Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - Best of 2010: Spaniards in New York
Home       About Steve Tignor       Contact        RSS        Follow on Twitter Categories       Archive
Best of 2010: Spaniards in New York 12/15/2010 - 3:40 PM

Fernando Verdasco’s win over David Ferrer in the fourth round of the U.S. Open was a major highlight of the season, and it clocks in at No. 8 on my list of the best matches of 2010. But it was a personal lowlight for me. I’d finished writing from Flushing Meadows for the day and was heading out to the train when I saw that these two guys were somewhere in the third set. I could hear the grunts and the cheers from the other side of the stadium walls. I briefly contemplated sticking my head in, just to get in a little bonus baseline bashing before I headed out—you knew these two would have their points. But I didn’t. I kept walking. By the time I got home to Brooklyn and flicked on the tube, the fifth-tiebreaker was starting and the crowd in Armstrong was giving both players a standing O. That’s the problem with going to a Grand Slam—you end up missing so much tennis.

But I did catch the breaker, and its epic finish, which included what may be the best shot-reaction combination I’ve ever seen on a match point. The breaker is the top clip above; below it is a brief highlight reel from the rest of the match.

***

Two Spaniards in New York is an odd sort of match to watch, especially if you have no particular rooting interest. For me, it robs it of some drama. When you have friends and countrymen (but, alas, no Romans) competing, there’s a sense of duty to the proceedings. Neither guy can really relish the battle.

The upside is that you’re free to watch simply for the tennis itself. As you would expect from these two, this match, which was both a war of explosiveness and a war of attrition, emphasized the physicality of today's game. Ferrer can be an entertaining player, but only when he’s playing a shot-maker. He’s good at making rallies happen, but he needs someone else to supply the flash. Judging from the highlight clip, Verdasco supplied plenty of it with his forehand.

***

When he gets hold of a forehand, there’s something Berdych-esque about it. Not in the stroke itself, but in the effortless pace they both generate, and in the way the ball seems to pick up speed as it moves through the court. It’s an illusion, of course, but when they catch it right, Verdasco and Berdych both hit their forehands so cleanly that the ball ends up moving faster than you think it will at first. One of those forehands seems to catch Ferrer by surprise here. Verdasco has a sort of deceptive power, and whether you like power-baseline tennis or not, it can be an awesome sight.

***

Ferrer is a warrior who tends to shy away from the battle at just the wrong moment. Here he was up two sets to love, he was up a break in the fifth, and he begins by going up 4-1 in the breaker. At that stage, you would say there was no way he could lose—his shots and his manner were assertive and assured. Then he totally fell apart. Twice Ferrer hit the ball tamely into the net. Then he was uncharacteristically late on a backhand and sent it way wide—a nervous shot if there ever was one. Then he floated an easy ball long. Suddenly it was 6-4 and Verdasco hadn’t done a whole lot to earn it other than slice the ball back in play. Ferrer remains a soldier of the week-to-week, but doesn’t have a game or a mentality that’s designed to peak at the majors.

***

Then Verdasco did earn it. First you’ve got the mad scramble from behind the baseline, then you’ve got the hook forehand that curls around the netpost and lands with storybook precision in the back corner. Then you’ve got the best part, Verdasco falling, arm raised and eyes wide with elation and surprise, like he’s being pulled backwards into water. Except that he hit Deco-Turf; no matter, nothing was going to hurt him at that moment.

Is there a better shot and reaction at match point? The one that comes to mind was Richard Gasquet’s running backhand up the line pass against Roger Federer in Monte Carlo in 2005. The facial expression wasn’t nearly as good, but the shot was just as much of a stunner.

***

That, unfortunately for Verdasco, is not the end of this clip. The end comes when ESPN’s Darren Cahill says that the Spaniard will now have to be ready to face the winner of a match between two other Spaniards, one of whom is Rafael Nadal—talk about a disappointing reward. Verdasco had just hit the shot of his life and played the match of his life, but there would be another one to play soon enough.


 
30
Comments
 

Posted by Master Ace 12/15/2010 at 04:09 PM

Indeed, that shot by Verdasco was a thing of beauty to end the match but Ferrer had his chances to close him out. Instead of seeing the final set of this match, I think we were watching a blowout on Ashe on ESPN2.

Posted by Russ 12/15/2010 at 04:50 PM

No doubt we were being treated to the Williams sisters winning 6-0, 6-1.

Posted by ata08 12/15/2010 at 05:06 PM

"That’s the problem with going to a Grand Slam—you end up missing so much tennis."

ain't it the truth

Posted by Master Ace 12/15/2010 at 05:39 PM

Russ,
Believe it or not while Ferrer and Verdasco was playing, Kim and Samantha played a 3 setter at Ashe during prime time with Venus and Francesca was the last match at Ashe during the day session.

