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The Spartan Believer 03/29/2010 - 10:47 PM

96475752 by Pete Bodo

Well, it wasn't exactly Borg vs. McEnroe, Wimbledon 1980, but Sam Stosur and Jelena Jankovic played an entertaining and meaningful tiebreaker this evening under restless, roiled skies in breezy Miami.

It ended badly for Jankovic, the No. 7 seed and winner at Indian Wells last week, as Stosur held on to win the breaker 11-9, and with it the match. Jankovic's chance to win back-to-back Premier Mandatory events went pinwheeling off into the night like so many chickadees buffeted by the wind, but the palm fronds surrounding the court continued clicking and rattling, taking Jankovic to task for blowing an interesting opportunity.

Stosur had already laid a little wood on Jankovic's fanny when I walked into Court 1, under the erroneous impression that I had plenty of time to settle in and enjoy the show. I might have suspected the direction things were taking by the pair of menacing turkey vultures that rode the gusts like a rollercoaster right above the court. They dropped low often enough to make me wonder if one of them wasn't about to descend and peck out Jankovic's eyes, but some things are better left to coaches, moms, agents and other professionals.

I say that only half in jest, for while windy conditions are equal opportunity irritants, they ought to have been more manageable for Jankovic, one of the most lithe and adaptable of players. Instead, they seemed to have an unduly deleterious effect on Jankovic, at least judging by the scoreboard, and the way her sherbet-green dress kept boiling up around her waist, as if our favorite WTA flake were doing an interpretation of that famous Marilyn Monroe subway-grate photo, but on behalf of Anta.

It ought to have been the other way around. Slammin' Sammy Stosur's game is, on the whole, more dependent on precision and timing (more on that later), and acting out something very like set pieces, all based on her outstanding serve. That serve, she would tell me after win, has been the cornerstone of her recent success. "I've had some good results starting about this time last year, and a lot of it has to do with the fact that I'm serving well. I've been getting a good percentage of first serves in, and no matter how well you serve the ball, if you're not getting it in, who cares?"

Jankovic, by contrast, is at her best when she's free to improvise, counter-punch, and use her natural flexibility to retrieve her opponent's most invasive questions. In fact, she's a lot like a yellow lab, or similar retriever breed of dog. She goes into a serene, focused state when when she's scampering east-to-west along the baseline, at full stretch, making desperate reaction-born fetches. She can do wonders chasing a ball, and never seems happier, or more in tune with what she's cut out to do. But like that lab, there isn't a whole lot she can do if you just give her the ball with the command, Okay, Jelly, now do something...

Whether it was the difficult conditions or Jankovic's flair for the dramatic, or some combination thereof, she was error-prone, grumpy and out of sorts; time and again she would drive a backhand into the net, or miss with the forehand, then volubly rue her fate, addressing the crowed with a slender arm elegantly extended - until she had to drop it to quell the hemline fluttering around her waist. 

Jankovic began to pull herself together in the second set, but she was up against a young lady who's as practical and disciplined as Jankovic is flighty and profligate. Stosur has gradually evolved into something like the consumate professional. When her own hot-salmon dress rode up, the serious tan lines on her upper thighs told the story - this is a woman who has spent a lot of time in shorts, presumably whacking balls under a broiling sun. The dedication shows in her game, too, and not just in the familiar ways. There's a point of diminishing returns where focusing on technique and execution, on maximizing your strengths and hiding our weaknesses, eventually leaves you with a game that, apart from anything else, looks studied. 

But such hard work has its rewards, even if it's at the expense of the natural. The serve is the one shot over which a player has absolute control; theoretically, at least, a player could go an entire match without having his or her serve returned. Stosur plays as if that's her aim, and the priority and focus she assigns the task is palpable. She's learned to trust her serve, and to try to get the most out of each delivery. She's built her game around it in a way that suggests that screwing up is not an option, and that's unusual on the WTA tour.

Jankovic returned her share of Stosur's well-placed bullets, but she was backed into a corner  throughout the second set. Stosur's ability to hold, and to work her way out of potentially sticky situations (15-30, or deuce) with the serve must have had a corrosive influence on Jankovic's game. Oh, the Serbian star kept finding ways to stay with Stosur, for that's what she does best; she's the human equivalent of the philanthropic world's "matching grant." But Stosur set the pace, and her ability to hold, slamming the door of opportunity shut each time she leaves it open a crack, eventually took its toll. It always does.

In the tiebreaker, however, Stosur served up a mortifying double fault at 1-1 (let's remember, it wasn't all that long ago that Stosur was a poster child for head case tennis players worldwide). But Jankovic responded in kind (see what I mean about "matching grant?"). From there on, though, both women played pretty tight tennis. Jankovic started points, then tried to figure out ways to win them. Stosur figured out what she needed to do, then started points - and tried to end them on her terms.

