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Melbourne Highlights - Day 3

by Alexandra Willis
Wednesday 18 January 2012

Buying a ticket for a Grand Slam match is always a little bit like a lottery. You never quite know who you are going to end up with, how long you will be there, and what you will see. Wednesday at Melbourne Park was one of the quicker days.

The spectators on Rod Laver Arena, for example, had barely sat down before the first two matches of the day were already over. The short straw of the draw, you might say.

So overwhelming, so dominant, were Li Na and Kim Clijsters, last year's finalists, in their second round matches, they were both back in the locker-room within an hour and 49 minutes.

Li, first, facing Australian wild card Olivia Rogowska, took an hour and two minutes to make it into the third round, followed by Clijsters, taking on Stephanie Foretz Gacon, who took 47 minutes to make the same stage. Terrifying.

But the ladies were trumped by a certain Roger Federer, who didn't need to play a second's competitive action to advance to round three, gifted a walkover by Andreas Beck.

Rafael Nadal, the 2010 champion, was in similarly dominant form. He saw off Tommy Haas 6-4, 6-3, 6-4, admittedly not has quickly as Novak Djokovic did yesterday, but still, tidily.

Tomas Berdych, commencing on Hisense Arena, also wasted little time, taking just a shade under two hours to see off Olivier Rochus. Jelena Jankovic followed, whirling past Kai-Chen Chang in an hour and a half. And then came Caroline Wozniacki, a rather longer hour and 49 minutes as she came through in two against Georgia's Anna Tatishvili.

Other easy winners? Juan Martin del Potro, Julia Goerges, Alejandro Falla. Yes, Wednesday was `don't wait around day’.

But then there is the match that changes all that. And this one took place on Margaret Court Arena. John Isner, a fair to middling performer on big match occasions, against David Nalbandian, the ultimate performer on big match occasions.

How many years Nalbandian has left in him remains a pertinent question. A little bit like Lleyton Hewitt, there remains the sense that another match might just do him in. But it was him that took the lead against Isner, first by a set, then two sets to one, and all the way through the fourth.

But Nalbandian has a thing for five-setters. He is drawn to them like a magnet on a fridge. Isner won the fourth, sending the ecstatic MCA crowd into a fifth.

With no tie-break set in the fifth, there were fears, or amongst some, hopes, that this match could go some way toward's the American's 70-68 Wimbledon epic. Not quite.

Despite looking the more hobbled, Isner triumphed, 10-8 in the fifth.

"It was a lot of fun," Isner said. "Very similar to my match here last year where I lost 9-7 in the fifth on the same court. I told myself I didn't want to repeat that effort. I wanted to actually win that one. It felt really, really good to win it."

A day and night of contrasts, therefore. And that's tennis.

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Congratulations to Ross Hutchins and Colin Fleming, through to the second round after defeating Ryan Harrison and Ryan Sweeting 7-5, 7-6(2). The British duo made the quarter-finals at Wimbledon and the US Open, so certainly have their sights set on big things.

Bernard Tomic, meanwhile, proved to be a miracle-worker once again, coming from a set behind against Sam Querrey to prevail 3-6, 6-3, 7-6, 6-3. "I think I was guessing the wrong way in the first set, and second set I started guessing the right way," Tomic said. "To win the second and play well and come back from another set behind was really good." His next opponent is Alexandr Dolgopolov.

But, for the fans, there was entertainment right to the last as Marcos Baghdatis and Stanislas Wawrinka hurled themselves around Margaret Court Arena. The Swiss took the first two sets as the Cypriot smashed four rackets, and then broke at the crucial juncture to lead 5-4 in the third and serve for the match.

But, cheered on by the numerate Cypriot fanbase, Baghdatis broke straight back and took the third set. There was to be no fairytale though, Wawrinka turning up the heat to prevail in four. What a match.

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Talk of the press room was Caroline Wozniacki, almost forced to come to press in just her towel after losing her bag inside the bowels of Melbourne Park. The Dane had gone for a bit of extra practice after coming through in straight sets against Anna Tatishvili, headed back to the locker-room, and then couldn't find her bag anywhere.

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


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