Our highlights reel of all the action from the eleventh day of the 2012 Australian Open
Match of the day
Rafael Nadal d. Roger Federer
It was not a classic of the kind witnessed on this court three years ago, when they contested five gut-wrenching sets, or of the two five-set Wimbledon finals. But the 27th episode of the Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal rivalry made for compelling viewing on Thursday night. With every seat inside Rod Laver Arena occupied by a bottom, the crowd flitting from Federer to Nadal depending on the ebb and flow of the match, the two great rivals produced some of the best tennis seen all tournament.
Federer grabbed the early momentum, breaking to begin, and snaffling the first set on a tie-break. But Nadal came roaring back, storming through the second set 6-2 (aided by the fireworks break), and recovering an early break in the third. Neck and neck throughout the third set, Nadal moved up a gear again in the tie-break, eventually taking it on his fifth set point.
Into a fourth set, and the wheels of the Federer express looked ever so slightly unstable, Nadal pressing, Federer retreating, until the Spaniard made the crucial break to lead 5-4 and serve it out. Federer had two break back points in that game, but in the end it was all Nadal, leaping, fistpumping and yelling as he achieved his 18th win over his great rival.
Maria Sharapova was ‘meant’ to win the Wimbledon final last year, a win that would have confirmed her return to the top of the game. But a 21-year-old lefty by the name of Petra Kvitova beat her to it, and in straight sets too, with one of the most accomplished first-slam wins we’ve seen in a long while.
It looked like the Czech might do the same thing again, albeit after rallying from a set down, when she lead Sharapova by a break in the third set of their semi-final. But the Russian came screeching back, literally, winning through 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, four years after lifting the trophy on the same court.
Coming of age?
Victoria Azarenka may finally be realising the potential many have seen in her for so long, producing an impressively composed performance to see off Kim Clijsters in three sets 6-4, 1-6, 6-3, and reach her first grand slam singles final. Azarenka’s movement was particularly impressive, the benefits of a sterling off-season brought to the fore, as was her general level and execution. Can she do what she needs to to become Belaurus’s first female grand slam champion?
A gracious exit
Kim Clijsters may well have hit her last ball at Melbourne Park after going down in three sets to Victoria Azarenka in the semi-finals. Playing every ball as if it were her last, ‘Kimpossible’ recovered from dropping the first set 4-6 to Victoria Azarenka to blister ahead 3-0 in the second, taking the set 6-1. But the defending champ couldn’t keep the momentum, despite resurrecting two breaks of serve in the third, and sent Azarenka’s second match point ballooning past the tramlines.
But, as she said in her press afterwards, although she was disappointed, she had given 200 per cent. Given her wobbly ankle as well, what she achieved this week remains pretty extraordinary. She will be missed in Melbourne.
Quote of the day
“Before I think you all thought I was a mental case.”
Victoria Azarenka produces some winning charm on court
Stat of the day
When Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have split sets in a best-of-five-set match, the winner of the third set has gone on to win the match eight times out of eight.
2hrs 12 mins
By bizarre quirk of fate, both women’s semi-finals, both three-setters, took exactly the same amount of time.
5 hrs 13 mins
Difference in time spent on court between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal ahead of their semi-final. Rafa longer, naturally.
Roger Federer. The world number three spent the night before his semi-final having a quiet bite at the famous Rockpool restaurant, renowned for its steaks.
Nike tennis’s twitter account getting a little confused. They referred to Petra Kvitova as Petrova. Whoops.
Australia Day. Classic car show, the Australian Red Arrows, fireworks, and lots and lots of flags. Bonza, mate.
Congratulations to the ‘quadfather’ Peter Norfolk, and Andy Lapthorne, who claimed the quad wheelchair doubles title, while Liam Broady and Josh Ward-Hibbert are through to the boys’ doubles final.
But farewell from the boys’ singles to Ward-Hibbert and Kyle Edmund, who both lost their junior quarter-finals today. Onto the next one…
And, non-Australian Open related, but good luck to Britain’s Fed Cup team, who journeyed to Eilat in Israel today, stocked up on chocolate cake after a birthday dinner for Laura Robson at Annie’s in Barnes, one of the editor’s favourites…
Come back tomorrow for
Andy Murray v Novak Djokovic, the night match on Rod Laver Arena.
The women’s doubles final, between Italians Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci against Russians Svetlana Kuznetsova and Vera Zvonareva.
Lots of wheelchair matches
And lots of juniors