The tiebreaker points went on serve until Stosur reached match point, at 5-6 (with Jankovic serving). Stosur made a forehand error and in the blink of an eye Jankovic had a set point. But Stosur brushed it aside. Stosur had another match point at 8-7, but blew it with a wild forehand error. Then it was Jankovic's turn again, with a set point, but Stosur erased it with a good forehand. She ended it two points later with a backhand laser down the line.

Stosur is aware of her shortcomings and she's built around them just as much as she's based her game on her signature stroke. She's developed a streamlined game plan on her journey from electric but sometimes ghastly shotmaker (think Amelie Mauresmo, or Hana Mandlikova). She's become a spartan believer in "the game plan."

Of course, tennis isn't entirely about figuring it out; you have this little matter of physical and even mental limitations, a complex and inter-related set of strengths and weaknesses. Every player's game is unique, like a fingerprint. When a player does due diligence, the way Stosur has, it tends to heighten the visibility of her shortcomings as well as her strengths. In Stosur's case - and it really seems a novel one for a player with such natural feel and athleticism - the outstanding flaw is, ironically, something as fundamental and seemingly second-nature as body positioning relative to the ball.

You'd think that any world-class player would have this distance-to-the-ball thing down pat, but it's surprising how often Stosur overruns a ball, or ends up playing it too close to her body (one by-product of that is a slice backhand that lacks sting). I suppose it's a sign of bad footwork, or slow reflexes. The conditions certainly had something to do with her positioning difficulties tonight, but it was still clear that Stosur doesn't - make that can't - adjust nearly as well to the ball as does Jankovic. Never mind. Stosur compensated for the shortcoming by having a clear idea of what she was going to do, and deciding that nothing was going to stop her. She had the game plan.

When I asked if she was worried that the tiebreaker might slip away and leave her dead-even despite the great start, she merely shrugged and said: "Well, I knew what I wanted to do in that match (serve well, take the game to Jankovic, end points with crisp, positive tennis), so it didn't really matter. I had to keep pushing her. If I'd lost that second set, I would have gone on in the third doing the same thing."

And that's the spartan way, isn't it?


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Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 03/31/2010 at 11:36 PM

Hi folks.

I just got home so I'm watching the match on tape. So happy he won so convincingly.

James LaRosa tweeted: "What a finish! Welcome back buddy. We missed you." nice

Posted by Papo (Got Nadal?) 03/31/2010 at 11:38 PM

I really liked Rafa standing in on the return of serve. He'll need to return just as well for his next match vs Roddick.

Posted by rafadoc 03/31/2010 at 11:38 PM

Awwww. Thanks for sharing JLR's tweet Annie.

Posted by Sherlock 03/31/2010 at 11:38 PM

Sblily, do you know how many winners Rafa had?

Posted by greenhopper 03/31/2010 at 11:38 PM

Don't want to be a party pooper and I want to be happy about Rafa looking mentally strong etc, but that could be mainly he was playing Tsonga. Rafa is forever going to take revenge for that AO match. Amazing how confident he looked right from the beginning when he entered the court. I'd still put the jury out there on his overall match winning confidence.

Oh but Rafa's tennis? That was sexy tonight.

Posted by rafadoc 03/31/2010 at 11:39 PM

It *does* feel like something clicked with Rafa today. I hope it continues.

Posted by Tim (Year of Red Rogie ) 03/31/2010 at 11:40 PM

ugh Rafa's moonballs dull the senses, thats basically it....

Posted by Carrie *trying to pracitce the art of Zen and posting- hoping it lasts* 03/31/2010 at 11:41 PM

greenie- I think you are correct in regards to him trying to counteract the AO match. He came into the match with a focus, a game plan and from the sounds of it an intense practice. I need to see more of that from him.

Posted by rafadoc 03/31/2010 at 11:41 PM

Heh. Someone obviously didn't watch the match and looks...shall we say...a bit like a fool now. :)

Posted by Papo (Got Nadal?) 03/31/2010 at 11:41 PM

"Rafa is forever going to take revenge for that AO match."

lol, right about that. Just like Jo-Willy vs Djokovic. It all goes back to AO 08.

Posted by Tim (Year of Red Rogie ) 03/31/2010 at 11:41 PM

as usual Nafal took 50 seconds between points.... i mean its astonishing how imps just let him abuse the rules...is the ATP THAT desperate?

Posted by imjimmy 03/31/2010 at 11:41 PM

That was definitely Nadal's best match for a while. And totally unexpected after the LAST train wreck.

He served excellent (by his standards), and played REALLY well when facing break points. Although in all fairnessTsonga squandered some of them.

Nadal started shaky. Surprisingly he made 10 Unforced Errors in the first two games alone. But then he improved. He went on to have three unforced errors for the rest of the set, and ONLY five in the second. That's a good indication of how his level gradually increased as the match progressed. And how he adapted.

I thought his slice sucked LESS today (it was almost effective :SHOCK) and so were his net approaches. It was good to see how well he started hitting his backhand in the second set, especially seeing as how abysmal that shot was against Ferrer. My only complaint (minor) is that Nadal could have been more aggressive with his inside out forehand and tried to end some points sooner.

