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August 19, 2011

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2011 Western & Southern Open
Cincinnati (Mason), Ohio, USA
August 19, 2011
Editorial by Vince Barr.


 

Vince Barr Photo
Vince Barr

Nadal Becomes Fish Food On Center Court; Djokovic Masters Monfils In Tough Three Setter
 
The best matches of the day involved three of the four men's quarterfinals. The women's QFs all went in straight sets with Maria Sharapova defeating Samantha Stosur 6-3, 6-2; Vera Zvonareva taking down Daniela Hantuchova, 6-3, 7-6 (6) and Andrea Petkovic taking out Nadia Petrova, 7-5, 6-1. The other women's quarterfinal match between Jelena Jankovic and Shuai Peng never took place as Peng had to withdraw from the tournament with a left hip injury, resulting in a walkover by Jankovic. The women's semifinals are therefore all set for tomorrow: Sharapova takes on fellow Russian Zvonareva in the first evening match followed by Petkovic against Jankovic. Jelena came to the press room looking like she hadn't slept for days and admitted as much, still feeling the effects of her three-hour match against Schiavone, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 late Thursday night. "I sound tired and I look tired. I have bags under my eyes. I think that shows. I mean, I played a match last night (with Schiavone) until like 10:30 or something," Jankovic noted. "I didn't get to sleep until 1:00, 1:30 a.m., because it's tough to relax after you been playing for three hours, especially the match I played, which was very intense. You know, I needed some time to kind of calm down and go into that relaxation mode, which is not (an) easy (thing to do). So, obviously it shows on my face and in my voice. Hopefully, I will look better tomorrow. I will try my best to get my beauty sleep, as they call it," Jankovic laughed. I pointed out that the walkover against Peng probably helped her in the sense that it gave her a little more recovery time. "Sometimes it's good and other times it's not good because you get into a rhythm just by playing the matches," Jankovic explained. "But I think for me right now (it might be the best thing). (Of course), it's unfortunate because I was really ready to play and I wanted to compete. That's why I'm here to (play tennis). But (her withdrawal does) give me a little more time just so that I can recover and tomorrow, hopefully, wake up feeling fresher and ready to play," Jankovic explained.
 
Aside from the unexpected result of Rafael Nadal's upset loss to Mardy Fish, the big news involving him was the fact that he is battling two severe blisters on the first two fingers of his right hand. The blisters are rather large and go from the last knuckle (closest to the fingertip) all the way to the fingertip itself. Apparently, he touched a hot ceramic plate at a restaurant in downtown Cincinnati when he went to dinner after his match with Verdasco. The press gasped when he showed the blisters to us but Rafa kind of laughed it off. He said that it really didn't bother him all that much and those blisters were not the reason he lost to Fish today. He was quick to credit Mardy for basically playing better than he did. Because Nadal is a first-class kind of guy, he would not name the restaurant involved, even when I asked him privately after the interview and promised not to publish the name of the restaurant if he told me where it happened. Obviously, there was no intent to injure him whatsoever; it was one of those "freak" accidents that occasionally happen to people. As he told the story, he was simply reaching for the plate to move it out of the way when he touched it and of course, did not realize that the plate was as hot as it apparently was.
 
While I am not a materials expert, I do know that ceramics tend to hold heat a lot better than other types of plates and they don't radiate a lot of heat where it would be obvious that the plate was too hot to touch. In other words, I can easily see how this accident would have occurred. Still, you would think that a restaurant would switch those plates out and put the food into other plates for serving to customers in an effort to prevent what happened to Rafa. But that's hindsight, not foresight and in the final analysis, there was nothing anyone could do once the accident occurred. He did have both fingers heavily wrapped in gauze for his match today and the only parts of his game that were affected were his two-hand backhand and his service toss. "I don't have a lot of feeling when I throw the ball with my right hand (and it affects my) backhand (as well)," Nadal said. "But (it is really) nothing (I haven't dealt with before). I lost because Mardy played much better than me. I had a few chances. A little bit unlucky at times, but that's tennis. Sometimes you win; sometimes you lose. Sometimes you are playing well; sometimes you are playing worse. I am playing a little bit worse now than well, so I (can) accept this loss and (go back to) work. Hard work (is really) the only way to (get back) to my best level," Rafa said.
 
