© Ella Ling

Rafael Nadal

Australian Open diary: Easy does it for Team Rafa


Sometimes watching tennis can be tough for the entourages of the top players, from family and friends to coaches and agents. The nerves jangle and the finger-nails disappear as the double faults creep in or the unforced error count grows.

But when you are watching someone who has won stacks of grand slam titles in the early rounds, perhaps clearly the experience is a bit more comfortable. Certainly that was the case on Friday for Rafael Nadal’s support group as their man was marching to a 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Lukas Lacko of Slovakia.

With two sets in the bag and Nadal on cruise control, two of his team, including his manager Carlos Costa, popped out of the stadium for a cheeky cigarette. You can take the boys out of Spain, but…..

Poor Vera Zvonareva. The Russian’s profile in the sport has always been a bone of contention despite her achievements, including two grand slam final appearances in 2010. This time last year she was ranked No 2 and considered a genuine contender for the title.

Twelve months on and in her own words she is “flying under the radar”. Well, she’s so under the radar that even though Australian newspaper The Herald Sun is running a column by the Russian, written by her, they seem to be struggling to identify with their guest writer.

Under the headline “Vera Zvonareva feels she’s on the improve at Australian Open” (ignoring the horribly mangled English), The Herald Sun have a picture of Nadia Petrova.

Well, she’s also Russian and a tennis player – that will do, surely? Er, no.

Andy Murray was scheduled to practice at Melbourne Park on Friday but when fans, press and photographers turned up to see him, the world number four was conspicuous by his absence.

Was there an injury? Was he sick? No, it just turns out that the two-time Australian Open finalist has been practising at nearby Kooyong, where the tournament was played until 1987. It’s much quieter there, away from the crowds, which is just what Murray and his new coach Ivan Lendl want.

As Murray said: “I have been trying to spend as little time away from the courts as possible and conserve energy. (On Wednesday)  I practised and then spent most of the time in my room – I’d had a long match the day before. Hope there was something good on television.

Watching Marcos Baghdatis smash his four rackets the other night was great television but apart from the subject of fines and whether it really offers a good example to kids learning the sport, there was the other question: Why?

Ok, so he was angry but most players who smash rackets (take it from me) do it in the heat of the moment. Baggy walked to his chair, sat down calmly and only then did he proceed to obliterate four rackets, one after the other, nutter-style.

Well, those of you with keener eyes than me might have noticed the absence of a logo on any of those frames and, as Forbes reported, it turns out that Technifibre parted company with the Cypriot in December. I don’t know if breaking your own rackets could be construed as revenge but I bet it felt good.

As Jimmy Connors said, via Twitter: “Baghdatis is my new hero. Finally some emotion out there!”