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Melbourne Highlights - Day 2

by Alexandra Willis
Tuesday 17 January 2012

Two matches, two very different results. There is a lot to liken between Andy Murray and Sam Stosur. Both are among the fittest tennis players on the tour. Both are dogged by high expectations, both have struggled with what's going on upstairs, and both feel that they are yet to produce their very best. Even beating Serena Williams to win the US Open, was, Stosur says, not the best she can play.

But from there, the similarities ended on day two of the Australian Open. For one player, joy and jubliation. For the other, desperate disappointment.

It seemed to all be going so well for Stosur. She lead early on against Romanian Sorana Cirstea, a player who has long been thought of as a future star, only to have gotten a little lost along the way these past two years.

But despite the early promise – Stosur looking in sublime physical fitness after a hard-working off season – she found herself in a tie-break. And that's when it all went wrong.

"When anyone's nervous, I think the first thing that goes is your footwork. You don't move your feet as well. Once that breaks down, it's easy for other things to start breaking down," she revealed afterwards.

Losing the tie-break by a mountain rather than a molehill as Cirstea took it 7-2, Stosur unravelled even further in the second set, looking lost rather than at home on Rod Laver Arena. Succumbing 6-7(2), 3-6, Stosur was sent packing in the first round of her home Grand Slam, following in the foosteps of Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, who lose in the first round of the US Open.

"It was one of those matches where I wasn't taking charge. She was playing super aggressive, I think she played a very, very good match. You have to give credit where credit's due. I didn't play as well as I needed to."

By contrast, whereas Stosur started well and ended badly, Murray started badly and ended well. Taking on precocious teen Ryan Harrison, a self-identified star of the future, Murray found himself being out-hit and out-thunk, not a position he likes to be in.

But, and perhaps these are the first signs of new coach Mr Lendl's impact, Murray was not swishing and swatting too angrily, or muttering and moaning. He was exceedingly calm. Biding his time, you could say.

Harrison, as you might expect, is not as fit as Murray, and as the games turned to sets, he simply couldn't keep it up. Combine that with a noticeable improvement in his shot-making, and in the end he required just four breaks of serve to take the win, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.

"I thought he was good," Murray said of Harrison. "He serves well, he's quick, he does everything pretty solid. Once I started moving better I played better. Last few sets were good."

Let the expectation continue.

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If Australia needed a boost, they got one later on in the day, Lleyton Hewitt pulling off a thrilling 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 win against Cedrik-Marcel Stebe. The veteran Aussie, rather akin to late-night five-set torture, was on inspired form for the first two sets, dipped in the third, and then produced a remarkable comeback in the fourth, recovering from 1-5 to take home the win. Life in the old dog yet, literally.

Perhaps the most deserving win of the day went to Frenchman Nicolas Mahut, the beleaguered participant on the wrong end of the record-breaking match at Wimbledon in 2010. Mahut saw off 29th seed Radek Stepanek in straight sets.

Meanwhile there were quick-step wins for, among others, Novak Djokovic, Petra Kvitova, Maria Sharapova and Andy Roddick.

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Talk of the press room was former Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander, who it was revealed had been rushed to hospital after lacerating his kidney during a fall in his hotel. We wish him a speedy recovery.

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For all the reports and results from the second day at Melbourne Park, visit the Official Australian Open website


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