Rod Laver action during the day session wasn't too eventful. Petra Kvitova took on Vera Zvonereva in the quarterfinals. I can't remember anything about this match six weeks later, but I was hoping Vera would win. I enjoy watching Petra's shots but she's pretty inconsistent which isn't always the best for spectators. Bepa was the better player and won 6-2 6-4.
Next up was Kim Clijsters vs Agnieska Radwanska. This was actually my first time seeing Kimmy live, but my third watching Aga play in Melbourne this year. I really enjoy Aga's game - she uses the court well and although she's not exactly a powerful shotmaker she's a great athlete and can get a heap of balls back. Kim, as we all know, is a superb mover and can wallop the ball. Pretty to watch when she's on but hideous when her timing is off. Kim was pretty steady in this QF and even though the second set was tighter she won it 6-3 7-6.
I am just not in love with Kim Clijsters. Yes, she's a nice girl, well spoken and lovely to everyone. Maybe I'm just tired of the whole 'amazing mom' storyline continue to play out, or the fact that she is 'Aussie Kim' despite the face she not only never married Lleyton but has since married and has a child with someone who is not Aussie. I dunno, I think it's fine for the crowd to cheer Kim because of her history but the nickname kinda grates my nerves. I always preferred Kim to Justine in both of their first careers and I do like her but I have heard enough about her amazing fitness post-childbirth. Giving birth doesn't automatically make a woman unable to be superbly fit!
On to happier thoughts, like ones from this man. I went to watch Nole practice after the ladies' quarters were over. Thanks again to Twitter and @ibmscout for letting us know when the top players were practicing. I watched a lot of player practices and without a doubt Nole was the one who looked like he was having the most fun. I have about 20 pics of him from this practice and he is smiling in them all. Clearly he is in great spirits and was still on a post-Davis Cup high. It's not a surprise he was doing well on the court.
Unlike, this man, who I'd next watch playing 'Dolly' aka 'Dolgo' aka Alexandr Dolgopolov from the Ukraine. I watched Dolgo in his second round match having not really known much about him. I only saw part of his QF with Murray but man did he frustrate Muzz. I have warmed up to Muzz but he's so emotional on the court and I just don't think it helps him. Dolgo would take him to four sets but the Scot held on to make the semis.
Today marked Australia Day, so to start the night session on RLA there was a lovely oncourt ceremony. That was the last part of this evening that would make my smile. I did not enjoy my seat at all tonight I don't mind going to the slams alone and most of the time there are nice people around to chat with. But for Rafa vs Ferrer QF, I had a weird man to my left who sat with a mini computer on his lap meaning his elbows were well outside his 'space.' He barely looked up from this computer and when he did he started having a convo with himself. I also had a really tall dude in front of me, and a larger than her seat woman to my right. I could barely see the match without contorting my body.
I did my best though, and was ready to welcome Rafa and Fer to the court:
So that set the mood for tonight's match. I hadn't been to one of Rafa's matches yet at the AO so was really keen for the match. I was a bit late to the Rafa obsessed fan stage. I liked him well enough when he started winning slams but when I saw him last at the Olympics in 2008 I wasn't quite a crazy fan like I am now. I can't explain what made me transform but I started to admire his fight, intensity and the way he could move around the court and hit the most amazing shots. I love watching him hit passing shots and run around to hit his amazing lefty forehands. So, yes. I'm a massive fan, and after having watched him play on TV so many times I got goosebumps as he came onto court, especially when he did his traditional baseline sprint.
This was the last pleasant moment as the match, as everyone knows, was not good for Rafa and his fans. He had some tough rallies at 1-1 when he was serving and ended up injuring his thigh in a marathon service hold that seriously lasted 15 minutes. He left the court after that game and was gone for ages - it was all a bit of a mystery and thankfully I had Twitter so I could find out what the commentators were saying. It was all hard from then - he didn't move as well but honestly I don't know if Rafa would have won even uninjured. Ferrer was playing so well and was riding a good winning streak since he'd started the year winning in Auckland playing some great tennis.
But it all got really hard to watch, and when fireworks interrupted the match I decided to take a break from my terrible seat and the general sad atmosphere. And I wouldn't go back, opting to watch the last bit of the match like this. Not exactly what I paid for but it was so sad and when they showed Rafa at a change of end in tears I lost it. Luckily, @rishegee responded to my Tweet asking if anyone felt like drinking, and we met up and ended up drinking many beers and eating chocolate to try and numb the pain.
But it still hurts - history on the line and of course selfishly I was going to be there to watch it all unfold if it happened. I joked before the AO to my Twitter family that I was sure Rafa wouldn't win the AO because I was going to be there, and I seemed to jinx my faves.
So my fondest Rafa memories from Aussie Open 2011 would remain getting his autograph and watching him practice. And a few shirt changes of course.