Saturday, 28 November 2009

WTF: Riot Control

davydenko (GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

Davydenko d. Soderling 7-6, 4-6, 6-3

So Big Rob had his first let down against Nikolay yesterday.

I say let down, it was more a case of playing too tentatively for a set and half in which he still managed to force a tie break in the first.

Then of course, he took that tumble mid way through the second (which looked nastier than it turned out to be), and re-emerged the brash, aggressive figure we’ve become accustomed to seeing this year. Though he had a subsequent dip in form in the final set that ended up costing him the match.

I’ve no idea whether that performance stemmed from a lack of motivation from knowing he’d already qualified, or whether he was simply now ripe for a loss.

Whatever the case he’ll need to revert back to ‘Rioteering Rob’ if he’s to overcome Delpo’s heavy artillery this evening. Argentina’s finest form of riot control.

That said, Nikolay’s play was truly impeccable, using his serve out wide to incredible effect.

Over the course of three sets, his level didn’t drop an inch, and you could argue that it was this more sustained form of ‘riot control’ that resulted in Big Rob’s derailment.

There were reports circulating in advance of the match that Kolya was suffering not only from those breathing problems, but also from a leg injury that – shock of all shocks – might actually result in the reintroduction of Nadal back into the mix of things, should Kolya have pulled out.

I saw no evidence of any such injuries, and neither did the broadcasters who’d been doing their morning rounds of following all the players’ practice sessions.

Kolya’s an incredible athlete, and if there are any problems with his leg, they’re likely of the garden variety, that he’s paced his way through so successfully over his five year tenure in the top ten.

What is less certain, is whether he’ll be as competitive today, having to play his greatest nemesis, not fifteen hours after leaving the court last night.

Meanwhile Roger’s rested up, secure in the knowledge that it’ll be a somewhat well-worn version of a guy against whom he has a 12-0 winning H2H , and not Nole facing him out on court today.

I’m not in the business of conspiracy theories, but I would have liked to have seen a rested up Davy taking to court today.

His game has grown substantially since he accrued many of those losses to Fed, not only at the net, but also as we saw yesterday with that serve.

Such a match would result in a more satisfying event all round, especially now that we’re entering the crescendo stage of what has been an incredibly well-run event (the farce that was Juan’s qualification announcement not withstanding) that has seen record crowds even for doubles matches – surely now the benchmark for a successful event

Switching the matches around doesn’t solve the problem as all the same objections would be raised by Big Rob’s team.

I’m in favour of a solution I heard yesterday: start the event a day earlier on Saturday, and have a break between the last matches in the group stages and the semis.

You could even use the day off to stage a big concert, that wouldn’t seem out of place at an event that is after all, a prestigious send-off to tennis season. Just make sure Cliff Richard is not part of the equation.

Kolya's, perhaps the best timer of the ball in the game today. Comparisions were being made yesterday of whether there's been anyone that has taken the ball any earlier. Only Agassi, in his earlier years, came out on top.

Trouble is, that wonderfully metronomical style of shot making that causes everyone else so many problems, and that is largely behind his five year stay in the top ten, makes no dents whatsoever in Fed's armour - I believe it actually feeds in to his strengths.

If Kolya doesn't make big serving a priority today, the match will be over in straights.

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