Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - The CE 10: Madrid/Zurich
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The CE 10: Madrid/Zurich 10/18/2007 - 5:53 PM

NailsFirst I draw your attention to the (admittedly kinda boilerplate) post I wrote at yesterday. The germ for it came when I couldn’t remember whether Zurich was a Tier I event or not. The tournament website didn’t help; I had to go all the way to the WTA media guide to get confirmation of my suspicions (why else would Serena Williams and Justine Henin ever appear in a draw together?). I’m guessing most fans don’t have access to this guide, and might be left clueless as to the importance of Zurich—not that it will matter for long; the city won’t host the tournament next year.

I know the WTA’s 2009 roadmap emphasizes getting the best players to commit to the biggest tournaments. Just as crucial, though, is that the tour commit itself—and some of its future windfall of dollars from the Middle East—to marketing those events as a recognizable series, which is one thing that the ATP has had success doing.

Anyway, the Madrid Masters is what’s on TV here in the States (we’ll get Zurich over the weekend). I’ve been in and out of our conference room checking up on the matches—some great play at times, some dead silence from the crowds at others. Here’s the rundown, along with a word or two about the women.

1. David Nalbandian: Smiling for a couple seconds against Del Potro. That’s the lead story of the event so far in my mind. I hadn’t seen him play in a while; the first shot I caught today was him scrambling back to hit an overhead from the baseline. Scrambling, of course, is the wrong word. Nalbandian doesn’t scramble; it would be beneath him. I’d forgotten how easily he gets around—he seems to materialize at the ball. And there he was again, right under the overhead, no problem.

2. Novak Djokovic: I had lunch earlier this week with Pete Bodo and two regulars from Tennis World, Juan José and AmyLu. We all agreed: Now that Djokovic has established himself as the third-best player in the world, he needs to learn to assert that fact all the time—in other words, to put the hammer down against the guys not named Federer and Nadal. Djoko has improved in every other way, but he can still lose focus in the middle of a match. This isn’t an uncommon problem for young players—Andre Agassi would take whole sets off, just the way Djokovic did this year in the Estoril final against Richard Gasquet.

3. Roger Federer: Djokovic need look no further than the match after hm today to see how a hammer is put down. Federer was all focus as he shredded Guillermo Cañas in two quick sets. Rather play the waiting game during rallies, the way he often does, Federer played basic, aggressive, forward-moving tennis with no goal other than winning points efficiently. I guess there are still matches and players he can get up for.

4. Rafael Nadal: You’d have to call his performance today against Andy Murray vintage Nadal: flawed, less-than-beautiful, gutsy, amazing at just the right times. The running lob he got over Murray’s head on set point in the tiebreaker, and the way he didn’t allow himself to be broken a second time in the second set marks the guy yet again as the consummate pro, from a mental standpoint. He’s also hitting through his backhand well, always the key with him. Looking forward to seeing him play Nalbandian—aka Smiley Joe—next.

5. Juan-Martin Del Potro: He played the most tenacious tennis I’ve seen from him yesterday against Robredo, then looked unfocused, tired, and too loose today against Nalbandian. He’s not quite ready for the grind of a Masters I guess. But you have to love the way he pounces on any backhand left in the middle of the court. Few players move that well—that enthusiastically—to the backhand side. He loves seeing the ball there.

6. Tatiana Golovin: She rolled Ana Ivanovic 3 and 1 and has Bartoli and perhaps Kuznetsova coming up in Zurich—both winnable matches. A little non-parental coaching can go a long way in the WTA: She’s been working with Mats Wilander and has been playing very good tennis for the last few months. She should be a major story coming into the new year.

7. Doug Adler (Tennis Channel commentator): OK, Doug, why don’t you just state at the beginning of the tournament that every player should come to the net more and be done with it. But then what would you say the rest of the week?

8. Andy Murray: Great to have him back and playing well. His drop shot alone adds more to the sport than some players’ entire games (not naming names, cough, cough Feliciano Lopez cough, cough). But he played just well enough to lose today. Going down 7-5 in a breaker, then surrendering a 4-2 lead in the second betrayed just a slight lack of belief against a guy of Nadal’s stature. Otherwise, good show.

9. Fernando Verdasco: How do you think he feels when he gets into a close match with a top player? Is there ever a moment when he believes he won’t blow it this time? Or does he just know it’s coming? That was what was most depressing about his three-set loss to Djokovic: It was 100 percent predictable.

10. Justine Henin/Agnieska Radwanska: I don’t think the teen is a good matchup for Henin, but I would like to see this. A good test of her potential, at least.

11. Bonus track: The best song to namecheck Zurich? That would be “Zurich is Stained,” always my favorite Pavement song. Its slacker tone alone makes me want to hang out in the city. Hopefully there will be a pro tournament there in the future.

See you in a couple days. Enjoy the quarters, and someone fill me in on the women''s matches if you catch them.


Posted by zolarafa 10/18/2007 at 06:17 PM

I don't know what you call less-than-beautiful in Nadal's game. Give me a list of the year's best three matches and see if Rafa is not a contender in at least two of them. The way he plays and the excitement he brings to tennis is just a blessing and is more-than-beautiful!

if beautiful means boring one-sided matches of (cough cough know who!), I am not for it!

Posted by steve 10/18/2007 at 06:19 PM

i guess i just meant it was a struggle. no disrespect, zr!

i've never loved his backhand, though.

Posted by zolarafa 10/18/2007 at 06:34 PM

I came back to write that I know how much you like Rafa. I guess just the terms "beautiful" and "ugly" don't make justice to his game.

You must be kidding. You really don't like his two-handed backhand? cross court? I love that one.

It was a struggle. You are right. But who else (maybe other than federer) could stand that sort of pressure other than Rafa?

btw, I just got Brad Gilbert's "winning ugly" book and watching the match I thought, Oh God, what has Brad thought Murray? I guess in mental toughness Rafa is still the king.

