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No Holiday for the Brits January 26, 2009 - 8:06 AM

Andymurray_aussiediary_2January 26 is Australia Day, a national holiday commemorating the arrival of the British at the eastern part of this continent in 1788. With the warm weather and festive mid-summer atmosphere and picnickers and fireworks, the day feels a lot like July 4th in the States—a key difference being, of course, that Australia Day marks the anniversary of the onset of British colonization, while American Independence Day commemorates the Brits’ eviction.

Not all subjects of the Commonwealth were celebrating Monday, however. The big news of the day was the expulsion of young Brit Andy Murray, whose decidedly unhappy holiday saw him exit the Melbourne Park party – and the tournament – early. A popular pre-event pick to win the title based on his quality victories earlier this month Down Under, the fourth-ranked Scotsman was bounced by a newly fit and superb-serving Spaniard, Fernando Verdasco.

It was a disappointing loss for Murray, to be sure; Verdasco came back from a two-sets-to-one deficit to win, 2-6, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4. The 21-year-old Murray, who had been under the weather this weekend, looked pasty and agitated during the three-plus-hour contest, particularly in the fifth set, but was gracious in his post-match presser, giving due credit to his “too good” opponent and blaming the loss on Verdasco’s level of play rather than his own subpar condition.

I was impressed by the maturity the 21-year-old Murray showed in his philosophical attitude about the defeat. A quarterfinalist at Wimbledon and a finalist at the U.S. Open last year, he could have been crushed about the round of 16 loss, but instead seemed resigned to an outcome that was probably unavoidable, considering Verdasco’s ungodly level of play in the fourth and fifth sets.

“For me, it's not a disaster,” said Murray afterwards. “I'm still playing well. I lost to a good player in a very close match. I'll have more chances to win Grand Slams.”

A few other thoughts:

Spiegelworld: You Had To Be There

“Have you been to Spiegelworld?” a colleague asked me early last week. I had not. Informed that Spiegelworld is an actual venue on the Melbourne Park grounds and not, as I’d originally thought, a state of mind, I became intrigued. So today I wandered over to the fenced-off, tented area to experience the live music and outdoor bars and cafes for myself.

SpiegelworldI found the atmosphere to be much lower-key than I expected (on other evenings, the music from Spiegelworld has been audible on Rod Laver Arena), but there were plenty of Australia Day revelers lounging about on the grounds, mostly drinking and watching the Jo-Wilfried Tsonga–James Blake match on the large screens.

I ducked inside one small theatre where about 150 assembled people were enjoying a performance by vocalist Renee Geyer and the merry men of her band. Renee Geyer is, apparently, an Australian music legend. At least, this is what the exceedingly polite security guard explained as she escorted me off the premises for taking photographs (apparently flash photography is verboten in Spiegelworld, though I’m not clear whether it was Ms. Geyer or the SW management who objected). So my time there was short, but I consider myself initiated. Anyone who’s anyone at the Australian Open has been to Spiegelworld. And so too, I can now say, have I.

Time to Retire

Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka took the first set from a less-than-sharp looking Serena Williams today before being forced to retire midway through the second set with a stomach ailment. The cause of the illness was either a virus or food poisoning; Williams said later she was concerned because it looked like Azarenka might faint on court.

It was hard not to feel compassion for the unlucky No. 13. To have a nine-time Grand Slam event champion on the ropes and then be felled by one’s own body must be incredibly frustrating, and Azarenka was only one of three retirees on the day: Gael Monfils and Zheng Zie both retired against their opponents with wrist injuries.

So in keeping with the retirement theme of the day, I shall cut this post short now, but I promise a bit more substance tomorrow, when there should be some fabulous tennis. I don’t expect the Jelena Dokic–Dinara Safina match to be particularly competitive; Dokic seemed beyond content with her unexpected run to the quarterfinals here, and Safina has the weapons to blow a complacent opponent off the court. But Novak Djokovic–Andy Roddick, which Tom Perrotta previews here, and Roger Federer–Juan Martin Del Potro, should be fantastic.


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Posted by ava January 26, 2009 at 08:46 AM

why no mention of the rafa-gonzalez match? since you seemed to mention everybody else...

Posted by Gerald January 26, 2009 at 09:39 AM

Probably didn't mention it considering it was such a shut out. No real drama.

Posted by Charlie January 26, 2009 at 10:06 AM

I'm glad Gonzales got rolled. 'Something of the night about him.'

Poor old Murray, not that this viewer wanted him to win, but definatly wanted to see him and Rafa square off in a semi (though saying that I'm a Gilles Simone fan. So much choice in the men's right now!). And if AM won, then get beaten in a 5 setter against Fed in the final.

