- Australian Open, Day 11
Nadal & Federer provide the fireworks on Australia Day
Fireworks on court
The fireworks are always a highlight of Australia Day at Melbourne Park, but the pyrotechnics were surpassed by the explosives on the tennis court as Rafael Nadal lit up Rod Laver Arena with a series of spectacular shots. Forced out wide on the backhand, the Spaniard returned with his back to Federer before stunning the Swiss with a superb cross-court winner. If that wasn't enough, Nadal then threaded an inch-perfect backhand winner down the line past an astonished Federer.
The players took a brief break as the crowd turned their attention to the skies for the famous firework display. While Nadal looked fired up after the interruption, Federer struggled to maintain his focus as he lost 11 consecutive points to see the second set slip from his grasp.
Swings and roundabouts
With every point played with the intensity of match point, at times it was exhausting to watch, nevermind play. There were no easy points, but Federer, hanging on early in the third set had a brief respite, when what should have been a simple volley caught the net cord, bounced up and plopped down, giving Nadal no chance of making a return. But what goes around comes around. Later in the match when Nadal's return bounced up off the net, Federer mistimed his smash and the ball caught the frame and fizzed out.
If the action on court wasn't entertaining enough, the ballboy tried to muscle in on the act, taking a superb catch from a Federer volley, prompting cheers from the crowd on Rod Laver Arena. With reflexes like that he'll be getting a call from Cricket Australia.
A deft drop
Victoria Azarenka is viewed as a power player, with her loud shrieking doing nothing to dispel that theory. But she's not just a one-dimensional player and proved that early on against Kim Clijsters by switching from a baseline rally to a clever drop-shot that left her opponent with no play.
Taking your eye off the ball
The Australia Day celebrations were in full swing as Azarenka and Clijsters slugged it out in the first set. We'd had the 21-gun salute which did not delay play, but the admittedly impressive fly-by by what looked like the Australian equivalent of the Red Arrows had players and fans alike glancing to the skies for a view of the aerial acrobatics.
People in glass houses
The crowd on Laver were firmly in favour of Aussie Kim. Clijsters was given excellent vocal support, to the extent that Azarenka approached the umpire and asked for the crowd to be respectful and not make noise during play. Coming from someone whose grunting is the talk of the press box and has been likened to a pneumatic drill, it was not the smartest move. And the crowd told her so.
Volley of the highest class
Clijsters was on the losing side after three sets, so it will be little consolation that she won the point of the match. But she did. The Belgian was given the runaround by Azarenka and looked out of the point on at least three occasions. She kept herself in the point and came into the net behind a forehand. Azarenka's reply was good, forcing Clijsters to plunge to her left and execute a perfect stop volley.
Bob and Mike Bryan had to dig deep to reach the final of the men's doubles to keep them in the hunt for another title. They were staring down the barrel of a gun at 5-2 down in the final set tiebreak. But they have tremendous belief in their own ability and it was demonstrated when Bob Bryan produced a reflex volley out of the top drawer. It rocked Robert Lindstedt and Horia Tecau who did not win another point.