Posted by Bob 10/18/2007 at 06:36 PM

Why anyone would want tennis to end after the US OPen is beyond me. These recent and current events have really been loaded and very enjoyable. You had better bring your game and be ready to play in the first match. That makes for some upsets and good matches. This is far better tennis than that depleted US OPen Series, the greatest road skip in sports. No wind, fast courts, and most of the top players. I prefer outdoor tennis so long as the weather is good, but indoor tennis has its own attraction.

Posted by Nick 10/18/2007 at 06:46 PM

What makes Nadal's efforts here so exemplary is that the guy hasn't played a match of any kind since losing to Ferrer in the US Open Round of 16 over six weeks ago, and then had to overcome the knees. Right about the second set as Vintage Nadal: down a break, and also down 15-40 on his serve, he reeled off 4 straight games to take the match. Combined with his lack of play & injury it makes it even more impressive.

Posted by ogolon 10/18/2007 at 06:54 PM

I repeating it again: when he wants Verdasco can play worst tennis than any other pro in this planet. What a brainless joke of a player. And to see Verdasco and Feliciano playing doubles together is almost comical...or maybe a tragedy for tennis lovers. and I remember that Almagro is the worst mannered and unpolite player I have seen in years. What a shame those 3 are for spanish tennis. Thanks god we have Rafa, Ferrer and -sigh- Robredo...

Posted by nyc 10/18/2007 at 07:16 PM

Feliciano Lopez adds his much needed beauty to the tour!

Posted by libby 10/18/2007 at 07:24 PM

Well said, nyc!!!

Posted by bub s 10/18/2007 at 07:37 PM

"Feliciano Lopez adds his much needed beauty to the tour!"

i second (or third?) that :)

Posted by Bob 10/18/2007 at 07:47 PM

Lopez does have an elegant game. He's tall and powerful, but moves with deceptive grace and speed, and has an incredible serve.

Posted by zolarafa 10/18/2007 at 07:47 PM

this is from times online:

...The wonder of Nadal’s play is how he is able to conjure winners from defensive positions, how he can stay in rallies when most other players would give up on them, how he can reach drop shots that others would not dare to dream that they could lay a racket on. And he is supposed to be wondering about how fit he is having missed the past two months with tendinitis in his knees. Heaven help the rest when he is fully fit. ....

Rafa won Murray in AO and the lost to Gonzo. I hope he has not killed himself tonight and can overcome Nalby tomorrow.

Posted by Or 10/18/2007 at 08:09 PM

Bob -

Does he really? I didn't notice. That guy is simply too pretty to focus on his tennis much.

Posted by patrick 10/18/2007 at 08:33 PM

The WTA will play in Zurich but it will be a Tier II tourney in 2008. I believe that TTC will have tape delayed coverage on Zurich on Sat and Sun due to Madrid(and rightfully so) getting coverage every day.

Posted by Bob 10/18/2007 at 08:41 PM

It is unfortunate that the tournaments conflict. I'm honed in on college football all day Saturday, but will watch the Zurich final on Sunday, and try to watch the Madrid final. Madrid has been full of good matches, and I expect more of them. Zurich will probably be a Henin-Golovin final again, which was a good match in Stuttgart.

Posted by linex 10/18/2007 at 09:07 PM

Congratulations on your post Steve. I really enjoyed it. The picture is excellent Nalbandian looks really happy. Hope he keeps the smile tomorrow.

Zurich without Hingis is just uninteresting.

Posted by another (closet) rafa fan 10/18/2007 at 09:32 PM

== if beautiful means boring one-sided matches of (cough cough know who!), I am not for it! ==

zolarafa, I completely agree! I'll take Nadal's not-beautiful-but-always-exciting tennis over Federer's so-perfect-its-utterly-boring any day of the week. When we look back at all the classic memorable matches we can see that Nadal is responsible for more of them than Federer.

Posted by skip1515 10/18/2007 at 10:19 PM

Steve, I have to say that I've found Lopez pretty impressive lately. My earlier opinion of him was Too Much Shot Maker/Not Enough Shots Made, plus little to no backhand. Were he righthanded he might not have been top 100.

But his match v Federer at the Open was very different: controlled, measured, rewardingly consistent and yet explosive at the right times, too.

(Funny, every guy but one is measured by the way in which they play against, and then lose, to Federer.)

Plus, and I could be mistaken here, isn't he coming in a whole lot more than he used to? Against Ferrer today he was downright entertaining in his all court play. And he seriously laid into some backhands.

Drop shots? Ehh, not so much.

Speaking of coming in and Doug Adler, the constant comments he makes about that haven't penetrated the aural fog through which I listen to matches, but for my money it's a legitimate criticism of many players. Even Nadal's been playing the net more often, and Adler was right today in saying that Nadal's adding that to his game will help lengthen his career.

Posted by ncot 10/18/2007 at 10:26 PM

closeted fan,

federer matches can be exciting even without rafa in it. take a look:

this coming from a fellow rafanatic. :)

Posted by Tim 10/18/2007 at 10:33 PM

closetfan was the WImbledon final boring as well? i wish people could enjoy Rafa without playing the "boring" card every time against the greatest player of this or probably any era, who offers us jaw dropping points in every match he plays...

boring indeed!

Posted by Beckham (Not Frazzled Edition) 10/18/2007 at 10:55 PM

Tim: why do you bother? I thought you were in your happy place for the rest of the year?

Posted by steve 10/18/2007 at 11:04 PM

skip: ok, will now actually watch federer-lopez tomorrow.

it is a legit criticism, but is it suddenly going to happen in these matches? murray got to net on matfch point today and...had the ball blown by him.

not to say they shouldn't add to their games etc., etc.

