There was a subtle symmetry to the qualifying action at the Australian Open on Friday – it started at 10 (a.m.) and it ended at 10 (p.m.).
In between there was some tennis but mostly sitting around for players, spectators and officials waiting for the come-and-go light showers to finally go.
They didn’t and the referee’s office announced the finish of play at about 9:50 p.m., although there was still one match – Quentin Halys of France vs. Pedja Krstin of Serbia – that was completed under the roof in Margaret Court Arena.
The picture at the top here shows a video screen during a rain delay – with the stylized Australian Open logo looking more like a negative ‘NO’ than an upbeat ‘AO’ on a dreary, coolish day.
Vasek Pospisil, scheduled to be the third match on Court 20, was just another player hanging around waiting to see if there was any chance he would get in his second round match against Stefano Napolitano of Italy.
He kept his cool but blew off a little steam right after organizers finally pulled the plug. “I was okay right until now,” he said minutes after the day’s play was ended. “But if they had cancelled when it was supposed to rain – and when we knew it would rain – I’d feel better.”
As it is now the no. 5 seed in the qualifying is slated to finish his match with the no. 217 Napolitano on Saturday.
Francoise Abanda was in a similar situation to Pospisil – slated for third match (now it seems to be changed to no. 4) on Court 8 – she was waiting as the second match on that court was still in the first set when play was finally called.
On Saturday – with more rain in the forecast – she will face no. 138-ranked Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia.
Frank Dancevic had easily the most trying – and eventful – day of all the Canadians. He won the first set 6-4 against Duck Hee Lee with big serving and power off the ground against the diminutive South Korean.
The second set was much more hard fought and was destined for resolution in a tiebreak. Lee led 9-8 on serve in the tiebreak when Dancevic broke the sole of his shoe and had to send it back to the locker room for a replacement pair.
That was at about 3 p.m. While he was waiting for a new pair the rain came. It was two more hours before the players got back on court with the situation being Dancevic serving but facing set point for Lee. It’s always a touch-and-go situation with so much on the line coming down to one point with no immediate context because of the long break in the action – even if the players did have a five-minute warm-up.
Dancevic stepped to the line to hit his first serve and it landed in – but it was a ‘let.’ Serving again he faulted and then hit a safe second serve and engaged in a long, cautious, probing rally with Lee – neither player wanting to take a risk. Finally Dancevic hit and approach shot to the Lee backhand and the South Korean replied with a low cross-court passing shot. Dancevic braced for a backhand inside/out volley but nudged it wide.
That meant second set to Lee and close to the end of tennis for the two players on the day – even if they didn’t know it at the time. Dancevic served first in the third set and held the advantage when rain returned. It lasted intermittently for almost five hours, though a few matches did get back on the courts briefly around 9 p.m. – but not Dancevic vs. Lee.
So the two will resume a fascinating encounter on Saturday.
Coaching is allowed for players at the Australian Open – only in the qualifying events – and Dancevic didn’t hesitate to cross the court a few times during changeovers to ask for advice from long-time friend (they won the 2001 Wimbledon boys doubles title) and recently-retired player Giovanni Lapentti from Edcuador and, until he had to leave, from Martin Laurendeau, Canada’s former Davis Cup captain.
At one point umpire Cecilia Alberti of Italy (in white on right above) got down from her chair and walked over to inform Lapentti (in gray at left) that he had to remain seated in the stands and not move closer to Dancevic when they spoke.
Lee (above) is deaf but he also walked across the court on at least once occasion during a changeover to exchange with his coach.
It will be interesting see, when play finally starts up again on Saturday, if Dancevic can re-assert the power game that gave him control in the first set or if Lee can counter with his consistent, precise play.
Peter Polansky, playing in the ninth Australian Open qualifying of his career, advanced to the final round on Friday with a 6-2, 7-5 victory over No. 250-ranked Christian Harrison of the USA.
Almost as important as his win was the fact that he got it finished a little after 3 p.m. and before the wretched rain continually disrupted the rest of the third day of qualifying.
It was a day when rain didn’t fall in buckets but just persistently and heavily enough that it only took four or five minutes to coat the courts with a film of water.
Polansky won the first set without too much opposition from the 23-year-old Harrison but the second set was much more competitive.
Rain interrupted play with Polansky trailing 5-4 and serving at 15-15.
When the players came back to Court 14 from the shelter of the locker room, the 29-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., was expeditious to say the least.
“I had a great first service game,” Polansky said about the resumption. “I hit like three winners in a row. The next game I played two good points to break from 30-all and then played four great points (to hold serve for the match). So I was literally out there for 10 points and every point was good from my end.
“I was just playing super-aggressive – not giving him anything. I didn’t want to get into any of those long rallies because he loves that.”
For Polansky, ranked no. 139, the win sets up a third round against no. 121-ranked Yuki Bhambri of India – and a chance to qualify at Melbourne Park for the third time overall and the second year in a row. Canadian fans will remember the 25-year-old Bhambri from the Davis Cup World Group Playoffs in September in Edmonton when he stretched Denis Shapovalov to a testing five sets in a 7-6(2), 6-4, 6-7(6), 4-6, 6-1 loss on the opening day. He then beat Brayden Schnur 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in the pro forma fifth match.
“Bhambri is a good player,” Polansky said, I think he’s ranked high…like 115 maybe. I played him twice last year. I won 7-6, 7-6 and the next I lost 7-6, 6-7, 6-3. It was super-tight both times. He’s a good competitor. I’ll just try to do what I’m doing right now.”
Slight of frame and a thinking man’s player with no huge weapons but with a mature match-playing temperament, Bhambri overcame Schnur in the Thursday’s first round 1-6, 6-3, 6-4. He downed Carlos Taverner of Spain 6-0, 6-2 on Friday.
Both Bhambri and Polansky finished before the annoying rain came and turned the rest of the day into a boring waiting game. “I’m happy I got through this now,” Polansky said, “I don’t want to be hanging around again for another couple of hours…I’m running out of laundry.”
MEANWHILE IN SYDNEY
At the WTA Premier category tournament in Sydney on Friday, Ottawa’s Gabriela Dabrowski scored the sixth doubles title of her career when she and Xu Yifan of China defeated Andrea Hlavackova of the Czech Republic and Latisha Chan of Taipei 6-3, 6-1 in the final. It was Dabrowski’s third title with Xu following the Miami Open and New Haven in 2017.
The 25-year-old Dabrowski, who is currently ranked No. 18, and the 29-year-old Xu, at No. 16, are separated by 95 points in the WTA rankings – 3,765 to 3670.
AUSTRALIAN POST CARD
We’re not quite sure what goes on at the ‘Social Glutton Cafe’ on Bridge Street – but whatever it is it’s probably to excess.