Clijsters Heroic and Federer Regal

Australian Open 2012
By Hiland Doolittle, January 22nd, 2012

On Day Seven of the Australian Open 2012, veteran Kim Clijsters stole the show with a heroic performance while 30-year old Roger Federer used his unequalled skills to overcome a boisterous crowd and 19-year old homeboy Bernard Tomic.

Kim Clijsters’ willingness to play through pain and stare defeat in the eye as she pressed onward to a most memorable victory.

Kim Clijsters's heroic victory over Li Na on Day 7 of Australian Open 2012

Kim Clijsters's heroic victory over Li Na on Day 7 of Australian Open 2012

It is a rare day when women’s tennis steals the thunder from the likes of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, but that was the case on Day Seven. In a much anticipated redo of the 2011 championship match, 11th seeded Kim Clijsters and fifth seed Li Na displayed the emotional and physical challenges that seem to highlight the Australian Open.

On a day when the top seed, Caroline Wozniacki (1), third seeded Victoria Azarenka (3) and Aggie Radwanski (8) played their way into the quarterfinals, the Clijsters – Li match will be remembered as a match filled with twists, surges of momentum and straight out courage. Clijsters will be always remembered for overcoming her sprained ankle, but Li will also be remembered as a player who succumbed to the emotion of the battle and then clawed her way back into contention in the deciding set.

The real winners of this match were the millions of viewers who saw what it takes to excel in women’s competitive tennis. Clijsters and Li put on a show that made an impression on every spectator. There were few similarities to last year’s final. This was a match composed of outright winners and high stakes gambles.

At 3-3 in the first set, Clijsters’ left ankle seemed to get hung up on the court surface and she fell to the ground with a sickening sprained ankle. After a three-minute timeout when she was taped heavily and given anti-inflammatories, the Belgian was understandably ginger. She stopped trying to retrieve balls and her lateral movement was noticeably limited.

Somewhere along the way, Clijsters developed a can-do attitude that empowered her to steal the momentum in the face of defeat. After claiming the first set 6-4, Li burst onto the court into the second set and secured a break in the third game. Two games later, Kim returned the favor. Both players served out to the tiebreaker.

Clijsters committed a series of unforced errors and Li attacked the Belgian’s serve. At 6-2, Li had four match points. Her normally reliable backhand became tentative. Her forehand was falling into the net. Clijsters had the momentum but for some reason attempted her first drop shot of the match.

Li got to the ball easily and appeared to have been handed an easy crosscourt winner. Instead, she hit the ball down the line where Clijsters was the most surprised person in the packed Rod Laver Arena. The defending Champion resorted to a topspin lob that froze Li in her tracks.

Clijsters promptly ran off the next three points. But, the drama was not over. Li’s focus shifted. She later admitted that she was confused. Meanwhile, Rod Laver Arena was alive with very vocal “Australian Kim” support which clearly took a toll on Li.

Clijsters jumped out to a 4-0 lead. The players exchanged holds to push the Clijsters lead to 5-1. Li came back with anther break and two tense holds to get to 5-4. Kim then served out the match. She will next play top ranked Caroline Wozniacki in a Denmark, Belgium free-for-all. Regardless what happens next, Kim Clijsters has made etched an eternal footprint on the Australian Open.

Roger Federer Mentors Bernard Tomic

As captivating as the Clijsters – Li match was, the match all Australia waited for was the homespun 19-year old sensation Bernard Tomic’s challenge of 16-time Grand Slam Champion Roger Federer. Federer is the hottest player on the tour; even hotter than top seed Novak Djokovic.

Roger Federer's easy victory over Bernard Tomic

The Swiss has won 54 straight matches and closed 2011 on a long win streak. He had also trounced Tomic in Davis Cup Play. On Day Seven, Tomic saw how far he would have to go to equal the professional bearing of the great tennis player to ever grace the court.

In Australia, Federer is the most popular ATP player not from the homeland. Yet, Federer’s support dimmed in comparison to Tomic’s. In retrospect, Tomic will look at this Round of Sixteen match and see that the difference in the play was Federer’s serve. The Swiss had 13 aces and won 37 0f 44 first serves.

Tomic only won 40 of 71 first serves. The young Aussie has a bright future and he will take away a better understanding of true greatness. Hopefully, Tomic will regard the convincing 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 Federer win as a 1 hour 44 minute playing lesson. That is precisely what it was.


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