To be fair, Tsonga served poorly by his standards. That definitely helped Nadal impose his game on JWT. Still it was a good win for the Spaniard, and will hopefully help his fragile confidence..

Posted by greenhopper 03/31/2010 at 11:42 PM

I missed the overall match stats, but first set looked like this:

Rafa
1st serves in - 80%
1st serve points won - 64%
2nd serve points won - 50%
Net points - 6/9
Winners - 8 (1 ace)
Unforced errors - 13 (1 double fault)
Break points won - 2/2

Tsonga
1st serves in - 70%
1st serve points won - 63%
2nd serve points won - 43%
Net points - 4/8 (those damn drop volleys)
Winners - 7 (1 ace)
Unforced errors - 10
Break points won - 0/4

Posted by Tim (Year of Red Rogie ) 03/31/2010 at 11:42 PM

already, Fed is practicing on clay, LOVE it@ he wont rest until he gets it RIGHT..u go Rog!!

Posted by Sherlock 03/31/2010 at 11:42 PM

"Someone obviously didn't watch the match and looks...shall we say...a bit like a fool now"

Indeed. :)

Posted by rafadoc 03/31/2010 at 11:43 PM

*waves at imjimmy*

Good to hear your analysis. From what I could tell and from what commies were saying, it sounds like Rafa had a good plan for ROS and implemented it. That helps too.

Posted by sblily (Wheeeeeeeee!!!) 03/31/2010 at 11:45 PM

Sherlock - Nope, I don't have stats re: W/UFE. :(

Posted by rafadoc 03/31/2010 at 11:46 PM

Hee Sherlock. Sometimes it is really kind of funny.

GH: Thanks for the match stats. 80% first serves is a hip stat. :)

Posted by Tim (Year of Red Rogie ) 03/31/2010 at 11:47 PM

u Nadal kids alll act like Rafa is some no. 20 in the world, beating Tsongie isnt exactly a world changing revolution .. is not Rafa a former NO 1? do u not expect this at some point/ i wish u could learn from Fed kids who expect nothig less but top form from your boy

Posted by greenhopper 03/31/2010 at 11:48 PM

Carrie, what it also tell you is that confidence is all Rafa's lacking from his game. He still can be scary good. So there's hope for the future.

Like I said earlier, if Rafa comes out looking for revenge in all his matches, he could give it his best.

Posted by Sherlock 03/31/2010 at 11:51 PM

LOL. Yes, all the comments last night from Fed fans praying for fewer shanks certainly make the point. :)

Posted by Papo (Got Nadal?) 03/31/2010 at 11:52 PM

Tim, a certain strain of upsettitis has been going around in Miami and we were just worried Rafa might catch it, is all. Sure you and all Fed fans understand. Tsonga can be a tricky player when he's on. AO 08 being a case in point.

Posted by imjimmy 03/31/2010 at 11:55 PM

Cheers rafadoc! Good to see you around.


Posted by rafadoc 03/31/2010 at 11:55 PM

Scroll is handy dandy. Although I am impressed with the wit of my fellow Rafa fans tonight. Well played people.

Posted by Carrie *trying to pracitce the art of Zen and posting- hoping it lasts* 03/31/2010 at 11:55 PM

greenie- that could help him against Berdych. The revenge factor. I don't mean that from any personal viewpoint because the frost between them has melted and from what I have heard they get along quite well. When Berdych is on it is scary. So he may have a good game plan. That is where Randy could be dangerous- I think he will have a gameplan but- still not expecting a win. Not expecting a loss though!

I actually think that of the players remaining if Rafa were to make it to the final the two that impose biggest threat are Youzhny or Soderling. Soderling because he has an agenda and a game and Youzhny because when he is on song I think is someone who is of grand slam caliber ( that could be my fandom talking though). But there are a ton of talented players left- and any could take the title.

imjimmy- good points but I still think it was good that Rafa was looking to end points sooner than we have seen in comparison to some matches of the last year. He had a good mindset overall that imo got even better as the match went on.

Posted by rafadoc 03/31/2010 at 11:56 PM

Thanks imjimmy!

Posted by Monica 03/31/2010 at 11:57 PM

Wow - so many congrats to Rafa and his fans. What a match! It was soooooo exciting and he definitely looks like he is back to me but I love reading all of the smart analysis here from others as I really don't know anywhere near what you guys do - thanks so much.

Gosh Tim, I enjoy a lot of your posts but how can you call that moonballs. Rafa played unbelievable again. Come on give him credit.

Again, congrats Rafa fans and so sorry to Jo fans (I really like Jo too).

Posted by rafadoc 03/31/2010 at 11:59 PM

Thanks Monica. Appreciate the positive vibes.

