Posts Tagged ‘Cincinnati’

PostHeaderIcon The Federer-Nadal US Open Quarterfinal That Never Was

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Roger versus Rafa in Cincinnati

Here are a few thoughts on Federer and the humbling end to his woeful 2013 Slam season.  Let’s start with a few notable quotes:

Andy Roddick: I think experience is overrated in sports. I think confidence is paramount.

Robin Soderling (to Federer during the French Open trophy ceremony): Yesterday, me and my coach were joking, you know you beat me nine times in a row before this match, and we were saying that nobody can beat me 10 times in a row. But we were wrong. But just so you know, for next time we play, nobody can beat me 11 times in a row. I promise you.

Swap out Andy Roddick’s name for Roger Federer, and Tommy Robredo’s name for Robin Soderling, and you have a fairly accurate summary for Federer at this year’s US Open.

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Roger Federer in press

Unless you’ve been living under a tennis ball rock for the past couple of days, you’re probably aware of the fact that Federer lost to Spain’s Robredo in Monday’s R16 on Louis Armstrong. That’s right… he lost to a Spaniard not named Nadal, and one round earlier than expected.

I’m not saying this to belittle Federer given his current woes, because he’s still a very good player. His days of “greatness”, however, are in short supply. Between his back, his head, his small racquet, and the top-notch level of competitors he must face on a week in-week out basis, it’s only going to get harder for him to win the big matches.

Tracy Austin is one of the few commentators I like because of her clear assessment of players’ strengths and struggles. I’d like to paraphrase what she had to say after Federer’s loss. She basically said that Roger used to be able to win matches on talent alone. But now that he can’t do that anymore, is he willing to do what it takes to keep his stay competitive? Can he win through changes in strategy when his A game, B game, or C game aren’t working?

I’m not so sure.

His troubles with his body, or more specifically his back, can’t be ignored. There’s a reason why professional athletes in certain sports have diminished production at a certain point in their careers. Struggling with pain and injury doesn’t help when you’re, for example, pinned in a corner defending the Rafa Nadal crosscourt forehand.

There’s also the issue of his stubborn nature. It’s part of what’s made Federer such a great champion. His iron-clad belief in his abilities powered him to his record haul of 17 Slam titles. It’s also hurt him in very big ways over the years; particularly when it came to tactical decisions with this equipment and game plans.

The first is his refusal (until this year) to consider playing with a larger racquet. Like Sampras, he stubbornly refused to capitulate to the new technologies to better compete with the power and spin of his contemporaries. Though he’s recently experimented with making a change for the 2014 season, it feels like a case of “too little too late”.

The second is his refusal to change tactics when faced with an obvious loss. That belief that “I can win with my best shots” has cost him dearly when his best shots aren’t working. His match against Robredo was a prime example. He kept aggressively trying to win shorter points and, more often than not, missed badly (43 unforced errors). This particularly hurt him on break points, as he converted only 2/16.

All players have bad matches over the course of a season.  Roger, however, has had several bad matches over the course of a bad season. And even if he’d gotten through Robredo in order to meet Nadal in the quarterfinals, he would have met a similar fate against the top Spaniard.

I found an unfinished piece from my week in Cincinnati, titled “Rafa and Roger: A Rivalry Renewed for One Night”. It was a piece that I started after watching Federer v Nadal for their 31st meeting at the Western and Southern Open.

There’s always a buzz in the air when Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer meet in a tournament. In recent years the buzz hasn’t matched the actual results, though this particular match was a good one. Roger played tough deep into the second until Nadal put the pedal to the metal and pulled away.

We still like to think of their matches as a “rivalry”, but that would overly-generous. Rivalries are best when the matches mean something (Wimbledon 2008 for instance), and aren’t quite so one-sided. Nadal leads Federer 21-10 in their career head-to-head, an amount that will NEVER be surpassed before his retirement.

Nadal was suitably diplomatic, as always, when asked about playing Roger before their quarterfinal meeting in Cincinnati.