Posted by mad about fed 10/18/2007 at 11:26 PM

thx ncot for the video.

how can anyone watch him play and call it boring? i thought the shot making by both was high quality. it reminded me of the YEC match fed/nadal. if the video had only showed federer from the knees down i would watch. his footwork alone is amazing. add to that the beauty of his ground strokes but it's not just about the forehand and the backhand but the sheer variety of shots he creates from the two. add to that watching him think on court. it always seems as though he is a couple of strokes ahead of his opponent. when watching him play i find myself not even watching the ball most of the time or the other player, my eyes are glued to him.

i say this not because i am a BIIIGGGG KAD but because he is just utterly beautiful to watch. nough said

night all

Posted by Bob 10/18/2007 at 11:37 PM

Federer is the most exciting player in history, all things considered. The shotmaking he displays is often beyond belief. His movement is cat-like. He has every shot in the history of tennis and some which nobody has ever hit except him. His mathes are often blow-outs, so there isn't much suspense; but that's simply another measure of his greatness, against all comers, on every surface except against a single player on clay. I often turn off golf tournaments once Tiger gets a four shot lead with 9 to play, because of the lack of suspense, but his golf is anything but boring.

Posted by mad about fed 10/18/2007 at 11:40 PM

tim--i just don't get it. are they watching the same player we are? obviously NOT. let's forget about TMF/JETBOY, the KAD'S and the KAD haters and just talk about the tennis. what would truly be BORING would be to have one without the other. all of you should count yourselves blessed to be in this time to watch two such great champions play. i know i do.

night all (this time for reals)

Posted by Bob 10/18/2007 at 11:57 PM

I'm watching a re-play of the Federer match presently. Just breathtaking stuff, so aggressive and brilliant that I'll take it over some tense slug fest between ball-bashing two-handed players any day, no matter how well they are playing. Federer is just on fire. To watch him, and then Henin in the women's game, is really a treat. We'll never see another player like him, and he sure had it all on display against Canas.

Posted by Carrie 10/19/2007 at 12:35 AM

I like both Rafa and Feds and think that both can bring some excitement to the table. For example- my two favorite matches of 2005 were the AO semi between Feds and Safin and the Rome final between Rafa and Coria (where art thou Guille?). Of course their Wimbly final this year was great stuff. I view tennis like I do music- as in I like a variety of styles/bands. They can be very different but each have their attributes that I love.

Steve- I think your comments about Verdasco are spot on. He has this mental plug that is sooo frustrating. I remember I guess in 2006 against Roddick in 2006 where he played some smashing stuff to get chances- and then blew all of the chances.

As a JMDP fan this was a good tournament. To be honest- this year has not been as good as I thought it would be. But his display against Tommy was the best I have seen in terms of tennis and grit. He starting the match against Nalby all mopey and I thought we may have another give up or retirement (which has been frustrating and about to make me scratch out his name on my Trapper Keeper) but in the second set he showed some emotion and fight - which was good to see. I hope he learns from this because imo when he is on, he is fun.

I hope that Tatiana follows your premonition and has a good year next year. I become charmed by her during the Hopman Cup.

Posted by Glorious Backhand 10/19/2007 at 12:46 AM

anybody catch when the commentator literally said canas was getting an "asswhooping". i fell out of my chair when i heard that!

about the 1:20 mark give or take a few seconds:

Posted by zolarafa 10/19/2007 at 01:55 AM

Fed fans,
no need to be defensive. It just shows branding one's game is not fair. People like different players for different reasons. Something that might seem boring to me might seem exciting to you and vice versa. What ticks me off is the ugly/beautiful description of tennis that I totally don't understand. Who made this up and on what basis? Some find Rafa's Vamoses and scissor kicks and fist pumps arrogant. I find them exciting. who can say I am right or wrong?

On Federer's game, I really don't care about the balerina motion backhand. what I love about his game is the impossible shots he can make from each and every corner of the court. The movement, the way he doesn't even need to think about a shot. The way he can change direction with the flick of a wrist is just amazing to me. On top of that, the way he can elevate his game according to the opponent is also incredible.

but these don't mean that I have to tolerate branding Rafa's game as ugly or not-so-beautiful. I want someone to tell me his cross-court passing shots, his calculated lobas or the set point today, the forehand down the line was not so beautiful! and why! I think Rafa's game and efforts deserve the same respect as Federer's. every player's does.

Posted by gregorio 10/19/2007 at 04:32 AM

Tennis, a tiny bit of squash and now some love for Pavement. Concrete Elbow is my new favourite!

Posted by gregorio 10/19/2007 at 04:33 AM

And what is with the Djoker's goatee? Now he looks like Evil Djokovic...

Posted by Aus 10/19/2007 at 06:03 AM

Nadal can't blame his knees if he loses. He was running around like a rabbit during his match. So if he loses, he will have to do so gracefully (which means he cannot say: "I don't want to talk about my injuries, my opponent play well, with my knees it's hard to play 100%" Passive aggressive stuff. Why doesn't anyone call him out?)

Posted by HJ 10/19/2007 at 06:54 AM

"less than beautiful" is not the correct way to describe a struggle.

Zola writes:
"but these don't mean that I have to tolerate branding Rafa's game as ugly or not-so-beautiful. I want someone to tell me his cross-court passing shots, his calculated lobs or the set point today, the forehand down the line was not so beautiful! and why! I think Rafa's game and efforts deserve the same respect as Federer's. every player's does."

Amen! Personally, I can not understand how you can not love that backhand when he's hitting it on the run and I agree with you that "less than beautiful" is the wrong way to describe "struggle". That match was exciting and fun to watch.

One of the reasons why I mostly ignore Steve's blog these days is that I disagree too often with his take on tennis (another reason is avoiding the KAD wars).

Posted by M-Life 10/19/2007 at 07:10 AM


That was funny and it's a good crack. I completely agree with you however. I don't like the look. It works for Spock I think, doesn't work for Djoko. Or should I say, the Evil Djoko.

