Rafael Nadal's straight-set loss to Tomas Berdych dominated headlines on Day 9. Nadal waxed philosophical in his presser, refusing to engage in hypotheticals while crediting his opponent's strong and steady play. Bucking the cliche, though, he didn't take the bait when asked if Berdych can go all the way, noting the excellent form of other top players. Nadal's vanquisher allowed himself one day to enjoy the victory while coach Dani Vallverdu scouts his next match. Simona Halep put in a bleak performance against a surging Makarova, and seemed eager to move onto the next tournament.
Andy Murray, the youngster killer of this Aussie Open, silenced Nick Kyrgios and the Aussie crowd. In press, he chats about Kyrgios' on-court behavior, and downplays the drama of playing against former coach Dani Vallverdu. (Longtime friend and assistant coach Vallverdu left Murray's team on not-so-great terms, allegedly due to tension regarding Andy's hiring of Amelie Mauresmo.)
Maria Sharapova destroyed the hopes of another young gun, routing Eugenie Bouchard. She shared some quips from her father and ex-coach, Yuri, who clearly knows that the straightforward approach works for his daughter.
Q. We will never know, but do you think if you had won that third set it could have changed everything, or were you still feeling that Tomas had a little bit the upper hand?
RAFAEL NADAL: "If" doesn't exist in sport. That's the real thing. If, if, if - never comes. The thing is, you have to do it. I didn't have the chance to play the fourth; I lost the third, so that's it. That's sport. I lost the third. He's happier than me in the locker room. I am not very happy because I didn't competed the way I wanted to competed the first two sets and that's something that I don't like. But I tried my best again in the third. I was closer. I had some chances with the 4-All, some breakpoints. The tiebreak I was there fighting even that the situation was tough. But he played aggressive. The tiebreak, he served well. Two sets to love advantage makes the opponent play with more calm than if he is one set to love or one set all. That's a big difference.
Q. Speak a little bit about Berdych today. Do you think he has what it takes to go all the way in this tournament?
RAFAEL NADAL: I don't know if he can go all the way to win this. There's so many good players there that are playing very well. Andy is playing so well. We'll see. It's true that Tomas is playing well. Just happy to see the way that the tournament develops. The best players are there fighting for the tournament. Tomas is a very regular player that he deserves to be there. He have been in the top positions of the rankings for a long, long time, being very regular, being very professional on what he's doing. So he deserve that. And now let's see what's going on, no? For me, I feel that he resisted well in the third. But before was too easy for me to analyze the way he played. He played well, obvious. But my feeling was that I help him a lot in the beginning, no? Is easier to play well when you are up in the score, one break up, two breaks up from beginning of every set, no? That's a big deal, big difference.
Q. When you were out there really taking it to Rafa, what were you saying to yourself? Must have felt great.
TOMAS BERDYCH: Oh, it feels great. I mean, really the good thing is, as I said, the plan that we put together was the right one. Everything was working. I was able to execute it really well. But still, I mean, until the last point you can't think about anything else. You have to really keep going till the last one. When it's done, it's done. It's great. But I might be thinking about it and enjoying the time probably till tomorrow morning. When I woke up, I need to get myself ready for another one. As I said, I mean, there is a still long way to go in this tournament and I need to be ready for it.
Q. Are you watching the match tonight or do you prefer to enjoy your win doing something else?
TOMAS BERDYCH: No, actually, I'm going to keep Dani watching that match. I think that's the job for him. I don't have to spend really all the time to looking at that. But, yeah, I mean, I'm going to see something definitely. I mean, I'm interesting in that. I want to see something from it. But, as I said, you know, today I have the only time I can enjoy the victory. Since I wake up tomorrow morning just all the focus goes for the next opponent and my next match.
Q. Probably not your best today. Did it feel bad before the match?
SIMONA HALEP: I practiced very well in the morning, but maybe I was a little bit too stressed before I started the match. Wasn't my good day. I had a bad day. But she played well and everything was in for her. So she deserves this winning. I'm really sad a little bit now that I could not play my tennis, my game, but that's tennis and I have to look forward to the next tournament.
Q. Do you think you put pressure on yourself being the favorite in this match?
SIMONA HALEP: Not really pressure. I cannot say pressure. Just I was a little bit stressed. I don't know why. I had experience from last year to play quarterfinals, so it doesn't mean that I felt pressure. Just I didn't feel the game, the ball. Was a very bad day for me.
Q. We were all 19 once. What do you make of his on-court demeanor, showboating, that kind of stuff?
ANDY MURRAY: I actually think he's quite respectful on the court in many ways. He does applaud good shots. He does say, Good shot, good serve. Yeah, he gets frustrated with himself and sometimes says things he shouldn't, but everyone, I would think, has done that in some way when they're 19. It just happens that when he's doing it he's playing in front of a large audience and it gets picked up on. I've spent a little bit of time with him and I think he's a good person. I don't think he's a bad guy. He's nice. He's always been polite and respectful. Yeah, maybe he does the odd thing on the court that might annoy some people, but I don't think he does anything with bad intent. He's only going to continue to mature and improve in that respect as he gets older. He just needs to be allowed to grow up. Like everyone makes mistakes when they're that age.
