Day Three at the Australian Open produced some upsets with 10th seeded Argentine David Nalbandian blowing a two sets to one lead bowing out in five to Lu Yen-Hsun.
It also saw the great comeback story of Jelena Dokic continue with the 25 year-old now representing Australia and getting plenty of love at Rod Laver winning her second consecutive three set match upsetting 17th ranked Russian Anna Chakvetadze 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-3. She advanced to a third round meeting against another seed No.11 Caroline Wozniacki, who prevailed over Virginia Ruano Pascual 6-3, 6-3.
Using powerful groundstrokes which once saw her make the Wimbledon semis and climb all the way to No.4 in the world, the resilient Dokic who’s overcome a battle with depression had enough firepower in her arsenal to put away Chakvetadze, who wouldn’t go away easily in spite of 16 double faults including back-to-back clinching the victory for the adopted Aussie.
After she wrapped up the opening set 6-4, Dokic twice was up a break on Chakvetadze including serving for the match but couldn’t finish off a feisty opponent who broke back and eventually pushed the second set into a tiebreak taking four of the last five points to force a deciding set.
Part of it was due to some nerves for Dokic, who hadn’t been in this position in quite some time due to difficult circumstances which almost made her quit tennis for good. Instead, here she was being pushed the limit due to some solid play from Chakvetadze, who came up with a huge forehand winner crosscourt and then following a Dokic return winner forced an error pumping her fist.
But instead of wilting like she had a few years earlier in a similar spot blowing match points before falling in three, Dokic focused harder breaking her opponent, who struggled on serve all day a couple of more times. She converted six of 15 opportunities including the final one which was giftwrapped by a devastated Chakvetadze who couldn’t deal with the pressure.
After fighting off a match point for Deuce, she doubled for a 15th time setting up another match point. This time, Dokic wouldn’t even need to put the ball back in play as the Russian misfired badly twice more netting the second allowing the Serb to emotionally raise her arms to loud cheers from the Rod Laver Arena crowd.
The successful result was significant as it allowed her to climb even further in the rankings and guarantee an automatic spot into the next grand slam in Paris. But for a player who’d been through so much stress off the court due to her demonstrative estranged father, Dokic who was reduced to tears a couple of days earlier about how huge a win the first round was sobbed into her towel afterwards.
These were tears of joy for a very deserving player who so far is making the most of a new life thanks to the support of her very loyal boyfriend of six years along with his brother who coaches her. They also were very emotional giving each other a bear hug.
This story is very special. Who knows how long it’ll last? Clearly, Dokic who hasn’t lost her talent will have her work cut out for her against the promising Wozniacki. A win could mean a Round of 16 date against last year’s runner-up Ana Ivanovic, whose play improved in Round Two easily dispatching of Alberta Brianti 6-3, 6-2.
The No.5 seeded Serbian next faces No.29 Russian Alisa Kleybanova who ousted Stephanie Cohen-Aloro in three sets.
In the other part of that section, 19th seeded Slovak Daniela Hantuchova will face No.15 Frenchwoman Alize Cornet next after prevailing in three over Mathilde Johansson 6-3, 4-6, 6-3. While the 2008 semifinalist needed three, Cornet cruised dropping just one game in a routine win over Andrea Petkovic.
Other seeded winners included top ranked Jelena Jankovic and Japanese vet Ai Sugiyama with the two squaring off in the third round.
It didn’t come as easy for No.3 seeded Dinara Safina who cameback from a set down to triumph over countrywoman Ekaterina Makarova 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-0. The younger sister of Marat Safin next gets Kaja Kanepi who was a straight set winner losing only four games.
Also making Round Three were Russians Vera Zvonareva and Nadia Petrova with neither dropping a set. They could face each other in Fourth Round.
One other player to keep an eye on is 21 year-old Czech Lucie Safarova whose best slam result came down under two years ago when she made the quarters. Following a first round in which she dropped only four games against vet Sybille Bammer, she went the distance literally needing nearly two and a half hours before advancing over Marina Erakovic 6-1, 3-6, 9-7. The final set took 73 minutes to complete.
Safarova will try to keep it going against former Wimbledon runner-up Marion Bartoli, who was a 7-5, 6-2 victor over Tsvetana Pironkova- best known for upsetting Venus Williams a couple of years earlier.
Speaking of Venus, she’ll be in action tomorrow along with younger sis Serena Williams as both look to advance into the third round. Russian contenders Elena Dementieva and Svetlana Kuznetsova also have second round matches.
American Andy Roddick elevated his game to oust Xavier Malisse on Day Three.
Roddick too tough for Malisse: Little did Andy Roddick know that his draw was becoming friendlier with Nalbandian unexpectedly exiting the earliest he has in the first slam in seven years.
While the 15 pounds lighter No.7 seeded American was elevating his level to comeback and dispose of wildcard Xavier Malisse 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (1), 6-2, amazing 36 year-old magician Fabrice Santoro cameback to defeat 32nd seeded German Philipp Kohlschreiber in five sets 5-7, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 6-3.
Instead of Andy having to beat a player he lost to last year, he’ll instead deal with Santoro’s tricks which were no problem for him at the U.S. Open last summer.
It’s worth noting that while Roddick’s second round triumph wasn’t easy against the streaky but talented Malisse, Santoro was suffering from severe cramps after his win needing to ice his legs while on the chair instead of celebrating.
For the American who hasn’t put himself in the serious running with top four favorites Roger Federer (easy Rd.2 winner), Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and defending champ Novak Djokovic (straight set win), he has a golden opportunity to make a deep run with Tommy Robredo or Lu waiting in the Round of 16.
Could a quarter date with Djokovic be on the horizon with No.3 seeded Serb a heavy favorite against young American Amer Delic, who needed five sets in upsetting Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu? It sure looks like it unless former 2006 runner-up Marcos Baghdatis spoils the party.
The talented yet streaky Cypriot who once trailed No.16 Robin Soderling by a set and two breaks sprung to life coming back to prevail in four sets 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-3 with some of those familiar big strokes of his on display while his hobbled opponent struggled due to blisters.
Baghdatis is a very streaky player and tonight got a boost from the crowd with many of his supporters urging him on. He found the range nailing timely aces and coming up with big shots from both sides of the racket even when Soderling was still pressing the action.
He’ll next meet 2008 U.S. Open quarterfinalist Mardy Fish who by admission is “streaky” and so far is on having posted a straight set win to setup an intriguing third round match-up. If the 27 year-old American serves big, he could get in the way of a potential Baghdatis-Djokovic clash.
Meanwhile, nothing will get in the way of a Federer-Safin third round match with the unpredictable Russian vet in fine form so far ousting Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in straights while the Federer Express cruised losing just six games while toying with Russian Evgeny Korolev.
Federer last met his former Australian conqueror last summer at Wimbledon where no matter how well Safin tried in his first ever semifinal appearance on grass, it didn’t matter because when the chips were down, Roger delivered.
At the very least with the unpredictable Safin, it should be entertaining.