Monday, 13 January 2014

Stan's the Man

Another year had passed and Hisense Arena was still here to entertain us with tennis on Day One of the Australian Open - the 2014 version.

I mistakenly was organised and arrived early and found my seat in time to catch the finalities of practice on the court and to survive the panic of no internet connection, the latter which I solved due to my extensive technical savvy and the ability to shut my iPad down down before rebooting.

The first course of my extensive meal of tennis over the next fortnight consisted on the one hand of a Swiss concoction known as the Wawrinka - seeded for extra bite and highly ranked amongst the world's delicacies.
Matching it with the Wawrinka would be a dish with a taste not so immediately discernible to the eating public - the lesser known Andrey Golubev is a favourite of Kazakhstan and has been for a number of years, but not as internationally popular on the dining circuit.

Stanislas Wawrinka will be remembered fondly by Australians for his wonderful five set matches against Novak Djokovic in 2013, here in the fourth round where he took eventual champ Djokovic to 12-10 in the decider, and in the US Open semis where Stan actually led 2 sets to one before falling achingly short.

The first 3 games gave us nothing more than a continuation of the warm up with no imagination shown by either player and I remember applauding about 3 or 4 shots.  Wawrinka certainly did not appear to have the sharpness of a number 8 seed as he consistently allowed Golbev to stay in rallies.  Mistakes often determined points.

Stan upped the ante in the fourth game as his lethargy fell away revealing a purposeful player.  A forehand cross court winner and a forehand put away off an excellent serve highlighted the new approach from the Swiss star.
While Stan began to find his touch, Andrey began finding the net - repeatedly.  So much so that it brought up the first break points of the match in the fifth game, one of which Wawrinka used to his benefit to take a 3-2 lead and the mental edge, says me with my wealth of inexperience in the area of psychoanalysis.

Stan rolled on, varying his game and not staying stuck at the baseline as he was in the early stages, and this frustrated Andrey who could not effect a sequence of shots to hurt Wawrinka.  Another service break brought the predicable medical time out for the Kazakhstan world number 84 who needed a momentum breaker more than anything else, and perhaps the medico may have had an idea or two for Andrey to employ once the massage was complete.

Well as it often does, the break served Golubev well.  Serving for the set at 5-2 Stan's backhand suddenly had more holes than a slice of his nation's cheese.  The loose game and resultant break of serve revitalised Golubev who added another dimension to his game with a couple of down the line forehand winners to close up the set to 4-5.
Wawrinka steadied and serving to win the set for a second time managed to do it without the loss of a point and showed how his backhand can work when employed properly.
The second set began scrappily as to mirror the one before, and maintaining the symmetry Andrey won the opening game - to be more accurate, Stan donated the first game in a fit of generosity, dispensing of a load of unforced errors for which he had no future use.
Next we saw the best of the eighth seed as he served masterfully, volleyed with aplomb, and levelled the set, once more surrendering no points on his delivery.  Not content with displaying skills on service, the returning prowess came to the fore with a forehand catching Andrey completely by surprise as he came towards the net for the first time I believe since the toss, and then with a delightful down the line pass to bring us to break point, subsequently converted.

Golubev was done and dusted now, and despite fighting hard in the fifth game saving three break points, he couldn't stop the flood from breaking the levee and at 4-6 1-4 he surrendered the match due to injury.

Disappointment for Andrey Golubev in that he had an injury, but he was never going to win this match with so many less lethal weapons in his armoury than the Swiss Guard.  Given the oppressive heat predicted to play a part in this years event, Stan will have been pleased to be off the court and into round two with just under two sets of sweat leaving his body.

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