Juan Martin Del Potro's forehand is not a thing of beauty. It is a thing of intrigue. Like watching the quiet before a storm as his now-sleeved arm winds behind him as if he were a pitcher throwing a baseball, he swings through past his hip, leaps forward, and...whoomph. Devastation.
It is the shot that did for Roger Federer in the 2009 US Open final. And, conversely, it is the shot that did for him as Marcos Baghdatis produced 20 forehand winners and a shock 6-1, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 victory on Rod Laver Arena.
The state of Del Potro's wrist has in some corners been a more talked-about topic than the various fashionable creations sported by some of the tour's top women this week. After 12 months out of the game and extensive, punishing surgery, would his restructured wrist allow him to unleash every ounce of Argentine fury off both flanks the way he did in 2008 and 2009?
The jury is still out. The big friendly giant needs to throw a few more matches and a bit of fatigue into the mix before deciding on that one. But based on this evening's performance, and a few visits from the trainer, the wrist still needs easing in.
The boisterous crowd, particularly those in Baghdatis's camp, rarely leaving a changeover in peace, were treated from the start. Trading early points on the board, it was the Cypriot who survived the first assault, somehow saving three break points, before going onto break the ominous Argentine. Holding to love, the 2007 finalist found himself with a 4-1 lead.
The Del Potro forehand, meanwhile, was finding the net rather than the lines. Baghdatis's forehand was anything but. Launching himself off the court to whistle a return past the big man's toes, he broke again, and served out the set 6-1 as easily as one would slice soft butter after just over half an hour.
Set two began in the same manner as the first. Two closely fought games that were held by a whisker. In the third game, Baghdatis put more and more into his forehand, bringing up break point. And then something very odd occurred. Del Potro threw up the ball to serve, but didn't move his racket. Glancing down with a grimace, he tried again. This time the racket went up, but never reached the ball, flying out of his hand and landing near the service line. With the trainer on court to examine the wrist (for of course, it was the wrist), the pair recommenced, Baghdatis a break up and cruising.
Armed with a fresh sweatband, Del Potro blistered through his next service game to love, so perhaps the wrist wasn't so bad after all. But no, the trainer was back, and the mystery continued. Meanwhile, the Cypriot carried on about his business, keeping the one-game gap between him and his none-too-chipper opponent.
But Del Potro is anything but one who surrenders. He pushed and prodded to go 0-30 on the Baghdatis serve, only for the shorter man to cling on by the rope of his ponytail. He held, and left Del Potro serving to stay in the set. The effort was too great for the tower of Tandil. Baghdatis broke, and fist-pumped into a two-set lead.
No matter, thought Del Potro. I'll just win the next set. And so he began, breaking Baghdatis for the first time in the match. But the 2007 runner-up fought back. Five deuces. Cross court, cross court, down the line, down the line, back and forth like a boomerang. Del Potro held on that occasion, but the Cypriot still managed to redeem the break. Not for long. The forehand finally firing, Del Potro broke again, and served out the third set to love. Cue the trainer for Baghdatis. You could not make it up.
But just as the press centre inhabitants abandoned all thought of an early night, Baghdatis stepped up. All thoughts of his sore plantar fascia (that's right foot to you and me) evaporated as Baghdatis broke the Del Potro serve in the early stages of the fourth and soon found himself leading 5-3, serving for the match. Six points later, the 6-1, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 victory was his, courtesy of a 15th ace.
"I knew this was going to be tough, but I'm used to it, whenever I come here I have tough draws," said Baghdatis. "I was happy to get through my first round match because I was waiting for this match because I knew it could be a very tough match, I played pretty good so I'm very happy."
"I knew before the match that he didn't have a lot of matches on his feet, that put the pressure on me because I was a bit the favourite, but play fast balls, don't give him time to play, and that's what I did today, so I'm very happy, I played good today."
"When you're out of injuries it's easier to keep the competition, keep working hard, it's been a year and a half I don't have any injuries touch wood, I'm working very hard, it will take time for sure, the same for Juan Martin."
