John Isner produced a heroic performance to defeat David Nalbandian in the best match of the tournament so far, 4-6 6-3 2-6 7-6 10-8. Isner was battling with cramps in the final set, but somehow managed to find a way to break Nalbandian. The final set was full of quality as the two men battled hard with their distinctively different playing styles. The most dramatic moment came at 8-8 when Isner hit a first serve down break point. It was initially called out, but the umpire Kader Nouni then called it good and would not allow Nalbandian to challenge it because he deemed that he took too long to decide. However Nalbandian did not hear Nouni’s overrule and was extremely disgruntled as he called in for the tournament referee. As it turns out, the Isner serve was out and the original call would have given Nalbandian a break point on a second serve. I feel that the umpire was at fault and should have allowed the Argentine to challenge considering the match was so finely poised at such a crucial stage within the match. Kader Nouni is one of the top umpires on the tour and is normally on the money with line calls, but this one was a big mistake. Nalbandian’s game disintegrated after this as he persisted with the drop shot on the final two points, which Isner took full advantage off. Isner has another tough match in the third round against Feliciano Lopez.
In the other mens matches, the biggest seed to fall was the number 8 seed, Mardy Fish who was taken out in straight sets by Alejandro Falla, 7-6 6-3 7-6. All the remaining seeds survived including Alexandr Dolgopolov who saved a match point in a terrific encounter with Tobias Kamke, which finished 4-6 6-1 6-1 3-6 8-6. Rafael Nadal, Juan Martin Del Potro and Tomas Berdych all came through in straight sets, meanwhile Roger Federer received a walkover as his opponent Andreas Beck pulled out with a back injury. The two matches that I predicted potential upsets saw no upsets! Grigor Dimitrov was close though, as he led by two sets to one at one stage over Nicolas Almagro, but appeared to be hampered by injury in the closing stages as he lost 4-6 6-3 6-7 6-4 6-0. Marcos Baghdatis battled hard but eventually fell to Stanislas Wawrinka in 4 sets in front of an excitable crowd on the Margaret Court Arena who got their moneys worth having watched Isner and Nalbandian in the previous match.
In the women’s draw two more seeds fell on day three of the Australian Open. The number 10 seed, Francesca Schiavone was surprisingly taken out by her compatriot, Romina Oprandi, 6-4 6-3. The other seed to fall was Peng Shuai, which I had pre-empted in my preview yesterday! She was defeated by Iveta Benesova, 6-2 6-4 in a one-sided contest. Unfortunately it seems that Peng may have peaked in 2011 as she has made a disappointing start to 2012 and looks to be struggling to impose herself on the tennis court.
The majority of the seeds strolled into the second round; Victoria Azarenka lost her second game of the tournament in a 6-1 6-0 drubbing of Casey Dellacqua and Kim Clijsters was equally impressive as she beat Stephanie Foretz-Gacon, 6-0 6-1. Li Na, Jelena Jankovic and Agnieszka Radwanska all comfortably progressed into the third round with straight set wins. Caroline Wozniacki also made it through in straight sets, but struggled to contain Anna Tatishvili as she saved a set point in the second set to come through, 6-1 7-6. Daniela Hantuchova also had to fight hard to recover from a set and a break down before beating Lesia Tsurenko, 4-6 6-4 6-3. A number of interesting third round matches will now take place on Friday… I have my eye on Kim Clijsters vs. Daniela Hantuchova, Jelena Jankovic v Christina McHale and most intriguing of them all, Victoria Azarenka vs. Mona Barthel.
Womens second round preview: There are a number of very interesting matches for tomorrow, but I think the seed most likely to fall is Roberta Vinci, who is playing the in-form, Zheng Jie (8/15 to win). Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will have to be at her best if she is to beat Vania King, who defeated her at the end of 2011 and Sabine Lisicki must improve from her first round horror show if she is to overcome Shahar Peer. There are some dangerous opponents for Vera Zvonareva (who plays Lucie Hradecka), Svetlana Kuznetsova (who plays Sloane Stephens) and Kaia Kanepi (who plays Ekaterina Makarova) but I expect these three seeds to prevail.
Mens second round preview: The most interesting match will be between Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Roddick, which will be the second match of the night session. With regards to some upsets, I fancy Matthew Ebden (at 15/8) to beat Kei Nishikori and with the way that Gilles Simon performed yesterday, Julien Benneteau (11/10) has a good chance of progressing to the third round.