Down Under Diary, Day Seven
by Kate Flory|
Berdych Likes Being In Chasing Pack
World No. 6 Tomas Berdych may have been one of the hunted in the first week of the Australian Open, but come the second week, the Czech believes the tables have turned and now sees himself as one of the group of players looking to prevent a Nadal-Federer final.
Berdych is through to the Australian Open quarter-finals for the first time for the loss of just one set and believes he is playing well enough to embark on a run to his second major final, having reached the title match at Wimbledon last year (l. to Nadal).
“At Wimbledon I was riding a wave and beating guys one by one,” said Berdych, who next will face 2008 champion Novak Djokovic. “Now into the quarter-finals and I'm the one hunting the top players. I'm feeling confident so it could be really similar to my run at Wimbledon. I'm playing better and better, improving every match. Really looking forward to Djokovic. The attention is on Roger and Rafa; it could be an advantage for me."
Raonic Embraces Sense Of Belonging
Canadian qualifier Milos Raonic may have surprised fans by his run to the fourth round at Melbourne Park, but the 20 year old has certainly not shocked himself with his giant-killing run, including victory over World No. 10 Mikhail Youzhny on Saturday.
"I know I can play well and I know I can play at this level," said Raonic, who will tackle seventh-seeded Spaniard David Ferrer for a place in the quarter-finals. "I can't say I would be shocked if I wasn't here. But I'm not really shocked I am here. I have sort of an advantage of seeing them (the top players) play so many hours on TV. But also I feel like I have a big game, and I'm able to impose it even on the top players. So I feel this also has given me an advantage."
One aspect of the Montenegro-born Canadian’s game to impress the most has been his blistering serve. The right-hander, who grew up idolising Pete Sampras, has clocked the fastest serve of the tournament so far at 142.9 mph and leads the men’s field with 79 aces through his first three matches.
That could be a fact to play on for ESPN pundit and renowned coach Brad Gilbert, who is searching for a nickname for the fast-rising Raonic. Gilbert tweeted on Sunday: “Doing the young Canadian Milos v David Fererrrrr. Need a knickname for Milos, anyone got one? A good one and I'll use it tomorrow on air.” Answers on a postcard to @bgtennisnation, please!
Aussie Greats Applaud Tomic
Australian tennis legends Rod Laver and Roy Emerson have been full of praise for Bernard Tomic after his impressive showing against World No. 1 Rafael Nadal on Saturday evening, with Laver going so far as to suggest the 18 year old left Nadal feeling a “little embarrassed” at times.
“At 18 he's really showing a lot of class," said Laver. "I watched him play Nadal and he showed some good form all the way through. He wasn't embarrassed playing Nadal and I think Nadal was a little embarrassed with what Tomic had done to him."
Emerson added, “Nadal seemed to be a little worried, particularly in the second set with the change of pace that young Bernard was doing and it was upsetting the rhythm of Nadal. I think he has a great future and if he keeps in shape I can't see why he can't get in the Top 10 in a couple of years."
Current Australian No. 1 and two-time Grand Slam champion Lleyton Hewitt watched the encounter from the Channel 7 commentary booth and said, “He's got that 'bring it on' attitude. He handles himself extremely well and I sense he really enjoys the big matches. If you're going to be a champion, that's what you need."
Hewitt A Hit In Commentary
Hewitt may have suffered a heartbreaking first-round defeat at the hands of David Nalbandian, but the 2005 Australian Open runner-up has certainly found success in the commentary box for Channel 7.
The Daily Telegraph noted, “Hewitt joined Jim Courier and Bruce McAvaney in the Channel 7 commentary box on Friday night. While not everyone is a fan of his on-court antics, his special comments during Wawrinka's win over Monfils were a hit. Hewitt was particularly insightful, identifying Monfils' change of tactics as the Frenchman unsuccessfully adopted more of a serve-and-volley approach in the second set. McAvaney was clearly impressed. While on air, the veteran caller raised the possibility of Hewitt, who is a passionate Adelaide Crows fan, calling Friday night AFL games. Steady on, Bruce.”
Invaluable Experience For Mitchell
World No. 610 Ben Mitchell may have lost out in the first round of qualifying for the men’s main draw, but the Australian 18 year old, whose older brother, Luke, stars in Australian soap opera 'Home and Away', has been gaining invaluable experience hitting with the likes of Nadal, Djokovic and Robin Soderling.
“Mitchell, who was runner up at junior Wimbledon last year and trains at the AIS, said it had been a surreal experience to hit with Nadal,” writes the Sydney Morning Herald. “‘I was hitting really well out there, so it was really good experience,’ he said. ‘In practice, I think he hits a lot flatter than in actually matches, so he was hitting harder than a lot of the other players … if I ever get there it probably gives me a bit more confidence knowing that I've actually hit with him.’”
Speed Isn’t Everything
Ok, there’s one thing in tennis that Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer aren’t the best at. While the world’s Top 2 players can certainly pack a punch (Federer's fastest-ever serve speed is 135.5 mph, just edging Nadal's 135 mph), they aren’t among the fastest servers at this year’s Australian Open.
As already highlighted, Raonic has fired the quickest serve so far this year at Melbourne Park. The next four quickest have been American John Isner (141 mph), Andy Roddick (137.9 mph) and Australian Carsten Ball and Spain's Fernando Verdasco both with 137.3 mph. Among that group, only Raonic remains in contention.