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Category Archives: Rafael Nadal

The Big Four To Square-Off Once Again

2011 has seen an unprecedented year at the slams from the big four. In the sixteen semi-final spots available this year, only two have been filled by players outside of that charmed square. And even those two were the result of Nadal injuring himself early in his Australian Open quarterfinal and Federer choking a two-set lead in his Wimbledon semifinal. The monopoly continues in Flushing Meadows.

Roger Federer vs Novak Djokovic

We all know what happened the last time these two men met. That finger twirl from Roger after he took out Novak at the French Open wasn’t just elation at reaching the final of the French Open. He showed off because he knew that he had ended the Djokovic winning streak and killed the hype surrounding it, and he was so pleased with himself for doing so.

And it’s this that makes matches between these two so exciting; they’re not friends and nor do they pretend to be (*cough* Rafole). It’s not just a final of the US Open at stake when these two play. it’s also bragging rights. And with two grown, red-blooded men who openly dislike each other, that’s probably an even bigger motivation for both today.

Federer has been playing so well this fortnight, and just as people were almost beginning to hold Tsonga as the favourite after his two recent victories over the GOAT, Fed simply shook his head, flicked his hair, laughed, and then proceeded to dish a beatdown on Tsonga. Djokovic hasn’t been quite so good, with his play far too passive - particularly against Tipsarevic and Dolgopolov. But the Serb has become such an incredible big-match player this year, so expect that all to change today.

Rafael Nadal vs Andy Murray

Three years ago, Andy Murray came of age as he defeated Rafael Nadal in this very round of the US Open in four sets. It was huge. So huge that I still vividly recall Mark Petchey’s triumphant “HE DID IT, HE’S IN THE FINAL!!!!1!” as the Scot put the final nail into Nadal’s 2008 US Open coffin. It seemed like Murray had finally arrived and even if he lost in the final, he had risen to Nadal’s level and the slams would soon follow.

Three years later, Nadal has immensely improved on all surfaces, finally conquring both hard court slams and doubling his Grand Slam tally with five more. Meanwhile Murray’s tally still stands at zero and his only big-time performance against a ‘big 4′ player in a slam came in his retirement vicory over Rafael Nadal in the quarters of Australia in 2010.

For those reasons, this match-up is advantage Nadal. After a slow start, he seems to be playing great this week, with the days of wetting his pants at the mere mention of Novak Djokovic’s name possibly over.

That’s not to say that Murray doesn’t have a chance though, and if he looks to get the first strike in and can keep his forehand together, opportunities will open up. But he’ll need to show so much more resilience and mental strength than at Wimbledon this year when he fell apart from a set and break up after only one bad point.


Nadal in 3.
Djokovic in 5.

Gutsy, gutsy picks. I know.

Players Clash With The USTA; What To Take From It.

After Tuesday’s Day and Night sessions were completely washed out, today brought similar woes as rain threatened to completely throw off the US Open’s schedule and only around 10-12 minutes of play was managed before the players were carted off-court and play was eventually suspended. In a desperate attempt to get players on-court and the fourth round finished, officials decided to put the players on-court during a brief window where the heavy rain became the lightest drizzle. Needless to say, the players were unhappy.

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Let’s Talk About The Men’s US Open Draw, Shall We?

Amongst a slew of raised eyebrows and exasperated headshakes at the appalling handling of the draw ceremony by both the USTA and ESPN, the US Open singles draws were finally drawn and quartered yesterday for the world to see.

For the men’s draw, you couldn’t escape the feeling that it was a complete anti-climax, as for what feels like the thousandth time in the last three years, Djokovic and Federer are seeded to meet each other in one semifinal, with Murray and Nadal in the the other. Yet again, it’s hard to look past those four, and its equally hard not to just roll eyes and shrug like Janko at the rest of the ‘contenders’ in the final slam of the year.

But enough idle discussion. Here’s the men’s draw analysed and discussed.

Djokovic’s quarter
The first few rounds are undeniably soft for Novak Djokovic, but at the same time there’s a hell of a lot of talent in his section, with the most notable names being Richard Gasquet in the fourth round and either Gael Monfils or Tomas Berdych in the quarters. I’d say that Berdych has the best chance of pushing Novak. We all saw him at Cincinnati as he finally appeared to break out of the mediocre form that has defined his year so far, easily dispatching Federer and then looking up to the task of putting Djokovic out of his shoulder-induced misery, before his own shoulder injury struck. Monfils himself took a set off Djokovic at that very tournament, but Berdych is the only player here who has proven that he can step up and produce his very best tennis on the very big stage, and there will always be that (albeit small) chance that he can do it again.

Federer’s quarter
One thing Federer has proven all this year is that playing brilliant tennis in the early rounds means absolutely nothing if you can’t reproduce it in the deep end of tournaments. However, this tough section could be the kick up the ass he needs. Tsonga could beat him, Fish could beat him, Verdas-ok, I’m getting a bit carried away there, but you get the picture. Grandpa Fed is vulnerable right now, so it’ll be interesting to see how this all pans out. One thing I’ll say is that even taking his recent form into account, you would be a fool to bet against him. An idiotic, punkass fool.