Posted by Bethany 10/19/2007 at 07:14 AM

I actually don't care that you don't care for Rafa much - and it comes out more and more these days - but to describe his game as less than beautiful?! What! If you want to sleep in a tennis match watch Federer, if you want a match with will, power, enthusiam and joy - yep Rafa's the man. Different strokes for different folks I guess.

Posted by patrick 10/19/2007 at 08:21 AM

On the road to Shanghai, with all of the contenders losing early this week, Roddick has officially qualified.

Posted by Juan Jose 10/19/2007 at 08:49 AM

Hey Steve!

It was truly great to meet up with you guys in NYC. Much fun, and that was a great burger. About The Djoko, you are right. We got to see the match when it was replayed at night, now that we're in Dixieland and finally have access to the Tennis Channel.

He should have won in two yesterday. He lost focus when he had those break chances in the first game of the second, committed stupid mistakes afterwards to get broken. Ferrero played well, but he wasn't the deciding factor.

No clue what's going to happen in the Nadal- Nalbo match. Although I have a hunch that it will be similar to the Nadal-Safin match in Montreal.

The Djoko is now playing Ancic, who seems focused and is playing well. We're now at 2-2 in the first set, and it seems that he's now willing to play a more attacking game. Was playing the Federer waiting game in the first few games. That won't cut it against an aggressively determined Ancic.

Funny that it was a year ago that we were exchanging emails here. Ball girl outfits have deteriorated, I think.

Ancic looks like a stretched version of the Karate Kid. I wonder if that's why everyone likes him and no one points out the fact that he's probably one of the top 5 underachievers on tour.

The Djoko's jerky backhand returns never cease to amaze me. It looks so awkward and almost self-defense that it seems impossible for that ball to come back so aggressively.

Both guys are now serving big in tight situations. Which means this set is going to a tiebreaker, and this match is going three. It shouldn't, though. When The Djoko puts the foot on the gas, things get a whole lot easier for him. And every time he's let Ancic have control of a point, he's either lost it or won it by an Ancic error.

An interesting thing about being in the U.S is that women's tennis is on TV. Quite a change from Latinamerica, where it's never on TV. Still, I can't say I'm all that thrilled about this.

Oh, great line against Friggin' Lopez. I cannot believe Federer can reach the semifinals of a Masters Series having played Ginepri, the worn-down Canias, and Friggin' Lopez. The only possible result that will make me dislike Federer a little less is if he double-bagels him, or breadsticks-and-bagels him. Some kind of combination from the bakery. More than two Lopez games in a set and I will be annoyed. Of course, if Lopez wins, look for cover, because Armaggedon is coming.

Now that I remember, that also changed from a year ago; I actually liked Federer then.

Posted by Beckham (Not Frazzled Edition) 10/19/2007 at 08:56 AM

Juan Jose: awwww....pray tell what did poor Fed do to cause you to loose your flove for him?????? ;)

Posted by 10/19/2007 at 09:21 AM

I don't know what you call less-than-beautiful in Nadal's game. Give me a list of the year's best three matches and see if Rafa is not a contender in at least two of them. The way he plays and the excitement he brings to tennis is just a blessing and is more-than-beautiful!"


The way he moves is beautiful. The way he gets to balls you never think he could and then makes an unbeleivable winner is beautiful. Above all,Nadal is a beautiful spirit. LOVE this kid!!

Posted by 10/19/2007 at 09:23 AM

"Feliciano Lopez adds his much needed beauty to the tour!"

EXACTLY!! Just look at him!!

Posted by 10/19/2007 at 09:25 AM

"He's tall and powerful, but moves with deceptive grace and speed, and has an incredible serve. "

He does move extremely well for a tall guy. Plus,I've seen him play some good matches. Matter of fact,one of them was this summer. How dare you Steve?

Posted by Juan Jose 10/19/2007 at 09:26 AM

Beckham: long story, but I think it started in that 2006 FO Final, with the ridiculous jacket afterwards.

The Djoko played that tiebreak beautifully, and was really unfortunate to get that knock on the left ankle. He mentioned something about feeling strange about the ankle being taped, since he doesn't do it regularly. I don't think it's a big deal, but this match is definitely going three.

He's taking this set off, yet again. Not moving well. Ancic is smelling blood, making him run to that side. This does not look good.

Posted by 10/19/2007 at 09:26 AM


You are just jealous of Feliciano. Hater. Lol!!!

Posted by Juan Jose 10/19/2007 at 09:39 AM

So Ancic gave that break away. That was nice. Even nicer to see The Djoko somehow come up with those huge serves to survive that 0-40 game. That was big. If he holds here, we could avoid that third set. Considering the ankle, that might be a good plan of action.

Ancic's outfit is disastrous. Makes the Djoko look classy in his pseudo modern-art thing. And that hold looked easy. See, Djoko? All-out aggression just might be the key here.

Posted by Juan Jose 10/19/2007 at 09:46 AM

And Ancic gave another break away. Bad strategy to play to the Djoko backhand. What he needed to do was open up the court playing cross-court to the Djoko forehand, and then force him to run to the backhand side. Just hitting to the backhand was a bad idea from the start.

He holds here, and it's practically over. Which would be good for that ankle.

Posted by Beckham (Not Frazzled Edition) 10/19/2007 at 09:48 AM

Juan Jose: awww I am starting a campaign to get you back on the Fed flove bandwagon...LOL...I mean the Fed went through a err "slump" this year, NO??? And look at how he managed to dig himself out of the "slump", I mean he finally found his serve and he's actually using his BH as an offensive shot now...Can't we all just ignore the "outfits"...You can't just abandon your flove 'cos of one (ok maybe 2) mistake(s) can you????

New Campaign: get Juan Jose back on the Fed bandwagon...;)

Posted by Juan Jose 10/19/2007 at 09:48 AM

It's interesting to note that The Djoko's serve isn't in the top 5, and not even in the top 10, maybe, but I'd only pick one other player to hit a big serve in a tough situation.

We all know who that is.