Q.  Rafa, you played so many meaningful finals with Roger.  Now you’re meeting him in the quarterfinal.  Did you approach it any different being a quarterfinal versus a final?

Rafael Nadal:  “It’s a match.  That’s all.  But always the emotions are there when we play each other, I think. But the emotions in the final are always more special than when you’re playing quarterfinals.”

If Federer had beaten Robredo, I could imagine sitting in the press room listening to the same question and the same answer by Nadal after his win over Kohlschreiber. It’s sad to hear Nadal work so hard to give Federer his due, but what else can he do with such a great champion facing such a marked decline in a one-sided rivalry?

Carole Bouchard, a French journalist, tweeted this after Federer’s post-match presser following the loss.

I felt the same in Cincinnati, particularly when Federer was asked about the lack of a challenge on what was shown to be an “out” ball on the baseline. It was as if he had resigned himself to the loss. So why bother with a challenge if he was going to lose?

It’s not an Eeyore type of “doom and gloom” resignation. But at the expense of pissing off the Federer fan base, it certainly feels more like an annoyance of “if I’m not going to win, then why bother?” And for anyone who would challenge that assertion, I’d just say look at the 2008 French Open final against Nadal. If he had toy blocks, he would have taken them home and left after the second set.

I’m not saying that he doesn’t care, because he does. The root of his annoyance, like Serena Williams’ in similar circumstances after a loss, is because he hates losing; and feels he should never lose. So now that he IS losing, and losing often, what is he going to do about it?

PostHeaderIcon The People I Meet – Cincy Edition

Akatsuki and me

Akatsuki

One of the most enjoyable aspects of traveling to tournaments is that I get to meet people from all over. Some are there for work, and some for vacation. But most are there for the same reason as I am i.e. the love of the game. Here are some stories of the people I met in Cincinnati.

Jack an I before Nadal-Fed

Jack and I before Nadal-Fed

 

Maxine

Maxine

 

Danny with language cheat sheet

Danny with language cheat sheet

 

Grandstand usher since '95

Grandstand usher since ’95

 

My "He was just being stupid" savior

My “He was just being stupid” savior

 

Diane and Kevin

Diane and Kevin

 

JJ Ballkid

JJ Ballkid

 

The Keystone BB King

The Keystone BB King

In the Media Room

It’s good to see writers I’ve met before when I walk into the media center. In Cincinnati this included Pete, Bobby, Doug, Courtney, Ben, Erwin, and an honorable mention for finally meeting Jon Scott while waiting for Serena to practice.  (Thanks Mauricio for my “Goodbye Cincy” picture/video!)

One new face I met was Yesh, a very smart guy who reminds me of @MatchPointAce for tennis facts. Another was my workstation neighbor Jack, a local writer.  In the solitary world of media, we had quite a few awesome tennis discussions during his days on site (especially during the Nadal-Federer match).

I don’t write in a vacuum. Whether the topics we discuss are serious or silly, these interactions with other writers make me better. For that, I’m thankful.

(Akatsuki, pictured above, is a Japanese writer I met in Miami at the Sony Open. Nice analysis of the game, and funny too. Said this about the Ivanovic-Cornet match we watched together: “It’s a shame…two pretty girls playing such an ugly match. )

Keeping Score

The workers who control the scoreboard and note match stats sit in the media center because of the vantage point. One of them, Maxine, is someone I look forward to seeing every year. We chatted about scoring, tennis, USTA, officiating, you name it. She’s always smiling, and you can tell that she’s well-respected by her co-workers. It’s easy to see why.

In the Stands

I love chatting with the ushers. Most are volunteers that have travelled near and far for the privilege of being there to hopefully work on their favorite court.

I met one usher on the Grandstand who loves that court, and has made sure she works there since it opened in 1995. Another, Danny, typically works the gate heading down to the court. He’s learned “Hello” and “Welcome” in different languages to help players feel more comfortable as they walk by. How cool is that?

Though I met one bad egg (Ten Final Thoughts, #10), the vast majority are friendly and courteous. I’m including a picture of the usher I talked to the morning after my incident (“He was just being stupid!”). She (and many others) assured me that my experience the night before wasn’t typical. I thank them all.

