Friday 24 February 2017

Tennis: Big names survive as Aussie heat rises

Greg Stutchbury

Rafa Nadal's creaky knee, Alejandro Falla's leg cramps and Andreas Beck's bad back created discussion and a sniff of controversy as most of the main contenders safely reached the Australian Open third round yesterday.

World No 3 Roger Federer also advanced, along with local hope Bernard Tomic.

Mardy Fish, though, became the first men's top-10 seed to exit Melbourne Park, though his 7-6 6-3 7-6 defeat by Falla left a bitter taste in the American's mouth, with the eighth seed suggesting much of Falla's treatment for cramping during a tense third set had been a tactical ploy.

"When you think someone is cramping or ailing physically, you sort of change your game a tiny bit," Fish said.

"I think it had a significant bearing on the third set, for sure.

"It didn't seem like he was having too much trouble during the point. So it was a good tactic on his part."

Controversy

Controversy also boiled over on Margaret Court Arena when David Nalbandian fumed at the chair umpire for over-ruling a point and denying him a Hawk-Eye challenge towards the end of his four hour, 41 minute loss to American John Isner.

"It's ridiculous playing this kind of tournament with these kind of umpires. What is this?," the Argentinian railed after his 4-6 6-3 2-6 7-6 10-8 defeat. "Can you be that stupid to do that in that moment?"

Nadal's knee, heavily taped after it had caused him "unbelievable pain" on Sunday, held up well under a test from Germany's Tommy Haas, the Spaniard coming through 6-4 6-3 6-4.

"A positive match, but not that... demanding," Nadal said. "We didn't play four hours and a half, five hours. Three sets, so wasn't that tough."

Federer, however, had a much easier day when he advanced without having to lace up his tennis shoes.

The Swiss had been scheduled to play Andreas Beck on Hisense Arena, ending a run of 52 matches at Melbourne Park on main show court Rod Laver Arena, before he found out that the German had withdrawn.

The 16-times Grand Slam champion, seeded to meet Nadal in the semi-finals, did not even have the chance to warm up.

"I was just coming for my warm-up hit, so I was completely focusing on the match, saying, 'okay, I'll probably have two, three hours to go'," Federer said. "Now I'll just take it easy... and come out tomorrow and hit intensely, and then I'll be ready for the next match."

Tomic (19) kept Australian hopes alive with a 3-6 6-3 7-6 (7/3) 6-3 defeat of American Sam Querrey.

He will next play 13th seed Alexandr Dolgopolov, a 4-6 6-1 6-1 3-6 8-6 winner over German Tobias Kamke.

Australian Open

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