The tale of Ana Ivanovic's early exit in Melbourne is easily told and it's not a happy story.
The Serbian made 50 unforced errors in her third round defeat to teenager Alisa Kleybanova which is tantamount to gift-wrapping the match for her opponent.
Nobody likes to see what the French Open champion is going through; she is clearly in a rut of poor form and is finding it very difficult to escape.
She seems nervous on court and is trying to hit her way out of trouble; I also suspect she is struggling under the weight of expectation since winning her first Major.
Either way, she should be good enough to get the ball in the court often enough to despatch someone like Kleybanova. Hopefully she will rediscover her game because she is a classy player - we saw that as she rose up through the ranks - and that is not going to go away.
She just needs to deal with some of the inner demons that affect her in the middle of matches and then I feel it won't be long until she is back in the winner's circle.
Over three decent-length sets 30 unforced errors is an acceptable number for an aggressive player and Ivanovic is definitely someone who likes to dictate the points, she isn't a retriever. She's not someone who is just going to get a lot of balls back into court like Martina Hingis.
She likes to attack but has to blend that with the ability to construct points so she can hit her winner into plenty of space. It seems to me that she is pulling the trigger a little bit too early in the point and is panicking a little instead of being a bit more composed.
It is disappointing to lose marquee players like Ivanovic and Venus Williams so early in the competition, but on the plus side those results have got everyone talking about the women's draw.
Carla Suarez Navarro is a talented player but her victory over Venus is still a huge shock, especially after the American got to 5-5 in the second set - you'd expect Venus to find a way to win the match from there.
Venus seemed to be in good form coming into the tournament but it just goes to show that you shouldn't read too much into exhibition events.
Elena Dementieva seems to be finding some form and remains in the mix alongside Svetlana Kuznetsova but I still feel that Serena Williams is the favourite for the title. The deeper and deeper she gets into these events the tougher and tougher she is to topple.
On a different note, I must take this chance to praise Australian Open officials and the police for the way they responded to the ugly clashes between Bosnian and Serbian fans. After last year I hoped we had seen an end to this sort of trouble but it seems not.
The trouble tarnishes the sport and hopefully now the authorities can review video evidence and deal with those who instigated it.
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Gary Sharkey says...
Alan, it makes such a shape because the ball not only hits, the line, but skids also, even on hard courts.
Posted 19:22 27th January 2009
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