On Court

Credentialed media have access to sitting courtside during matches. And because there’s A LOT going on courtside, I met several interesting individuals during my time on Grandstand.

The first were Kevin and Diane, the husband and wife team that won the opportunity to participate in the pre-match coin toss for the featured evening match between Jack Sock and Milos Raonic. After the toss, they sat on the court watching the match and chatting…quietly. They were a very nice couple, and I love his name too.

Next on the list was the ATP’s social media guy. Yes, someone has to be there to see the action and put it out in 140 characters or less. Nice job, huh? After him, I met Jan: an IT guy who works for the company that provides the software used in the scoring tablets for the chair umpires. With my web design and officiating backgrounds, meeting him was like hitting the Daily Double!

One of the more notable people I met on Grandstand was a ballkid, which is one of the most thankless jobs in tennis. As an unpaid volunteer, you chase balls on a hot court, handle sweaty towels, and do your best to not get noticed. Too often, they’re treated with contempt by the players.

I saw Jelena Jankovic “giving him the business” while he handed her balls and a towel. She wanted one, then the other, then neither all at once. Nothing he did made her happy, and she let EVERYONE know. I felt sorry for him. When I saw him later, I said “Good job” and asked for a picture. It was good to see him finally smile.

Final Mentions

A couple of final mentions before I wrap this final Cincy piece…

The media center staff was a great help, and have their own stories to tell: like the proud mom who pointed out her ballkid son on center court. They were also full of great food recommendations, like the “BB King” mac and cheese from Keystone with barbecued chicken.

Also, the Western and Southern Open is a very high-profile event, and it’s great when the “bigshots” in this business sidestep any sign of “big shot-ism”. Getting stuff thrown at me by announcer Andrew Krasny, getting the “S’up?” gesture from Justin Gimelstob pre-broadcast, hugging Mary Carillo before she interviews Isner, or chatting up the Times’ Neil Harman on London during Wimbledon are wonderful moments, and well worth passing on.

Lastly, I’d like to mention my Twitter followers (including the new ones I gained via my exposure on Tennis Panorama).  When someone tweets me a thanks for info/pictures I’ve tweeted, or has respectful discussions about the day’s happenings, that’s when I know I’ve done my job.

I know I’ve forgotten a ton of people, but that’s okay. Thanks to everyone mentioned for allowing me to use their pics in this piece, and thanks to the many others not mentioned who also helped to keep me engaged during a long week of tennis.

And now, on to the US Open! 🙂

PostHeaderIcon The Week that Was: A 2013 Western and Southern Open Wrap

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(Re-Post from Tennis Panorama)

Champions have been crowned, nets have been taken down, and the past week in Mason is fading as we turn our attention to this last week of tournaments in the US Open Series. But before we move on, let’s take a look at the lasting, and dramatic, moments from this year’s edition of the Western and Southern Open as we head toward the start of the US Open.

Rafa Nadal

Rafa wins the men’s title, beating John Isner 7-6(8) 7-6(3) in a final that featured no breaks of serve. It’s his 9th title of the year, his fifth Masters Series title and third hard court Masters title of the year, and is his record-setting 26th Masters Series title. All of this from a guy who everyone counted out this season because of his bad knees. I hate to use the term “favorite”, but if Rafa isn’t one of the favorites for New York then we’ve got a problem.

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Victoria Azarenka

Vika beat Serena Williams 2-6, 6-2, 7-6(6) in a match that perhaps didn’t showcase their best tennis, but definitely finished with a bang in a third-set tiebreaker. This was her second hard court win over Serena (Doha) and puts her back into the conversation as a threat to Williams’ chances for a title defense. It’s good to see that her Wimbledon injury issues are behind her.

