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Rafael Nadal Loses, No ‘Rafa Slam’

The World’s No. 1 tennis player, Rafael Nadal, saw his hopes of holding all four Grand Slam titles at once dashed when he lost in straight sets to fellow-Spaniard David Ferrer in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open on Tuesday.

Nadal seemed to have injured his left hamstring in the first set, having it wrapped before getting back out on the court. From that point on, he showed only brief glimmers of competing.

The loss comes exactly one year after Nadal was forced to pull out of the quarterfinals of last year’s Australian Open against Andy Murray. Since that match, he had won 25-straight Grand Slam matches, spanning the French Open, Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the first four matches of this event. He lost half as many sets to Ferrer (3) as he did during that entire win streak.

Nadal was attempting to become the first player since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four titles at once. Last year’s U.S. Open victory made him one of just seven players ever to win all four events in their career.

Injuries have become a major issue for Nadal. He’s had foot, knee, abdominal and now hamstring issues. This particular injury doesn’t appear to be something that will keep him down long, but anyone who has had a hamstring injury knows that they tend to linger and flare up once injured. At 23 years old, Nadal has already established himself as a great player. Hopefully, that’s what defines his career — not the seemingly endless string of injuries.

Alexandr Dolgopolov Is a Rising Star Despite Struggles Against Andy Murray

A 22-year-old Ukrainian took over the Australian Open with a breakthrough performance that would make the creators of True Blood envious. Alexandr Dolgopolov advanced to the quarterfinals in Melbourne with back-to-back wins over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Robin Soderling. For a youngster who had only once previously reached the third round of a major, the performance has been stunning.

Dolgopolov came back from down two sets to one to rout Tsonga 6-1, 6-1 in the final two sets of their third-round match. Tsonga is a former finalist at the Aussie Open, so the win was extremely meaningful. The Ukrainian’s next surprise came in the fourth round — an upset win over Robin Soderling in five sets. Soderling was seeded fourth for the tournament and was 7-0 on the year until the loss. Dolgopolov showed off a range of shots, mixing in slices and spin to confuse Soderling. He attempted more of the same in the quarters but struggled against five seed Andy Murray.

Alexandr has an unconventional game highlighted by a surprise element to many of his shots. He serves like he’s riding a rocking chair on speed, and he smacks his forehand like a jockey whipping a horse. Dolgopolov has a good two-handed backhand but he frequently mixes in a one-handed slice with a ton of spin. His backhand is strong and his forehand is monstrous, and the other big part of his game is his movement; he has excellent speed and fantastic court coverage. The two elements of his game that need work is his shot selection and return game. Against Murray, he hardly won a point on service returns. Dolgopolov frequently pulled out drop shots and seemed to go for many low-percentage winners when they were not necessary.

Though the run for Dolgopolov came to an end in the quarterfinals against Andy Murray, he appears to be a player to watch for in the future.

Kim Clijsters Proving How Weak Women’s Tennis Has Become

Kim Clijsters has been the talk of the Australian Open on the women’s side for many reasons. She entered the tournament playing excellent tennis, having won the 2010 U.S. Open and the year-end WTA Tour Championship. The three-seed double-bageled Dinara Safina in the first round, becoming the first player to ever do that to a former number one player. Then she made headlines with her boobilicious interview with Todd Woodbridge, and she followed it up by advancing to the semifinals without dropping a set. But an astonishing statistic regarding Kim’s career tells an important story: since returning from giving birth to her daughter, Clijsters is 62-11 including a 25-2 mark in majors.

Between 2001-2004, Clijsters made it to four major finals but lost all of them. It was in 2005 that she broke through with her first of three U.S. Open titles. The Belgian star retired in 2007 and returned in 2009, coming back to win the U.S. Open immediately. Such a return to prominence after taking so much time off would be nearly improbable in the highly competitive game of men’s tennis. In the weakened women’s game, it was a reality.

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Caroline Wozniacki Jokes with Media About Kangaroo Run-in

It seems as if tennis star Caroline Wozniacki has broken out of her shell. The media had complained that the women’s top overall seed at the Australian Open was too boring. She fired back by saying the media doesn’t ask her any exciting questions. So instead, after one of her matches this week, Wozniacki took it upon herself to answer all the routine questions in the opening remarks of her news conference. Then, once she finished the boring stuff, she solicited interesting questions from the media. The resulting conference was much more lively than usual.

Well apparently Wozniacki was up to more tricks with the media. After advancing to the quarters with a straight set win, she led reporters to believe the bandage on her leg was due to a scratch from a kangaroo. “The other day I went to the park and I saw this kangaroo lying there,” she said. “I wanted to go over and help it out. As I went over to it, it just started to be aggressive and it actually cut me.”

That story was about as believable as the one about the coach who found a hippo in his swimming pool. Naturally, Wozniacki revealed the ruse on her twitter account later: “Round 2 with the media:) hope you enjoyed my kangaroo story, hope you know i was just kidding:) see you on tuesday for round 3!” Now that she’s successfully messed with the media she better win the tournament. Think about it — the writers already have their criticisms about her lack of focus ready to go, game set and match.

Roger Federer Has Customized Australian Open Shoes with Swiss Flags on Them

Recently we got upset with Nike for using holidays — especially sacred ones like MLK Day — for profit. They released new shoes on Christmas and MLK Day, capitalizing on the mass audience for attention. That wasn’t cool. But was is cool is customizing gear for its biggest superstars based on their accomplishments. That’s just what they’ve done with Roger Federer, who is one of 16 players left in the Australian Open. Fed, who faces Tommy Robredo in the fourth round, is looking for his 5th Aussie Open title and 17th Grand Slam. He’s been wearing specific shoes all tournament that commemorate his four titles in Melbourne signified by the four mini-Swiss flags. Check these bad boys out (click twice to enlarge):

He’s got his sweet RF logo on the back along with the mini-Swiss flags, looking all spiffy. Roger’s four Aussie Opens are behind his five U.S. Open titles, and the six championships he’s won at Wimbledon. If all goes well, he’ll be doing some catching up by the end of the tournament.

Feliciano Lopez and Juan Monaco Fight with Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi

The Indian Express doubles team of Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes have combined for three Grand Slam titles together, and they’re aiming for their first Australian Open title. They didn’t have much trouble defeating the team of Feliciano Lopez and Juan Monaco in the second round, but things got rocky between the four. Check out this video of them getting into a skirmish:

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Stanislas Wawrinka and Gael Monfils Pose for Twitter Picture Prior to Match

Less than an hour before facing off for their match at the Australian Open, Stanislas Wawrinka tweeted this locker room picture of himself with opponent Gael Monfils:

Monfils and Wawrinka are twitter buddies, have practiced together, and have done charity work together. They’ve faced each other three times with Monfils leading 2-1 after winning the two most recent matches, and unfortunately the two highly-seeded players were forced to meet in the third round.

There is little doubt that the two men are fond of each other, and little doubt that they were working their butts off to win the match. But I’m sorry, there’s still something about posing for such a friendly picture in the locker room so close to match time that leaves me feeling uncomfortable. After all, being that close to go time turns a friend into an enemy. Maybe for them the feeling doesn’t change until they’re officially on the court. One thing we do know for certain is that Roger Goodell would not approve of tweeting so close to match-time.