Posted by Juan Jose 10/19/2007 at 09:57 AM

Beckham: The backhand as an offensive weapon... not sold on that. I mean, if you hit an approach shot to that side, you'll get passed 9 out of 10 times, and maybe 95 out of a 100. But if you drill that side and force it to come up with a balance-shifting shot, it kind of doesn't deliver.

The Djoko now playing some amazing ball. The thing about that ankle is whether it's a liability for Shanghai. That's all that matters. he defended his points here, and is about to earn a couple more on top of that. But anything he earns in Shanghai increases the siege on no.2.

About riding the Federer bandwagon, I rode it for a year plus, I think. I really liked him, as a person and as a tennis player. I still think he's the GOAT, no matter if he wins the FO or wins two more Slams. However, something did change after the AO. And I really cannot recognize the guy I liked in this all-out Men's Vogue guy. It's like the goofiness is completely gone.

It also doesn't help to play FO finals like they're some exhibition match.

Posted by Juan Jose 10/19/2007 at 09:58 AM

Interestingly enough, The Djoko had failed two times with ill-advised passing shots down the line instead of cross-court. Serving for the match, he comes up with a perfect passing shot down the line, when cross-court was a better option.

Here come the big serves.

Posted by Juan Jose 10/19/2007 at 10:02 AM

Two let-cords in the final service game. You definitely need a little bit of luck in this sport.

The Djoko seems concerned, not all that happy. I guess he's going directly to the trainer's, and see what's wrong with that ankle. Near the end he seemed to move well, so who knows, maybe the slow start was due to getting used to the taping. It'd be a pity if he's not in shape for the semi.

The key of this match were those huge serves in that first serve game of the second set, when he was 0-40 down. That killed Ancic.

Posted by patrick 10/19/2007 at 10:09 AM

Juan Jose,
Thanks for the analysis on Mario/Novak. On to the winner of Daveed/Rafa tomorrow. On your post at 9:48 AM on big serves, could the answer be Dr.Ivo? LOL

Posted by Beckham (Not Frazzled Edition) 10/19/2007 at 10:11 AM

Juan Jose: Ok so I can't defend the FO right now but give me time I'll come up with something ;)...but Fed is still a very goofy guy nevermind the errr whole Vogue thing going on (Anna Wintour is solely to blame for that)...

I say give him another shot at the FO next year...he's even added Estoril to his schedule next year, he knows he needs a change in strategy (I am very optimistic)...

the BH is very much will never be the FH of course but it's not the BH of old, it will actually hit winners in rallies now and it's not shocking!

he's also vastly improved his's winning him a whole bunch of free points even when he's in trouble...(after being in denial that his serve was fine earlier on in the year, this is good, NO???)

Just so you know...I'm going all out to get you back on the bandwagon...;)

Posted by zolarafa 10/19/2007 at 10:31 AM

Steve cares a lot about Rafa. You have to read his many earlier posts and you will enjoy them a lot as a Rafa fan.
This beautiful/ugly description is not his invention. I think maybe writers are not sometimes aware of the effect these words have on fans.

Posted by The Original French(ie) 10/19/2007 at 10:33 AM

about djokovic and "his loss of focus": I don't believe that. In numerous matches we can see him losing the second set and then miraculously "recover" and win in the third. In other words, he tanks the second set on purpose. Let's not forget he's a comedian.

for lopez, I think he looks like a drag-queen in shorts with his body and his girly pout-face.

Posted by Juan Jose 10/19/2007 at 10:35 AM

Patrick, Dr. Ivo rules, but if he were the answer to that question, I think he'd won a Masters Series or two by now.

Beckham, Federer has been doing that backhand tease for a year now, and I'm not sold on it. Plus, that pseudo ability disappears once he hits the clay.

Nalbandian hit a gorgeous cross-court backhand winner. That backhand rules. Too bad the owner of it is thinking about rally cars instead of trying to be the best player in the world.

Posted by The Original French(ie) 10/19/2007 at 10:49 AM

in zurich, vaidisova is in for the semis after disposing of bondarenko pretty swiftly.Her serve is impressive but she can't move at all and still makes a lot of unforced errors. against justine I'm curious to see how long she's last. yesterday schiavone-schnyder was an unexpected fun : schnyder seemed to be in control of the match when schiavone (with her dad and flavia panetta in the audience) decided to play some quite good very agressive tennis, smashing all around the place. by the way she's in the semis now. She won the first set against kuznetsova who then retired at 3-3.

Posted by patrick 10/19/2007 at 11:02 AM

The Original French(ie),
Do you know why Sveta retired? On Nicole, Justine,barring a miracle in the match against Aggie, will run her ragged. 2008 will be a crucial year for Nicole. She has won only one tournament-2006 Strasbourg- in 2 years even though she has had some decent Slam results.

Posted by patrick 10/19/2007 at 11:04 AM

Juan Jose,
Knew the answer was TMF but I wanted to get your reaction on the Ace Machine. You do have to admit that Dr.Ivo should get the Most Improved player of the year in the ATP. GS and volleys are a little better and % of return games won has increased. In 2005, Ivo won only approx 6-7% of all return games.

Posted by Juan Jose 10/19/2007 at 11:25 AM

Patrick, I do agree on the most improved thing. So long as they give something to the Djoko.

Posted by Bob 10/19/2007 at 12:19 PM

Vaidisova seems to be playing pretty well considering how little she's played this summer.

Bad day for Nadal. It happens to the best of them, and Nalbandian when he's really on is dangerous even to Federer.

I wish I had seen Patty play Francesca. I'm a huge Patty fan, but I've always felt Golovin would meet Henin in the final.

Posted by monterey 10/19/2007 at 12:20 PM

Juan Jose, why so hard on poor Roger? Forgive him his fashion tastes and focus on that beautifully magnificent, historic tennis that he plays.

He doesn't treat the FO final as an exo, he is simply not allowed to play his full game by the great Rafa. Rafa deserves all the credit here. I know you know that so I'm surprised you said what you did, unless you were just joking around a bit.