John Isner

Big John beat three players in the Top 10 for the first time in his career en route to the finals (Raonic, Del Potro, Djokovic), playing some of his best and most aggressive tennis ever. He was extremely upbeat in his post-match press conference, and for good reason. Though he was beaten by Nadal in the final, his serve was never broken, and he made Rafa play his best tennis to come out on top. He’ll still struggle at the US Open because of the best of 5 set format, but you can bet that no top guy is looking forward to THAT match.

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Serena Williams

Serena lost the final against Vika in quizzical fashion. She raced through the first set, but let her level drop badly in the second. She then battled back from behind in the third only to get broken while serving for the match at 5-4. In the tiebreak, she was behind until 5-all, and then double-faulted to go behind again. The best server and mover in the women’s game served poorly and moved poorly. One can only hope that she leaves this behind heading into New York.

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Marion Bartoli

The buzz of the tournament was decidedly off-court as Marion Bartoli called it a career after a three-set loss to Simona Halep. It was a decision borne in the moment of feeling that she just didn’t have the desire to go on and deal with the pain in her body.  It’s a decision that many pro athletes face, and not an easy one at that.  Though there was much shock and second-guessing of her decision, she seems to be at peace with it for now. Let’s check back in a year or so when her body is feeling better.

Bob and Mike Bryan

The Bryan brothers defeated Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez of Spain 6-4, 4-6, 10-4 to take the men’s doubles title.  It was their fourth Cincy title, their 10th on the year, and the 92nd of their career. It was also their 25th Masters Series title. No matter how many titles these guys add to their resume, for them it’s still all about the fans, as evidenced by the fact that they signed every item and took every picture asked of them by the waiting throng on the Grandstand court. A class act.

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Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai

Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai defeated Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Kveta Peschke to take the women’s doubles title in Cincy: their third title of the year (Rome, Wimbledon, and Cincinnati). The pair is 7-0 in finals, which is a remarkable statistic for any doubles team. They are adding more events to their schedules in the hope of qualifying for the year-end championships in Istanbul. It would certainly be a great accomplishment if they are able to do so.

The US Open Series

Serena Williams has taken the top prize for the women in the US Open Series. The men’s top spot is still up for grabs, and is dependent upon whether or not John Isner plays this week in Winston-Salem. He’s currently just a few points behind Rafa, so could take it with a good week of play. But with the US Open coming up in a week, he’s going to have to think long and hard about the effects of all this tennis on his fitness heading into one of the toughest Slams.

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The Roger-Rafa Rivalry

Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal squared off for the 31st time in their careers in a Friday quarterfinal match in Cincy. Though the rivalry is not nearly what it was a few years back, this match more than brought back a taste of the glory days. Rafa battled back from a set down to win in dramatic fashion as Roger began to falter in the third. These are the kinds of moments that you dream about as a tennis fan. And on Friday, we got a chance to experience it.

Maria and Jimmy

After months of waiting for “the reveal” of the Sharapova-Connors partnership, Maria Sharapova was unceremoniously bundled out of Cincy in a loss to Sloane Stephens that could only be described as puzzling. She flew through the first set, and then couldn’t keep the ball in play for the latter part of the second and third sets. A few days later it was announced that Jimmy Connors would no longer be her coach, to no one’s surprise…

Doubles Scheduling

In general, doubles got the short end of the stick in Cincinnati, with most doubles matches relegated to outer courts throughout the week. Even in a tennis-savvy town like Cincinnati, the rule of “out of sight, out of mind” still holds true. Doubles attendance was low at many matches, and the attendance at the men’s and women’s doubles final could greatly have benefitted from being played in tandem with the singles finals as they do in Miami. I hope it’s something that’s considered for 2014.

There’s more that could be pulled from this week, but we’ll end the list here and turn our attention to a new week of tennis in New Haven and Winston Salem. Goodbye from Cincinnati. See you next year!

PostHeaderIcon Rafa versus John, Serena versus Vika: First-Time Finalists Rule in Cincinnati

 

Rafa Nadal serves to Tomas Berdych

Rafa Nadal serves to Tomas Berdych

Semifinal Saturday at the Western and Southern Open more than lived up to its’ potential. It was a day that featured a drama, tension, butt wiggles, and two matches ending with double faults. In the end, we were left with four first time finalists for Sunday’s final: Rafa Nadal, John Isner, Serena Williams, and Victoria Azarenka.

