Wawrinka puts himself under as much pressure as his superior rivals do, but he is far less capable of consistently managing that pressure. It breaks him, and he frequently loses as a result.
But sometimes he survives himself in these hours of crisis, and he eventually came through a five-set epic on the first day in Melbourne.
indeed, after recovering from 3-4* in the fifth set against Martin Klizan, Wawrinka’s precise moment of catharsis was clear, when a rush to the head possessed the Swiss to smash an easy ball at his Slovakian opponent’s vulnerable area.
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UPSET OF THE DAY: Shelby Rogers downs Simona Halep
Simona Halep was first up on Rod Laver Arena on Monday, and she promptly departed as the first seed out, falling to a 6-3 6-1 first-round defeat at the hands of Shelby Rogers.
Highlights: Rogers shocks Halep
Halep’s loss marked the fourth time in six years that the Romanian has fallen in the first round of the Australian Open and underlines a clear pattern. Halep identified knee tendonitis as the cause of her downfall, an injury that affected her throughout the final tournament of the season in Singapore.
“I cannot say much about the game, because I couldn't do my best,” she said.
“So I think it's the first match when I say, like, because of the pain I couldn't do much today. But, still, it was a match, important match. But it's okay. She deserved to win. She was stronger today than me.”
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QUOTE OF THE DAY - 'I’m not going to play for $50,000'
Halep wasn’t the only player to reckon with injuries at the very start of the year. Spanish veteran Nicolas Almagro wasted no time in beginning his long march home when he withdrew after four games against Jeremy Chardy.
When the Spaniard caught wind of accusations that he was only showing up for the cheque, Almagro responded with the quote of the day and a level of peacocking that can only be described as impressive.
“I was top 10, I have more than 10 million dollars,” he sneered. “I’m not going to play for $50,000. It is not the reason.”
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SIR ANDY MURRAY?
“I'm more than happy just being Andy. That's enough for me. Yeah, if they call me Andy, that's cool, I'd be happy with that,” said Andy Murray in Saturday’s pre-tournament press conference, and not for the first time.
It took all of 10 seconds after his hard-fought 7-5, 7-6(5), 6-2 victory over Illya Marchenko for the interviewer to bring up the subject of Murray’s knighthood.
Between this and cursory look across a few media headlines and tweets it can only be concluded that at least a sizeable portion of the human population on Earth wished nothing but hurt, pain and grave suffering upon the number one tennis player in the world.
THE RISE OF THE YOUNGSTERS
One of the interesting early stories of January 2017 has been the return of 20 year-old Ashleigh Barty, a former junior world number two and the Wimbledon 2011 junior champion.
Highlights: Barty beats Beck
Under the intense weight of expectation, pressure and a certain level of vulnerability within her underpowered 5ft5in frame, the Australian took a surprising break from the sport in 2014 only to bizarrely resurface as a professional cricketer for Brisbane Heat the following year.
Highlights: De Minaur beats Melzer
This year marks the youngster’s definitive return to the big leagues, and her 6-4 7-5 victory over world number 50 Annika Beck suggests this is only the beginning. Barty was joined in the second round by a pair of 17-year-old Aussies in Alex De Minuar and Jamiee Fourlis.
‘I AM PRETTY GOOD AT TENNIS’ – Venus Williams’ revelatory answer
Six months from her 37th birthday, Venus Williams scrapped past Kateryna Kozlova, one of Williams’ many opponents born in 1998, the same year the seven-time slam champion turned pro, to win 7-6(5) 7-5 on Rod Laver Arena.
When asked for the umpteenth time about keeping the youngsters at bay, she gave her most revelatory answer yet...
WHEN IS A HANDSHAKE NOT A HANDSHAKE?
15th seed Roberta Vinci was decidedly unimpressed with CoCo Vandeweghe’s medical timeout and conduct in the American’s 6-1 7-6(3) upset, and she let it be known with her handshake.