UK press will now use illness as excuse and a way to not have to eat any words. Funny, Roger had his sickness last year and often goes unmentioned in relation to the year he had.

Roger Rafa final? Hoping so!

Posted by Cotton Jack January 26, 2009 at 10:10 AM

"The 21-year-old Murray, who had been under the weather this weekend, looked pasty"

Well, he is Scottish ...

Posted by Bow_job January 26, 2009 at 10:40 AM

lmao.....guess wat Djokovic said abt Murray not being in the same league as Rafa,Rpger and him self was quite true...

I'l buy the whole Big Four thing when/if Murray wins a major...

Posted by Charlie January 26, 2009 at 11:52 AM

well an out of sorts Djoko gots to beat an in form A-Rod.

5 setter was good for Fed.

Rafa seems the only one who's been untroubled so far.

Posted by bob morris January 26, 2009 at 12:20 PM

Just pleased to read that AM handled his loss with maturity. He is a talent, he just needs to contiue to grow mentally. He will win a major soon.

Posted by Tom January 26, 2009 at 12:30 PM

Who put him as top favorite?.

The true contenders show up in Grand Slams.

Federer and Djokovic seems to agree on this.

Posted by gillyrosh January 26, 2009 at 12:40 PM

"I was impressed by the maturity the 21-year-old Murray showed in his philosophical attitude about the defeat. A quarterfinalist at Wimbledon and a finalist at the U.S. Open last year, he could have been crushed about the round of 16 loss, but instead seemed resigned to an outcome that was probably unavoidable, considering Verdasco’s ungodly level of play in the fourth and fifth sets."

Agreed. I do think it's amusing that the same media that helped pump up Murray as a favorite is now saying "tsk, tsk, he bought into the favorite talk and it was too much for him." That's the kind of nonsense that drives me to distraction.

Posted by ava January 26, 2009 at 01:17 PM

I really do think this is Rafa's big chance to win his first hardcourt slam. Simon will be a tough challenge but I'm sure Rafa can surpass him in 3 or 4 sets. On the other side, I haven't seen Verdasco play yet so I can't gauge how he will play against Tsonga who as we all know is such a huge danger in surfaces like these. I will be rooting for Verdasco since he is spanish and will also be easier for Rafa to beat...If Tsonga comes through (very likely) I'm sure this time Rafa won't be caught unawares like what happened last year. At first his was the draw that looked like the minefield but right now the bottom half looks much more dangerous. Anyhow, I have full faith in Rafa and will root for him till the very end. And if he doesn't win it this time I can wait for another time. But seriously, I believe he is in the form of his life right now and chances are very bright.

sad about murray, i'm looking forward to a djoker-rafa final..

Posted by lines January 26, 2009 at 01:44 PM

This is how rafa looked during last years wimby... i think we all know what happened there

Posted by Bow_job January 26, 2009 at 01:53 PM

Don't really think A-Rod can beat stranger things hav happend^^

Posted by Iain January 26, 2009 at 02:29 PM

Yesterday was the 250th anniversary of the poet Robert Burns's birth. So it was a sad day for Murray to lose. The fans in the stand were very boisterous though in their support, so they must have had a good Burns day. The anniversary of the Bard's birth is being celebrated all year in Scotland (and for the Scottish diaspora) as the year of homecoming, so Murray has the rest of the year to win a slam to mark the occasion.

Full credit to Verdasco though. he played very well and I hope this gives him more confidence. Murray gained valuable ranking points too.

Posted by Bob K January 26, 2009 at 03:24 PM

What, not many giving Fed a chance on this comment board? Look, he's not FedEx yet. He's got a couple more AO's in him, starting this year. Overlook him at your peril. I don't think the players will do that.

Posted by jcj nyc January 26, 2009 at 03:32 PM

rafa looks good but hasn't really played anyone other than gonzo
who just seemed to give up early. him and tsonga will be a great
semi if it happens.

tsonga really looks like he has the whole package if you ask me.
such a big hitter and so athletic. the way he took apart blake
really showed me that he believes he should be here.

fed looked ok i thought. not classic fed, but

djoker will probably take andy down, though andy has looked sharp
and djoker hasn't had his best tournament. still gotta think novak wins that one.

so semi's


i think the final is tsonga/fed and in a big bomb, tsonga wins it.

Posted by Lynn January 26, 2009 at 03:41 PM

Murray is finally out, thank God! Now all we need is Roddick out and then I will be very happy.