It’s surprising that such highly-decorated Grand Slam champions such as Rafa and Serena have never even made it to the finals of this event. For two players who’ve won virtually every title available, one would have expected more. Not so with John Isner, who’s finally put it all together and played the tennis we expected of him when he first became the top American male. For Azarenka, it’s a chance to establish some cred ahead of the US Open.

Let’s break down the men’s and women’s finals to see who has the best chance to take the Cincy titles and winning momentum into New York for the US Open.

ATP

[4] Rafael Nadal vs John Isner

Head-to-Head: Nadal leads 3-0

Nadal has beaten Isner twice on clay (Madrid and Roland Garros), and once on a hard court at Indian Wells. Though he leads their head-to-head 3-0, it hasn’t been easy. In fact, Isner is one of the few guys that make Nadal nervous; and I mean REALLY nervous. It’s all in the serve. That’s the reason that playing Sampras made Agassi nervous. When you play someone with a serve like Isner or Sampras, the outcome of the match is out of your hands if they serve well. No control.

The Indian Wells match, their one encounter on a hard court, was played in 2010. So it’s fair to say that Isner is a very different player this time around. He has improved his fitness, improved his ground game, improved his defense, and is more willing to come into the net to finish off points.  He’s still vulnerable to Nadal’s game on clay, but is incredibly dangerous on a hard court, and particularly a hard court in the States with heavy American support.

Rafa has played superior tennis to reach this final, with comprehensive wins over Dimitrov and Berdych, and a dramatic win over long-time rival Federer. Isner has also played superior tennis, notching high-quality wins over Gasquet, Raonic, world No. 1 Djokovic, and Del Potro. Nadal would do well to bring his full arsenal to bear in this match so as not to become another victim to the Isner juggernaut.

Isner will need to serve well in order to have any chance at beating Nadal. He served at 66% against Del Potro, 74% against Djokovic, and 62% against Raonic. Over 70% would be ideal, but high 60’s will work as well. Additionally, he’ll need to be as aggressive as he’s been in his last two matches. Particularly against Del Potro, Isner took the initiative and was the more aggressive of the two. He hit more errors, but got a huge payoff in winners. Nadal will need to take this threat seriously and be as aggressive as he can to stay out in front.

In all likelihood, this match is going the distance. The determining factors are Isner’s serve and Nadal’s aggression. All things being even, I’ll give the nod to Nadal for experience (25 shields) in these big Masters Series moments.

Pick: Nadal in 3 sets

WTA

[1] Serena Williams vs [2] Victoria Azarenka

Head-to-Head: Williams leads 12-2

(Note – With her win over Li Na in the semifinals, Serena Williams took the top prize in the Emirates US Open Series.)

I’d like to say that this is emerging as one of the better rivalries in the women’s game, but that would be a misnomer because in order to have a rivalry there needs to be a certain amount of parity.  With Williams holding a 12-2 record over Azarenka, that doesn’t really represent parity. Yes the matches have been close, like last year’s US Open final, and Vika has beaten Serena once already in 2013 in Doha. But you never get the feeling that Azarenka is Williams’ equal in these matches. She might play well on the day, but this will never be a rivalry that turns for her.

Both women have played stretches of uneven tennis to make it to the final. Williams was practically gifted her 7-5 7-5 semifinal win over Li Na when her opponent played inexplicable tennis to lose both the first and second sets after leading 5-4. It may count as a victory in Williams’ favor, but by no means did she “win” this match. She struggled with her serve and the rhythm on her ground strokes, particularly her backhand. She berated herself and looked like she didn’t want to be there…but won it anyway. It says everything about this match that Li Na double faulted on match point.

Azarenka’s 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 win over Jankovic in her semifinal wasn’t much better. The match featured 23 breaks of serve, and was more entertaining for the video presentation of Azarenka’s butt shaking than the tennis. Azarenka won 47% of her first serve points, 22% of her second serve points, and was broken 10 times. She got the win, but it’s hardly what one would expect from a 2-time Slam champion.