Q. What will it be like having Dani in the opposite box in the semifinal for the first time?
ANDY MURRAY: I don't know. When I finished working with Miles MacLagan he started working with Baghdatis. I played against Baghdatis a few times. I played him at the Olympics. I played him in Tokyo with Miles there. Yeah, with Miles there I didn't really have an issue with it. But, again, I don't know, maybe I'll find it weird on the day. But, yeah, it's just something that you deal with as a player. My goal isn't to beat Dani; my goal is to beat Berdych. So I don't think about that in the next days.
Q. What did he say to you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: In a nice version, it was like, This is unacceptable (smiling). He's like, It is much easier just having a normal home life. You should try it. I don't know why you're suffering out there for nothing. Make it easier for yourself.
Q. He feels like you're suffering for nothing?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, he told me that I was working much harder than I had to. If I was maybe a little bit smarter, did a few things maybe a little bit differently, maybe it could have been easier.
Day 8 was a big one for American women, with two Williams sisters and a Madison advancing to the quarterfinals. While Venus' fans are ecstatic, she seems to be keeping a level head, noting that she's "been here before." Serena had to rely on a little on-court coaching, albeit from a boisterous fan who told her to use more spin. (She followed the advice, and it worked.) She also remarked that she loves the crowd's appreciation for her in Australia, something she doesn't get everywhere she goes. Novak Djokovic seemed a bit confused about a serve-and-volley question; a reporter said that his opponent used the tactic successfully against Djokovic, although Muller's straight-set loss seemed to indicate otherwise. Breakout star Madison Keys reminds us that she's still a teenager with talk of emojis. And finally, just when you think all possible questions about The Sleeve have been asked and answered, a reporter asks the same ones, again.
Q. Because of the opponent, because of the occasion, does it feel like the biggest win for you in a while?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't know. I mean, I guess from the outside looking in, I guess it could look like that. But for me I'm just really focused and poised right now. I feel like I've been here before, so it's not like I'm jumping up and down for joy, Oh, shoot, what is this? I've never done this. Yes, I've done this. This is what I'm always going into each tournament thinking I want to do, even when I fall short. It's definitely not the first time. I guess that's how I feel.
Q. Do you feel your performances affect people and are an inspiration?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Definitely. I think all of us touch lives in ways that we never dreamed of growing up as kids. You just want to be No. 1 in the world, you want to win a major. You never think about the people you inspire from your efforts and your attitude. Yes, that's been my experience in my life and most professional players I think it's their experience as well.
Q. When that person in the stands called out, Use some spin, did you follow up on that?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I did. I was like, you're right. I'm trying to do that anyway, but I wasn't doing it. So my fan coach was like, Use some spin, Serena. I was like, Okay, okay. It's been like really great. I hear my name throughout the whole stadium like 360. I don't get that everywhere. It feels good.
Q. Why do you think there's such an in and out in terms of getting that?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think when you win often, sometimes people want other people to win. They forget that you want to keep winning, too. And that's okay. You know, I'm used to it.
Q. It is nice that you're taken for your results?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I get that every year in Australia. That's one of the reasons this is my favorite place to come. I really love it so much.
Q. What is serve and volley's future in your opinion? Because he did it tonight successfully.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Him?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I go to the net to shake hands (smiling).
Q. What is the future of the tactic?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: That's a good question. It really depends how the technology is going to advance, what are we going to do with the balls as well. Are they going to become faster or slower? My subjective feeling for the Australian Open, I talked to many players, the last two years the courts or the balls, something out of these two elements have speeded up the game here in Australia. It plays faster. It allows the servers to have more free points, come to the net. On a cold night like tonight, the ball didn't bounce very much. He tried to chip and come in. He played smart. Made me uncomfortable in some moments on the court. That's what serve-and-volley players do. You don't get to see that many serve-and-volley players these days. The future, it's hard to say if it's going to go back to what it was 20, 30 years ago. I highly doubt that. Depending on technology and certain changes, if the game becomes a bit faster, the players will adjust to it.
Q. How big a milestone does a first slam quarterfinal feel to you?
MADISON KEYS: It feels really good. My mom texted me before the tournament. She said, It's your last Grand Slam as a teenager, and sent me a bunch of grandma faces. I'm like, Thanks for reminding me, Mom. Thank you. Love you. It's huge. But it's my last slam as a teenager. I'm doing so well and hopefully I can keep it up.
Q. What would be the emoji that describes your general sense right now?
MADISON KEYS: You know, the one that she's in a salsa dress dancing. That would be me right now.
Q. How long have you been wearing a sleeve?
MILOS RAONIC: Since Miami of last year.
Q. Is that precautionary?
MILOS RAONIC: First it was for medical purposes. I had a rash and I couldn't have my arm in the sun, so I had to play with long sleeves. I wasn't really too fond of that, with the warmth in Miami. I went on with that. I've liked the feeling ever since. It's compression. Never feels like it gets too hot. But on a day like today that's cool, it feels like it's nice and warm.
The final rounds of the 2015 Australian Open are taking shape with several of the sport's biggest names still alive in the tournament. See what some of the the major players had to say about their play yesterday.
