Work in Sports
The day after
Norman dissects semifinal meltdown
Posted: Friday January 28, 2000 01:37 PM
MELBOURNE, Australia (Reuters) -- Dear diary, I must turn up on time for my next Grand Slam semifinal.
For two sets on Friday, Magnus Norman hardly recognized the player trailing 6-1, 6-2 to defending champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov.
By the time the real Norman surfaced, it was too late and he bowed out of the semifinals of the Australian Open 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.
The Swede keeps a little black book full of notes on opponents and how to play them. His next entry should be full of lessons learned the hard way against the wily Russian.
"The bad start that I had today, it didn't really help me," said Norman after his first major semifinal.
"I struggled for two sets but in the third I really started to recognize myself again.
"I have so much inside me ... I would do anything to get one more chance really to show I can play better than I did today."
Norman, the 12th seed, had been in great form leading up to the season-opening Grand Slam and lost just two sets in the first five rounds here. But he was simply not competitive in the opening two sets of the semifinal.
He fumbled through 29 unforced errors in 40 painful minutes on center court at Melbourne Park.
Kafelnikov roamed the court, picking Norman off with his wristy groundstrokes to march almost unopposed towards a final against world No. 1 Andre Agassi on Sunday.
Norman fought back in the third set and began to come out on top in some powerful baseline rallies. He broke Kafelnikov's serve for the only time in the fourth game of the third set but it was too little too late.
Norman said he was not nervous, but his denial was not very convincing.
"I've never been in a semifinal in a Grand Slam before," he said. "Maybe that was playing a role a little bit."
"I just tried to tell myself that it was just another match, but clearly it was a little different to that. All this media attention this week, I'm not used to that," Norman said.
Norman had said he was the happiest man on earth after he beat fourth seed Nicolas Kiefer on Wednesday.
The 23-year-old from the small town of Filipstad became an instant curiosity when he revealed he had chosen tennis over a promising career in the obscure Swedish sport of bandy.
He talked of an irregular heartbeat which had required intricate surgery in 1997, not long after he won his first title in Bastad.
Norman was disappointed that he had not been able to provide more for a small but raucous band of blue-and-yellow painted Swedish fans who make an annual pilgrimmage to Melbourne Park.
"It's great to have the fans there and I think they supported me great throughout the match, even though I played really, really badly in the beginning," Norman said.
"They stuck with me and supported me throughout the match."
As for what he would write in his little black book -- "No one knows what it is, what I'm going to write there."
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