Williams can get away with having an off day and still pulling out the win. But there’s absolutely no way that Azarenka can go into the match with Williams tomorrow and expect to win with the numbers she had tonight. If she serves poorly against Williams in the final, she’ll get punished and the match will be over in an hour, no matter how well she returns the Williams serve.

Against a few other players, I might give them a chance against this less-than-optimal Williams. But in a battle of less-than-optimal Williams and less-than-optimal Azarenka, Williams definitely comes out on top. I’m hoping it’s a close battle, but won’t bet the farm on it.

Pick: Serena in 2 sets

PostHeaderIcon The Western and Southern Open Men’s and Women’s Quarterfinal Preview

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Friday looks to be one of the most impressive quarterfinal days in memory when quarterfinal action begins at the Western and Southern Open. The credentials of these future Hall of Fame quarterfinalists are mind-boggling. They include seven Grand Slam singles champions, and seven current and former No. 1’s.  But matches aren’t won on credentials alone, so let’s take a quick look at the match-ups in tomorrow’s lineup.

ATP

[Q] Dmitry Tursunov vs [7] Juan Martin Del Potro

Head-to-Head: Del Potro leads 1-0

Qualifier Tursunov has notched some impressive scalps to reach this quarterfinal. His straight sets defeat of David Ferrer was impressive, and Del Potro is well aware of the challenge he faces in this match. In this battle of strong baseliners, the winner will be determined by the guy who takes it to his opponent first and plays the most aggressive (yet steady) tennis.

[1] Novak Djokovic vs John Isner

Head-to-Head: Djokovic leads 3-1

None of the top guys, Novak included, looks forward to playing Big John because of his massive serve. If he serves well, like he did against Novak at Indian Wells in 2012, he will get the win. If Novak does a good job of getting serves back into play, he will win because of his better ground game.

[5] Roger Federer vs [4] Rafael Nadal

Head-to-Head: Nadal leads 20-10

Roger has struggled this summer: with his game, with his body, and with untimely losses. Tomorrow’s match against Rafa, their 31st, won’t help him overcome any of these things. While Roger’s been struggling, Rafa’s been winning. It’s a bad combination for Roger, who’s still trying to find the confidence needed to play his best.  After a tough 3-set comeback against Tommy Haas in R16, Roger’s going to struggle with his post-match recovery. Sadly, look for this “rivalry” to continue to be fairly one-sided.

[6] Tomas Berdych vs [2] Andy Murray

Head-to-Head: Berdych leads 5-4

Murray has won 3 of their last 4 meetings on hard court, and looks primed to make it 4 out of 5 here in Cincinnati. He hasn’t played his best tennis yet, but is more than capable of doing so. Berdych has played well too, but this match-up isn’t a particularly good one for him. He’ll need to play his most aggressive and clean tennis in order to beat Andy, and I don’t think he’ll be able to be as clean as needed.

WTA

[1] Serena Williams vs Simona Halep

Head-to-Head: Williams leads 2-0

Halep took Williams to three sets when they played on grass during Serena’s comeback from illness a few years back, but won only 3 games earlier this year on clay in Rome. She’s a fine player with three titles on the year, but no real weapon that can hurt Williams. And since Serena rarely beats herself, this match could end up with the same result as Rome.

[10] Caroline Wozniacki vs [2] Victoria Azarenka

Head-to-Head: Wozniacki leads 4-2

Wozniacki won their last match at Indian Wells when Azarenka retired after 3 games in 2011. At the time, it was her third straight win over Azarenka. But that was before Azarenka stepped up her mental game and became a Slam champion: something Wozniacki has yet to achieve.  So if this isn’t a case of “bad match-up”, Azarenka should make it through to the semis.