Posted by Pspace (Allez Tsonga!) 04/01/2010 at 12:00 AM

Back from dinner. Still on cloud 9 with my tennis in Rafa's shoes. Closed out the match with three straight unreturned first serves. Wheee!

I'd say it's a must buy for all Rafa fans. The shoe has no tongue...strangely. Rather the interior is like a cushioned sock, and the foot sits very snug. And, a bit of Rafa's talent comes with the shoe ;-).

However, more testing is needed. A very pretty girl was playing on the next court, and we were trying hard to impress her.

Posted by rafadoc 04/01/2010 at 12:01 AM

Pspace; Glad to hear the shoes are magical. Maybe a video is in your future. *wink wink*

Posted by Tim (Year of Red Rogie ) 04/01/2010 at 12:02 AM

ha i have more confidence in rafa than is KADs, Monica... i like to laugh about moonballs cuz well, rafa likes to hit em, doesnt mean most opponents can handle em! i hate than frying pan grip snappy shot tennis, thats all...

Id rather day in day out be a fan of a moonballer than an aggressive, all court player, despite being a clear Fed spoiled fan who's enjoyed 16 Slams... its awful to see an aggressive player hit UE off the charts and lose...

Posted by Monica 04/01/2010 at 12:04 AM

Rafadoc - it was more than well deserved. I almost tripped running out of the bathroom cause I didn't want to miss a point, lol. That was one of the most exciting matches I've watch in a long time. Enjoy!

Posted by Pspace (Allez Tsonga!) 04/01/2010 at 12:05 AM

Tim, I think I hold frying pans with a continental grip. Should I be using a full western? So, if you mean my frying pan grip, that kind of tennis had been dead for a long time.

Posted by rafadoc 04/01/2010 at 12:05 AM

Oh dear. Is someone drunk? Not that I would be critical of that.

Posted by rafadoc 04/01/2010 at 12:07 AM

But do you use the iron skillet or the fancy dancy stainless Pspace? ;-)

It was fun Monica. *high fives*

Posted by Tim (Year of Red Rogie ) 04/01/2010 at 12:08 AM

afer a 10 month drought, i cant brgrudge rafa kids a win or final or whatever in miami... Fed has 3 Slams in that draught, it would be ridic of me to complain, thats for sure... i LOVE that he's already on the clay, u can BET his competitive GOAT instincts are on high alert after the disastrous results of late...

Posted by rafadoc 04/01/2010 at 12:09 AM

Yep, he's drunk. And defensive. Fun combo. :)

Posted by Pspace (Allez Tsonga!) 04/01/2010 at 12:10 AM

rafadoc, hehe, it's me you're talking to. I have no idea. I have a pan. I think I stole it from one of my friends. And, I don't know the difference between an iron skillet and fancy dancy stainless ;-)

Posted by greenhopper 04/01/2010 at 12:11 AM

Carrie, I think he played Soderling on a bad streak for him and good streak for Robin in London. That could take a while. Two really important losses. One of them absolute spanker. Also doesn't help that Soderling has improved and maintained his level of play.

Re: Berdych, he handled all Berdy threw at him pretty well at IW. So am reasonably confident. Also don't think personal hatred fires him as much as the drive to make up for a big loss. Jo and Rafa had a nice hug at the net despite the kvetching. But that AO loss? Oh hail no.

Posted by rafadoc 04/01/2010 at 12:11 AM

Gotcha Pspace. As long as it heats your food up and enables you to hit an inside out forehand, s'all good.

Posted by Tim (Year of Red Rogie ) 04/01/2010 at 12:11 AM

Rafa hits the forehand in a way no reasonable tennis player can, its ridiculous frying pan grips snap whippy nonsense... fugly times 10

Posted by Monica 04/01/2010 at 12:11 AM

Seriously Tim, as I've stated I just love the game of Tennis and understand points, etc. and I think most shots and I did not see any moonballing tonight. I thought it was all court tennis - defense, offense, hard/quick baseline ralleys, net play, etc. But as I said I'm still learning all the different moves so if you or someone can tell me what I saw was wrong, I'd appreciate it and I mean that seriously. I really thought it was all tremendously exciting Tennis.

Posted by Sherlock 04/01/2010 at 12:13 AM

Pspace, glad to hear the shoes worked so well. I'll be curious to know how the next match goes, when there's not a babe on the next court. :)

And I'm curious about the skillet answer. I've got stainless myself. All-Clad, baby! :)

Good to "see" you, Rafadoc. :)

'Night, all.

Posted by Tim (Year of Red Rogie ) 04/01/2010 at 12:13 AM

monica enjoy the tennis, dont worry about my posts for goodness sake... i just think rafa's tight shorts add much of the excitment to his KADs, not his frying pan forehand :)

Posted by rafadoc 04/01/2010 at 12:14 AM

Sherlock: Stainless for the WIN. Good to see you too. Sweet dreams. :)

Posted by Carrie *trying to pracitce the art of Zen and posting- hoping it lasts* 04/01/2010 at 12:14 AM

Monica - I thought Rafa played quite well tonight- inside the baseline, looking to be aggresive, came in on the court after some nice transitions, mixed serving and even some BH slices that did not make Jesus weep puppy tears.

