Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Updated: January 19, 7:19 AM ET
Players rationalize racket rampages
By Ravi Ubha
MELBOURNE, Australia -- This is supposed to be the Happy Slam. Yet talk of a player strike, arguments with chair umpires and mangled rackets (that's you, Marcos Baghdatis) have altered the mood.
Here are five takeaways from Day 4, when Petra Kvitova struggled to survive and Novak Djokovic dominated again:
1. Racket rampage repercussions
Baghdatis lost to Stanislas Wawrinka on Wednesday night in a surprisingly underwhelming contest, but he sure made an impact. Baghdatis' mauling of four rackets during the defeat went viral.
On Thursday, multiple players were asked about racket smashing and offered up some interesting replies.
Djokovic: "I'm not doing it as often, which is good for my coach, good news. But when I have a smash of the racket, smack of the racket, I usually feel relieved afterwards. I feel that the pressure is out. But a bit embarrassed, as well. So I try to hold my composure."
Serena Williams: "I actually used to break a lot of rackets. I sometimes break them in practice, just not anymore. I can't necessarily go and say you shouldn't do that when I was actually someone that did it a lot. I got to a place where I could see how many places I could crack a racket. I got five."
Maria Sharapova: "Don't recall breaking one during a match. Have broken a couple in practice. Must be a good feeling. I mean, just let it all go."
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: "My father told me all the time, if you broke the racket, I broke you. So I go easy with the racket. Sometimes I prefer to hit myself than my racket."
Ana Ivanovic: "Last time I smashed not as many, but I smashed three rackets. That was the U.S. Open, I think '09. I lost after being a match point up. I was quite upset. It didn't really make me better, so I decided, 'What's the point?'"
Milos Raonic: "I have 10 rackets. I need to play with 10 rackets. I don't have any to break."
2. Dodging a bullet
If Kvitova goes on to win the Australian Open, the turning point might have come in the second round. Kvitova was on the ropes against Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro on Thursday before rallying in the third set.
Kvitova trailed 2-0, and Suarez Navarro -- who beat Venus Williams in Melbourne in 2009 -- had a point to lead 3-0. Kvitova, though, hit a big forehand, eventually broke, and surged to a 4-2 advantage. The Czech, closing in on the No. 1 ranking, prevailed 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 despite committing 48 unforced errors.
"My mentality, it was very tough, and I fight today," Kvitova said. "It was good preparation for the next match. I know I can fight, and I can win if I'm playing badly."
Kvitova was the first title contender to flinch and drop a set.
3. Nole dominates again
Djokovic didn't drop a set, and his response after falling behind by a break in the opener was emphatic. He broke Colombian Santiago Giraldo at love to level proceedings at 3-3, part of an eight-game winning streak. It ended 6-3, 6-2, 6-1.
Djokovic, the defending champion, had more success going forward, 11-for-16 at the net.
Afterward, Djokovic was asked if he had an impersonation of Bernard Tomic, the unorthodox Aussie drawing a fair few headlines, lined up.
"That technique is going to be really hard to impersonate, let me tell you that," Djokovic said.
Djokovic's next opponent is Frenchman Nicolas Mahut; Djokovic usually gobbles up net-rushers, so Mahut should expect to have a long -- or rather, short -- day.
4. Ferrer fights for the win
This was shaping up to be the first substantial upset in the men's draw, and here we thought David Ferrer had a comfortable draw in the first week.
American Ryan Sweeting led the fifth seed two sets to one and was picking on Ferrer's second serves and being aggressive on the baseline. He had a break point to seize the lead in the fourth set, too. But Ferrer, who was a semifinalist in Melbourne last year, hung on to win. Sweeting wilted physically, and the Spaniard dug out a 6-7 (4), 6-2, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory.
"Maybe in the fifth set I played better in the important moments than [Sweeting]," Ferrer said.
An American did engineer an upset, as Vania King toppled 15th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 5-7, 6-3, 6-4. In another U.S.-Russian tilt, Sloane Stephens was eliminated by 18th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-6 (6), 7-5.
5. All good for Masha and Sasha
When you win 6-0, 6-1, as Sharapova did over American Jamie Hampton, there aren't many questions about the match, at least for the winner. So in her news conference, Sharapova touched on a number of subjects.
One was how she was keeping in touch with fiancé and former NBA player Sasha Vujacic, who's currently playing in Turkey.
Sharapova said they speak once in the morning and once in the evening, Melbourne time.
"It actually works out as good as it can," Sharapova said. "When I wake up, it's evening time there. Going to sleep, it's morning time here."
Now that's being nice and positive.
Sharapova, incidentally, figures to be tested in her next round by U.S. Open semifinalist Angelique Kerber, one of five Germans in the top 50.
London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com. You can follow him on Twitter.