Monday, January 18, 2010

Rafa Down Under: Aussie Open Round 1

The Australian Open is underway with Rafa playing his first round match last night... well, last night for us. The time difference is a little baffling. As I write this at 7:50am on Monday, in Melbourne time it is 11:50pm heading towards Tuesday. Rafa must've played at like 4am EST. I can't throw off my sleep schedule that much to watch live. I'm hoping that ESPN2 will show some of his match later this afternoon. It's always more relaxing to watch Rafa play when you already know that he's won.

Anyway, from what I can tell in the press Rafa started off a little sluggish, but found his form after the first set to collect a routine win against Australia’s Peter Luczak 7-6(0) 6-1 6-4. It's not always easy for the top players to go against Aussies in the early rounds because the crowd gives the Aussies so much support and guys like Rafa are still finding their rhythm.

“Playing the first round of one Grand Slam, you know, you know always the first round is a little bit more nervous and you have to start. First rounds are always difficult to play very well,” Rafa said. “Winning in three sets is good news, so very happy to be in second round,”

Next up, Rafa will face either Lukas Lacko from Slovakia or Leonardo Mayer from Argentina in Round 2. Obviously, Rafa is the heavy favorite. We can't take anything for granted though! Vamos Rafa!

Also of note, before the day before the tournament started, Rafa took part in a benefit exhibition for Haiti relief called Hit For Haiti. The event was organized by Roger Federer and featured many other top players in the men's and women's fields including Novak Jokovic, Andy Roddick, Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters.

The event was staged as a sort of mixed-doubles match featuring player substitutions. The players wore microphones on court, adding fun commentary to their play. In the end, Federer's Red Team beat Rafa's Blue Team (booo!) 7-6 in the one-set match.

The event raised more than $185,000, an amount that organizers expected would increase throughout the Aussie Open. Some tour players made separate contributions, including 2008 Aussie Open winner Maria Sharapova ($10,000), John Isner ($5,000) - after he won the Auckland tournament - and Marcos Baghadits ($5,000) - after he won in Sydney.

I don't know what's going on in the above picture, but I feel like there's a good story here. Overall, this seemed like a very fun event that both players and spectators really enjoyed.

I applaud everyone involved for taking time out of their prep schedules for the Open to help with such a worthy cause. Especially Federer, who was really the creative force behind the whole thing. Bravo!

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