Q. You think they would take requests? (Genie's Army)
EUGENIE BOUCHARD: I was thinking about it, because I really want them to start singing some Taylor Swift. Hopefully they will see this and maybe work on it. That would be really cool. Maybe I'll ask them to do that. I'll be really motivated if they do that. Like if I'm down, start singing Taylor Swift and I'll be motivated.
Q. What do you remember most about the match with Sharapova in Paris?
EUGENIE BOUCHARD: I kind of just remember a grind. I didn't feel like I was playing great tennis the whole time. Sometimes here and there. But that's what it's about: trying to win and trying to always play better, get through it, even if you're not playing your best. I felt like I was close with her. She probably wasn't -- we were both maybe a bit off. You're never really playing amazing. Maybe 10% of the year. So I remember that, and I remember I had chances and stuff. I just remember a tough match. I was pretty disappointed after, so that's motivating.
Q. She's compared to you quite often for various reasons. Can you see the similarities and can you remember what it was like when you were coming through the same way?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I think we all want to go through our own paths and we all want to -- when I was coming up, I was compared to Kournikova for many years in my career and still occasionally name always comes up in interviews and articles. That's just part of it, part of the game, part of the business. It's understandable. It is what it is. As I have said, I believe I was still a teenager, I don't want to be the next anyone. I want to be the first Maria Sharapova. And that's how I've been throughout my whole career. And we all want to create our own path and go through our own career. And we're all destined for some sort of thing. We work extremely hard at a sport, and that's what we want to be known for.
Q. Do you see any of yourself in Genie?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I personally don't know Genie very well. As a tennis player she's a big competitor. She's an aggressive player as well that likes to take the ball early and dictate points. From that perspective, yeah, definitely.
Q. Until the game that you broke him in the first set, you had only won one point on his serve. Was it a matter of you figuring out the serve, or did his level of serving drop?
RAFAEL NADAL: I don't know if you saw that, but I changed completely the position on the return. I was returning very close to the baseline. Is easier to start more aggressive and make the transition aggressive to defensive than defensive to aggressive. So is something that I talk before the match, and we decided to go close to the baseline in the beginning. Then if was not working, try to play more points. I had that feeling that I need to make him feel that he needs to play a winner to win the point, no? Because before my feeling was he was winning too many points only with the serve. So I tried to change that at the end of the first set. I was able to have some good returns. One very good one, but then the other ones, just put the ball inside the court and then try to let him think a little bit more than what he was doing until that moment. That's what changed the dynamic of the games on the return. Very favorable way for me.
Q. What is the meaning of what you're writing on the lens of the camera?
RAFAEL NADAL: Doesn't matter. Is stupid thing. With my friends, that's it.
Q. What kind of help has it been with a new coach, a fresh pair of eyes from Dani taking on Rafa this time?
TOMAS BERDYCH: Let's see. It's going to be easier to judge after the match. So far, as I said in the past, we didn't spend that much time together. But the good thing is that I'm able to, you know, execute the things that he's telling me what to do, how to set up for the matches. So far it works pretty well. I think it's definitely the advantage which I was surely looking for.
Q. You had that famous volley with the two sets lead against him a couple years ago here. You don't remember that?
TOMAS BERDYCH: To Rafa?
Q. Yes. You had a volley for two sets to love.
TOMAS BERDYCH: Okay.
Q. You came very close then maybe to beating him. Does that give you confidence that you can play him that tough on a big stage here?
TOMAS BERDYCH: No, it has nothing to do with that. Definitely not. As I said, every slam is different. Every opponent, even if is the same one, then the match is different. So, no. It's going to start from 0-0. That's how it is. No comparing with the past. Just trying to be in this time and looking forward to it.
Q. Did you feel like you were a bit jinxed at the end?
GRIGOR DIMITROV: Jinxed or not, when you play a match like that, you don't actually think about anything. I'm not going to hide my disappointment. I'm pissed.
Q. In terms of sustained quality, might that be as good as you've played since the back surgery?
ANDY MURRAY: It's very difficult for me to say right now. But in terms of how my body felt, if it was the best I played, my body allowed me to play that way for the whole duration of the match. I didn't feel tired. I felt fresh. My back felt good. I wasn't feeling stiff at all. I don't normally say stuff like this, but for me the compression garments that I'm wearing just now are genuinely exceptional. In these condition over the last couple years I struggled a little bit, and I felt absolutely fine this evening. Whether or not, you know, it was the best match I played is definitely -- for a match that went three and a half hours, physically I felt way better than the last year or so.
Q. How does this compare to Wimbledon?
NICK KYRGIOS: I think this one, it feels a bit better, honestly. There was a lot of expectation coming into this tournament. I was obviously out for a couple weeks before Sydney. I wasn't expecting, you know, anything, especially not quarterfinals. And, yeah, it's just massive, especially to do it in front of your home crowd. Hisense is an unbelievable court. I'd never played on it before. It's definitely my favorite court now.
Q. Talk about Hisense. What is the dynamic? How does that help you?
NICK KYRGIOS: Yeah, the court itself is actually quite small. The back, from the baseline, actually isn't a long way back. I really enjoyed that. It's actually a pretty small court, and then it just extends wide with the crowd. It was really cool. Even when I got out there with the warmup, I thought it was a really, really good court.