Posted by noleisthebest 12/15/2010 at 06:39 PM

Verdasco.....punishment both for the eyes and the ears.....

Posted by manuelsantanafan 12/15/2010 at 07:08 PM

"When he gets hold of a forehand, there’s something Berdych-esque about it. Not in the stroke itself, but in the effortless pace they both generate, and in the way the ball seems to pick up speed as it moves through the court. It’s an illusion, of course, but when they catch it right, Verdasco and Berdych both hit their forehands so cleanly that the ball ends up moving faster than you think it will at first. One of those forehands seems to catch Ferrer by surprise here. Verdasco has a sort of deceptive power, and whether you like power-baseline tennis or not, it can be an awesome sight."
_______________--

Same can be said about Verdasco's backhand. He doesn't appear to generate the racket-head speed of many of the other heavy hitters, but his shots often fly thru the air.

Clean hitting--as is written here--and a touch less topspin than most of the other Spaniards, I guess.

Posted by Team FEDAL 12/15/2010 at 08:19 PM

Thanks Steve,

You reminded me of how ridiculous ESPN2 can be with tennis, showing boring women's matches.

Now, I don't want to sound sexist in any way, but the fact is that women's tennis IN GENERAL is much, much less impressive than male tennis. No question there are a few decent women's matches every year, but the number is very small. THe fact that women's tennis gets so much attention for the sake of appearing politically correct, I think, is a real shame, because it hurts the sport. If ESPN2 would simply SHOW the best matches of the grand slams(mainly, the men's matches), I have no doubt that interest in watching the sport would increase, both from male and female viewers!

AGain, i'm not not trying to sound sexist, but to see my point one needs only to compare the NBA to the WNBA, or men's boxing to women's boxing. The physical differences between men and women means that women's matches are simply of a lesser quality. That's not an insult to women athletes, its undeniable biological fact.

Posted by Team FEDAL 12/15/2010 at 08:22 PM

Sorry, just to be a bit more specific about "undeniable biological fact", I am referring to the fact that male upper bodies are stronger than female upper bodies, which results in women hitting the ball with much less force.

Posted by noleisthebest 12/15/2010 at 08:55 PM

"AGain, i'm not not trying to sound sexist, but to see my point one needs only to compare the NBA to the WNBA, or men's boxing to women's boxing. The physical differences between men and women means that women's matches are simply of a lesser quality. That's not an insult to women athletes, its undeniable biological fact."

Don't even bother to explain yourself....I am a woman and I find women's tennis very boring compared with men's....

Posted by Team FEDAL 12/15/2010 at 08:58 PM

@noleisthebest

Thank you for understanding my point without trying to burn me at the stake like so many others do when I make this argument. Much appreciated :)

Posted by CL 12/15/2010 at 09:11 PM

Even if you agree with that, it works both way...women's basketball is so much more interesting that men's.

Mens = dunk, dunk, lay up/dunk

Women's = pass, pass, fast break, pass, fall away.

Women's gymnastics - much more exciting than men's

The pendulum swings much more based on rivalries and match ups than on gender. Right now, the men's tour, has IMO, better rivalries and match ups. But in the past, the women's tour has offered better matches. Stay tuned. The pendulum may swing again.

Posted by Pierric Bross 12/15/2010 at 09:38 PM

Womens basketball is terrible.

I agree that womens gymnastics is better (or any sport wear the women wear tight clothing, such as womens volleyball, netball, diving, and womens beach volleyball).

I actually like watching the womens matches though, mainly for the tense moments when watching women who play from your country (Sam Stosur, Jelena Dokic, Jarmilla Groth).

Posted by Me 12/15/2010 at 09:46 PM

I also agree with noleisthebest (not about Nole, though...)
TeamFedal is right --only a few women's matches are worth watching, although it is not necessarily due to the lack of upper-body strenght; it is because of the many errors (e.g., Safina, who has plenty of upper body strength, same as N. Petrova...)and double faults (e.g., Elena Dementieva, who could have piled up grand slam titles were it not for her dismal serve), and also because of the mental collapse (e.g. Safina again, and Daniela H, or Vera S, not to metion Kim K before she was born again and took all that pressure off thanks to her little girl, because in the end Kim will always have to go home and tend to her needs, win or lose). And still, there are quite a few exeptions in the field of female mental strength of which Evert, Hingis, Graf, Seles, Martina, Serena and even Henin are prime examples. Or great retrievers like A Sánchez Vicario, whose matches were always very entertaining, as boring were those involving her country woman, Conchita Martínez.

