Monday, 12 January 2009

Stepanek vs Verdasco

Stepanek vs Verdasco, originally uploaded by jsteel.

Tennis is back in Brisbane! Probably 20 years after top-level tennis was last seen at Milton, Brisbane has a top-class tennis venue and tournament again, in the Queensland Tennis Centre and the Brisbane International.

I wanted to go to more of this tournament, but work and other commitments limited me to the men's singles and doubles finals yesterday, with Matt, Steve, Emm and Craig. The venue is great - the house was full and despite most of the crowd not being emotionally behind either player, the atmosphere was pretty good (a better test will be a Davis or Fed Cup tie).

The tennis was pretty good, too. Verdasco got an early break, but was a bit off his game, especially on his backhand. He held on to win the first set, but from late in the first set, Stepanek lifted and from that point it always felt that he had the running in the match. Stepanek is a strange player - flat groundstrokes, and lots of changeups - and probably well-matched against Verdasco, who didn't cope well with the varied pace and depth of Stepanek, whose dropshots to Verdasco's backhand were particularly successful. Our most fervent interest, though, was reserved for the celebration antics of both players, mainly in the third set. Stepanek worked hard to get the crowd into the match, and Verdasco had some sort of bull-fighter-cum-horseriding movement that he used over and over, often multiple times for one shot, and at one point he collapsed backwards pumping his fists ... on a 15-all point.

The doubles final was between Verdasco (again) and a german bloke named Mischa Zverev, and the french pair of Tsonga and Gicquel. Tsonga was clearly the most imposing player on the court, in terms of serves, groundstrokes and athleticism, but Zverev probably impressed me most in terms of doubles acumen. He was let down, though, by Verdasco, who was either exhausted from the 3-set singles final, or having a bad day, or both. The frenchmen won comfortably.

I'm looking forward to my next trip back the tennis centre being as a player, in obedience of Geoff Pollard's plea at the singles presentation to spend the next 12 months playing rather than just waiting.

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