20 March 2011

Day 11 at the Aussie Open: 27 January

I definitely had a hangover of two varieties on semifinal Thursday. It was a bummer to wake up to the reality that Rafa had lost, and my night had ended at 3am (thanks @rishegee for the great night!) so definitely wasn't feeling my sharpest.
I had a fantastic seat in the sun in Rod Laver Arena in the fifth row for the women's semifinals. The day kicked off with a special tribute to Aussie Rennae Stubbs who was retiring after Fed Cup (even tho she said she may change her mind). A whole heap of current players came out to wish her well: Alicia Molik, Flavia Pennetta and Gisela Dulko. Even Kim Clijsters ran out even tho she was playing later in the day. It was all very lovely and emotional for Stubbsy. 

 The first semifinal was Caro vs Li Na. I love Li Na and was so hoping she could become the first Asian player to make a grand slam final. I was also pretty keen to see how the WTA number one would play in a pressure-filled semifinal. I for one am so tired of the ranking dispute and all I can say is that Caro has won a heap of tournaments in the past year so she's on top. Deal.
With my great seats I was really able to appreciate how well Caro defends. She really is a backboard which is why she does get a lot of stick for not being aggressive enough. Li Na hits the ball so much harder than Caro, so when she was able to go for a winner there was nothing Caro could do, but Li Na missed a lot of balls and went down a set and break. I still don't know how Li Na overcame the match point and win that second set, but by the third set she was hitting so well and Caro probably never got over the fact she had a match point.
Li winning was the best moment I witnessed at the Aussie Open. I spent a few years living in China and my work has dealt with China so it's a country close to my heart. And when I lived there tennis was not on anyone's radar - there were no players in the top 100, no tourneys in Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou as there are now. It is just amazing to see how quickly things can change. And Li Na has such a fun personality and she won a lot of fans thanks to her super cute press conferences and on court interviews. So when Caro's final shot went wide I was tearing up watching history happen. Li Na jia you! I'm still so proud.

Next up was Kim vs Vera and Kim had no trouble getting through - her shots were clicking and Vera couldn't really hurt her. So the final was going to be Kim vs Li Na, a repeat of the Sydney final.

That night, I had an even better seat to watch Nole vs Fed - right at the baseline about six rows back. What can I say about this match? Nole was unbelievably good and Fed just seemed to lose the fight. Ana Ivanovic was in Nole's box again. I was in shock at the number of Nole fans - so vocal and I reckon he had more crowd support that Fed which is saying something. 
I thought for sure it would at least go four seats - Roger was up a break in that second set but let it go and Nole was relentless. He chased down everything - I was so impressed and so thrilled that he was in the final.

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