|I didn't go to the day session on Monday 2 January but instead watched it on tv. It was between Argentina and the Netherlands. The women's match started off tight and it looked as though Gisela Dulko was going to be able to get the better of young Michaella Krajicek, given she was ranked over 30 spots above her. However, Krajicek played far more aggressively, despite some shaky service games, while Dulko seemed lacking in confidence. Krajicek scored the surprise win 6-4 6-2. Next up was Gaston Gaudio against Peter Wessels. You never know what you're going to get with Gaston...sometimes he plays superbly, but other times, well, it's hard to tell if he's even woken up properly. Unfortunately, today was more the latter case scenario. Peter Wessels came out firing, given the fact the Netherlands were already 1 rubber up...and his serve worked perfectly. Gaston seemed a bit zonked out (though when doesn't he?!) and at sit-downs, it took him so long to walk to his chair, that Wessels had sat down, had his drink and was almost ready to get up again! Gaudio picked up his game a bit in the second, forcing the tie-break, but it was Wessels who stood firm to win the match and seal the tie for his country in a surprise upset. What hurt Gaston the most today were his foot faults. He was clearly getting annoyed about them (I think there were 8 in total), but it is really avoidable and hopefully he and his coach will look at erradicating the problem. Despite the dead mixed doubles, it was still entertaining. The Dutch were in high spirits and won the first set, but seemed to fade after that. The Argentines seemed to gel well...Dulko was like a different person on the doubles court, with far more confidence now that she had Gaudio at her side. The match went to a deciding 3rd set tie-break and was won by the Argentines.
That night I did make it down for the men's match between Thomas Johansson and Novak Djokovic, as Sweden and Serbia-Montenegro faced off. Unbeknowns to me at the time, Johansson was battling a foot infection that had almost forced him to pull out of tonight's match. But that's not to take any credit away from Djokovic, who played extremely well. At one point, he had the crowd bewildered when he had to relace his shoes in the middle of a game. But apart from that, he displayed great sportsmanship, applauding several of Johansson's shots. The match was very close, going to 2 tie-breaks. In the end, Johansson's experience got him through, but, as I have said already, Djokovic is definitely one to watch in years to come.
Tuesday was to be my lazy day, as I had so much to catch up on and did not end up going to the tennis at all. I did, however, watch the day session between Russia and USA on TV. Svetlana Kuznetsova had a shaky start against Lisa Raymond, but was still able to pull through in 2. What should have been Marat Safin playing was now the replacement for his replacement, Yuri Schukin!!! I had seen his name in challenger events, but that was it. He seemed a really nice guy though (they showed an interview with him before the match). The poor guy had been putting his feet up in Berlin, getting ready to celebrate New Year's with his friends in Moscow, when he got a random call from Paul McNamee to come to Perth (of all places) on the other side of the world! No wonder his friends didn't believe him! But anyway, there he was, on court, having to face Taylor Dent's missiles. And when I say missiles, I mean MISSILES. In his first service game, he fired down a boomer of 238km/h! I had a horrible feeling it was going to be a double bagel, but thankfully, Schukin won 2 games, losing 2-6 0-6. I confess I did not watch the mixed doubles, though they were apparently very entertaining. It was the USA who won, putting them at the top of Group A and making them strong favourites to reach the final on Friday night.
I was back at the Dome on Wednesday morning for the tie between Argentina and Germany. Mum had also bought a ticket for this session so I went with her. We got there in time for the men's match between Gaston Gaudio and Nicolas Kiefer. Gisela Dulko had already beaten Anna-Lena Groenefeld 6-1 6-0 to win her first match in 6 singles rubbers played here. The scoreline looks pretty sad, I know, but Groenefeld was quite badly injured and barely able to keep a ball in play. Kiefer came out firing though, breaking Gaston in the his first service game. Gaudio did seem a bit more awake today however, and had thankfully also cut down on his foot faults, though they did creep in here and there. It was a pretty routine win for Kiefer 6-3 6-3, ensuring the tie was once again decided by a live mixed doubles. The first set was pretty close with both Kiefer and Dulko losing their serves, however it was the Argentines who got the crucial break at 5-5 to take the set 7-5. After that it was pretty plain sailing for Argentina as Germany started to crumble, both Groenefeld and Kiefer appearing to be injured. Groenefeld had strapping on her left ankle and right thigh and Kiefer called for the trainer because of a back problem. Argentina ended up dishing out their second bagel of the day to win the tie and keep their hopes alive for a finals berth on Friday night. There are currently 3 countries from Group B in contention for the final (Argentina, Germany and the Netherlands) and at the moment the most likely of them all looks to be the Netherlands! Despite having had to qualify, they have won both their ties so far, while Argentina and Germany are 1 apiece. If the Netherlands can beat Germany tomorrow, they will probably go through, though it does also depend on whether Argentina can beat Australia and by how much. All will be revealed tomorrow...
I watched the day session between Australia and Argentina on tv. The women's match between Samantha Stosur and Gisela Dulko was excellent. I don't really like women's tennis, but this match was very exciting. Both girls played very well and it ended up going Stosur's way 7-5 6-7 6-3. With that win, and the fact that Michaella Krajicek had beaten Anna-Lena Groenefeld on the other court, it meant the Netherlands were through to tomorrow night's final. They were helped even further by the fact that Nicolas Kiefer withdrew from his singles and doubles to give the Dutch a clean sweep 3-0. So the qualifiers were into the final! Who'd a thunk it?! But back on the main court, there was still pride (and prize money) to play for. Gaston Gaudio sadly annihilated Todd Reid, but the live mixed doubles proved to be very entertaining, with the Aussies coming out on top 7-5 6-3.
I got to the Dome around 6.30pm and met up with a friend there. We went and watched the men's match between Novak Djokovic and Yuri Schukin on court 1, which turned out to be more of a congregation of Perth's Serbian community than anything else! The Serbs were there en masse with their flags and painted faces, singing songs and cheering for Novak. We were a bit torn as to who we should support, though, given the amount of Serbs around us, it was safer to cheer for Novak! I did feel a bit sorry for Yuri though. He had played impressively against Johansson the day before, but tonight clearly wasn't his night. He was bageled in the first set and lost the second set 2-6. The whole match ended up lasting 47 minutes. So we headed over to centre court where Thomas Johansson and Taylor Dent were still battling it out. The USA needed to win at least 1 rubber tonight to secure their spot in the final. So far, that hadn't happened as Sofia Arvidsson had beaten Lisa Raymond, and Johansson ended up beating Dent in a closely fought match. However, this was followed by a huge anticlimax, as Johansson withdrew from the mixed doubles, saying he "had pain everywhere". So this automatically put the USA into the final for the 5th time in 6 years. The result of the Russia-Serbia tie was now inconsequential, which is a shame. I would have liked to see a different country get to the final for a change, but oh well.
Friday morning there was no tennis (shock horror!) but, as my Dad works at the airport here, he did manage to see Gaston Gaudio leaving for Melbourne and was able to speak briefly to him and get me his autograph (which he signed on his boarding pass!), which was cool!