[12] Roberta Vinci vs [14] Jelena Jankovic

Head-to-Head: Jankovic leads 4-2

Vinci beat Jankovic in the Sydney R16 earlier this year, but Jankovic returned the favor in Miami by besting Vinci in the quarters. They weren’t particularly the best matches ever played, but both were competitive, and both went the distance. Based on current form, either could win. It all depends upon who executes the best.

Semifinal Picks:

ATP – Del Potro, Djokovic, Nadal, Murray

WTA – Williams, Wozniacki, Jankovic, Li*

(*Li Na is through to the semifinals because of a walkover from Aga Radwanksa. Radwanska flew home for the funeral of her grandfather who passed last Sunday. Our thoughts go out to her at this time.)

PostHeaderIcon Third Time Not a Charm as Dimitrov Loses Again to Nadal

Photo courtesy of Mirsasha

Photo courtesy of Mirsasha

Grigor Dimitrov lost a tightly-contested match to Rafa Nadal 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 tonight at the Western and Southern Open. The loss was his third straight to Nadal after losses in Monte Carlo (’13) and Rotterdam (’09). It would be great if we could say that he’s getting closer to solving the Nadal puzzle, but there’s still a ways to go before that happens.

All three previous matches have gone the distance (three sets), and all have followed the same pattern of Dimitrov mounting a second set comeback only to lose in the third. This latest loss in Cincinnati even included two breaks of serve in each of the sets he lost; this on a night when he was serving at a respectable 73% overall on the night.

What will it take for Dimitrov to overcome the man of steel from Mallorca?

I had a chance to chat with Grigor immediately following the match, and was able to ask him about his physical condition (after a couple of injury scares during the match), his strategy going into this match, and what he thinks is needed in order to turn this pattern of defeats into a first win.

How are you feeling physically? You were grabbing at your chest sometimes during the match.

I thought I pulled a muscle in the second set on one return. So I was just struggling a little bit. But I went through the pain and had a good second set which was actually pretty good. Yeah, physically I’m not too bad anymore and I’m happy for that. It’s a positive thing.

Is it hard on your body running from side to side, covering as much court as Nadal makes you defend?

You know where he’s going to play, but the ball comes really fast. It doesn’t matter how fast you are, you just gotta go to the ball and get it back in the court. I think he has one of the best forehands. I mean, obviously it was just an unbelievable first set from him. Not much I can say about that. Definitely congrats and well, life goes on. Work even harder, and look forward to playing him again.

It looked like your game plan was to slice to Nadal’s forehand to keep the ball low, and attack his backhand. Did you feel you were successful in doing so?

I tried I think a lot of things in the first set but obviously it didn’t really work. He was making absolutely every single shot. I was just trying to find/see where I could find the gap, and there you go. I found the gap in the second set and had this momentum that I grabbed it. And he came out of the block pretty good in the third set so I couldn’t really do much. And even if I was serving 74% it wasn’t enough. I definitely will sit down with my coach and discuss that.

Was the effort that it took out of you to take the second set the difference in the third set? Was it hard to maintain that same level?

He started putting even more balls into the court. He was waiting for me to attack him. And here and there, I missed a few shots and that was the breaks. Even though the score was 6-2 almost every game was 30-40 or deuce or something like that. So the margin was pretty small. And at that level it just takes one or two points.

Given the loss, were you happy with how you played?

I wouldn’t say happy. One thing I’m happy physically. I feel quite alright and I’m still feeling good which is very positive to me. Last time I played him for two hours I was cramping a little bit. So that’s a positive thing. But other than that, of course. Playing against a guy like him, a Top 10 player in general, is always a pleasure. I always enjoy the battles. But I’m looking forward to really starting to give them even a harder time.

What do you think is the difference, that small delta you need to take a match like this?

I’ve done it once, I just need to find the same formula in the same way I’ve been preparing for consistency on and off the court and throughout all the weeks. It’s never easy to travel and come to the week playing then next week playing again. So if you have that good level, and after you raise up your low level, then when matches like this come you will definitely be more ready.

Are you going to take a few days off?

I say maybe one day is gonna be enough, and then looking forward to getting to the (US) Open.

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