Roger Federer pulled out of the Qatar Open with a sore back two weeks ago. On Wednesday, he got a free pass into the third round of the Australian Open when his scheduled opponent withdrew from Melbourne Park with a similar ailment.
“Surprising. I didn’t know anything about it,” the four-time Australian Open winner said of Andreas Beck’s lower back strain. “He said he had a lot painkillers and pain during the last match.
“Now I’ll just take it easy this afternoon and come out tomorrow and hit intensely, and then I’ll be ready for the next match.”
Beck said he was practicing and “made a wrong step.”
“I couldn’t serve, so I think it doesn’t make sense to play, especially now against Roger,” he said. “For me, it’s the best decision. It’s the beginning of the season and I have to be careful.”
The second-round match had been scheduled for Melbourne Park’s second court, Hisense Arena, which would have marked the first time since 2004 — a span of 52 matches — that Federer had played somewhere besides 15,000-seat Rod Laver Arena.
“I knew it’s been a long time since I’ve been on there … but at Wimbledon and at the French we always go at the second court,” Federer said. “I wasn’t disappointed to hear that I was going to play there.”
No. 1 GOAL: Jelena Jankovic admits she lost some mental focus after reaching the top ranking. Now she says she’s ready to challenge for the big titles again.
The 26-year-old Serb became the 18th woman to hold the No. 1 ranking when she hit the top in August 2008 and remained there for 18 weeks. She went into the 2009 Australian Open as the top seed, only to fall in the fourth round.
This year, she isn’t even ranked in the top 10 after failing to win a title in 2011.
“I’m trying to get up there again,” Jankovic said Wednesday after reaching the third round. “I’m getting my fighting spirit again, there were times when I was a little bit flat. It was a huge thing for me to become No. 1 in the world. When you’ve done that, it’s like ‘oof.’ You relax.”
Her aim now, though, is winning an elusive Grand Slam title. Jankovic reached the 2008 U.S. Open final, and the semifinals at Roland Garros three times and the Australian Open in 2008.
“I’m really motivated again. I’m really getting that fire inside me, that hunger,” Jankovic said.
Jankovic believes, however, she differs from some of her fellow players, who are only focused on tennis and become “depressed” when it isn’t going in their favor.
“Being No. 1 in the world is great, but at the same time, after you retire, you’re not going to be walking around with a No. 1 on your forehead,” she said. “If you’re happy as a person and you find the right values, that’s the most important thing.”
BROTHERS ON TOP: Doubles play kicked off Wednesday at the Australian Open and a familiar duo was atop the men’s seedings.
Brothers Bob and Mike Bryan will be aiming for their sixth Australian Open title — and fourth in a row — when they start against the Israeli team of Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich on Thursday.
The Bryans have been so dominant Down Under, they’ve only lost one match since 2006 — and an incredible 27 sets in 12 years. That’s an average of 2.25 sets per year.
If the Bryans are going to add to their Grand Slam haul of 11 titles at Melbourne Park, however, they’ll have to get by some tricky foes.
Max Mirnyi of Belarus and Daniel Nestor of Canada, the second seeds, captured the French Open and the ATP World Tour Finals in London last year. The third seeds, Michael Llodra of France and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia, are also coming off a strong year, winning four titles and reaching the semifinals at the French Open and Wimbledon.
The Bryans may not have been in action Wednesday, but they made the headlines in Melbourne with a column in The Age newspaper voicing their support for the men’s singles players advocating for a shorter playing schedule.
“By the end of the year, everyone’s exhausted. We’ve been on tour now for 13 years, and we’ve had three-week off-seasons for that whole time,” the brothers wrote.
In perhaps a misguided attempt to generate sympathy, they continued: “Mike has a big house, a pool and a volleyball court that he doesn’t get to use — he just gets the bills, so he doesn’t think he’s getting much bang for his buck there.”
The Americans will have another team to cheer in the mixed doubles, too. Serena Williams and Andy Roddick have entered the draw in preparation for possibly playing together at the 2012 London Olympics.