Nadal vs Teymuraz Gabashvili
When you’re awesome, people don’t even need to worry about your first name: Nadal, Federer, Roddick, Agassi, Sampras, Borat… (just checking)
So how must it feel to play Nadal? Imagine that you’re tied at 3-3 in the 3rd set. You haven’t been broken once. And you’re down 2 sets to love. Think you could keep your focus? Think you could believe, really believe, that you could win? Gabashvili convinved me that he did believe. He seemed impervious to stress until the 7th game of the 3rd set when, after a couple lose points, he found himself down 0-40 on his own serve. A lot of times, especially when a guy has a dangerous service weapon, you think, “OK, this guy can still serve his way out of trouble.” How many times has Federer done it? But tonight, against Nadal, that 0-40 hole seemed more daunting than scaling Everest with flip-flops.
Even when guys have an awesome run against Rafa, as Gabashvili did tonight, does anybody else keep hearing Agent Smith saying, “You hear that Mr. Anderson?… That is the sound of inevitability… It is the sound of your death… Goodbye, Mr. Anderson.”, or is that just me? That’s what the mounting pressure feels like to me when I watch Rafa play. He’s like the Terminator: He’s not going to back off. He’s not going to let up. He’s not going to give in. He’s not going to self-destruct. He is hell-bent and laser-focused on crushing you. He knows he can do it, and so do you.
Rafa in straight sets against an unbelievably difficult first round opponent: 7-6, 7-6, 6-3
Sharapova / Groth
Jarka…you so coulda won that match! You dominated that first set; the 6-4 score makes it seem closer than it really was. But the match stats tell the story: 14 double-faults, 24 winners (5 more than Shaza), but 48 unforced errors compared to 17 for Sharapova. Jarka, you cannot give a player of Sharapova’s calibre that many free points and win the match. Ain’t gonna happen. Shaza wins: 4-6, 6-3, 6-1
Jarka, when I saw you play WTT against the Springfield Lasers, I commented in the follow-up post that I suspected that Brad Gilbert had probably given your forehand the high honor of being called the “fearhand”. I also wondered, mostly to myself, what in the world the top-10 players forehands looked like in comparison to yours. Now I know; according to Pam Shriver, Mary Joe Fernandez, Killer Cahill, etc, nobody hits the fearhand any harder than you do in the women’s game. You have a true weapon. And your serve is ridiculous. Or as Jason Kane would say, “REE-diculous”. And your backhand? How ’bout that smokin return you hit that bounced off Shaza’s shoes! Point: You have the strokes, you just need to quit going for outright winners every time the ball is on your side of the net. Believe in yourself enough to have confidence that if you don’t hit an outright winner, and your opponent does manage to put the ball back into play, that you’ll be able to deal with it too. I wanna see you win more matches, but you gotta find your 80%, “bread & butter” game to make that happen. You can do it.
Close 5-Set Matches
Gave Fernando Verdasco a run for his money, but wasn’t enough. Verdasco in 5.
The #16 seed loses a close 5-set match to Arnaud Clement who, to the best of my knowledge, still hasn’t thanked John Isner for beating Nicolas Mahut in that EPIC (70-68 in the 5th) match at Wimbledon, thereby ensuring that Mahut, and not Clement, would go down in the record books as having lost the longest match ever played. At 6-hours & 33-minutes, the Santoro/Clement match seems downright paltry by comparison to the Isner/Mahut match (11-hours, 5-minutes).
Prevails over Jan Hajek in what might be the strangest score-line you’ll see in a while: 6-0, 3-6, 4-6, 6-0, 6-1 Mardy played some pretty special tennis in that 5th set, especially early on when you got the feeling that those very first break points were essentially match points.
Lost to Benoit Paire in a 5th set tiebreaker 7-6 (2), which screws up my bracket, but I had Rainer losing to Feliciano Lopez the next round anyway, so it’s not a tragic setback for me.
Dah-Veed! Seals the deal in a 5-set battle over Rik De Voest, of WTT Springfield Lasers fame. Keep it up David!