Thursday, 19 March 2009

Desert Heat Pt 2

[1] R Nadal (ESP) d [14] D Nalbandian (ARG) 36 76(5) 60

Match of the tournament? For two sets anyway. Daveed's fecklessness may have given us more reasons to fume and seethe. But I've learnt to treat this as a kind of annual ritual: Daveed comes. Daveed rouses us up with tennis that suggests he should be in possession of around three Slams. Daveed goes.

Just enjoy the tennis, I say. It's truly breathtaking.

From the way he ghosts around the court belying his somewhat pork-bellied image as someone who should presumably have trouble reaching the odd ball or two, to his inch-perfect timing which is surely a contributing factor in his now 2-1 H2H against Rafa.

Daveed was getting over the top of Rafa's high bouncing returns and hitting down flat. He's built with heavy shoulders that no doubt help him drive through the ball effecting a return that was practically skidding past Rafa. For the first one and a half set he made Rafa look pretty ordinary and quite lost out there and despite the defeat, I'm still in favour of thinking of him as Rafa's nemesis.

And as far his carrying around a few more pounds than is necessary, I'm almost in favour of saying that if it doesn't bother him then what have we got to gripe about? OK plenty. But it's all mainly along the lines of 'unfulfilled potential'. Nothing to do movement. The guy doesn't move around, he "materialises next to the ball" (love that quote from Tennis Magazine); and there's other player's whose seeming pork-belliedness doesn't get in the way of their movement or their tennis too. Marcos Baghdatis for instance. Or Svetlana for that matter. She's an exceptional mover, though not an exceptional thinker.

Have you seen what happens when elephants go for a swim? They turn into creatures of spellbinding grace and elegance. And so it is when Daveed steps on court. Makes you think he was born playing this way - that kind of stuff can't be taught.

One more thing, I loved the way Nadal saved some of those match points when he was serving 3-5 down in the second set. He hasn't got the biggest or best serve in the game but no one can now surely think of it as a weakness.

[2] R Federer (SUI) d [17] F Gonzalez (CHI) 63 57 62

It's not often that these two don't put on a good show, but I really didn't find this one particularly interesting. All right maybe I wasn't paying full attention. But it was all too familiar. Gonzo banging away at things with his forehand in a way which only he can. Roger looking like he was thinking "I really should have won this by now", not serving particularly well and then deciding enough's-enough in the last set. Highlight of the match for me was Gonzo's butchery of his racquet, and the subsequent crowd-baiting. Not the most sportsmanlike episode of behaviour we've seen this week. But it certainly got my attention.

[3] N Djokovic (SRB) d [16] S Wawrinka (SUI) 76(7) 76(6)

I've heard several commentator's make the point that Stan might possibly have the best SHB down the line on tour. I'm not completely sure about that, but I will say that given time and space he imparts the kind of heaviness we normally associate with double-handers.

What stood out for me was Stan's defence, and in particular the way he was able to soak up Novak's 'onslaught', which for me is still too workhorse-like, with not nearly enough deep-balling we saw so much of last season.

Novak got through this one but only just (the fact that it was straight sets is largely irrelevant) - Stan lost his nerve on one too many key moments demonstrating once again that despite the major backhand he's still not a major league kind of a guy.

[6] J Del Potro (ARG) d [WC] J Isner (USA) 76(4) 76(3)

Didn't get to see this one. Juan's either read Roger's book on slaying Wandering Monsters or they find his surliness more scary than anything they can bring on court.

[10] F Verdasco (ESP) d P Kohlschreiber (GER) 64 36 61

Caught bits of this one. Absolutely love everything about Phillip's game (not just the single-hander you'll be pleased to hear), except the service action which has an obscene amount of hip-swiveling going on. Another guy who 'Coulda Been a Contender'.

Nando wasn't nearly as comfortable in this as he was against Reeshard. But he found a way through demonstrating amply well that his new found fortitude is no flash in the pan.

Another thing. I guess you've all seen his 'Talk to the Hand' victory pose. But what does he say? It sounds like "YEET (hunched fist pump)....AAW...HAW (Talk to the Hand Pose)!" Three guys in his Players' Box look and sound like they're doing exactly the same.

Kind of reminds me of a Mortal Kombat character who'd do something similar after pulling out your spinal chord (yes I played some pretty violent computer games in my teens).

I Ljubicic (CRO) d [22] I Andreev (RUS) 46 76(5) 76(4)

I'm confused. I love the fact that Ivan 'The Gentle Giant' is making something of a comeback, but aside from his serve, wouldn't have thought that he'd possess the firepower (or the temperament) to get it done against Igor 'The Forehand'.

Even as I watch him now, a set down against Murray - I'm seeing what might be construed as flashes of brilliance (which do demonstrate why he got as high as #3 in the world), but nothing that would suggest Igor should have had any problems. I guess that's what makes Tennis interesting.

One other thing about Ivan. The guy is a one man clinic on taking on high bouncing single handed backhands. I don't particularly like the motion - too much arm rolling going on - but I don't think I've seen anybody take that shot on so comfortably.

[8] V Azarenka (BLR) d [1] D Safina (RUS) 67(4) 61 63

Great first set. Enthralling rallies with groundstrokes of the highest level early on from both women.

I know I said Dinara's departure would render the event into a sideshow of sorts, but I'm somehow glad she didn't get the #1 ranking with this form (she'd have made the top spot by simply getting to final). You can imagine the torrent of articles branding her a 'Slamless-Wonder' that would be sure to follow.

I was giving her the benefit of the doubt after her first round exit at Dubai, and Dinara may have got to the final of Melbourne but her slippage is now quite evident.

Azarenka on the other hand was unflinching, patient, resolute, and hitting groundstrokes both wings with such penetration and authority that I'm almost willing to overlook their lack of imagination (definitely not the stuff that would've inspired Michaelangelo).

At at 4-3 in the final set, she summoned Zeljko to the court who gave her a real (verbal) kick up the backside. Safina lost the next game to love.

Azarenka was in tears at the end suggesting she's not a total robot. But I have to say I think her coach looks too nice - Victoria strikes me as a bit of a handful and I find it difficult to see him giving her a dressing down the way Zeljko did to Safina.

[4] V Zvonareva (RUS) d [9] C Wozniacki (DEN) 64 62

I was hoping Wozniacki would come through after we lost four of the top seeds earlier this week. But she was beaten by other pick for this tournament. So that's Ok then. Go Vera!
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