Isner, Nadal stand tall on Day 3
Downtown skyscrapers provide the backdrop to little Court 8 at Melbourne Park. Today they were joined by another skyscraper called John Isner whose 6-foot-9 presence seemed to make the crowded space with its four rows of seats on one side and grass bank on the other even smaller.
But Isner managed to make enough room for himself to beat Ireland’s one and only hope, Louk Sorensen, 6-3, 7-6, 7-5 on Thursday at the Australian Open. And it was not only Sorensen that he had to beat. Australian crowds love an underdog, and Aussies of Irish descent were not going to miss the opportunity to support their man.
At the end, the loser got a standing ovation. “I was a little bit shocked -- it doesn’t usually happen when you lose,” said Sorensen with a grin. “Of course I was disappointed, too but I had to laugh. It was amazing.”
Sorensen, who came into the tournament through the qualifying with an ATP ranking of 284, said that he had learned that the players ranked many places above him -- like Yen-Hsun Lu of Taipei whom he beat in the first round and is ranked 101 -- are not so far out of reach.
But certain things about Isner’s game did surprise him. “I knew about his big serve,” he said. “But I was surprised by his baseline game. For a big guy he moved really well.”
Isner was never in serious danger of losing control of the match, but a double fault in the tiebreaker, which allowed the athletic Sorensen to pull back from 2-4 to 4-4, could have turned into some sort of a crisis had not the American unleashed two aces to close out the set.
Rafael Nadal didn’t play his best, but the Spaniard was not about to beat himself up over winning 6-2, 6-2, 6-2. His opponent was a newcomer from Slovakia, Lukas Lacko, whose name is not pronounced as it reads but nevertheless he still lacks the wherewithal to overcome a player of Nadal’s power.
Lacko’s forehand can become a weapon but he needs to discover some consistency. Nadal’s occasional lapse was nothing to fret over. He says he is feeling fine physically and has all the answers when the media start getting negative with their questions.
Nadal was asked if he was worried about people writing about how he had lost against a lot of top 10 players in the last few months.
“Normally, I don’t read a lot about myself,” Nadal replied. “You made the questions. I feel very happy with what I did in this sport. I am really happy with what I am doing. With 23 years, having 15 Masters 1000 titles and six Grand Slams is more than I expected. Nobody can take these titles away from me.”
Can’t argue with that.
Kim Clijsters, chasing her second straight Grand Slam since her comeback, moved into round three with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Tamarine Tanasugarn. The score looks straightforward, but the Thai made Clijsters work hard for long periods of the match and Kim admitted that she was not quite at her best.
“And, you know, Tammy was very tricky,” said Clijsters. “I haven’t played her for a few years. I was actually surprised to see she was still playing. It’s very hard to read her game and she doesn’t give you much so I had to be patient.”
No wonder Clijsters was surprised to see Tanasugarn still on the tour. This was her 51st appearance in a Grand Slam singles draw -- more than any other woman playing in Melbourne this year.