... Henin happy to survive
MELBOURNE: Defending champion Rafael Nadal says he had a bad day at the Australian Open and realises losing is not the end of the world.
That said, he did not lose yesterday. He advanced to the fourth-round and remained on track to defend his title – but with a sober outlook. “Tomorrow is another day,” said Nadal, the No 2-seeded player in Melbourne and a five-time Grand Slam winner.
Here’s how Nadal summed up his 6-4 6-2 2-6 7-5 win over Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber, the No 27-seed. In the first set, “I played bad.” In the second set, “a few moments, I played well. In the third I started terrible, no? I think I played much better in the fourth set than the rest,” said Nadal, who converted only three of fifteen break point chances. “Everybody has not very good days.” Last year, Nadal beat Roger Federer in a marathon five-set final that left the stoic Swiss star in tears. Nadal went on to dominate tennis as the top-ranked player up until the French Open, when the four-time defending champion’s early exit led to extended time away because of injuries.
The Spaniard couldn’t defend his Wimbledon trophy due to tendonitis in both knees, dropped to No 2 and failed to win another tournament. He started this season in Doha where he reached the final but lost to Nikolay Davydenko, the No 6-seed in Melbourne.
Nadal faces 2.08m-tall Ivo Karlovic in the next round. Karlovic holds the tour record for the most aces in a match with 78. To counter that, Nadal plans to play more aggressive, longer points. “(But) if I lost here next round, I’m going to have chances to play well all season,” Nadal said. “The Australian Open is a very important tournament, but it’s not the end of the world.”
Justine Henin is wearing a new diamond ring and was surprised yesterday that nobody asked about it earlier. Henin has been spotted wearing it on the ring finger of her left hand during earlier matches at the Australian Open, her first Grand Slam since end- ing a premature retirement.
Yesterday, she staged another memorable comeback to advance to the fourth round in Melbourne and was asked about the new piece of jewellry. “Well, it’s not coming from a lover, if that’s the question,” she said, laughing. “It’s a gift from a friend,” said the 27-year-old Henin. “I was surprised the question didn’t come earlier, actually.”
In late 2007, Henin and her husband of five years divorced. She stunned the tennis world in May 2008 by announcing her retirement while ranked No 1, saying at the time she had lost her passion for tennis. The retirement lasted 16 months.
Henin beat No 27 Alisa Kleybanova 3-6 6-4 6-2 in her third-round match yesterday, after losing the first set and facing two break points at 1-3 in the second set. She managed to hold that game, hit more winners and find her rhythm.
“It’s always good to win this kind of match because I came back from nowhere,” said Henin, who faces fellow Belgian Yanina Wickmayer in the next round. “I’m very happy that I’m still in the tournament.”
US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro survived another searching examination to make his way into the last 16. The Argentine fourth seed emerged from a two hour 34 minute dogfight with Florian Mayer to down the 60th-ranked German 6-3 0-6 6-4 7-5.
Del Potro will now play 14th seeded Croat Marin Cilic in the fourth round. Cilic qualified with a 4-6 6-4 6-3 6-3 win over Swiss 19th seed Stanislas Wawrinka. It has been rugged