Murray’s quarter
For someone who most likely regards the US hardcourts as his favourite surface, his recent results on the stuff have been, well, odd. Over the last two years, he has captured two masters titles on the stuff while simultaneously suffering two early exits in a row at the US Open in addition to first match losses at a grand total of 5 tournaments on US soil in that period

This section could easily add yet another early exit to the list in the form of Wawrinka (last year’s conqurer), Del Potro, Soderling or even Lopez, or else he could ease through his section and into the third round, considering all four are either just coming back from injury or come to the final slam of the year in poor form.

Nadal’s quarter
This, my friends, is what is known on the streetz as a ‘catwalk’. Rafa has been the most vulnerable of all top players recently, but I just can’t see him losing barring a massive disaster for him. Youzhny could well channel his form from this time last year which could give him a good chance of landing the big upset, or else Roddick could play himself into form with his soft draw and begin to resemble the top player again. But yeah, no…

Predictions, predictions, predictions:
Djokovic def. Federer
Nadal def. Soderling

Djokovic def. Nadal (exciting and unpredictable, of course).

Early matches to look forward to:
1R: Gulbis vs Youzhny, Baghdatis vs Isner, Monfils vs Dimitrov
2R: Harrison vs Tomic (which isn’t going to happen, but it’s fun to dream), Federer vs Bellucci (for the laughs), Ferrero vs Monfils

Keep an eye on:
Ryan Harrison

Full draw

How Did Rafa Do On Letterman?

Yesterday, Rafael Nadal was on the US talk show Letterman ahead of the US Open. I can’t even deny that I was pretty nervous for him - these days his English is fine when talking about tennis, but as soon as the subject veers away from tennis it quickly becomes awkward silence after awkward silence with Rafa struggling (and usually failing) to find the right word to express himself.

Thankfully, it all turned out fine. Letterman stuck mostly to tennis questions and he even set Rafa up with a chance make a funny(!!!), with Rafa joking “sometimes it’s better if he’s not here” when asked about Federer.

I also love that the main point of the interview was to promote his book, and yet they spent more time shamelessly promoting Rafa’s Babolat racket than actually talking about the book itself.

So a good interview and nice effort from Rafa. But as a rule, I think he should leave all the talk shows to the likes of Maria, Serena, Andy, and of course the great Marat Safin:

Two Guys, One Vase.

Yesterday, Andy Murray picked up his first Masters 1000 title of the year and 7th of his career, leading Novak Djokovic 6-4 *3-0 when the world number one was force to retire.

It was a tough situation all-round. It has to be tough for Andy to win such a big title like that. But he’ll take it. Will the level he showed this week be enough to capture his first slam at the US Open? Not even close. He was far too passive for most of this week and the level of play wasn’t particularly great in any of them. But at the same time, a title is a title and a Masters 1000 is a Masters 1000.

He’ll go to the US Open full of confidence, and judging by the Cowan and co’s excited muttering at the prospect of the Big 3 all being either injured or in poor form at the US Open, with all the British pundits once again expecting him to win his first slam there. Expect an article from Simon Reed claiming that Murray is the favourite to win the US Open in 3, 2, 1…

Of course, it’s also tough for Novak. We all remember the days when he was called ‘Fakervic’ and every top ten player and their dog all systematically criticized him for his various ailments. Nowadays, his peers’ views don’t appear bother him as much as they clearly did back then. And even so, when it got to the point where he was rolling first serves in at 88mph and couldn’t hit forehands without pulling up and wincing in pain, retiring was the only and logical option so close to the US Open. It took him a long time to make that decision, and he was probably more reluctant to quit because of all of the scar tissue from back in the day. However, apparently not everyone was convinced;

My only reaction to that is oh. As in ‘OH, is that Jamie Murray or Janko Tipsarevic?’ It’s one thing to be happy for your brother/friend or whatever. But it’s another thing altogether to start acting like some groupie living your life vicariously through that person and going as far as to start gloating on twitter about it. Grow up, son. It ain’t cool.

But anyway, let’s talk about the ATP in general. Really, this has to be one of the most uninteresting periods on the ATP for a long time. The start of the year was exciting; as the Djokovic run gathered steam, we all watched with baited breath to see who would be the player to end it. In retrospect, it just had to be Roger Federer, and the manner in which he euthanized the streak was stunning. Absolutely stunning.

But since then? Well, all there has been to watch is Rafa’s game and confidence falling apart while Roger has appeared completely disinterested for the most part - the sparkle in every part of his game other than his serve nowhere to be seen. And this all really shows that, contrary to popular belief, there is zero depth in the ATP right now. Every single top 4 player has been playing poorly during this US Open series, and yet no player has been even remotely close to taking advantage. We all thought that Fish’s time had come this week in Cincinnati, but after easing past Nadal, he then put on a complete shocker against Murray and threw away probably the biggest opportunity in his career thus far to pick up a Masters 1000.

So on we go. Who knows what will happen in a week from now when the final slam of the year finally kicks off? It could be a completely boring trainwreck of a tournament continuing on from the trend set by the last handful of weeks, or else something special and unexpected could happen. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see…


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