As for his backhand, why do you call it "pseudo-ability" that disappears on clay? He's the second best clay-courter out there and he uses his BH as part of the overall distribution of his game. Miguel Seabra has often pointed this out so well. While he can hit outright winners off his BH, he uses it more to set up the rest of his game. It doesn't necessarily have to be "offensive" all the time, it just has to be good enough for the moment at hand.
After all, what does 12 Slams and 14 Masters tell you about his BH? He has one of the best BHs ever, I think.

Posted by zolarafa 10/19/2007 at 12:21 PM

bad day at the office for Rafa. Brutal day for his fans. It was hard to watch him lose like that.

Posted by tami 10/19/2007 at 12:28 PM

djoko might just start breathing down nadal's neck come AO 08.

Posted by Bob 10/19/2007 at 12:36 PM

zolarafa: These things happen. Federer had two lousy matches early in the year against Canas. Nadal is coming off an injury and after playing such great tennis against Murray, perhaps he wasn't fired up for this match. I don't think you can explain such losses. They just happen now and then, even to Federer and Nadal. Justine loses now and then. Ohio State got blown out in the BCS game by Florida. That's sports. Nadal just wasn't playing offensive tennis, and when he tried, his forehand was really bad, and his backhand not much better. Nalbandian is very talented when he's really playing well, so it's no disgrace to lose to him. It will give Rafa a rest until the YEC.

Posted by The Original French(ie) 10/19/2007 at 12:39 PM

that's many points will djoko get now if he passes nalbandian and get to the final? and if he wins (arg)? will rafa play in paris or no? djokovic will play there for sure.

ooooooaaa I'm having nightmares already. djoko lost to paul-henri in the second round in paris and that will certainly not happen again.roger if you hear me you have to win in order to maintain the status quo, please.

patrick: right now no news on the kuz' retirement, sorry.

Posted by Juan Jose 10/19/2007 at 01:20 PM

Monterey: is that you, the monterey of TW? Don't worry, I won't bash Federer's historic tennis one bit. As I said, he's the GOAT for me, and has been for quite some time.

Now, I completely disagree on the FO thing. During the last one, all Nadal had to do was put the ball in play. That's how great he had to be for Federer in that match. The Great Nadal appeared a round earlier, when he dispatched The Djoko in amazing fashion. I mean, that's a truly great performance, something he didn't have to do in the final, and was wise enough not to even try.

Federer has played all of a couple of sets against Nadal on clay the right way. Going for it instead of stupidly trying to out-Nadal Nadal. Only one of those sets was at the FO final, and that was mainly do to Nadal being frozen (2006).

One of the best backhands ever? Don't know. I do think it's my favorite one-hander on tour now. On clay, I thought it was great against Ferrer and Ferrero at Montecarlo, but that was it. However, you'd have to admit that Federer's amazing career and titles have more to do with his all-time great forehand and his serve, along with his amazing D and overall movement. Getting his backhand to a decent level took that advantage off opponents, and he was able to dominate with his true strengths.

And I think his no.2 on clay status will be severely tested next year. Let's all remember he did not have to play The Djoko on clay this year, and overall, when he did, way back in 2006 when The Djoko had to qualify for Montecarlo, it went three and wasn't easy at all.

Posted by zolarafa 10/19/2007 at 01:29 PM

thanks a lot. I know these things happen and I think it was hard for Rafa to recover so quickly after Murray match. On top of that Nalbandian can be a very dangerous player. He gave Fed a hell of a time before Fed eventually figured him out. His match with Rafa came at the wrong time.

The bad part was that it happened in Madrid. Hearing those fans who were trying to hold onto something to cheers Rafa was really sad and I bet he is more affected by that than the defeat itself.

But anyway, this is sports. One winner means one loser and Nalby played great.I too, hope Rafa can put this behind and find his form for Shanghai.

Posted by Juan Jose 10/19/2007 at 01:38 PM

On the points thing, The Djoko gets 100 more for winning today, and since Nadal lost but covered his points from last year, that means that the gap is 100 points shorter. If he beats Nalbo, that's 100 more points.

Also, pretty much anything he earns in Paris (if he plays there) will add up, but the big thing is Shanghai. Good results there, and the AO will be most interesting from that point of view.

Posted by Bob 10/19/2007 at 01:49 PM

zolarafa: That's the great thing about sports, even when it's not so great for a particular player on a given day. The fans really were trying to will Nadal into the match, and he certainly fought to the end, but his shots just weren't going in, and Nalbandian's backhand was phenomenal today. His whole game was. You can't give a player like him time, and he had plenty today. Federer totally took Canas out of his game by firing spectacular offensive winners off both sides. Nadal just couldn't hit deep and hard without hitting it out. Sometimes Henin is off. She was for the first set in the Stuttgart final, but then got her rhythm and although she never did totally dial in her forehand, her play was much more aggressive in the last two sets. You can forget about winning on the men's tour unless you play aggressive tennis, and Rafa just couldn't hit those shots today, for whatever reason. He might beat Djokovic, the way he's playing. He's incredibly inconsistent, but when he's playing well, he can beat anyone, and never gives up. I was amazed at how much bigger Nadal is than Nalbandian, when they shook hands. I'm sometimes surprised at how small Justine is in those situations, though I'm used to it. She's really tiny compared to almost everyone. She had another solid win today, and now I can watch her, since she's in the semis. Nobody is going to beat Federer at Madrid, if he plays anywhere near like he played against Canas. That's as good as I've ever seen anyone play.

Posted by Juan Jose 10/19/2007 at 01:51 PM

And one last thing about today's match: Nadal looked slow, his feet were everywhere but in the right place, and Nalbo for once didn't let down and executed quite nicely. He was impressive today.

Those two things combined make up for the scoreline.