Day 6 of the 2015 Australian Open will be remembered for the eye-opening results of a pair of American women. Venus Williams overcame a 4-6 2-4 and 0-40 deficit to beat Camila Giorgi and Madison Keys ousted number 4 seed, Petra Kvitova, in straight sets. Should they get through Aga Radwanska and Madison Brengle respectively, they'll meet in the quarterfinals. In her press conference, Venus told us how happy she was to be climbing the rankings, an explicit goal of hers. As of this writing, she's provisionally ranked #12 based on her results in Melbourne and could crack the top-10 with a win in her next match.
Serena pinpointed her loss to Muguruza (her next opponent) at the French Open last year as the turning point for her season. She was also very unhappy that Federer lost to Seppi in the third round, saying she doesn't think Roger played badly but Seppi played "really, really well." Aga Radwanska gave us some insights into what her day-to-day relationship with Martina Navratilova is like, telling us that Martina served to her in practice before the Lepchenko match because of the lefty factor.
We learned that Djokovic broke the safety rules by making an impromptu stop on his way to the tournament to mingle with fans. His exchange when asked about it was typical tongue-in-cheek Nole. Stan had a similar approach when he could sense the Roger questions coming, and Vika informed us she's an original, leggings wearing, sing when she wants to kinda girl. Oh, seems she's got a bit of a potty mouth too. Lastly, the wins by Brengle and Keys set up a fourth round match between friends who let us in on a little secret that we'll hopefully bear witness to very soon!
Q. How much contact are you having with Martina Navratilova at the Open? She's clearly got other interests as well.
AGNIESZKA RADWANSKA: Yes. But, well, I think we could find and plan that everything is working for us both. Of course she's also commentating, but she's always there when I'm practicing or playing match. I think it's easy to do that. We find a plan every day very good.
Q. Do you occasionally hit against her in practice?
AGNIESZKA RADWANSKA: Yes, actually I was played left-handed opponent today, so yes, she was serving yesterday, yes.
Q. You said out on the court that you want to keep secret the advice she gives you. How generally has she helped you?
AGNIESZKA RADWANSKA: Well, I think it's a lot of things, but of course it's in this kind of -- on this level, I think it's just really small details that are very important. Of course everybody can play great tennis, but if you want to win a match or Grand Slam, you really have to do everything right. That's what we're working on, just to focus on very important things and talking on and off the court, and just to figure out everything just to win those seven matches in a row.
Q. Along the same lines as fourth round not being your goal, but with this run you'll probably move up to 12 in the rankings. That's clearly pretty good. What does that mean to you?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I have to tell you, I've been trying a long time to get my ranking up. That's awesome. It's hard to be ranked lower than what you know you are. So it's definitely exciting to see yourself go up the rankings. At the end of the day, I guess it doesn't matter what you're ranked, you still have to win your match; but if you do win your match you get a higher ranking. They both go hand in hand. Yeah, that's awesome. I'm going to try to go better.
Q. What do you remember most about the match against Muguruza at the French?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Losing. But it was a good loss. As angry as I was, it was the best loss I had the whole year last year. Had a lot of them. But that one in particular made me realize what I needed to work on. It opened my eyes towards a lot of things. I was like, Oh, my gosh, if I don't change, then I'm going to be forever in the same position. It actually ended up helping me a lot.
Q. What were your thoughts about Roger's loss?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, you know, I wasn't very happy, to be honest. I was rooting for Roger. He's been playing so well, on the other hand Seppi played incredible. He served well, he played well, he moved well. He did everything great. If you want to beat the top players, that's what you're going to have to do. I think he proved he could do that consistently for four sets. I don't think Roger played bad. I think Seppi played really, really well.
Q. Everybody is going to ask you this question, of course.
STAN WAWRINKA: Go for it. Roger?
Q. You can't guess.
STAN WAWRINKA: Roger lost yesterday. Yeah, but there's a lot of question over that. How did he play? How did he feel? If I talk to him today (laughter)? Just tell me what you want to know.
Q. What is your reaction?
STAN WAWRINKA: Well, it was a surprise, for sure. I watch not all the match, but big part of the match. I think Seppi was playing really well, playing really flat like he can play. And Roger was not feeling great on the court. You can see. When Roger make double-fault, that mean he not in a big day. Was a big surprise for everybody.
Q. What have those conversations been like after your matches calling home?
MADISON BRENGLE: My mom is just obsessed with the towels. Did you get another towel? Mom, I won. She's like, But the towels. So, all right, got our priorities straight.
Q. Do you get her a towel from every tournament?
MADISON BRENGLE: I got her one from Brisbane. I didn't get one from Hobart. I just think she really likes the slam towels. I'm trying to get as many towels as I can, so I have to try to keep winning.
Q. You talked about staying true to your originality. How are you an original?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: How am I an original? Well, first of all, look at my leggings. There's not many players who can pull that off (smiling). What do you think about them?
Q. Not bad.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I don't know how to describe that. I'm just being me. I say what I want to say. I laugh when I want to laugh. I play how I want to play. I grunt when I want to grunt.
