Up until the last hour or so, if you bought tickets to Rod Laver Arena today you definitely weren't getting much bang for your buck. Sure, it's great to see the best players in the world play awesome, dominating tennis that reminds you that for all the idiotic criticism of the rankings systems, they are pretty dead on. Top players are top players for a reason: they're better. I mean, duh.
But after three matches on Laver, it was 35 games to 5 games dropped for the top dogs of the day, Vera, Rafa and Sam. And really, it wasn't even *that* close. Rafa won 11 straight games over Marcos Daniel before he retired at 60 50 with an injury. Sam had the courtesy not to double bagel the 17 year-old upstart, Lauren Davis, and sent her home from her first WTA schooling with a couple of packs of string cheese for her troubles. Vera? Come on, it was Sybille Bammer, who only seems capable of beat Serena, oddly.
Speaking of Lauren Davis, that seriously was a schooling. Prior to the match she had been interviewed by every American news outlet that mattered, and she was giving some pretty good copy. Playing in her first Grand Slam and riding a four month undefeated streak, the kid drew the worst possible opponent possible. This wasn't an instance of playing someone like Kim or Justine, who simply play the game she's used to but at a ridiculously higher level. This was against Sam, a player with shots (two in particular, her kick and her forehand) that can't just don't exist in the pro game, let alone the junior ranks.
So you'll have to excuse me if I chuckled and scoffed at this: "I know I can compete with these girls in Australia and beat a lot of them, and I think I have a good shot against Stosur. She has a really strong forehand and good kick serve, but my friend Madison Keys has a really good kick-serve to the backhand, and I'm used to that."
My immediate reaction upon reading the quote? "Oh, honey. Have fun." Credit to her, though. The kid was brimming with confidence. That's a pretty easy thing when you're 17 years-old.
Sure enough, Madison Keys' "really good kick-serve to the backhand" has nothing on Sammy's and from the first game you could see how difficult it was for Davis to get on the ball. You may be able to get away with just popping the ball back and getting the rally started at the Orange Bowl, but pop it back with no pace to the middle of the court on Laver against Sam Stosur? See ya. The kid must be icing her neck for whiplash. It was fun to watch for a while. But then it just felt like the poor kid had no business being there. She's definitely got a quality backhand that she can hit for winners, but past that, it was all Sammy all the time. You know that sound of a stadium full of people shifting uncomfortably in their chairs? Yeah, I think Lauren Davis knows that sound now, too.
It was a professional and mature performance from Sam and it was exactly what she needed to prove to fans and media that she's here to play and the nerves of a full crowd on Laver against an unknown opponent wasn't going to phase her.
At least yet.
As for Bepa, I maintain that she's not as fit as last year. But a quality start nonetheless. And Rafa? What can you say. Moose has just wrapped up his match in straights over Beck and I think it's safe to say that Fed, Rafa, Nole, and Andy have given no cause for concern. They all look focused and sharp.
Off to settle in to Hisense for Ana vs. Makarova. My stable has had a good day so far. One more to go.