Verdasco-Anderson-angerAs journalists in the Melbourne Park media workroom sat hunched coyly over their laptops to keep up with the Lance Armstrong and Oprah show, there were also some people playing tennis just outside.
A sideshow to the real news of #doprah, perhaps, but tennis, nevertheless. A chap by the name of Novak was having a hit on Rod Laver (the Arena, not the man himself) and another Serbian chick called Ana was having trouble with her service toss on Hisense against Jelena, who’s pretty good too really but didn’t win in the end.
Everything was jolly hockeysticks at this particular court and the crowd was having a well good time, until a handsome Spanish gentleman sporting a questionable ponytail came out to play, and threw all his toys out of the pram.
Fernando Verdasco’s pram was probably overstocked, to be fair – the 22nd seed looks as if he is carrying around a lot of tension – but it’s really no excuse for what occurred during his match with South African Kevin Anderson.
Verdasco was handed a code violation after his coach and crew appeared to be giving the 29-year-old advice from his seat, which is not allowed. The umpire on duty, Carlos Ramos, dished out the violation, saying he couldn't hear what exactly they were saying, only that they wouldn’t stop talking.
“What, so you want me to pay $1000 because you can't hear what they say?” Verdasco whined.
Verdasco’s spat has landed in the wake of that other childish performance of the Polish variety on Wednesday. Polish 24th seed Jerzy Janowicz was today fined $2500 for his full-scale meltdown while playing India’s Somdev Devvarman. Janowicz collapsed to his knees in anger, forehead to the court in dramatic fashion as he yelling at the top of his lungs after the line judge failed to call out a ball that the Pole believed to have missed the line. The tantrum went viral on YouTube, with more than 750,000 views in two days.
We all remember Marcos Baghdatis’s racket demolition derby at last year’s Aussie Open. It was kind of like that, but less violent.
Some tighter behavioural controls wouldn’t go astray in professional tennis. Because well, when Janowicz is angry, he ‘just goes nuts’, but that’s not really an acceptable explanation, no matter how much you charm the journalists in your post-match press conference.
David Ferrer may just be the best player to have never won a major.
The Spaniard has slipped into the last 16 again without so much as a whisper after making relatively light work of Marcos Baghdatis in straight sets. The smiling Cypriot did give him a hard time during the third set with a powerful driving forehand and some sophistication at the net, but he couldn’t sustain his patches of brilliance despite the support of the Aussie crowd.
Always overshadowed by compatriot Rafa Nadal, the fifth-ranked Ferrer has made four Grand Slam semi-finals and one quarter-final, but never progressed to a final or the Holy Grail of a major title.
Last year was probably the best of his career. He reigned over Janko Tipsarevic in a US Open quarter-final clash that turned into a four and a half hour, five-set thriller, and the ensuing semi against Novak Djokovic saw him take an early 5-2 lead, only to be beaten after a rain delay allowed the world No.1 to recompose himself the following day. He also beat Andy Murray in the French Open quarter before losing out to Rafa in the semi.
As a teenage prodigy Ferrer spent quite a bit of time in a dark two-metre square cupboard. On the days he lacked motivation in practice his irritated coach Javier Piles, ever the disciplinarian, locked him inside said cupboard with a bit of bread and water. As it turned out the youngster used the time to reflect, and decided to quit tennis altogether and take up construction work. Thankfully for Spain he returned a week later, and has well and truly come out of the closet since then (in a sporting context).
The thing about Ferrer is that he’s a quiet achiever. Fierce yet quiet as a ninja. Let's call it silent but deadly (bet you've heard that before). He flits around the court and finds the scoreboard without anyone realising what’s happening until suddenly a match point smacks his opponent in the face.
The sneaky Spaniard is a runner, there’s no doubt about that. And his stamina aids his refusal to give in or accept a lost cause. He doesn’t have a signature winner per se, but he can return a serve like lightning. Consistency is his forte and he often secures by making his opponents take that extra shot.
He also has the defence factor on his side. So impenetrable is his court that he’s often referred to as ‘The Wall’, along with his other nicknames of ‘Little Beast’ and ‘Le Grinder’.
He’s this generation’s Tim Henman – obscenely talented but so far denied that elusive Slam final. He’s to Rafa what Mike Hussey is to Michael Clarke – in the shadows, humbly maintaining his country’s balance on the international scene. He’s tennis’s Dennis Mortimer, if you will – with his near-600 league games but no England cap to speak for it.
And so cue the unavoidable, cliched question that usually ends such aritcles. Will 2013 be his year to hoist that Grand Slam trophy? Let’s see how he fares against Kei Nishikori in the fourth round first, ay.
Quote of the day
Novak Djokovic on Lance Armstrong’s doping confession: “I think it's a disgrace for the sport to have an athlete like this. He cheated the sport. He cheated many people around the world with his career, with his life story. I think they should take all his titles away because it's not fair towards any sportsman, any athlete. It's just not the way to be successful. So I think he should suffer for his lies all these years.”
Lightweight issue of the day
“The weight issue is a tricky one huh,” said one male journo to another was they trod out of Ana Ivanovic’s post-match press conference.
“It’s always hard to ask,” his companion replied.
The leggy Serb's apparent weight-loss crisis seems to be the question fluttering on everyone's lips at Melbourne Park.
Tramlines is more interested in finding out how she was able to chase down a record number of wayward tosses on Hisense Arena today and somehow turn them into respectable serves. For all we know she thought she was playing on Rod Laver, such was the direction her throw kept heading.
It no doubt contributed to her losing 15 successive points during her match with fellow Serb Jelena Jankovic. She still won said match.
Celebration of the day
German Angelique Kerber got one of the best 25th birthday presents ever this morning – her first progression to the third round of any major. The fifth seed accounted for American teenager Madison Keys 6-2 7-5.
Worst fan song of the day
“Ana, Ana, Ana, make that racquet swiiiiiiiing.” – Australian male fans prove that even bad songs can be butchered.
Best commentary of the day
“Lying down is for cream puffs” – Jim Courier expands on his vocabulary during the Ivanovic v Jankovic match.
Serve of the day
South African Kevin Anderson whacked down a 214km/h serve during his match against Fernando Verdasco. The unseeded Safa averaged 197km/h on his first serve to help him to a five-set victory against the fiery Spaniard, and is the first South African to reach the last 16 of a Grand Slam since Wayne Ferreira made the semi-final in 2003. Pity he has to play David Ferrer next.