I asked him what parts of his game did not meet his expectations, which is not to take anything away from how well Mardy played. "My (on court) movement (has been better in the past and is not as good as I'd like for it to be at the moment) and (I made) more mistakes than usual with my forehand. I have to play more inside the court, be more aggressive," Nadal said. "At the same time, I have to play longer. You know, I don't want to talk about the backhand because I have this injury. (Obviously) I didn't have the opportunity to practice my backhand and I didn't have the chance to play normally with that shot, either. But for the rest (of my game), I know what I need to work on (but am not going to tell you guys); I don't know if the conditions in New York will be good or not, but we will have to see," Nadal said. The few days rest will certainly take some of swelling down so hopefully, his injury won't prevent him from doing well in his title defense at the Open. However, the timing of the injury could not have been worse with the kind of year Novak is having and Nadal having to defend a lot of points from his championship last year. Granted, it is a good problem to have (defending all those points, since it means he did well there last year). But it would have been better for him to get to New York with a big tournament win under his belt and he hasn't had one this summer (obviously, he won the French Open but I was referring to a win on the North American hard court summer circuit prior to the Open). And he has won two other titles this year as well (Monte Carlo and Barcelona) and has been in a lot of finals against Novak this year (losing all of them). So, it will be interesting to see what happens once the Open starts and hopefully, his blisters go away so he won't have any limitations as he begins his title defense.
 
Mardy Fish was asked what the difference was between thinking that you can win and knowing that you can. "The difference, what I felt, was (when) I played him at Wimbledon (compared to today). I served the opening game. I lost serve in 45 seconds at 15, and wasn't unbelievably surprised. You know, I was like, Oh, not a good start kind of thing," Fish thought. "I was down 15-40 here and I felt like I left maybe one or two points out there in those four points. I felt like I wanted a better start than Wimbledon. It's just that small belief that I really felt like I could win. It wasn't just a feeling like I wanted to win, (the difference was that) I really felt like I could and maybe should win in that scenario," Fish observed. For the match, Fish had a plus / minus of +14 with 34 winners against only 20 unforced errors while Rafa was a -6 with 10 winners and 16 unforced errors. The match took only an hour and 39 minutes in Fish's 6-3, 6-4 win. It was the first match in which he was able to beat Rafa in seven tries (counting today).
 
Another surprising upset involved Roger Federer's loss to Tomas Berdych today, 6-2, 7-6 (3). Tomas has beaten him three of their last four matches but prior to that, Federer went on an eight-match winning streak against Berdych. Asked to explain the difference, Roger pointed to Berdych's improved level of play against him. "Well, I feel he wasn't really living up to his potential (before the last 4 matches), was he? I don't want to say for a very long time but I remember he did win Paris indoors years back, right? I think that was first glance at how good he can be, plus the match where he beat me at the Olympics in Athens," Federer observed. "Then I guess we were all kind of waiting for him to do something. Maybe that's the time where I was able to beat him more often. It was in those times when basically I was losing every, I don't know, 30th match. So it was like hard to beat me anyway. Lately he's been playing well, I thought he played fantastic in Wimbledon. I shouldn't have lost in Miami against him. And then here was somewhat close as well. I think it's been very even. Unfortunately I couldn't turn this one around today," Roger lamented. While Roger was a + 4 (27 winners vs. 23 unforced errors), Berdych was a little bit better: more winners (29) and fewer errors (13) for a +16 which usually contributes a great deal towards winning a match at this level of play. Roger did struggle a bit in returning Berdych's serve, winning only 14% (5 of 36) first return points which certainly did not help him in his match today.
 