Posted by Bob 10/19/2007 at 01:58 PM

I thought it was his shotmaking, though fatigue can be a factor. Nalbandian had one high ball after another to drill, and nobody can track such shots down. Murray was doing the same thing until Nadal started hitting deep and with pace and getting more aggressive, but nothing was going in today. I wish I had taped the Federer-Canas match. Federer was just phenomenal in that match, from beginning to end. He was contemptuous in his play. Nobody has a chance against him on a hard court when he plays like that. It was just a marvel to watch.

Posted by mici 10/19/2007 at 02:50 PM

hey everybody, long long time no see!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have been bezy, and I am sorry to say the my english spalling hasn't improved, so dont "kill" me!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I still very very angray at fed abount the sw19 final, staupid stupid fed- has rhe best shot ever in the game and doesn't want to use it, it behind me- I just can't understand and talk god he remeber he had his "dammy serve" - but thats for another day.

I wanted to coment of of few things:

1. Fed-canas- the big difrence I see in fed play after the us open (it happend also last year- see TMC final v blake) is- he takes the ball much much more early especlly on his bh side. I don't know if it becouse that he plays indores, or he feels more free and that makes he play beter, and the combanation of both things.

2. Murray-gusqet-bgdhdis- I don't like murray that much, but I think he is so talnted, and I like he game- but I am really
really forsteted with him, gusqet and bgdhadis.

I have been saying for 2 years now, all of this guys are very tlented, but I just don't undrstand how they or their coachs can't see it, the loose so much becouse they play defansive tennis, when their game is made for attacking tennis, that is why djoko is no3 right now as he get it, he mix the right combo of attack and diffance that go with his talent, but the other 3 have more talent but for some reason like to play difence.

that kind of difensive tennis - won't give them long carrer of the top, they need to change as long as there is time, it's beter they do it now!!!!!!!!!!!

the murray nadal match was good to watch, but at the same time I sad to see someone who isn't using his talent right.

murray has so much virty, he used that, but he also has a lot of power on his bh side when he wanted to go for a winner, he bh was so powerful nadal couldn't cantrol it, I don't get for what is he wating, he isn't a clay court player his game isn't suted for that, he will burn-out if he keep this kind of play.

the same goes to baggy,

3. king David- You know i love his game always been a fan (even if he beats fed) always tought he is 1 of the most tlanted players around, and always tought he can a will beat nadal most of the times. the only thing of my money the always hold him down is his serve, but that isn't a problem v nadal as he isn't great returner, and when he does returne he goes in to king david bh side.

If anyone has a douet about the tactic to beat nadal go a watch this game, I said it long long time ago, and king david being 1 of the most smart player arounds (for me more them fed, fed plays smart of insticts and by trying and knowing what to do and what not to do- kind david know ahead of time- and 1 of the main reason I am saying it is that fed still doesn't get that kind david can't handle is short cross court bh slice- if it is on hard courts or clay or what ever he just can't handle that shot and fed doesn't relize it and only use it what he is in truble- boooooooooooo him)used that tctic so well, nadal really will have it hard in his match v kind david no mather where they play.

the engles short corss court angles fh and bh especlly the bh no 1 can do it beter then king david no 1 and he has the bh the nadal shots just doesn't bother hime, he just run him around all over the court with his angles shots, and when he had the opening he went down the line.

Posted by linex 10/19/2007 at 03:36 PM

I could not see the match today. Only the highlights on the masterseries website. I am happy for David, he did not have any good results this year. Let us see if he can keep it up for tomorrow. I would like him to beat Novak. Probably Rafa will be David´s number 1 supporter since there is a chance for the gap between them to shorten if he reaches the final.

Steve had a clue that something could occur by including David as the story of the week beforehand. Even though at the beginning of the tournament he thought that it was Berdych who could upset Nadal. I am waiting for his comments on this match.

Posted by The Original French(ie) 10/19/2007 at 03:42 PM

bob: I like how you start talking about rafa and nalbandian and then you end up talking about justine... :)

thanks juan jose, now it's a bit clearer in my mind.

Posted by Andrew Miller 10/19/2007 at 04:36 PM

It seems FLopez is breaking away from his twin FVerdasco. The guy has played some spirited tennis. These two lefties would be top 15/top 20 players if they applied themselves! My bet would be on Flo to break back into the top 20, because SCO (verdaSCO) seems to not want to see what he's capable of.

Posted by monterey 10/19/2007 at 04:52 PM

Juan Jose,

Yes, I'm the same person as before. We once talked about Nalby and I have to give you credit for making me see that he is more than simply a counterpuncher, as I maintained. You pointed out his aggressive and varied game and I certainly have come to appreciate him more as a result.

Interesting point about Fed and the FO, how he doesn't play Nadal properly. Many have pointed this out and it is hard to watch him try and outplay Nadal from the baseline. He'll never do it.

But the question always arises as to why he can't play his free flowing style against Rafa on clay (he can on other surfaces, like Sahanghai 06). He himself has said that it's very difficult to strike the right balance between aggression and control against Rafa on clay. He knows how to play Rafa but the problem lies in Nadal not letting him execute that great strategy. I think you're taking credit away from Rafa---he always makes Roger uncomfortable on clay (and even at Wimbledon!). I love watching Fed play but Rafa is just such a different animal on clay, as Roger himself has said.

That's a mark of a great player, isn't it? Make the other guy play your game, not his, and Rafa can do that to anybody on clay.

Like your analysis, as always, and hey, Roger doesn't look so bad in his all-black USO outfit. The Wimby blazer I can do without.

Posted by Bob 10/19/2007 at 05:05 PM

Frenchie: It's hard for me to type for very long without typing Justine. TW is so ATP oriented that I try to get some WTA stuff in now and then. Zurich is virtually ignored, even with that loaded field. Once the Americans are out, so is American media interest in women's tennis. It drops to zero. I'm pleased that I'll get to see some of Zurich, though Ohio State plays at 3:30, and that will be it for tennis, but I'll watch on Sunday.

