li fell apart, her mind stuck on what could have been as opposed to what was. Clijsters won the first four games of the third set and held on for a 4-6, 7-6 (6), 6-4 victory.

Clijsters said retiring from the match "crossed her mind" after she rolled her ankle in the seventh game of the first set. But she kept battling -- and survived that poor drop shot -- to earn a spot in the quarterfinals against Caroline Wozniacki, who eliminated Jelena Jankovic 6-0, 7-5.

"I'm not saying that that forehand drop shot was a good choice, but you make decisions," the defending champion said after winning the rematch of last year's final. "Luckily, that one turned out OK. I think she was a little bit lost or maybe a little bit confused at that time."

Li left her press conference in tears. One point away from the quarterfinals, her brain and body were locked by nerves.

"Doesn't matter close or far away," she said in her trademark deadpan. "In the end, I lost the match."

Time will tell how long it takes for Li to get this loss out of her system. After she squandered two match points against Sabine Lisicki in the second round of Wimbledon last year, we didn't hear from her for the rest of the season. Here's hoping that doesn't happen this time.

Boo Berd: Berdych was showered with boos at Hisense Arena after his 4-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3), 7-6 (2) victory against Nicolas Almagro, with whom he refused to shake hands. The source of the Czech's ire? Almagro's screaming mid-court forehand in the fourth set that struck Berdych just below the shoulder. Almagro attempted to apologize but Berdych wasn't interested.

"You think is this enough to apologize?" said Berdych, who was jeered throughout a post-match interview on the court. "You should think first, then you [do] something. He should play the ball differently.  That's it."

Berdych said that "the court is pretty big, and you always have some space to put the ball in ... and not actually try to hit the other guy." Almagro said he was just trying to win the point and he meant no harm.

"I played the point the way I have to do it in order to win and I can leave the court with my head high," Almagro said.

I'm with Almagro on this one. This wasn't an overhead or an easy sitter where Almagro had time and options to put the ball somewhere else. He was on the run with the 6-foot-5 Berdych at net. Going for the body was an option and the way Berdych handled it was juvenile.

Next up for him? Rafael Nadal, another Spaniard with whom he's had a run-in, notoriously getting some choice words from Nadal after he shushed the Madrid crowd in 2006. Don't think for a second that Nadal hasn't heard about this incident. As Rafa would say, "A little bit extra motivation, no?"

Professor Federer: Federer put on a clinic in ending Tomic's run in the fourth round. Federer's 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 victory featured so much creative shot-making that the 19-year-old Aussie was left dumbfounded point after point, looking helplessly at his box with a shrug.

"The harder I hit it, the ball comes back in a different corner and ends up always being a winner," Tomic said. "It's very strange.  Never did experience my balls that I hit that hard come back and to be a winner.  It's good to watch. Even for me playing, I enjoy watching it."

At least the kid was good-humored about it.

As for Federer, he advances to a highly anticipated quarterfinal against Juan Martin del Potro,who dismissed Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4, 6-2, 6-1.

"It's going to be tough," Federer said of his match against the Argentine, who has climbed back to No. 11 in his return from wrist surgery.  "I don't look beyond that because he's coming up strong.  He had a good year and he played all the top guys again in the last year and pushed us all. ... He's got massive potential, and he'll be part of the top 10 for probably a long time."

Photo of the day

Nicolas Almagro jokes with a linesperson during his loss to Tomas Berdych. (Rick Rycroft/AP)

Go Figure

0... Sets lost by the Big Three so far. Nadal joined Federer in the quarterfinals Sunday with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 victory against Feliciano Lopez. Novak Djokovic plays his fourth-round match Monday against Lleyton Hewitt.

3... Unforced errors for Agnieszka Radwanska in her 6-1, 6-1 win over Julia Goerges, who committed 27 errors.

21... Consecutive victories at the Australian Open for Bob and Mike Bryan, the three-time defending champions who are into the quarterfinals this year.

31... Consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinals for Federer, a streak that began at Wimbledon in 2004.

Video of the day

Tomic had a lot of exasperating moments like this one in his loss to Federer.

*****

Bits and bobbles

• Sunday's notable scoreboard: "NADA LOPE." Australia has some nutty animals running about. It wouldn't surprise me if a Nadalope actually exists.

• On her day off, Petra Kvitova sat under the blazing sun in 90-degree weather to cheer on her boyfriend, Adam Pavlasek, in his first-round boys' match. Not that anyone noticed. The Wimbledon champ went unrecognized and unbothered at Court 11. (The 17-year-old Pavlasek won.)

• What was Tomic doing a mere three hours before he was to take on his idol? He was sitting at Court 18 supporting his younger sister, Sara, in her first-round girls' match. Unfortunately, it was a bad day for the Tomic family. Brother and sister both lost.

• After his victory, Del Potro saluted the crowd by making a heart shape with his hands.

• Kudos to the schedule makers for putting Martin Navratilova's legends' doubles match on Margaret Court Arena. Navratilova wore a rainbow ribbon on her sleeve as she teamed with Nicole Bradtke to beat Martina Hingis and Iva Majoli.

They said it

"I actually had a small kangaroo -- and I'm not kidding this time. [Laughter.] I was holding a small kangaroo, baby kangaroo ... it was very nice to me this time. Do you know what it did afterward? I gave it some milk, and it just spit it all over me. I was like, Is this a thank-you for just being nice and petting the kangaroo? I got milk all over myself. I guess I deserved that from the story last year."-- Caroline Wozniacki, who joked last year about being attacked by a kangaroo, on a recent encounter with the animal.

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