Q. You swear how you want to swear?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I do.
Q. I've heard a few days ago when you were driving out to the courts, you asked the driver to stop and have some selfies with your fans, to sign autographs. It's against the rules, safety rules.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It's forbidden?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Okay. I guess I'm waiting for the ticket then. Australian police, I'm here. You know where to find me. Sorry for doing that. Sorry for disobeying the rule.
Q. Madison mentioned an image that you guys shared with a door. I couldn't quite understand what the relation was with your names.
MADISON KEYS: Maddie and I have this thing where we'll see funny pictures and send them back and forth. I saw one where the caption is, There can only be one. There's one girl under a door and another one is sitting on top of it. She was all excited before the match. She was like, You have to win so we can recreate this picture. That was her biggest goal for me. She was like, You have to win because I want to make sure we can have this photo.
Q. What do you think of getting to play someone you know, another unseeded American in the fourth round? Unique situation.
MADISON KEYS: Yeah, I think it's great. We're obviously representing our name pretty well. I mean, Maddie is a great player. She has been around for a long time. She's always that person that can, you know, squeak out wins. She makes a million balls and she fights. So I think it's exciting. I think it's pretty cool that there's not only two Americans playing each other in the fourth round, but that we have the same name.
Day 5 saw the tournament's first shocking upset: Roger Federer's loss to Italian Andreas Seppi. It seems Roger had a premonition during practice earlier in the day. Seppi, on the other hand, had no expectations going into the match, and even seemed a bit dazed after pulling the upset. That clear head must have helped him swing freely, especially on his magical forehand pass on match point. Grigor Dimitrov was stretched to five sets by 2006 Aussie finalist Marcos Baghdatis, but still dealt with questions about his girlfriend in press. And Maria, with a much more assured performance in round three, brought the funny to her press conference, shedding light on why reporters shouldn't rely on players for dependable analysis. Finally, no. 3 Simona Halep expressed confidence in her game, and swiftly shut down questions about former coach Wim Fissette.
Q. What did he say to you at the end?
ANDREAS SEPPI: Yeah, I can't remember well. But I think he said, Unbelievable last point. Congratulations, something like that.
Q. You had a lead back in 2012 against Djokovic, also up two sets. Did that ever enter your mind when you had the two-set lead against Federer and then maybe lost the third as well?
ANDREAS SEPPI: I wasn't thinking about anything, I have to say, about this match. As I said, I was very calm. I really enjoyed the atmosphere out there. I was not thinking I'm leading two sets to love or two sets to one. It was going to the end, the match, so just if I could do that any time, it would be great, yeah.
Q. You never lost a set with him. Was it surprising the way he played? Do you think Seppi played his best ever?
ROGER FEDERER: Against me, you mean?
ROGER FEDERER: Possibly so. We had some good matches in the past. He hits a good ball, forehand and backhand, so I knew that on a quicker court where he gets more help on the serve it was potentially going to be more tricky. And I felt for some reason yesterday and this morning it was not going to be very simple today. Even in practice I still felt the same way. I was just hoping it was one of those feelings you sometimes have and it's totally not true and you just come out and you play a routine match. Yeah, it was a mistake. And I know the strength of Seppi, especially after he beat Chardy, who I know can play very well. I was aware of the test and was well-prepared. Just somehow couldn't play my best tennis today. It was definitely partially because of Andreas playing very well.
Q. What was your feeling in practice this morning?
ROGER FEDERER: I don't know, maybe rhythm was missing. But I feel like that very often and then, you know, I come out and play a good match. Sometimes you feel too good and then you play a horrible match. I mean, the practice to me doesn't mean a thing anyways. But I was aware that this could be a tough match, so I wasn't mistaken this time around.
Q. A couple days ago you called Maria the greatest fighter ever. What about the match today, the fight that you showed?
GRIGOR DIMITROV: I just said matches like that really defines I think who you are and how you want to be, I don't know, remembered, your nickname, whatever you guys want to call it. I just feel that matches like that, it's really important to win, even if it's not on your best days. I think this is how you go forward. Today was one of those days for me, that I didn't really feel good on the court, wasn't really comfortable with my game, but I found a way to fight through it two sets to one down. To me that says a lot. In the same time, gives me a lot of confidence.
Q. What you said about Maria the other day, did she have anything to say about your praise?
GRIGOR DIMITROV: You should ask her about that (smiling).
Q. Did you ever try two hands on both sides?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I did actually, yeah. I did lefty, two hands on both sides. Like at the circus, I do everything.
Q. Why did you try it and why did you stop?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I had a pretty good right-handed forehand as well. I did a little bit of both. Monica Seles was my idol, as well, so...
Q. Compared to the first time you played Peng Shuai, do you think she's evolved to be a better player in other ways?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I honestly don't quite remember when our first time was. Maybe you know that. You don't?
Q. How would you rate your game for now? Are you pleased with your game?
SIMONA HALEP: Yeah, I'm okay with my game. I played well today, better than the second round, so this thing is good. She was very strong and I just wanted to play my game, but, you know, it was a great, great match for both of us. I was hitting aggressive and I stayed very close to the baseline. I served well. So I'm happy with my game now.