Posted by Sherlock 04/01/2010 at 12:15 AM

Monica, you're right on. It was a good match and no moonballing. Even if Rafa lost, those two always play tight, fun matches.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 04/01/2010 at 12:15 AM

I understand that some people here really can't stand rafa. And that's fine with me. The people that post nasty stuff about Rafa are just whistling in the wind. You can continue to insult him and call him names if that makes you feel good. I'm not sure what it's accomplishing though. I mean the guy is pretty much universally respected and admired. I've never read or heard a negative word about him as a person or a player. Sure, he's got some odd quirks and habits but I think that makes him endearing.

Obviously he shouldn't be abusing the time rule and if he wasn't warned tonight, he should have been. I read somewhere that the extra 10 seconds he takes is usually tolerated by his opponents because they want the extra time to catch their wind after a
really strenuous rally. He still shouldn't do it and I would hope that a reporter asks him about it in the presser. I presume the purpose of the time limit is to make sure the match has continuity and flows in a timely fashion. However, in no way does it constitute cheating of any kind. It doesn't alter the outcome of the match. And anyway, our gripe should be with the Umpire. If he doesn't call it then rafa is clean. Personally, I find the shrieking and screaming that goes on with some of the women more disturbing and disruptive for the opponent.

Posted by Tim (Year of Red Rogie ) 04/01/2010 at 12:17 AM

annie this is old news, the rafa KADS will love it and the rest will be bored by it, enjoy your match and forget the rest... rafa plays slow and the umps let him abuse the rule and thats the way it alwasy will be... if he doesnt get called for it, enjoy it, the stars always get away with breaking the rules...

Posted by Carrie *trying to pracitce the art of Zen and posting- hoping it lasts* 04/01/2010 at 12:18 AM

greenie- I would say personal dislike did not fire Rafa but I do think it has in the case of Robin. But I think even that is thawing- at the exo win he was very nice in his remarks to Robin after the match. Granted it was after a win and after an exo but he was warnmer than I expected. I don't think they will ever fully thaw like he and Tomas- who from my understanding actually got along before the Madrid incident- but I do think with Soderling that did fuel him at.....Rome?

Posted by Monica 04/01/2010 at 12:18 AM

ok Tim - guess you're just being your snarky/funny self and I thought you were being serious, sorry. By the way, I am a Fed fan first but I truly enjoyed Rafa's match tonight.

Thanks Carrie - that's what I thought also. Maybe people will disagree with me but he sure looks back to his old self to me tonight.

Posted by greenhopper 04/01/2010 at 12:19 AM

Just realized 3-3 to 3-6 0-3. 6 straight games. Talk about throwing momentum out of the window. Some day, Jo.

Posted by Tim (Year of Red Rogie ) 04/01/2010 at 12:19 AM

but lets be real, Rafa can get an unforced error on a return of serve, and still take 30 seconds between serves, its just his DNA...

Posted by Tim (Year of Red Rogie ) 04/01/2010 at 12:21 AM

and yes, first and foremost, i like snark and fun, i cant resist a poke at Klebby or Moonballs Wos or Rafa, too delicious...they DO hit moooballs, no? or bash the ball as if life depends on it lol

Posted by Carrie *trying to pracitce the art of Zen and posting- hoping it lasts* 04/01/2010 at 12:22 AM

Tim- I do think that the slow play is part of Rafa's inner mechanics. I think that is in large part because Toni ingrained that in him when he was young and hyper...and now- we are rivaling Mary Pierce in terms of time between points. I do wish he would stop. I maintain though that it is not from a nefarious cause but do know why folks don't enjoy it.

Posted by greenhopper 04/01/2010 at 12:24 AM

Carrie, by Rome last he was on a phenomenal streak of winning matches (the Miami fiasco notwithstanding) he was absolutely fired up. But the thing is, it seems to fire up Robin as well. So Rafa's plan of going all out on attack might not always work. He'll have to weather the storm when Robin is hot and mix it up. Throw in a few surprise tactics and be patient when they don't work. Also, Soderling does have the game to beat anybody when he's playing focused and serving well. So there's that.

Posted by Carrie *trying to pracitce the art of Zen and posting- hoping it lasts* 04/01/2010 at 12:25 AM

Also Tim- Rafa can hit moonballs at times. But I don't think he is just a no-talent moonballer at all like you frequently deride him as. By a long shot. He can play aggresive and seeing him in person some of those shots that can look like moonballs on TV have so much pop action and spin that they are far from. Call moonballs on yesterday, fine. But in today's match, when the lemon striped shorts don't fit- you must acquit.

Posted by greenhopper 04/01/2010 at 12:26 AM

But instead, Rafa goes back to making poor puppy faces and the "I'm so lost on hard courts" look. Dude must remember that he can defend and has 1 or 2 titles to support that claim.

