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Members box at the Sydney Cricket Ground – another one off the “To Do List”!

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The Underdog

After commenting on the 2 ‘enfants terribles’ of Australian tennis I spent 4 hours 50 minutes today watching a truly amazing tennis match. Novak Djokovic, number 2 in the world and 6 time Australian Open champion, playing Dennis Istomin, number 117 in the world from Uzbekistan.

The first game, on Djokovic’s serve, lasted 15 minutes and from then it was a wonderful game of tennis. Istomin won the first set on a tie-breaker, 7-6, but yet you felt it was just a matter of time before Djokovic stepped up and Istomin’s level dropped. Istomin had 2 set points in the second set but Djokovic prevailed and when he won the third set 6-2 the writing was on the wall. But the underdog was not finished. He kept up the pressure and scraped through the fourth set tie break, again 7-6.

Surely Djokovic would now step up. But Istomin would have none of it and after breaking Djokovic’s serve he kept his head and finally served out the match to win the fifth set 6-4. Fortunately he won the first couple of points in the final game so the nerves didn’t have time take hold. It was undoubtedly the biggest win of his career. In the immediate post match interview he thanked his team and his Mum………

Sport always has a way of throwing up surprises. Djokovic was very graceful in defeat and at his post match interview said how well his opponent had played. Djokovic certainly tried his hardest, up to the last point, but on the day Istomin was the better player, but not by much.

Thank goodness for the underdogs and giant killers who make us realise that anything is possible…that we should always dream of the impossible……and thank you Denis Istomin for making my day……..

Wasted Talent

I watched two very talented players at the Australian Open yesterday. As it happens both are Australian – Bernard Tomic and Nick Kyrgios. Both are young, 24 and 21 respectively, have great ability with booming serves and are ranked within the top 30 players in the world. Yet when you watched their matches somehow it seemed that both players were a little bored with the whole affair and not putting in 100%. Both have had past issues with ‘tanking’ i.e. giving up, and despite their talent have achieved more notoriety than comment about their ability.

When I turned on the television to watch Kyrgios he was just losing the fourth set to Andreas Seppi, his opponent. He had already had two code violations and he just seemed to unravel. His serve got him out of trouble again and again but he wasn’t fighting, it seemed that he expected to win without having to do too much. His opponent on the other hand played amazingly well given that the partisan crowd were naturally vociferously supporting the Australian, and chased down every ball.

At one point, with Seppi serving for the match, Kyrgios played a ‘tweener’ hitting the ball between his legs. He did break Seppi’s serve in that game but you had to wonder why he would play such a risky shot at such a crucial moment. He conjured up a match point but it was no surprise that Seppi came back at him and eventually took out the match 10-8 in the fifth set. Seppi absolutely deserved the win, Kyrgios needs go away and work out whether he wants to be a professional tennis player. Even the partisan crowd booed him at the end; being a talented joker can be fun but even the best supporters will not stand for a lack of effort if you end up losing the match.

Tomic’s match wasn’t quite the same but he nearly managed to turn a comfortable winning position into a loss. His booming serve was too much for Victor Estrella Burgos his 36 year old opponent, who was the first Dominican to break into the top 100 rankings. It was like a middleweight going up against a heavyweight and despite Burgos chasing down every ball, and playing as though his life depended on it, you felt he had to lose in three straight sets. But no, Tomic marched routinely through his service games but then could not really be bothered to put himself out too much to challenge his opponent’s serve. His footwork was sluggish and he simply expected to cruise to victory.

Amazingly Burgos managed to win the third set. The look of delight on his face, and no little pride, quite made my day. He had worked so hard and thoroughly deserved his moment of triumph. A match Tomic should have breezed through was now not so straightforward. Although Burgos did have chances to take the match into a fifth set unfortunately he fell just short. A fifth set would have been very interesting as Tomic was showing signs of a lack of fitness.

I am sure there may be factors surrounding Tomic and Kyrgios off court that I am not aware of. However, I think every professional has an obligation to turn up and commit 100% to trying to win each match. Both these players show a curious lack of respect to the watching public, even in their own grand slam tournament, and I really don’t see how they will rise any further in the ranking without more application. Remember Tomic is the individual who played a match point against him by turning the racket round and trying to return the ball with the racket handle. When questioned by a reporter why had ‘tanked’ the match he had the gall to answer, ‘I don’t care about that match point. Would you care if you were 23 and worth over $ 10 million’.

I will always remember Victor Estrella Burgos. A journeyman professional who has absolutely made the most of his ability, plays the game with pride, and is a credit to himself and his family. I am afraid I can’t say the same for Tomic and Kyrgios.