Q. About Yanina, would you ask Wim Fissette some advice about her game?
SIMONA HALEP: No.
Q. You don't have contact anymore?
SIMONA HALEP: No, I don't have contact anymore.
The Day 4 pressers were decidedly chipper affairs for the top players. Venus and Serena were judge and jury on their decision to withdraw from doubles, evading questions like those prudent Whack-a-Moles in Venus' American Express commercial. Victoria Azarenka, winner over Caroline Wozniacki, had plenty to say about her level of play and her tennis-ball-chic outfit. "Intensity" is right. Spare a thought for Lleyton Hewitt, who fell to Andre Agassi's final opponent, Benjamin Becker, and was forced to confront more retirement chatter from the press. The players are still talking about Tim Smyczek's great (and rare) gesture of sportsmanship. Stan Wawrinka provided some nuance, saying that he's not entirely sure what he would have done in the same situation. Finally, Novak Djokovic gave insight into what it's like to be the hunted, seeming to sympathize with Rafael Nadal's second-round struggles.
Q. Why did you and Serena pull out of doubles?
VENUS WILLIAMS: According to the rules you don't have to give a reason. I think we'll stick with that.
Q. Nothing to do with the heat?
VENUS WILLIAMS: It was warm. I don't think it was as warm as it could have been. But, no, that wasn't it.
Q. That wasn't the reason?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Uh-uh.
Q. Were doctors consulted as part of the reasoning?
VENUS WILLIAMS: No further questions on that. I object. Sustained. Thank you.
Q. When she came in and things were pretty intense; wasn't easy to have success on the tour. She's gone through all these different phases. Talk about how she's grown from basically a girl to an incredibly mature woman.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, she came in as a new face, a black woman that was shaking up the world. She had all the pressure on her shoulders. I kind of came in behind her. You know, just snuck in there. There was no pressure on me at all. She dealt with it so amazing. She had a lot of confidence and she had so much class and still does throughout everything. You can see that her personality is pretty much the same. She's definitely grown but she's always been very mature and very regal.
Q. Was there a public moment in public when you were most proud of your sister?
SERENA WILLIAMS: So many things. I mean, her sticking up for equal rights in Dubai when they wouldn't let certain players play, her sticking up for equal prize money for the WTA in Wimbledon. So many different things that she's done for the tour that's made it a better place not just for me but for all the female players.
Q. What was the thinking behind pulling out of doubles this year?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think we were just here. I don't think we have to give a reason. I think Venus answered that already.
Q. Just affects on singles for both of you.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Sure.
Q. Back to the outfit. You started with such intensity.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: That's the key. That's the whole point, the outfit, yeah (smiling). You answered my question.
Q. But then you continued playing with such intensity.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Don't be nervous, it's okay. Well, I didn't take off my outfit, so the energy and intensity stayed there with the outfit. But really, that's how I play. I try to imply that intensity. I play aggressive. I think that's one of my trademarks. Not the outfit, but the intensity.
Q. As usual, there will be a lot of speculation about your future now. What's next for you?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I'll sit down and think about it. As I've said the whole time, I haven't thought about anything. But obviously the Davis Cup is the next main thing. Now that we've got some guys playing really good tennis at the moment, it's an exciting time. Yeah, we have a good chance to possibly pull off an upset away. That's the next focus.
Q. Does that make you want to stay on longer, not thinking about retirement, but...
LLEYTON HEWITT: No, not necessarily. Obviously it would be great to play when Nick and Bernie and Thanasi are possibly top 10, top 20 players, you get a free ride winning Davis Cups (smiling). That ain't going to happen straightaway. You know, I've always said that for me to stick around in Davis Cup is to help these guys more as a mentor, teach them what Davis Cup's all about. So far I've been able to do that from I guess my dedication on the practice court and the match court playing for Australia.
Q. The fact that he gave Rafa another serve at that point in a match, is that a smart thing to do? Is that something you think...
STAN WAWRINKA: I think it's great. I don't know when I saw the match. I think it's tough a little bit to serve also. I think it was great for him to give back the point. You don't see it so many times and it's great sportsmanship.
Q. Would you do that?
STAN WAWRINKA: I don't know. Let's see. Yeah, I don't know. You cannot answer that. After four hours of match you don't know what's in your mind. Sometimes you react just like that. So it's not like you don't ask you that question when it's happening. You just do it. Hope so I will do it.
Q. What did you think in general when you watched the match?
STAN WAWRINKA: In general? I think Tim was playing really great tennis. I think that's what you can expect from Rafa, especially at the beginning of the tournament after few months out of tournament, so many tough battle, big up and down. I don't know what's happen with him physically. But, yeah, I think, like I said before the tournament, if you get through the first week he's going to be really, really dangerous to win the title. Let's see what's going to happen now.