Posted by Monica 04/01/2010 at 12:27 AM

Thx Sherlock and congrats to you too!

Posted by rafadoc 04/01/2010 at 12:27 AM

Hmmmm. So, evidently the moonball is effective, even against the GOAT?? What is that saying? Just curious. ;-/

Posted by greenhopper 04/01/2010 at 12:32 AM

Alright, that was a long day. Talk to you all tomorrow.

If anyone watches a replay of this match and gets the complete match stats (winners/ufes) can you please post them here? Thanks.

Posted by rafadoc 04/01/2010 at 12:32 AM

Goodnight Greenie. Sweet dreams. :)

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 04/01/2010 at 12:32 AM

So Fed is already working out on the clay? Losing is no fun especially when you are so used to winning. His embarassing performances at IW and Miami have probably given him some needed motivation.

Posted by rafadoc 04/01/2010 at 12:36 AM

Annie: Commentators were saying Roger's loss to Baggy at IW might have affected him more than we know. The loss to Berdych, after really trying to win, would not have helped. But, Roger is a champion so will probably use that for motivation.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 04/01/2010 at 12:38 AM

Apparently, some people are looking past Roddick when they are plotting Rafa's progress in this tournament.

Based on their respective levels of play during this tournament and IW, one could reasonably expect Roddick to be the favorite in his match with Rafa.

Whereas Rafa's level has fluctuated tremendously between matches and, sometimes, within matches, Roddick has been playing steadily at high level.

Roddick's record against Rafa on hard courts is 2-2.

Roddick is displaying considerably better defense and court coverage than he has in the past.

So, even if Rafa plays at the high level he did against Berdych at IW or the last set-and-a half of today's match against Tsonga; Rafa may still not be able to prevail against Roddick.

Posted by rafadoc 04/01/2010 at 12:39 AM

MSF: Dude. I am still celebrating Rafa's win against Tsonga. Andy who?

Posted by Carrie *trying to pracitce the art of Zen and posting- hoping it lasts* 04/01/2010 at 12:40 AM

I do think that Roger enjoys clay- I mean if it hadn't been for Rafa he may have had several more Masters and RG titles. So it does not surprise me that he is looking forward to the season. And Steve brought up that after his impressive double IW/Miami title gains in - 2005? Roger hasn't made the finals to either in quite a while.

Goodnight to Sherlock and greenie (good points in your last post).

I am excited for the clay season. I just really hope Safina and Elf are in full health (and with Safina's case physical and mental) for it.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 04/01/2010 at 12:40 AM

Apparently, some people are looking past Roddick when they are plotting Rafa's progress in this tournament.

Based on their respective levels of play during this tournament and IW, one could reasonably expect Roddick to be the favorite in his match with Rafa.

Whereas Rafa's level has fluctuated tremendously between matches and, sometimes, within matches, Roddick has been playing steadily at high level.

Roddick's record against Rafa on hard courts is 2-2.

Roddick is displaying considerably better defense and court coverage than he has in the past.

So, even if Rafa plays at the high level he did against Berdych at IW or the last set-and-a half of today's match against Tsonga; Rafa may still not be able to prevail against Roddick.

Posted by rafadoc 04/01/2010 at 12:41 AM

But seriously, Andy has been amazingly consistent -final in IW and winning convincingly in his matches in Miami.

I have not even thought about that match yet. But, yah...Andy will be trouble.

Posted by Carrie *trying to pracitce the art of Zen and posting- hoping it lasts* 04/01/2010 at 12:42 AM

msf- I am by no means looking against Andy. As I stated earlier he could win or lose. I was just enjoying his improved play in this match against Zonger.

Posted by Carrie *trying to pracitce the art of Zen and posting- hoping it lasts* 04/01/2010 at 12:45 AM

I would like for Rafa to play Andy like he did against Roddick at the 2007 IW tournament. I do not agree with all of Justin's hyperbole tonight - while liking and being encouraged by Rafa's play- and still feel like Rafa's match against Randy at the 2007 IS was his gold star moment on hard.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 04/01/2010 at 12:48 AM

Sorry about the double post.

Earlier, I was watching the Tsonga match on a laptop, with the aid of borrowed RC Glasses.

Now, I'm watching a replay on high definition feed.

The Laptop/RC glasses combo provide a much, much better experience.

If I ever go with the high definition/RC Glasses combo, I may bliss out of this earthly existence.

Posted by Tim (Year of Red Rogie ) 04/01/2010 at 12:48 AM

I just say its easier to hit moonballs than try to win the points with aggressive shots, thats all, but they pay off quite often lets be honest... I think its easier to play lights out hot tennis vs. a guy like Fed than a moonballer who gets everthing back, as Berdy showed in IW... u gotta keep the ball in play and let him mess up and not give him targets and pace to work with...

