Monday, 13 October 2008

A Match Too Far...

Ok so I got my Kremlin Cup prediction completely wrong this weekend - Santoro didn't even make it to the final and Safin lost to the world #71, Igor Kunitsyn. I didn't see the match but from what I can gather, Safin didn't lose this by self destructing in a way thats become all too familiar. He played solid but not spectacular tennis, but in the end wasn't good enough to overpower Kunitsyn who soaked up everything thrown at him.
As disappointing as the loss is, it is perhaps more worrying that Safin has incurred a shoulder injury that's caused him to pull out of Madrid. I mean as important as it is to win in your home town, Moscow should in all seriousness, have been treated as a ramp up to Madrid: Losing to an undistinguished opponent in Moscow is disappointing, but being prevented from competing in Madrid strikes me as something of a double whammy - oh well, let's hope the shoulder is ready in time for Paris.

On another note, there was something noticeably different about the way Djokovic and Federer came across in their Madrid build-up interviews with Sky today.
Federer's answers all seemed to revolve around the need to rest and how he even considered taking the rest of the year off, whilst Djokovic's focus was largely on the improvements he has to make in his fitness and net game.
Nothing wrong with either of those in principle - Federer, we all know has had his problems with mono earlier on this year and has seemed troubled (especially on hard courts) thoughout the season, whilst Djokovic has not been able to keep up the form that led him to his first Slam and two further Masters titles this year.

I just found them both uncharacteristically guarded and significantly less confident than I've come to expect: almost to the point of preparing us for a potential early exit. I find this all the more surprising since they must both know they are potential winners.
Nadal has had a great year, but there comes a point when your body just won't allow you to give your best; plus we all know he's been overpowered before on a fast indoor court.
Granted, Federer and Djokovic have both had their troubles this year, and there's plenty of young upstarts in the mix who must give almost anyone cause for concern (anyone who saw Gulbis versus Nadal today will know what I mean), but that has never previously appeared to dent their confidence in this way.

Maybe however, their concerns about form and injury are justified, and are right on the money in having slightly lowered expectations - besides what do I know? I can't even predict a Safin match.

Djokovic image by Toga
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