Baghdatis will play Jurgen Melzer on Saturday for a place in the fourth round.
As for Del Potro, he just needs a bit more time, but he, and his forehand, will be back.
Marcos is through to the third round of the Australian Open after cutting short Juan Martin del Potro’s return to Grand Slam action with a 6-1, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 victory over the Argentine on Thursday evening on Rod Laver Arena.
It is the sixth time in seven appearances in Melbourne that Marcos has reached at least the third round; in 2006 he went on to reach the final, where he finished runner-up to Roger Federer. He next will face World No. 11 Jurgen Melzer of Austria.
“I'm improving every year, like all the players are improving,” said Marcos. “I can say I'm playing the best tennis of my life every year. Everybody's improving. Tennis is changing. It's not like 2006. Everything is moving. I think I'm in good shape, best shape.”
The 22-year-old del Potro came into the match unseeded, having been sidelined for the majority of 2010 after undergoing surgery on his right wrist. The 2009 US Open champion showed his quality in the early stages, though, as he threatened Marcos’ serve in the third game. However, Marcos was able to save all three break points he faced and made del Potro rue his missed chances in the following game as he broke to lead 3-2 with a rifling backhand winner up the line.
With the momentum in his favour, Marcos raised his game again to break del Potro in the sixth game before serving out the one-set lead with a love service game.
Marcos went up an early break in the second set in bizarre fashion, as del Potro’s racquet flew out of his hand on a second serve on break point. At that point, the Argentine consulted an ATP trainer about his wrist, but given the all clear, was fine to carry on. He could find no answer to Marcos’ strong play, though, and the Cypriot broke serve again to seal the set in the ninth game with impressive, aggressive play on his backhand.
A loose game from Marcos at the start of the fourth set gave former World No. 4 del Potro a glimmer of hope. The Tandil native was not able to maintain his lead as Marcos levelled at 3-3, but the quality of his play had improved and he broke again in the ninth game before clinching the fourth set on serve.
At the sit down, Marcos received treatment on his right lower leg and came out firing in the fourth set. An improvised backhand pass earned him a 15/40 lead on del Potro’s serve in the second game and he converted his second chance to break with a stinging crosscourt forehand forcing an error from the Argentine. Marcos then went on to serve out victory in the ninth game, finishing with his 15th ace.
“I had a not so good first round match. I had to fight out there. I won that one today. With my coach, I think we put a great tactic in place and it worked pretty well,” reflected Marcos afterward. “I just won a great match today. I played really good. [I’ll] go talk with my coach about what I did well, what I have to improve, then start talking about Melzer tomorrow.”
Standing between Marcos and a place in the fourth round of the Australian Open is World No. 11 Jurgen Melzer; the two will clash for the first time on Saturday evening in Melbourne.
The 11th-seeded Melzer is yet to drop a set after defeating Vincent Millot and Pere Riba in the first two rounds and has matched his best performance at the Australian Open by reaching the third round for the fourth time.
The 29-year-old Melzer made significant strides up both the singles and doubles rankings in a career-best 2010 for the Austrian. He reached his first Grand Slam singles semi-final at Roland Garros and clinched the Wimbledon doubles crown with German Philipp Petzschner. The left-hander also captured his hometown title in Vienna for the second year in a row.
The match will take place on Hisense Arena, beginning at 7pm local time (8am GMT, 10am Cyprus, 3am ET). Check out the full order of play here. If you are heading to Melbourne Park on Saturday, make sure you continue to give Marcos plenty of support!
the question is how seriously Marcos will do his job today as he needs to play his best tennis ever and to dig very deep to reach the fourth round.
i saw Melzer in Barcelona last April (photos) and i was not impressed with him back then. can't say the same thing, though, when i saw him at Bercy two months ago (kinda short report here, we were not allowed to take photos )... the guy was killing Ferrer without batting an eyelash. have to admit though that Ferrer, coming from the Valencia win looked somehow vulnerable, still he was playing with passion and fire... perhaps my best experience with professional tennis in person that match... well along with that one between Muzza and Nalby (here), at Bercy as well...