Posted by imjimmy 04/01/2010 at 12:51 AM

Nadal vs Roddick should be interesting. In a match like this, Roddick will depend on his serve much more than Nadal will depend on his. For Nadal's service games, it's not so much how well will Roddick return as much as it's how much he can hang with him from behind the baseline.

Roddick and Nadal played three times on hard courts in the past few years, with Nadal winning two (both in Indian Wells) and Roddick winning one (Dubai). The last time they played was in Indian Wells last year, Nadal won 6-4 7-6.

I'll go against the flow. If Nadal plays as well as he did today, I think we're looking at a similar scoreline for the Semi-Final.

Posted by Carrie *trying to pracitce the art of Zen and posting- hoping it lasts* 04/01/2010 at 12:54 AM

Tim- what is your defination of a moonball?

Posted by Carrie *trying to pracitce the art of Zen and posting- hoping it lasts* 04/01/2010 at 12:56 AM

Also Tim- in watching the match tonight (if you did) did you not notice Rafa being more aggresive?

Posted by rafadoc 04/01/2010 at 12:56 AM

imjimmy: Yes, if Rafa maintains his level, he should be close. *fingers crossed*

Off to bed for me. Zzzzzzzzzzzzz

Posted by GB 04/01/2010 at 12:59 AM

Seems like the evil blue lord's trying mind games and Rafa's saying he's playing Madrid :(

From his presser tonight: http://tinyurl.com/y8wh6u9

Q. Ian Tiriac said this week that he doesn't understand why you don't play Madrid. The tournament will continue to be a great tournament without you. What's your opinion?
RAFAEL NADAL: Ian Tiriac probably doesn't know if I play Madrid, or not because it's in my schedule, so...

Q. When you take a decision if you played Madrid or not?
RAFAEL NADAL: I play Madrid. I told you before. I said Madrid is in my schedule. Probably or Ian Tiriac don't know about my schedule, or you understand bad from him.

Posted by Tim (Year of Red Rogie ) 04/01/2010 at 01:01 AM

geez is it such a stretch that rafa plays a clay court event in Spain? i mean how much more favorable conditions does he need??

Posted by Carrie *trying to pracitce the art of Zen and posting- hoping it lasts* 04/01/2010 at 01:02 AM

I do NOT want Rafa to play Madrid. No way and no how. I have no objection to him playing Barcelona- but no Madrid. If he does- only doubles. Hee hee.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 04/01/2010 at 01:02 AM

The problem with this replay is Gimelslob announcing. Jeez, he's bad.

At least Gimelslob corrects his boothmate when the latter mangling history, states that Miami 2005 was when Rafa first made his mark in the USA, ignoring/forgetting that Rafa beat Federer (then No. 1) at Miami in 2004.

Posted by mina (meanie and proud of it) 04/01/2010 at 01:05 AM

thanks for that GB. Rafa knows he's locked into playing Mdrid whether he likes it or not. It's a mandatory tourney and, unlike Barca, there is no way he can skip it unless he's injured.

if i had $1 for every time i read the word "moonball" these past week i'd have enough money to see my favorite moonballer play live, in Europe no less :P

Posted by greenhopper 04/01/2010 at 01:06 AM

MSF, we were talking purely about Rafa's confidence issues against a few players he has had tough losses to in the past. Just so happened they're all left in the draw. You can stop patronizing me now.

Posted by Carrie *trying to pracitce the art of Zen and posting- hoping it lasts* 04/01/2010 at 01:06 AM

For what it is worth (i.e. nothing) I would like for Barcelona to be a Masters and not Madrid. I think that Spain should have a Masters on clay- the history of the achievers on the sport warrents it. And next they should have a Masters in South America and a Masters on grass- not in the UK (although Queen's would be lovely) but a freaking Masters on the surface.

Posted by Tim (Year of Red Rogie ) 04/01/2010 at 01:07 AM

carrie i wish the Rafa KADS woudl stop treatin Rafa like a fragile flower, how can you NOT expect him to play a Masters 100o in Spain?? i mean, gimme a break... the guy is turning 24 in May, he's not a big baby who needs his mama anymore....

Posted by Yet Another Lurker 04/01/2010 at 01:08 AM

"His embarassing performances at IW and Miami"... Annie, I don't think Federer's performances were particularly embarrassing. Whatever Federer's self-confessed timing "issues", he played some absurdly beautiful shots in all three of his matches in Miami. Shots no one else has the imagination or ability to play. Besides, tight (albeit deserved) defeats to players of the quality of Berdych and Baghdatis are not abnormal over the course of a long year. Even in the all-conquering pomp of 2005 and 2006 he managed to lose four or five matches.

Posted by Carrie *trying to pracitce the art of Zen and posting- hoping it lasts* 04/01/2010 at 01:09 AM

mina- I have started a crying/whining collecten for me at work (self inputing only). At this rate I will be able to fly first class and watch a week of tennis while staying at a 4 star hotel in 2012. Just in time to see Safina, Elf, Elena or Rafa take the title!

