Shanghai Masters 1000, 12 October 2010

Roddick d. Kohlschreiber 6/3 2/1

Andy Roddick looked startlingly sharp today, the sharpest I’ve seen him since Miami. Then again, it could be that I haven’t seen him play an early round match since then. Maybe he’s been starting all his tournaments this well. Kohlschrieber is a dangerous customer, although he was clearly operating below his best. At 2/1 in the second, down a set, he defaulted due to illness. Nonetheless, Roddick was actually hitting shots past him consistently in that first set. The technical explanation for this is that he was hitting the ball harder. You see, tennis really is a complicated game.

Tipsarevic d. Golubev 6/3 6/4

When he’s really cranking that backhand, Andrey Golubev looks like he should be in the top 20. He certainly looks like he should be beating Janko Tipsarevic. He lost in straight sets. The Russian, er, Kazakhstani is clearly prone to overhitting, and is basically fodder for any opponent who can get that extra shot back, unless he’s having a lights-out day. Today he wasn’t, and the Serb got back enough stuff.

On a more important note: for the love of all that is holy can the commentators stop reminding us that Tipsarevic reads Dostoyevsky? We get it, he’s a genius. Speaking of commentators . . .

Ljubicic d. Zhang 5/7 6/3 6/4

The stream I watched of the Ivan Ljubicic – Ze Zhang game was apparently being called by Ray Romano. If it wasn’t Ray Romano, it was someone doing a fair imitation, except they’d been hosed down with boring.

The match itself illustrated just how tough the men’s game is. Zhang is ranked 308th, and Ljubicic 17th. Hardly anything seperated them, except experience. In the crucial moments towards the end, it was the Croatian who could maintain a level closer to his ‘real’ ability. That’s something to remember. As good as the pros are in matches, they’re much better in practice.

Indeed, the most ferociously-played tennis match I’ve ever seen was in a practice session between Stefan Koubek and Max Mirnyi, on an outside court at Melbourne Park a few days before the 2001 Australian Open commenced. They were ripping everything (and showing considerable leniency on any ball less than a foot long). I’ve seen those two play any number of professional matches, and it was nothing like this day. It really rammed home just how much the level plummets from the practice court to the match. I suspect that Zhang today was playing something near his practice-level. A quick perusal of his recent results – he regularly bows out in the first round of Challengers – does not refute this.

In a similar vein, Radek Stepanek went down to 455th ranked wildcard Yan Bai. Experience counts for a lot, but it can’t save you every time.

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