Posted by A 10/19/2007 at 05:36 PM

I can't believe the net complaint is the only one you're registering against Doug Adler. What an annoyance. Just for kicks I looked him up on the ATP website. His profile shows all zeros, except for two losses in doubles. Tee hee. I'm guessing he was never #1 in the world though. Probably never even #5. He could talk far less about the motivations and habits of the players and much more -- no, never mind. He could talk far less.

Posted by Bob 10/19/2007 at 05:55 PM

Who is Doug Adler?

Posted by fifteenlove 10/20/2007 at 01:50 AM

Haha, it's ok Bob. I for one enjoy your long posts and analysis about Federer and Justine. It's other posters who just keep mentioning Justine for absolutely no reason, even when she is wholly irrelevant to the topic at hand, who are the irksome ones.

Posted by The original French(ie) 10/20/2007 at 05:00 AM

if anyone is interested, Bartoli has a suspected knee injury. She heard "something crack" before her match yesterday.she and her dad are both worried it might be something important. She's seing a doctor later roday.

Posted by patrick 10/20/2007 at 10:41 AM

The Original French(ie),
Sounds like Marion will be out until 2008 even if she was to make it to Madrid as an alternative.

Posted by zolarafa 10/20/2007 at 01:41 PM

Poor Bartoli. I hope it is nothing serious.

Posted by steve 10/20/2007 at 07:54 PM

another nice win for nalbandian, though djoko was flat.

i'm liking david's game again. absence makes the... i guess

Posted by patrick 10/20/2007 at 10:53 PM

Do you think Nalby can beat Federer with his all-around game tomorrow?

Posted by chino 10/21/2007 at 06:52 AM

I want daniela in the main draw so sharpova better quit.. haha

Posted by linex 10/21/2007 at 10:28 PM


I look forward to your comments on today´s final. I guess you´ll post something on the outcome of this tournament and on David fantastic play on this final. I just saw all the highlights on the mastersseries website and I am impressed with David´s accurate and aggresive and varied ground strokes, volleys, serves etc. He did what he said he needed to do to defeat Roger: play perfect attack, perfect defense, perfect everything. Even in the first set he was following his tactic well but loosing some balls for inches. This was not Roger playing lousy but David playing fantastic. And it was not a conicidence because David also reached the semis in the doubles draw (what shows that his returns and serves were on fire this week). By the way yesterday David and Cañas took the Bryans in the semis to a third set super tiebreak where the brothers prevailed. The score was 6/1, 2/6, 10/4 for the Bryans.

Posted by The Original French(ie) 10/22/2007 at 08:14 AM

actually fed played a "bit lousy", I just read he made 38 unforced errors during the match. I was surprised because I thought nalbandian played fantastic tennis (his return of serve, the angles, the net game !!!!) that actually "outplayed" the mighty swiss.

Posted by patrick 10/22/2007 at 08:47 AM

The Original French(ie),
Seeing the match yesterday live, I thought Nalby just outplayed Federer but Fed did make his UFEs in set 3. Nalby kept pressure on Fed's serve in all 3 sets, won over 80% of points on his first serve in the lst 2 sets, and Fed level of play dipped after set 1.

Posted by The Original French(ie) 10/22/2007 at 09:41 AM

patrick: yes that's true but I'm also curious to see how many UFE nalbandian did have yesterday.... I think it's his return of serve which was great yesterday.

At the USO in the final against djoko fed made 34 UFE

against Roddick the fed had only 18 errors with a median of 11-12 errors in matches against lopez, isner and the likes.

when nalbandian lost to ferrer he made 73 UFE!!!

I think the statistics compiled at the USO are great: you've got all the things you want to know whereas with ATP events you've got only half of what's relevant....

Posted by The Original French(ie) 10/22/2007 at 09:57 AM

bartoli is still unsure about her participation in Linz. When I see the draw I understand why Amélie is not participating...

no seriously, she could have had some good "practice matches" with the players around. I still don't understand what she is doing and now I'm becoming a bit worried about her chances in 2008.

tatiana golovin is now ranked 15. Bartoli is number 9 & that just ruins my day, sorry. when amélie loses her points from the masters she might be out of the top 15-20.

Posted by linex 10/22/2007 at 10:19 AM

Did Roger defeat Novak in straight sets in USA? If that was the case that proves my theory that the 34 unforced errors was not the main explanation for yesterday´s defeat ... He can still beat many players with that error count.

On the other hand, Nalby´s 73 unforced error is the main explanation for the defeat (I do not say single explanation because you also need a guy with fighting qualities like Ferrer who did not surrender) against Ferrer where he netted a sure winner with a match point in his favour.

Posted by The Original French(ie) 10/22/2007 at 10:25 AM

and to continue with my current gallic-gloom: ¤fabulous fabrice¤ faces roddick in the first round in Lyon.

can anyone decipher the site? I'm French but I can't even find THE DRAW (and there's no english version that I can see).
where did they put it??? aaah okay, you have to go into "resultats" to find it.nevermind, I've given up.there really is no english version of the site!

now roddick to face grosjean next. then it should be gasquet if there's nothing on TV that prevents him from actually playing. In the other quarters ljuby & haas should do battle while robredo/monaco will fight it off. haas and robredo are the ones who have the most to lose in the ATP race. I hope haas wakes up to be qualified since 3 Spaniards in the top 8 is really too much, no? :) (I'm joking)

I think this a boring tournament.the players all look demented on their pictures.

again ,apologies for the doom & gloom.

Posted by The Original French(ie) 10/22/2007 at 10:29 AM

in the USO the score against djoko was 7-6 7-6 6-4 and djoko made 40 UFEs

Posted by patrick 10/22/2007 at 11:12 AM

The Original French(ie),
I think Marion is going to w/d from Linz as a precaution and rest up for the 2008 season even though Marion is the defending champ at Quebec City. Golovin has a chance to climb some more if she wins Linz and with her current form, she should win.

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