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 04/01/2010 at 01:10 AM

Carrie: Rafa has said on a number of occasions that he will always play Barcelona because he considers it his home club. I'm with you. I don't want him to play Madrid either but's it's mandatory. What happens if he just skips it? Monetary fine? and he would lose quite a few points, like 700?

MSF: I had my tape of the match on and gimmelstob makes some awful sad attempts at humor. He tries to be funny about tomorrow being April Fool's Day and it fell really flat.

Posted by Carrie *trying to pracitce the art of Zen and posting- hoping it lasts* 04/01/2010 at 01:12 AM

Tim- I don't like Ian and I think (though I may be corrected) that Barcelona has more history and import in Spain. I think Ian shoves his way in there. I know Rafa is often derided as being stupid (which I don't agree with) but I think he does have a very soft spot for the traditional tournaments on clay, and as a clay fan I like that. Just because it is in Madrid imo does not make it better for a Spaniard that MC or Rome or heck even Barcelona.

Posted by GB 04/01/2010 at 01:13 AM

The thing is, I can see how for the tourney's sake/because it's mandatory etc Rafa wouldn't say now that he intended to skip Madrid. But, cause he's cagey as hell, I can't see that he'd like to pull out closer to the time, citing the need to rest/spare the knee etc. Quite the catch 22, no? IMO, points are irrelevant. Being as healthy as possible for RG/Wimby is what counts.

Posted by Carrie *trying to pracitce the art of Zen and posting- hoping it lasts* 04/01/2010 at 01:18 AM

GB- I agree. And he used to pull out of Hamburg a lot. I just do not see Madrid as this tournament that all Spaniards should play I think Ian pulled strings. I think Barcelona is a more important tournament to Spaniards but Spanish posters feel free to correct me ont his.

Posted by Tim (Year of Red Rogie ) 04/01/2010 at 01:19 AM

yeah as if Rafa ISNT healthy now? man, the guy has a built in excuse for everything, its amazing... the real test of a champion is winning when theyre expected to win, and Id say most of Rafa's Slam wins came when he was prob expected to LOSE... its no accident when he rose to the top, he fell apart physcially and emotionally..

Posted by manuelsantanafan 04/01/2010 at 01:20 AM

Greenhopper:

1) I don't believe that I mentioned you by name;

2) You have not been the only one discussing Rafa's potential progress in this tournament;

3) Rafa is ranked higher than Roddick and has defeated Roddick five of the last six times they've played, which might justify some observers looking past Roddick.

In expressing my opinion on the matter, I don't believe that I was patronizing you or anyone else. When I try to patronize, I prefer to introduce heavyhandedness that was lacking in the post(s) to which I believe you refer.

Posted by Jai 04/01/2010 at 01:20 AM

"I think that Spain should have a Masters on clay- the history of the achievers on the sport warrents it."

Carrie: but Spain DOES have a Masters on clay now.

Posted by Tim (Year of Red Rogie ) 04/01/2010 at 01:21 AM

carrie what??? barcelina MORE essential than Madrid? oh dear...what part of Masters Series 1000 are u missing here?

Posted by highpockets 04/01/2010 at 01:21 AM

Just got home and saw results ... I am over the moon ... and I don't mean moonballing!

So happy for Rafa ... love a Roddick/Nadal semi ... two great fighters.

I'm thinking of a word to describe Ian Tiriac and it rhymes with wick. He gives me the willies.

I'm okay with whatever Rafa decides about Madrid. I don't like anything about their facilities ... it's a cold, unwelcoming place. Maybe they've improved it since last year, but if the clay is blue, I say abort, Rafa, abort! Sacrifice the points, pay the fines and go out and win Roland Garros!

I miss Hamburg.

Posted by greenhopper 04/01/2010 at 01:24 AM

Fair enough, MSF. You also had one of your rose coloured glasses comments in response to my "good" errors comment addressed to you. The passive aggressive bit was getting to me. I shouldn't have assumed you were addressing me this time. Sorry about that.

Posted by mina (meanie and proud of it) 04/01/2010 at 01:24 AM

do it with me people, scroll!!!

Posted by Carrie *trying to pracitce the art of Zen and posting- hoping it lasts* 04/01/2010 at 01:25 AM

Tim- I just think that Madrid was created into a clay Masters by a gangster. Yes it carries the points. I am not missing anything here- I just disagree with you.

Jai- I said I wanted Barcelona to be the Master clay tournament in Spain not Madrid.

Posted by GB 04/01/2010 at 01:25 AM

Carrie: yeah to Ian "shoving" his interests to the forefront. I flove how -after Rafa played Madrid (when he totally shouldn't have) cause it was in Spain -- now that Rafa said (in an earlier presser) that he'll only skip Madrid if it's necessary, Ian gets all passive aggressive. Dodgy to preempt it now and imply 'why the hell would you skip it, we'll still have a great tourney without you etc' if you ask me.

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