Moving Into The Quarterfinals
August 12, 2010 -- Better matches should begin as the draw narrows. But that's not always the case. The final in Miami this year between Kim Clijsters and Venus Williams was a disaster. Clijsters stomped Venus in under an hour. Venus sprayed balls every which way and brushed it off in her press conference as "it happens."
In his first tournament match since his Wimbledon title, Rafael Nadal (#1 seed) would never have imagined competing at less than 110%, even if the rust was evident and this was a second-round encounter with a guy he's dominated: Stanislaus Wawrinka.
The two rattled the rafters last night, though, putting on the best show yet this week. Rafa steadied himself to clinch a thrilling first set tiebreak 14-12, and then the match.
"It's very important to start with victory, no," Nadal said. "If you lose today, especially -- first thing, is important tournament. Second thing, you wait another week to play another match, and for me the important thing is keep playing matches. That's very good victory against big opponent."
Wawrinka's new relationship with Coach Peter Lundgren has paid off. Wawrinka attacked with a sharp racquet, going toe-to-toe with the Spaniard from the baseline, a feat at which many fail. Not once did he appear forlorn or lost. His mental side shined anew, which could help the Swiss climb the rankings again.
No matter which round a tournament is in, an unexpected treat for wandering fans at any venue is Naked Tennis. Take a stroll to any side court. You're sure to see toned bodies hitting casually against coaches or tagalong sparring partners.
David Nalbandian and his entourage sweat up a side court while practicing in Washington last week. It's not such a bad way to spend a couple minutes. You can see some good tennis, too.
Usually, though, you don't see Naked Tennis on center court in front of 10,000 fans thrilled to be on hand for a Roger Federer match. But today was an anomaly.
Federer had already defeated Michael Llodra when the Frenchman approached Federer naked from the waist up. (Of course Naked Tennis doesn't mean in the buff.)
Llodra held out his Lacoste shirt obviously looking for an exchange, like soccer captains after a match. Federer was all game and the fans hooted up the place as the two stood at the net post bare-chested.
"You know for me Roger is in the legends," Llodra said, smiling. "So it's a good present for my kids."
"He's older [by] one year, so I couldn't say no," Federer added with a smile.
After the swap, Llodra failed to don his new pink Nike top and walked off waving to fans like the champ. However the scoreline's reality read differently: 76(2) 63.
The win for Federer was another stride in his award strewn tennis career. He won Rogers Cup twice -- 2004 and 2006 -- and would like to add 2010. He would also like to win 20 majors before he retires, as reported by the BBC today.
"'I believe that having won three Grand Slams per season three times, and two per year a couple of times, it's something doable for me," Federer told the British communications giant. "'I only play 16-20 tournament per year, so I'm not overplaying, and that keeps the fire burning."
Federer rejuvenates his desire and drive in practice, but reverts to high concentration in matches.
"In practice I always have it [fun]," Federer said in a rather serious tone. "It's important regardless if you're playing well at tournaments or not. If you don't enjoy those anymore, then the whole grind becomes really tough. That's never happened to me, and that's why I'm happy to be here."
The quarterfinal for Federer won't be fun and games. Tomas Berdych waits after defeating young Alexandr Dolgopolov earlier today.
Federer's love for Wimbledon certainly didn't enamor Berdych in the eyes of the six-time champion, after the Czech destroyed him in the quarterfinals early this summer. Add that to Berdych's scrape-by win in Miami, plus the ill feelings that Federer could still harbor after losing out on a Gold Medal at the Athens Olympics in 2004, which was their first meeting, and you have a potential Molotov cocktail in hand. How much degradation can the former number one take?
Federer is the nice guy atop the tennis pro heap, but make no mistake. He loves to win.
Motivation to win tennis matches and vengeance aren't good company, however, for most players. Both Federer and Berdych will have to win points while not making a point of themselves, as if their personal agendas hold more weight than the scoreline.
"I definitely have to go back and think what didn't go so well against him and what worked," Federer said. "He's definitely on the run right now, so hope to stop him a bit."
Andy Murray's win over Gael Monfils wasn't pretty. One supposed that the effort was there, but the quality lacked. Both men could've provided fans with a better match. The match was riddled with unforced errors and, but of course, dramatic athletic theatrics from Gael Bomber Monfils.
The two are accomplished defenders, too, so the match dragged on for over two hours with a roller coaster score of 62 06 63 and bundles of unforced errors.
"I shouldn't get distracted by what your opponent is doing," Murray said. "You just got to try and refocus; and, I managed to do that in the third."
Monfils dove for a shot in the second set and called for the trainer in the third with a sore right shoulder. Please! Coach Roger Rasheed should put an end to Monfils's ostentatious habits. His athleticism is a gift as is his tennis talent. But injuries plague the star and interfere with his ranking.
Some say Rasheed can't control Monfils. That Rasheed says nothing about slides on hard courts, splits, and the wasted energy drained from the Frenchman. Unless, of course, the pair don't care and then we get back to "it happens," as Venus Williams so despondently put it in Miami.
Once again Nadal -- el toro. Tonight against qualifier Kevin Anderson of South Africa, the man who took out American Sam Querrey yesterday, the Spaniard showed geometric improvement from his opener last night. Crisp shot making, solid serves, and dazzlingly cross-court backhand winners on the run.
Nadal was better. People bank on it. There aren't many risks.
The top seed defeated the lanky Anderson 62 76(8). He had bettered himself since qualifications began last Friday.