Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The 2006 Australian Open

Sensational debutante Pironkova


Venus Williams

I COULDN’T believe my eyes as I watched on cable TV (live, over Star Sports) American Venus Williams (seeded 10th) lose to rookie Tszvetana Pironkova, 18, of Bulgaria, 6-4, 0-6, 7-9, on the first round (Day 1) of the 2006 Australian Open, at the Rod Laver Arena, in Melbourne.

Russia’s Elena Dementieva’s loss to Germany's Julia Schruff also came as a surprise to me. Well, I’m not saying that Dementieva (9) is unbeatable but, at least, not in the first round against an unseeded player.


Martina Hingis, who is set to play in the first round today (Day 2), Tuesday, was right when she said that there is no “Ms. Federer” in the women’s tennis today, meaning, no one is as consistent as the men's world No. 1 Roger Federer in winning grand slams or, at least, landing always in the finals in all the big events. There’s a lot of great women players today, and anybody can win, she said.

I’m rooting for Hingis, a three-time Australian Open champion, who was forced to retire three years ago due to ankle, heel and foot injuries. I think she’s still a player to beat, although she has no ranking at the moment and despite her loss to Belgium’s Justine Henin-Hardenne (who emerged the champion) in last week’s Sydney international championships.

I agree fully with Hingis when she said that losing to the eventual champion wasn’t really a bad thing. She just hoped she could now find some winning strategies, saying that she never could overpower the other players who win their games by powerful serves and relentless ground strokes.

There was nothing earth-shaking that happened in the men’s event on Day 1.

I watched Argentina’s David Nalbandian (4) win over Thailand’s Danai Udomchoke, 6-2, 6-2, 1-6, 6-7 (4-7), 6-1, whom I had the pleasure of watching here in Manila during the 23rd Southeast Asian Games in November-December, 2005 (where he lost the gold to Filipino Cecil Mamiit), although the Thai gave the Argentine a fright in their five-setter match.


United States' Andy Roddick (2) also brushed past his first net opponent, Switzerland’s Michael Lammer, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2, saving himself for the second round, unlike in last year’s US Open wherein he had been sent packing by an unseeded player in just the first round.


(Photos by Getty Images, via the Australian Open 2006)


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