Posted by Bristol January 26, 2009 at 03:45 PM

"Dokic seemed beyond content with her unexpected run to the quarterfinals here, and Safina has the weapons to blow a complacent opponent off the court."

I disagree, you'd think that Doic would want to go all the way, after all she has made it this far. I wouldn't speak for her. Dinara hasen't been playing her best tennis this tournament, but I know she is a deadly player. I would actually like to see Doic win this and go all the way, but I really like Dinara too.

Posted by Jim January 26, 2009 at 03:46 PM

lousy "blog".

Posted by Catharine January 26, 2009 at 03:51 PM

I feel really bad for Viktoria, I thought she had the match in the bag. I don't know what happened to Monfils, but when I was watching him he seemed a bit lethargic. However, I do think that the injury was partially in his head. The match was a bit awkward and I am dissapointed that it was cut short. Hopefully these injruries don't threaten Gael's would be great career. The Gonzo-Rafa match was not fun to watch. I wanted a closer match but I knew that Rafa would win, just not so easy. Gonzo always seems content with reaching round 4 at grand slams. I am glad that Murray is out of this tournament, he really bothers me. I don't think he's matured and until his attitude changes (along with Serena, Roddick, and Del Potro) I will not support him. That's not too much to ask, is it?

Posted by Janice January 26, 2009 at 03:53 PM

I agree 100% with what ava said. This is defentely Rafa'a chance to win in Australia, but if he does not I will still support him and not question his ability to win on hard courts. He has proven that he can numerous times.

Posted by Angela January 26, 2009 at 03:54 PM

Danget, Serena was so close to being beaten, she shouldn't be here... but she is. I'll get over it... has long as she loses the next round. Thank God Murray is gone, he has always bothered me. My favorite to win this tournament is Federer and Dementieva.

Posted by Pam January 26, 2009 at 03:55 PM

hmm... at first I thought Murray and Serena may win this tournament... now I think Nadal and Safina will. But who knows, this tournament is unpredictable.

Posted by moxie January 26, 2009 at 05:10 PM

the British press who crowned their boy king before he won anything will be in mourning, but the rest of the world is in jublilation! LOL

Posted by Chum January 26, 2009 at 06:41 PM

British press can turn anything to their advantage. Will never change. You know they were writing what Fed and Djok said in pressers in answer to questions regarding Murray were 'mind-games' directed towards Murray. I mean, WTF?! Murray apparently has a big press team, no doubt represented in said pressers, +/or other Brit/Oz press all wanting to keep hype going and get some good copy. The mind game, if any seemed the other way around, probably nothing to do with AM himself but the vested interest of press nobbers. And Djok bristling didn't seem like some cool deployment of a considered jibe to mentally knock the Scot off balance. The Brit press is basically f'ugly. Avoid.

Posted by un January 26, 2009 at 08:30 PM

all yall who hatin on murray are stupid n wat do u mean by he aint in da league of rafa federa n djk. the last time he played any of them he beat them .hes past them he just needs time to develop more. i guess he jus didnt hv a good week wit the sickness n evrything.rite now i think the top 3 are federa murray n nadal

Posted by Aabye January 26, 2009 at 08:50 PM

A Nadal-Djokovic final would be a first, but I'm still holding out we have at least ONE Federer-Nadal GS final on hard. Otherwise, it might end up being one of those "What-ifs" that everyone seems to have an opinion on because there isn't anyway to prove it.

Posted by Abigail January 26, 2009 at 10:54 PM

Ava et al,
I agree that Rafa looks incredibly good so far; I assure you he will get plenty of attention on

Cotton Jack -- I'm the palest person in the world, so I felt a little guilty calling Andy Murray "pasty," but... I call 'em like I see 'em.

Bristol -- I hope that I'm wrong, because I'd love to see a great match between Dokic and Safina tonight, but there was just something in Dokic's comportment after Sunday's match that made me think she is content with making the QFs. I can see Safina crushing her. But of course, Dokic is a tough competitor and Safina is prone to meltdowns, so we'll see what happens.

Jim -- thanks for stopping by!

And finally, regarding the British press: Last night, some journalists from the UK were talking about Andy Murray's reputation for being dour, and whether it's justified. They tipped me off to this video:

Thanks, everyone.

Posted by garage January 26, 2009 at 11:22 PM

hey take a look this guyz

Posted by garage January 26, 2009 at 11:27 PM

take a look at this guyz


Posted by Betty January 27, 2009 at 05:25 AM

wel sed n yu speek da troof, blud, wiv dat reel groovee tork yu spit.

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