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Saturday, January 21, 2012
Racket rampage headlines Week 1

By Ravi Ubha
ESPN.com

MELBOURNE, Australia -- What would the Australian Open have been without the incandescent Bernard Tomic? Not only has the 19-year-old reached the fourth round, but he's done so with inspiring comeback wins. Australia can lay claim to a new sporting hero and men's successor to Lleyton Hewitt.

Apart from Tomic, the first week of the first Grand Slam of the year has given us plenty to ponder. Here's a look back at the best, worst, and off the wall.

Best match: Bernard Tomic versus Alexandr Dolgopolov

Soccer fans will tell you they never get bored of watching Barcelona versus Real Madrid. Similarly, the more Tomic-Dolgopolov clashes we see over the years, the better off we'll be. Perhaps their future encounters will unfold in Grand Slam semifinals or even finals instead of in the third round.

They sliced and diced over five sets, two artists fit for the Louvre.

Dolgopolov will be ruing a forehand miss at 5-5 in the third-set tiebreaker as well as his conversion rate on break points. He was 6-for-18.

But it seemed like it was meant to be for Tomic.

Best hissy-fit moment: Marcos Baghdatis

A little emotion from Baghdatis, eh? Nice to see.

Not even famed racket abusers Marat Safin and Fernando Gonzalez could have bettered Baghdatis' mangling of four shiny blue sticks in succession during a changeover in a second-round loss to Stanislas Wawrinka. Baghdatis even crumpled one that was still in its plastic sleeve.

Now that's a new one.

"I hope he gets a share of the YouTube clips," said U.S. Davis Cup captain Jim Courier during the broadcast.

He has.

As of Sunday afternoon in Australia, video of his demolition job on the site had garnered almost 300,000 hits.

Worst call: Kader Nouni

When you think of poor umpires, the deep-voiced Nouni isn't at the top of the list. He's not afraid to jump in and overrule, even with Hawk-Eye in use.

But Nouni erred in John Isner's second-round victory over David Nalbandian, and it might have cost the Argentine a win.

At 8-8 in the fifth set, Nouni didn't allow Nalbandian to challenge an Isner serve on break point, feeling that he was taking too long. Nalbandian, rightfully, argued that with all the crowd noise, he was confused as to whether the ball was originally called wide. (It was, but Nouni overruled.) Nalbandian delayed looking at the mark.

Isner held and then broke for 10-8 to advance.

"Eight-all, break point. Can you be that stupid to do that in that moment?" Nalbandian asked.

This was one of those times where Nouni's overrule was incorrect, too. The ball was wide.

Best bromance: Andy Murray & Michael Llodra

Murray was never in any danger of losing his third-round match versus Llodra. He usually excels facing serve-and-volleyers and net rushers.

As such, he was in relaxed mood.

Murray and the always entertaining Llodra shared a nice moment in the second set. Murray struck Llodra, who was at the net, with a backhand.

Murray approached and put his arm around Llodra, who then faked a head butt.

There were smiles all around.

Worst performer: Samantha Stosur

Time is running out for Stosur to do some damage at her home Slam. She crumbled against Sorana Cirstea and was ousted in the first round.

Samantha Stosur
Samantha Stosur just can't get past her Aussie woes, once again failing to reach the second week in Melbourne.

Thankfully for the reigning U.S. Open champion, her swoon hasn't been overblown here because of the performances of Tomic and Hewitt.

"I really, really wanted to do well here and over the [Australian] summer I did everything I could to give myself a good opportunity," she said. "But it obviously didn't happen."

Stosur went 1-3 in Australia this month and has never reached the quarterfinals at the Australian Open.

Worst group performance: American men

The French Open isn't the only Grand Slam where American men struggle. No U.S. males reached the fourth round at the Australian Open for the first time in the Open era.

"It's very ugly to have no one in the round of 16," Isner said. "We've got to try to rectify that next time the big tournaments roll around."

Isner, Mardy Fish and Donald Young were particularly disappointing. Andy Roddick still can't get healthy.

Best shot: Roger Federer

Federer's lob against Ivo Karlovic in the third round was simply outstanding. It gets even better when you consider he hit the shot down a set point in a first-set tiebreaker. First off, credit Federer for getting to Karlovic's short, mishit volley. Once there, he remarkably hit a lob that the 6-foot-10 giant Karlovic failed to get back over the net.

"It was like one in 100 that I'm going to lose that point," Karlovic said.

Federer had to be that "one."

Most freakish injury: Rafael Nadal

Oh, Rafa, what's next?

After being almost KO'd by a banana at the French Open and burning his fingers last summer in Cincinnati, Nadal hurt his right knee in similarly bizarre fashion prior to his first-round match.

"I was sitting on a chair in the hotel, I felt like a crack on the knee," Nadal began. "I stand up. I felt the knee a little bit strange; the knee stays with an unbelievable pain completely straight."

Nadal wasn't sure if he'd be able to play. He did, and now says the knee is better.

Best quote: Lleyton Hewitt

Hewitt, who went past 4:30 a.m. against Baghdatis at the Australian Open in 2008, doesn't mind playing at night. But he'd prefer to take the court first up, before the women.

"I don't really want to have many of the Baghdatis matches again," Hewitt said. "Go home and McDonald's is already open on the way home for breakfast. Yeah, it's nice. The girls can do that for a change."

The second week in Melbourne will no doubt be as entertaining.

London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com. You can follow him on Twitter.