Commentary

Delivering the midweek Aussie awards

Updated: January 24, 2010, 12:09 PM ET
By Ravi Ubha | ESPN.com

MELBOURNE, Australia -- This year's Australian Open certainly hasn't disappointed. There was an upset right off the bat, and Roger Federer got tested in the first round, making for some unexpected drama. Here's a look at the good, bad, wild and wacky of the opening week in Melbourne.

Best match: Mikhail Youzhny versus Richard Gasquet, first round.

Gasquet, back from his drug suspension, won't want to go anywhere near Margaret Court Arena in the near future (not to mention anyone named Pamela). For the second straight year, the Frenchman blew a two-set lead and match points in an absolute thriller while slightly injured.

One had a feeling this one would be good, given the talent on display, and Youzhny prevailed 6-7 (9), 4-6, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (4), 6-4 just seven minutes shy of five hours. They combined to hit 148 winners.

"I lived through six months, 50 times more difficult than to lose to Youzhny in the fifth set, even if it was very painful to lose after five hours," Gasquet told French reporters, referring to his drug saga.

Youzhny, the 20th seed from Russia, ultimately paid the price. He hurt his wrist and had to withdraw from a winnable match against Poland's Lukasz Kubot in the third round.

Runner-up: Roger Federer versus Igor Andreev, first round.

Andreev pushed Federer to five sets in the fourth round of the 2008 U.S. Open, but come on, no one expected the Russian to do the same. After all, he was in a huge slump, winning just two of his previous 13 matches.

Guess what? Andreev and his monster forehand rose to the occasion, at least for almost three sets. Andreev wasted a break point at 3-3 in the third when he sent an easy forehand long and couldn't convert three set points at 6-5, all on his serve. Maybe he was thinking too long about who was on the other side of the net.

Andreev lost the third, then crumpled to exit in four.

"That's [why] there's a difference in the rankings," Andreev, ranked 37th, told reporters. "That's why he's No. 1."

Most entertaining player: Nikolay Davydenko. Yes, Nikolay Davydenko. Another Russian.

Piquing the interest of journalists since winning the year-end championships in London and beating Federer and Rafael Nadal a combined four times in a row, Davydenko has become a media darling.

Among things we discovered, the humorous Davydenko can't take his drink, his wife is knowledgeable enough to be his coach, and he wants kids.

On Saturday, Davydenko was asked which Russian player he'd want to marry if he wasn't married to Irina.

"Man or woman?" he retorted, prompting much laughter in the room. "I have my beautiful wife. I don't want to have any ..." At that point, Irina piped in, "I'm [listening] to you."

Best comeback: Vania King.

King, from Long Beach, Calif., went in as the underdog against 23rd-seeded Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia. Cibulkova makes up for her 5-foot-3 frame by hustling around the court and reached the French Open semifinals in 2009.

And it looked like King was out of the tournament after blowing a match point and trailing 5-1 in the third. But the 20-year-old fought off four match points of her own, in two different games, to win 7-5 in the third.

[+] EnlargeOudin
Clive Brunskill/Getty ImagesAfter an auspicious run in New York, Melanie Oudin failed to build on that momentum in Oz.

Toughest loss: Cibulkova aside, on the same day in the first round, Melanie Oudin of Marietta, Ga., failed to convert four match points against Russia's Alla Kudryavtseva.

Nothing has gone right for Oudin since being thrust into the national spotlight back home following a breakthrough U.S. Open. Oudin memorably rallied against a slew of Russians to land in the quarterfinals.

"I'm still learning," the 18-year-old told reporters. "Everyone expects me to play like that all the time, and I'm trying to get better."

Biggest letdown: Talk about the anticipation in Melbourne on Saturday night. A nation, it seemed, was set for another epic encounter between home hero Lleyton Hewitt and colorful Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis, the 2006 finalist. They roamed for nearly five hours at the Australian Open two years ago in a match that ended at 4:34 a.m., the latest finish in Grand Slam history.

Something was awry with Baghdatis from the outset, though, in this one, dropping the opening set 6-0 under the lights, and he retired trailing 4-2 in the second with a shoulder injury after just 54 minutes of play.

What a bummer.

Worst toilet break: The honor goes not to a player, but ball boy.

The unfortunate chap couldn't hold it in any longer and wet himself in the middle of a first-round match between Atlanta's Donald Young and Belgium's Christophe Rochus. It took 40 minutes to dry the court and the ball boy was replaced.

"They had to put the sawdust down, or whatever you put down when somebody throws up," Young said after the match. "Then they had to use the blower to dry the court, but the blower had no gas in it, so that took even more time."

Shot of the week: Rafael Nadal, trying to repeat in Melbourne, was tested in the third round against German Philipp Kohlschreiber. The affair lasted more than three hours, with Nadal's counterpunching style and Kohlschreiber's go-for-broke approach making for some fantastic tennis.

Nadal memorably sealed the second, curling a forehand inside the line, striking the ball a yard and a half outside the doubles alley.

"Was one of the best forehands in my life, probably," Nadal said.

Most riled player: Andy Roddick and the officials can't seem to avoid each other.

Roddick was none too pleased when he tripped over the foot of a line judge in the first round, saying the judge did little to get out of the way. In the second round, he got into an argument with chair umpire Fergus Murphy following a close line call on match point, using some mute-your-television language in the process. He later admitted he was more wrong than right.

"I don't do it for entertainment," said Roddick, who has engaged with umpires in the past. "I think if I believe in something strongly enough, I'm pretty outspoken about it. I don't think that has anything to do with me enjoying it. That probably goes back to childhood issues, which would be a longer conversation."

Stat of the week: It's downright ugly.

France's Marion Bartoli, who somehow reached the Wimbledon final in 2007, won only four points in the final set of her third-round match against China's Zheng Jie.

Ravi Ubha is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.

London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com.