Q. Were you surprised to see Rafa in such a physical state of distress last night?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I watched a little bit of the last few games of the fifth set only. I haven't seen the whole match. He knows to answer the best how he feels on the court. I don't know. From what I have seen, he was out there fighting, you know, deserved to win because he fighted his way through. Now it happens that you have opposite the net an opponent that plays as well as Smyczek played, has nothing to lose. I don't know about his health issues or physical state. Definitely was not expected to see him playing four and a half hours against Smyczek. People expect him and top players to dominate most of the matches that they play on, especially in the opening rounds of a Grand Slam. This is tennis. This is sport. People need to realize that other players are playing as well as the top players do. In the Grand Slams, you have motivation more. If you have a fight like they had last night, you just have to congratulate the better player. I'm sure Rafa spoke nicely and praised his opponent. I've seen actually the great gentleman gesture and sportsmanship from Smyczek in the last game. I think that's something that people should talk about. This is something that is not very common in the sport today, you know, where media and people generally emphasize on the rivalries, feisty, aggressive kind of approach to matches. It's nice to have something that is greater than sport itself, you know, the sportsmanship and fair play.
Day 3 saw some of the top stars survive scares from lesser known opponents. Rafael Nadal reiterated what the commentators never seem to grasp: he loves Australia because - and not in spite of - the suffering he has endured here. Tim Smyczek's presser revealed him to be frank but gracious and generous in defeat. We learned a bit more about the row stemming from Matosevic's comments about Mauresmo's appointment. Apparently Marinko apologized to Andy, Mauresmo, and Judy shortly after the story hit the press. After yesterday's match, Andy diffused the situation completely, even going as far as calling Matosevic a "good guy."
Meanwhile, Viktor Troicki stood firm in his stance that he was hard done by the doping system. He attempted to take responsibility in parts before deflecting blame to other parties for his one year suspension.
When asked about his blister, Federer said, "I just wanted to have a chat with the -- what is his name -- the physio..." Sounds like Rogers wants us all to remember that he has never had need for a physio.
Q. You've had some very grueling matches on this court over the years, some very emotional matches. What is your feeling about this place? Why does it seem to bring out those kind of matches for you?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I spent lot of beautiful moments in this court, but at the same time is one of the court that I really had more tough moments in my career, no? So when you suffer a lot on one court, then you love a lot the court, because I try very hard in all my career to be ready to play well here. I did lot of times, but the same time a lot of times I was in trouble. 2006 I didn't came; 2007, if I am not wrong, I had a strain against Gonzalez; 2010 I had to retire against Andy; I don't remember, but 2011 I think -- well, I finished the match, but I breaked a little bit, a strain against David Ferrer. And last year the final. 2013 I didn't came, and then the final of 2014, what happened with my back. So lot of tough moments on this court for me. But, well, I love Australia. I love the crowd. And, seriously, is one of the court that make me play with more emotions.
Q. Talk about what happened at 6-5 in the fifth when the spectator shouted. Rafa was serving. You indicated he should take another serve.
TIM SMYCZEK: I couldn't make out what he said. I don't know if the guy didn't know he was tossing the ball or not, but it clearly bothered him. You know, I thought it was the right thing to do.
Q. If you had to point to something, what is the most remarkable point of Nadal's game?
TIM SMYCZEK: Just his competitiveness. I mean, he was playing terrible. I have to be careful what I say. He was not playing well and he still found a way to just come back and hit another gear that he could tap into. It's hard to argue with how good his forehand is. It will probably go down as the best lefty forehand of all time.
Q. Do you think you've proven a point today, you and Amelie, given Marinko's comments?
ANDY MURRAY: No. I get on well with Marinko. I spoke to him a little bit about what he said. He didn't mean any harm. Everyone's entitled to their opinion on anything. If he wants to get coached by a man, that's absolutely fine. I have absolutely no issue with it at all. I still think he's a good guy. I get on well with him. I wasn't trying to prove a point at all when I was playing Marinko today. I was trying to win the match.
Q. Do you ever watch your own videos?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I really dislike doing that. I'm not a fan. But it's quite educational, at least that's what the coaches tell me. But, yeah, it's good once in a while. It's nice to see something from a different perspective because, I'm quite a stubborn individual. You see something from your own eyes on the court, but sometimes your coach, or this little camera on top shows you a different picture. It's nice to see that painting because sometimes it comes out completely different.
Q. Why don't you like watching yourself?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't know. Sometimes I just feel like I have better things to do.
Q. Who do you think is dressing the best on court this year?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I quite like my outfit, so...
Q. You've had some time to reflect on what happened. Do you still have any resentment about the way your case was handled?
VIKTOR TROICKI: You know what? Sometimes I see it in newspapers and some headlines it says that I refused to give a blood test. I never refused. That's what hurts me. I want everyone to know that I never refused anything. I just asked for permission and I was allowed by the doctor that day not to give a blood test. I gave urine and I have blood test the next day. It hurts me. I know that I'm innocent and I didn't do anything wrong. That hurts me obviously. And I'm being punished for following the wrong instructions. The instructions that I was given were wrong. That hurts me. I'm paying a penalty for someone else's bad instruction, but it was my fault that I didn't do it that day. At the end, I'm a player who needs to obey the rules. She was giving me instructions, wrong instructions, and she was not punished at all. So that's what hurts me. I'm over it. I mean, that's in the past. Trying to focus for the future. But it will always be a mark and I will always remember it as a bad memory.