I asked Roger, who recently turned 30 years old, what he had to do better to (1) get back to # 1 and (2) combat any perceived drop off in his game as the result of getting a little bit older. "Well, I think you have to try to stay healthy. I think that's the key. I mean, I went through a rough patch with mono and the back issue. I was able to play through a lot of those problems. I didn't have to sit out of tournaments for months and months, which was a good thing," Roger explained. "But I definitely started to play the wrong way at times because of my issues I had with my body and health and so forth. Now since, you know every year I do a bit more (conditioning so that) I do feel like I'm physically much better again. I'm healthy, even though I went through some sicknesses due to the babies, but nothing major," Federer continued. "I've been feeling really healthy, and that's been key to then being able to practice well in the off season instead of missing out. I got unlucky couple times because of problems I mentioned two, three years ago, which then took away many of those buildup practice blocks from me. I felt in the matches I was lacking practice. So I don't feel that's the case anymore. I've had a good season in terms of playing enough matches, having enough practice, and being healthy and so forth. So I'm hoping that the end of the season is going to be strong," Federer said. Like many players, Federer said he wasn't really focused on his ranking; winning big tournaments will make the ranking take care of itself. But he has a 4,300-point gap between himself and Novak Djokovic which isn't going to close anytime soon unless he starts winning more majors and other big tournaments. I'm not sure he will ever get back to # 1 because of how well Novak is playing. I do think that Roger's time of dominating the Tour is over but that's not to say that he doesn't have a few more major wins in him before he calls it a career. The thing with grand slams is that upsets can happen which can really tilt a particular draw in your favor.
 
The last men's quarterfinal featured Gael Monfils and Novak Djokovic. Monfils won the first set 6-3 but then tapered off just a little bit and lost the final two sets, 4-6, 3-6 to lose the match. Djokovic was not really all that concerned that he was going to lose the match (like Federer and Nadal before him) and losing the first set to him wasn't all that big of a deal. He's had to come back from worse deficits than that previously. Both players ran negative plus / minus statistics; while Monfils hit more winners than did Novak, he also made a lot more unforced errors. Monfils was a -7 (39 winners, 46 unforced errors) and Djokovic was a -9 (27 winners and 36 unforced errors).
 

 

 
[8] Tomas Berdych (CZE) d [3] Roger Federer (SUI) {blue shirt} 62 76(3)
 
Roger Federer 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Tomas Berdych 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Roger Federer 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Tomas Berdych 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Roger Federer 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Tomas Berdych 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Roger Federer 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Tomas Berdych 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Roger Federer 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Tomas Berdych 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Roger Federer 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Tomas Berdych 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis

 
 
[7] Mardy Fish (USA) d [2] Rafael Nadal (ESP) {green shirt} 63 64
 
Rafael Nadal 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Mardy Fish 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Rafael Nadal 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Mardy Fish 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Rafael Nadal 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Mardy Fish 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Rafael Nadal 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Mardy Fish 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Rafael Nadal 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Mardy Fish 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Rafael Nadal 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Mardy Fish 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis

 
 
[4] [WC] Maria Sharapova (RUS) d [10] Samantha Stosur (AUS) {white visor} 63 62
 
Samantha Stosur 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Maria Sharapova 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Samantha Stosur 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Maria Sharapova 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Samantha Stosur 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Maria Sharapova 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Samantha Stosur 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Maria Sharapova 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Samantha Stosur 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Maria Sharapova 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Samantha Stosur 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Maria Sharapova 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis

 
 
[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) d [6] Gael Monfils (FRA) {red shirt} 36 64 63
 
Gael Monfils 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Novak Djokovic 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Gael Monfils 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Novak Djokovic 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Gael Monfils 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Novak Djokovic 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Gael Monfils 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Novak Djokovic 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Novak Djokovic 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Novak Djokovic 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Novak Djokovic 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis

 
Earlier Columns from this Event:
 
August 18, 2011 Western & Southern Open: Nadal Wins Spanish Civil War On Center Court (Round 12); Jankovic Outlasts Schiavone In 3 Tough Sets - Federer, Blake, Murray, Bogomolov, Sharapova, Kuznetsova, Djokovic, Stepanek
August 17, 2011 Western & Southern Open: Harrison Can't Quite Derail Djokovic
August 16, 2011 Western & Southern Open: Serbing Up Aces
August 15, 2011 Western & Southern Open: Roddick Rolls Out Amid Controversy
August 14, 2011 Western & Southern Open: Bombs Away As Blake Buries Baghdatis
August 13, 2011 Western & Southern Open: Western & Southern Open - Day 1
 

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