By Jane Voigt
As tennis fans excitedly wait for Wednesday matches at The Australian Open, which headline three American women in the quarterfinals, and the 2014 men’s champion attempting to push his way to the semifinals, here are a couple observations about yesterday’s clashes.
Ekaterina Makarova (No. 10) defeated Simona Halep (No. 3), 64 60
Simona Halep was expected to whisk away any assaults Makarova mounted, in the first match of the night on Rod Laver Arena. But as the score indicates, Halep missed her mark. She began sluggishly, which isn’t unusual for the Romanian. Within a couple games she straightens out and hits beautifully placed shots with alacrity. Mind you, Makarova is no pushover but goes unnoticed. She’s not flashy; she has no presence on social media and she’s shy. She doesn’t like or want attention. She has spent much of career cultivating a belief in her game. But after last year’s performances at the four Majors, she has begun to trust herself on court. That trust and efficient use of her left-handed campaign against Halep landed her in the second consecutive Grand Slam semifinal, where she’ll meet Maria Sharapova (No. 2 seed).
Halep deserved to lose. As the first set wore on and her errors mounted, Lindsay Davenport, calling the match for Tennis Channel, mentioned Halep’s attitude. Davenport is an even-handed tennis commentator with keen observations. As set two progressed, she came close to labeling her behavior as tanking. As serious offense that’s almost impossible to prove, unless the player tells the press, Halep hurried from point to point. Her strategies and tactics didn’t change. She didn’t dig in. She didn’t seem to try. Davenport was ‘surprised that Halep would waste’ a quarterfinal match.
Halep’s disregard for the fans on hand and the millions of people watching around the world was uncalled for. She will be remembered for this, which in a blossoming career is a negative mark.
“Sometimes you cannot manage the situation,” Halep began. “I tried. I did everything I could this match. But, you know, just mentally because during the points maybe I didn’t fight very well today. I just lost my concentrate to win the points to win the match. So I didn’t believe any more in second set, and that’s why I lost 6-0.”
Maria Sharapova (No. 2) defeated Eugenie Bouchard (No.7), 63 62
Sharapova whipped balls at Bouchard, as the players warmed up, laying the ground for what might have been called a champion’s attitude but was only camouflage for entitlement and derision.
Bouchard’s face and gestures reflected annoyance, from the first ball struck. The 20-year-old Canadian, who busted on the tennis scene last year at this slam going all the way to the semifinal, mesmerized the game. She ended the year with the best slam record: semifinals of Roland Garros, runner-up at Wimbledon, and the fourth round of The U. S. Open.
But for Bouchard, nothing is good enough.
“I’m never happy with losing,” she said. “I wanted to obviously win today, win the tournament. But, you know, I feel like I dealt with, yeah, pressure, outside expectations well. But, yeah, you know, I always want to do better, especially [better] than the year before. I’m always trying to aim for that.”
There’s nothing wrong her goals; she’s driven to improve and comes down hard on herself when she doesn’t. She has told the press that she’s been like this all her life, a perfectionist that constantly strives for more.
The point is she ran into a player better than her, who can hang with balls picked up early and flung back with intensity. Bouchard’s strategy is simple … stand on the baseline, connect with the ball early, attack short balls. However her technique hasn’t quite caught up with her expectations. The strategy is a risky one. Any feelings of pressure or nerves can throw off execution, which it did. She ended the match with 30 unforced error compared to 13 winners.
Sharapova isn’t the warmest of players. Add the screeching, and her overall likeability dips to zero. She, like Bouchard, is single minded. They want Grand Slam titles. After the end of the match, Bouchard grabbed Sharapova’s hand in a perfunctory handshake, looking away as if bothered by the tradition, Maria, herself, the tournament. Sportsmanship was neither woman’s strong suit, which was difficult to witness.
Nick Kyrgios’s Mouth
The Australian teen should have been thrown off court during his fourth-round match against against Andreas Seppi. But Chair-umpire Fergus Murphy either had cotton in his ears or wasn’t about to anger the 10,000 fans inside Hisense Arena. Anyone within a couple feet of the kid heard the litany of ‘eff this’ and ‘eff that.’ On and on it went. The rants were loud enough that microphones positioned around the court broadcast them to millions of viewers. There was no delay.
He continued the behavior in his loss to Andy Murray. That chair-umpire never lowered the boom either. According to the International Tennis Federation, the governing body that oversees Grand Slam protocol, the chair-umpire’s ‘primary responsibility is for the enforcement of the Code of Conduct, during a match.’ Code violations should be given for ‘loud, profane or abusive language’. The first is a warning, the second is a point penalty, the third is a game penalty. With the number of f-bombs Nick uttered, he should have been disqualified early in the matches.