Q. When you touched it, it was weird?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I don't know what it was. I still don't know. I just wanted to have a chat with the -- what is his name -- the physio just see what we can do. I know there is nothing we could do. I knew we couldn't tape it up because then it would be even bigger and more weird. I just said, I hope it doesn't get worse or stay like this. Actually it went away, but now I feel again. I don't know what the feeling is.
Below are a few of the more memorable bits from yesterday's press conferences at the Australian Open. Although the WTA has moved on from last year's "Strong Is Beautiful" campaign, Serena Williams seems to have adopted it in her plans for her Nike outfits for 2015. She'll be featuring her back more in her dress designs as a symbol of power in her game and women's tennis. Venus Williams wasn't willing to talk much about her health issues, saying that all the players have their own issues to deal with. If you were hoping to get some insight into what Martina Navratilova brings to the Radwanska pairing, you're out of luck. Radwanska spoke in generalities when asked about it; perhaps she's not sure herself just yet? Neither Caroline nor Vika felt sorry for themselves having to play each other so early in the tournament, and Petra Kvitova pointed out that she faced a similar scenario when she played Venus in the Wimbledon third round last year; the overall sentiment is that these matches are a testament to the depth of the women's game and the winner will be better for it
Q. Did you want to do something more adventurous compared to when you were a teenager? Sort of a bold look?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I've been more focused on different parts of the body. Throughout the years we went for a more conservative look. This year we really wanted to bring out a powerful woman and a strong woman, like I said. You can be beautiful and powerful at the same time. So what we at Nike wanted to do was to focus on beautiful back. So kind of a lot of my outfits this year are really based on the beauty of and the shape of the back, which a lot of people don't think about. But it's so beautiful and powerful on ladies, so we just wanted to focus on that.
Q. What was the most pleasing thing about that?
LLEYTON HEWITT: Just getting the four points, getting the win. It's always tough any Grand Slam, especially early on in tournaments, especially the start of the year, more so playing at home in your home Grand Slam.........
Q. It's been well-documented you've had a few health issues the last couple of years. You seem to have got back into the higher echelons of the game a bit under the radar. Are you feeling very healthy, very good in yourself right now?
VENUS WILLIAMS: You know, I got issues, but so do a lot of people. Everyone has different kind of issues. I deal with my own the best way that I can. I'm creeping closer. I did enter the top 20. But I had some issues. Now I'm back again. I'd like to think that moving forward I have a lot of good days ahead of me in terms of health. I think also learning to manage things, because it's a mental challenge when you don't feel well and I think I'm learning to manage that a lot better.
Q. Is there anything she said to you yet that has made you realize why you've brought her in? Any particular sort of story or experience she shared with you?
AGNIESZKA RADWANSKA: Well, we been working already on couple things on court. We really focus on that. So we'll see if that going to help. So far it's really going a good way. Well, also talking off the court about a lot of things. I think, you know, altogether hopefully one day I can do it.
Q. Nadal say he doesn't feel ready to win. Do you think he's trying to reduce the pressure on him by saying so?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I don't know what his intentions are, how he feels. But he is definitely always one of the top favorites in every tournament that he plays. There is no question about it. We always talk prior to the big tournaments, during the first days of the Grand Slams, about who the potential players are for winning the trophy. You know, more or less the same names have been going around for the last seven or eight years. So I don't think there is any difference in terms of main favorites for this tournament even this year in the Australian Open. There are a few other players that are able to challenge the best.
Q. Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka have to play each other in the second round. How hard is it when the draw aligns like that? Is that something you look forward to?
PETRA KVITOVA: I had this in third round at Wimbledon when I played Venus. Of course, third round, it's difficult to play Venus, former champion there. Was really tough match. I was really nervous before it. I knew it's going to be really tough, tough, tough match. Same as Caroline with Vika. But it's the draw. Of course, when you're not seeded, it's difficult. Some of us should play her.
Q. If you could have changed one thing in your career, what would that have been?
LI NA: I think I'm perfect for the life. I wouldn't change anything.
Q. We have to create a little dissension in the Canadian camp. Miss Bouchard said last night she thought you were a little too obsessed with your hair.
MILOS RAONIC: Next question, really.
Q. Do you have any comment on her hair?
MILOS RAONIC: I'm not going to get into this (smiling). Thank you.
Q. Do you think your friendship with Serena the last few months has taught you anything about competing against a friend at the highest level?
CAROLINE WOZNIACKI: I think quite a few of the girls that are on tour, we used to play with in the juniors. We were friends back then. We've been competing, playing against each other all the way through the ranks here. I think whenever you play on tour, whenever you're on court, you just want to win, doesn't matter who is on the other side.
LISTEN: Episode 2 of our brand new tennis podcast, "The Body Serve."
Our preview of the Happy Slam:
- Who are the favorites? Does anyone outside the top 4 seeds have a chance?
- Who is poised to have a breakthrough year, and who will endure a sophomore slump?
- The difficulties of analyzing the draw - and the folly of predictions.
- Nonetheless, we name our men's and women's picks!
- Our tribute to Li Na and that sweetest of backhands.
THE BODY SERVE: A new tennis podcast - casual, semi-respectable conversations about the ATP & WTA.
Hosted by yours truly, Jonathan Newman (SportScribeCA) & James Rogers (ElliottJMR).