Posted by jackson 12/15/2010 at 10:38 PM

I was hoping you'd include this match Steve. I watched the whole thing on live stream and it was a great one. That last winning shot definitely was a doozie but the intensity and drama throughout was great.

Posted by thomas 12/15/2010 at 10:44 PM

The only female tennis players worth watching are Venus and Serena because of their powerful games. It's funny how ppl complain that they win so easily...which I think Clijsters wins a lot easier than either vee or serena in earlier rounds. Then ppl say they miss the finesse and variety that the williams sisters so often lack. Why does everyone always mention the williams sisters as the faces of womens tennis when it comes to negativity. There are so many other players to pick on...like cheating/dishonest/classless Henin, screaming sharapova, ugly kuznetsova, annoying/complaining jankovic, crying zvonareva, fake ass ivanovic, dog looking clijsters, demented dementieva, the list goes on and on...stop pretending that pinpointing the williams sister at every turn has nothing to do with their race because it has everything to do with it. Just admit it...lol

Posted by Michele 12/15/2010 at 11:19 PM

I was hoping for Ferrer to win, so the end was bittersweet. Great match point but I wish it had gone the other way. Can't bring myself to root for Verdasco. Something about him I just don't like. Maybe it's the fact that his ego seems bigger than his talent.

And for the record, I agree with the statements above about women vs. men. Just think men's tennis more exciting and interesting right now.

Posted by Tim 12/15/2010 at 11:47 PM

To CL:

Obviously you do not really follow men's b-ball because there is much more going on than simply dunks and lay-ups.

Never watched WNBA so I cannot comment.

And I concur with some commentators above, ATP is far better than WTA.

A match between two top 50 guys (such as 42. Granollers vs 49. Janko) on the ATP is very likely to be much more interesting/thrilling than a match between current no. 1 Wozniacki and current no. 2 Vera on WTA.

Without Serena & Justine I would not even watch WTA.

Posted by vic 12/16/2010 at 12:03 AM

Agreed.

Too much errors and lack of quick movement by WTA players.

I cannot even count the no. of times I've seen a female player hit a winner and I cannot help thinking that in an ATP match that might not have been a winner. The opponent would have run it down and keep the ball in play.

Serena's power, serve and mental strength & Justine's backhand compensates for the WTA's general dullness. Kim & Venus are kinda OK, I guess. Maria's screaming became dull when she stopped winning.

Posted by King Roger rules 12/16/2010 at 12:11 AM

Great match but Ferrer obviously did not keep it together. Just like what happened to Gasquet at RG 2010 and Falla at Wimby 2010 when they were both up 2 sets to love against Murray & Fed respectively in the 1st round.

Btw, another reason why WTA sucks: Time after time they have world no.1 players who didn't win a GS during their year as "top player in the world". Kim, Amelie, Safina, Jelena and now Wozniacki.

Wozniacki didnot even reach a GS final this year. Despicable. EACH of the top 6 guys on the ATP tour have reach a GS final this year. 3. Djoker at USO, 4. Murray at AO, 5. Sod at RG, 6. Berdych @ Wimby.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 12/16/2010 at 02:50 AM

Missed this match and I wonder if it wasn't a bit overlooked in all the noise about "minions" that went on in comments at the time. Enjoyed the highlights very much as I love watching Verdasco when he's on, and Ferrer all the time. Thanks, Steve. :)

"Right now, the men's tour, has IMO, better rivalries and match ups. But in the past, the women's tour has offered better matches. Stay tuned. The pendulum may swing again."

Agreed, CL. Some really disappointing comments about the WTA here, & I don't mean purely having a negative opinion or being critical about the current state of it.

Regarding being #1, that is partly a product of some of the best major players playing light and/or injury-disrupted schedules, no? Strange situation and hopefully Wozniacki can add to her credibility with a slam, but if you earn the points you deserve the ranking, in my book.

There have been some really good WTA matches this year. Hoping to see some of them in the best-of list. :)

Posted by Northernboy 12/16/2010 at 05:18 AM

Completely agree with you Jewell - I'm really hoping this isn't a chauvinistic top 10. Last year it was well deserved as I don't think there's ever been a year like 2009 for outstanding, epic, and significant men's matches. But this year I thought the women had more classics. The French Open alone had nearly a dozen terrific WTA matches.