Jurgen Melzer's late career surge continued in fine fashion on Saturday, when he knocked Marcos Baghdatis around until the popular Cypriot retired with a 6-7 (5) 6-2, 6-1 4-3 with a right finger injury.
Before Baghdatis retired, Melzer managed to rip 39 winners and won 26 of 45 points at the net. It's the first time that the 29-year-old Austrian has reached the fourth round of the Australian Open.
The popular Baghdatis said that the he suffered a right pinkie injury and "felt electricity going through my hand" to the point where he could no longer play. "I'm very disappointed," said Australian Open 2006 finalist Baghdatis. "I was playing really good, thought I could win this match and wanted to get into the second week and play Andy Murray."
However, Melzer was pleased with the way he stayed on top of the ball in the final three sets, dictating his big forehand, serving well and taking over the net.
"Well, the first set was probably one of the worst sets I've played in a while. I think the level wasn't really high. Felt like I made millions of unforced errors," he said. "He played well in the beginning of the second, then it felt like he -- I mean, at that time I felt like he wasn't hurt. But he let loose for two games actually and let me back into that set. From that point on, I felt like, okay, my game is getting better, I can go closer to the lines, go with more speed without making too many errors. I felt like I was in control of the match from that point on. "
Melzer has had the best year of his up and down career in 2010, reaching his first Grand Slam semifinal at Roland Garros when he came back from a two-sets-to-love and 0-2 deficit and took out Novak Djokovic 3-6, 2-6, 6-2, 7-6(3), 6-4 in quarters before falling to Rafa Nadal in the semis. He reached the fourth round of the US Open for the fist time and at the ATP Masters 1000 Shanghai, the powerful lefthander upset No.1 Rafa Nadal. Then, as the top seed and defending champion in Vienna, he held on to his trophy.
With the victory over Baghdatis, the 11th-ranked Melzer will crack the top 10 for the first time, but wants to focus on the fifth seed Andy Murray
"It is a big accomplishment," he said. "But I'm still in the tournament. It's great to be there. Murray is great. He has his great defending skills. It's like two game plans completely different meeting each other. He killed me once here. But the other matches were all close. I was very close once beating him at the US Open when he made his run to the finals there. I think it's more a question of how I get my game together. I'm going to be the one dictating what's going to happen. If I keep my unforced errors low, push him around, I'll get my winners, I think I have a chance to beat him."
Murray called Melzer unpredictable and a risk taker, but said the Austrian has improved.
" The older he got, he's started to play better," Murray said. "He's started to understand his game better. It will be a tough match."
Marcos was forced to retire from his third-round clash with Jurgen Melzer at the Australian Open on Saturday evening, suffering from an injury to the little finger on his right hand.
Marcos said he had been suffering with the injury throughout the week and, unfortunately, it flared up again in the late stages of the first set against Melzer. Marcos had recovered from a break down in the opener and went on to clinch it on a tie-break.
However, after Marcos had gone up a break in the second set, courtesy of eight terrific points, the injury began to take its toll and Melzer had hit back to race into a 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-1, 4-3 lead when Marcos was forced to concede.
"I got broken (in the second set) because the pain started to increase and I missed three forehands that game," said Marcos. "I started making so many unforced errors and kept thinking about the injury. Whenever I hit it, it felt like electricity in the joint. I was playing great tennis and feeling really good, I was confident. It is disappointing to finish this way."
Update: Marcos had been feeling pain in the little finger on his right hand all week and it flared up again late in the first set. "I got broken (in the second set) because the pain started to increase and I missed three forehands that game. I started making so many unforced errors and kept thinking about the injury. Whenever I hit it it felt like electricity in the joint. It is disappointing to finish this way."
( 5 hours ago )
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