Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Aussie Open Day 9: Murray Romps Rafa, Cilic Fights off A-Rod, Zheng, Henin to Meet in Semis

Let me start by saying HAPPY AUSTRALIA DAY to all of those down under.
As good as Andy Murray has looked at this year's Australian Open, it was hard to see him playing at an even higher level, but the Scot did just that Monday night, as he used a perfect balance of offense and defense to pulverize Rafael Nadal. The 5th seeded Murray clicked on all cylinders in the 1st set, winning it 6-3 before Rafa turned it up a notch and took the 2nd set to a tiebreak. After that, things were only negative. The Spaniard was pushed around in the breaker, losing it 7-2. In the 3rd set, Murray jumped out to a 3-0 lead before the same injury that forced Nadal out of the 2009 Wimbledon Championships returned. The world number 2's famed knee tendinitis forced him to retire from the match at 3-6, 6-7 (2), 0-3.
Let's all pray that this injury doesn't hinder Rafa for long. He looked like he was ready to return to his summer 2008 form. What a bummer.
Justine Henin reached the semifinals after she successfully kept her title hopes alive with a straight-set win over Nadia Petrova. At times we saw the old Petrova, the head cased one that over-hits her shots at unnecessary times, but overall, both ladies were playing high-level tennis, and it was Justine that had the fire lit within her. The Belgian told the press, "I think it (the Australian Open) was the best place for me to start again. So it’s just great. Here in Australia I had different feelings in the past. But for me, I mean, when I lost to Sharapova, it was a difficult moment in my career. When I had to retire in the final in 2006, it was one of the worst moments of my career. But I just keep positive things."

The other men's semifinal, between Marin Cilic and Andy Roddick, had plenty of momentum changes, but it was the 6'6 Croatian who rode the final wave of confidence, outlasting Roddick in 5 sets to reach his 1st Grand Slam semi and win his 3rd 5 setter of the tournament. Cilic hit 63 winners and 20 aces, outplaying Roddick in both categories by 12 and 5 respectively. The American was complimentary of his younger opponent afterwards, stating that, "He keeps it together real well. Unlike a lot of the young guys who are very emotionally up and down, he doesn’t beat on his chest, he stays the course, he’s very deliberate, he hits the ball very well. Doesn’t give an inch on the baseline. He literally sets up shop right behind the baseline and isn’t going to be moved."
Wonder if Marin will be able to recover in time to play his semifinal match vs. Murray.

The most under-the-radar of the remaining contenders in men's and women's singles is Jie Zheng, but 5'5 Chinese didn't play like it on Monday. Her on-point shot placement and great movement caused problems for her Russian opponent, Maria Kirilenko, as Zheng dominated for a 6-1, 6-3 win. This is her 2nd GS semifinal appearance, and her compatriot, Li Na, will have a chance to join her in the final 4 tomorrow. After the match, Zheng told the press of her admiration for her semifinal opponent, Justine Henin, saying "Yeah, first of all, I favor her for her is have the so strong the mentally. I watch her play always ‑ how you say ‑ enjoy to watch her for play. For second I think is tough match for me, is big challenge. But I like it. I want do something, yeah"

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