Great WTA 3 setters this year:
Clijsters v. Henin, Brisbane final
Clijsters v. Henin, Miami semi
Henin v. Stosur, French 4th rnd
Stosur v. Serena, French QF
Stosur v. Dementieva, USO 4th rnd
Stosur v. Clijsters, USO QF
Clijsters v. Venus, USO SF
Serena v. Henin, AO final
Clijsters v. Wozniacki, YEC WTA finals
Henin v. Sharapova, FO 3rd round
Azarenka v. Zvonereva, AO 4th round
Azarenka v. Serena, AO QF
Zvonereva v. Pironkova, Wimby SF
Jankovic v. Serena, ROme SF (QF?)
Rezai v. Henin, Madrid 1st round
Rezai v. Petrova, FO 3rd round
Kvitova v. Kanepi Wimby QF
Henin v. Stosur - Stuttgart F
Dementieva v. Stosur - YEC rnd rbn
Clijsters v. Henin, WImby 4th rnd

As well as spectacular, tight 2 setters:
Henin v. Dementieva, AO 2nd round
Stosur v. Schiavone, FO final
Serena v. Sharapova, Wimby 4th rnd

JUST TO NAME A FEW!

I am still mad at Steve for putting the train wreck of a match that was Sharapova v. Oudin on the top 10 list last year when the 3 best women's matches were clearly:
#1 - Serena/Dementieva, Wimby SF
#2 - Clijsters/Serena, USO SF
#3 - Safina/Venus, Germany SF (a forgotten but insanely competitive match, was completley overlooked).

Posted by michael 12/16/2010 at 07:23 AM

yeah azarenka-serena match was priceless....i am big serena fan but i was sure she was gonna lose....never count the proven champion out.

clijsters-caro match at yec was lame...kim obviously had lapses of concentration in the 2nd set...or else it would have been a 2 setter (like the one she gave caro @ the uso 2009 final)

Posted by Honeychile 12/16/2010 at 07:41 AM

Northernboy,

Spot on about these great women's matches last year. I just watched the Serena/Elena Wimby SF match again and it was like watching it the first time around. I was full of tension, awed by the shotmaking and even crying at the end again. I don't think we had a great match like this year.

Posted by Sea 12/16/2010 at 10:01 AM

Yup.

It is very appropriate of you Steve to choose a match between two Spaniards during Spain's "Golden era".

Posted by jodiecate 12/16/2010 at 10:24 AM

THANKS STEVE!!
I'm really enjoying these vids ur putting up for us.
It's great to be able to see some matches i heard a lot about but missed at the time. Is a great way to fill in the off-season time. Great idea!!

Posted by Master Ace 12/16/2010 at 11:26 AM

Northern Boy,
Jelena vs Serena was the SF at Rome. And in 2009, Dinara and Venus match was the SF at Rome. Agree that Maria and Melanie match should not been in the Top 10 as Maria was(is) struggling with shoulder issues. Melanie and Elena at the 2009 USO was better than Maria and Melanie, IMO.
Now, it will be interesting to see if Steve have more than 2 WTA matches in the top 10 for 2010.

Posted by Kate 12/16/2010 at 01:01 PM

this match was not very interesting at ALL until the fifth set TB. lets not even kid ourselves, the only reason most people even remember it is because of the match point.

Posted by Amoureux de tennis 12/16/2010 at 02:50 PM

Thomas at 10:44-
Did you have to make all those derogatory comments about other players to make your point if you have one.... a persecution complex.

Posted by Northernboy 12/16/2010 at 11:10 PM

I just like to think that a tense, exciting 2 set match, such as Henin/Dementieva at the AO, can be just as good as something like Ferrer/Verdasco - Steve himself admits he missed most of the match and really we're only talking about the final tiebreak.

Also would like to see Melzer's punishing beatdown of Nadal in Shanghai in here - for me, in addition to Schiavone's FO final, that was the single greatest performance of the year for me. Just watch the match highlights to see how redline Melzer was.

Match of the year for me is a tossup between Clijsters/Henin Brisbane and Nadal/Murray YEC champs.

Posted by karin1492 12/22/2010 at 11:21 AM

I think the women's tour final rankings were skewed because of a lack of play from both Henin and Serena after Wimbledon. If both of them play, at least one of the top tenners would be out. Henin is very few points from being in the top ten despite not playing for the last 5 months of the year, and Serena is in the top 4 despite only playing 5 tournaments. If both of them play 13-14 tournaments, the rankings are drastically different.


We are no longer accepting comments for this entry.

<<  Best of 2010: She Was That Good Best of 2010: Heartbreak in Bercy  >>




A Little Less Life and Death
Playing Ball: Good Luck to a Partner
Playing Ball: Losing Them All
Keeping Tabs: August 8
Quick-Change Artists
Hard Landing
Part of the Action
This blog has 1484 entries and 99623 comments.
More
More Video
Daily Spin