Thoughts and observations on the first surge of action from the Australian Open:
It's amazing to me that people continue to forecast great things from Querrey, as if he's suddenly going to turn into a wildly energetic force like Jim Courier. He's certainly a likeable, laid-back character, but haven't we seen enough evidence that he doesn't have the mental approach of a champion? Nothing seems to seriously matter with this guy; his body language is generally tepid and especially so in a big-stage crisis.
I figured Querrey at least had more game than the 72nd-ranked Kubot, but in truth, Kubot had more variety, infinitely better touch at the net, and more guts, fighting off a cramping episode to finish off the match. Querrey owns only one five-set victory in his career, and he clearly lacked the unbridled aggression required to get this job done.
"Sam will rebound," insisted Andy Roddick, while another compatriot, Mardy Fish, predicted that "it's just a matter of time with Sam. It has to be. I see him every day and the work he puts in. We're not going to have this conversation at the end of the year, when hopefully he makes it to the quarters or semis of a huge tournament."
You really have to wonder, though. This is the 10th time in 14 majors that Querrey has bombed out in the first round, that's hardly a small sample size. That's a trend. And it's likely to get worse at the French Open, where Querrey admitted to homesickness and clay-court fatigue last year, basically tanking his first-round match to Robby Ginepri and later admitting to be "just tired" and "mentally not there."
It's good to know, though, that Sharapova is no longer being coached by Michael Joyce and her intensely annoying father, Yuri. When you think about it, what did they really do? Sharapova has never offered the slightest bit of ingenuity or strategy in her game, merely blasting away from the baseline while shrieking at the top of her lungs. She rose to greatness, absolutely, but that was
Her new coach is Thomas Hogstedt, whom she met in Florida while he was working with Tommy Haas, and he's the man who coached Li Na into the semifinals of last year's Australian. Recent reports indicated that Sharapova wants to come in behind more of her punishing groundstrokes, thus adding a net game to her arsenal, and for a long-limbed athlete of her caliber, that's a long-overdue decision. But there was no sign of it in the first round, and her opponent -- the plodding and overweight Tansugarn -- would have presented a perfect test case.
"I'll tell you what, Mardy would not have won that match two years ago," said Roddick, perhaps his closest friend on tour, but Fish needs to gain clarity on his illness. Roddick said he felt the same way last year before being struck down with mononucleosis, and while Fish has his doubts ("Playing three-and-a-half hours probably means I don't have what he had"), he was scheduled to undergo blood tests for mono.
"Watch De Bakker carefully," said Drysdale, "because he is
By the fourth set, it was clear that De Bakker had given up, and the fifth set was a pitiful formality. "I know Thiemo a bit," Monfils said later. "I know sometimes he snap in the head. It's a weakness for him. I saw he was tanking."
"I don't feel I need to prove anything to anybody," she said before the tournament, a flighty remark to be sure (until you win a major, your No. 1 ranking is highly suspect). She blithely claims that she never looks at the draw, merely addressing each new opponent as she comes. And after Gilbert sternly criticized her recent change of rackets (Barbolat to Yonex), calling it a "bad career move," Wozniacki sat right next to Gilbert and said it doesn't matter in the slightest, that she can play with any racket.
It's all very refreshing, although we'll make a more measured assessment after Wozniacki takes a few unexpected losses. Justine Henin had a particularly interesting remark regarding Wozniacki's Slam-free record, saying, "If I have to remember something, it wasn't really that I was the best player in the world, but the Grand Slams I won. That's what really gives the emotions. Wozniacki is still very young. Safina has been in trouble. Jankovic has been tired at a certain time of her career. I wish them all to win Slams, because they will feel the difference."
I wish ESPN would collect more choice clips from the post-match interviews, but that network is throwing a blanket over tournament coverage. As much as I enjoy Martina Navratilova (any time, any subject) or a wacky spot from Bud Collins, the Tennis Channel isn't offering anything special. And TC's stable of analysts -- Lindsay Davenport, Leif Shiras and Justin Gimelstob, among others -- lacks an edge.