Underwear and Pressure at the Australian Open

Sports News - January 23, 2010

The mystery has been solved. Venus Williams was wearing underwear at the Australian Open but you had to look pretty close to see it because it matched the color of her skin as you can see here. It was rather risqué. I like it. Now on to more important things.

Nikolay Davydenko of Russia

The last time Nikolay Davydenko reached a quarterfinal at a slam was 2007 so I was a bit surprised to see him take the first two sets against Fernando Verdasco in their fourth round match. Kolya won the year end championships last year but all the top players are usually so exhausted by then I didn’t think much of it. Plus I figured they must have poured honey over the courts in London or something similarly sticky for them to be slow enough for Kolya to beat Soderling, Federer, and Del Potro all in one go.

Kolya beat Federer again in Doha this month and I didn’t think much of that either as it was Federer’s first full tournament of the year. He beat Nadal in the Doha final but I figured he’d melt when faced with a tough fifth setter in the Melbourne summer heat. And he nearly did.

Kolya gave up a break to Verdasco in the third set and he looked like he was wiped out. He was hitting easy balls into the net and looked disorganized physically. Lucky for him Verdasco started feeling the pressure.

After winning the third set, Verdasco hit a double double to give a break back and his second serves were sailing dangerously close to the baseline. To his credit, he righted himself by going for big serves instead of pulling back – otherwise known as choking or taking your foot off the pedal or whatever it was I did on Saturday when I double faulted away a chance to reach a second set tiebreaker in the first round of the San Fernando Valley Championships. You may have heard of it.

Verdasco won the fourth set but gave up a break in the fifth and Kolya, the least shaky player of the two, is on to the quarterfinals. I’m still not on the Kolya bandwagon, I still expect him to melt against the top power guys, but I am curious to know what is responsible for his current burst of success. I mean he still looks like the same 150lb (68kg) runt to me so what’s the difference?

Justine Henin

Justine Henin said she was inspired to come back by Kim Clijsters’ U.S. Open win. Inspiration is one way to put it. Cijsters went into the U.S. Open only seven matches into her second career and came away with her second slam title. Easy pickings is another way to put it. Henin’s eyes must have bugged out at the huge opportunity that is the current WTA Tour.

I could also imagine Henin’s mind refusing to let Clijsters get one over on her. They both reached their first slam final in 2001 and their careers are inextricably linked as two Belgian players – one a hard nosed champion and the other beloved but, let’s say, less skilled in the face of pressure.

And that’s how it’s playing out in Melbourne. Clijsters suffered her most lopsided defeat ever in the third round while Henin keeps coming from behind and is now into the semifinals. I’m definitely on Henin’s bandwagon and I’m betting heavily that Clijsters will be the first of the two to retire a second time. And if anyone from Belgium wins a slam in the next few years, it’ll be Henin or Yanina Wickmayer, not Clijsters.

See you after I figure out whether Marin Cilic can close out this match with Andy Roddick and reach his first slam semifinal. By the way, did you know that Cilic’s middle name is County?