Friday, June 11, 2010

2010 Clay Court Awards: Rafa Runs Rampant

Back in January, Roger Federer was once again the unquestioned #1 in the world. My, how times have changed... again.

**2010 Clay Court (2Q) Awards**
1. Rafael Nadal, ESP
...a year ago, Nadal's aura was damaged, he was fighting against the breakup of his parents' marriage, and his knee tendinitis was threatening to shorten and blunt the effectiveness of his career. Flashforward to 2010 and he's unbeatable again on clay (22-0 this season), is the Roland Garros champion for a fifth time and is back in the #1 ranking. But what's on his mind is trying to find a way to win the U.S. Open. Between the attempt to reach that goal and now? Oh, just Wimbledon and his return to the All-England Club for the first time since "The Greatest Match Ever Played," where the defending champ -- a certain Swiss gentleman -- is once again trying to hold onto as much of his power as superhumanly as possible. Really, this summer's ATP storyline just writes itself, doesn't it?
2. Robin Soderling, SWE
...a guy could have a worse career resume than being known as the first (and, so far, only) player to defeat Rafa in Paris AND the man responsible for ending Federer's run of twenty-three straight slam semifinals.
3. Daniel Nestor & Nenad Zimonjic, CAN/SRB
...they're back at #1 in the points race, so let the year-long battle with the Bryan twins commence once more.
4. Fernando Verdasco, ESP
...he made three finals, but was overshadowed by that OTHER Spaniard.
5. Jurgen Melzer, AUT & Tomas Berdych, CZE
...sure to be future answers to a trivia question about past Roland Garros semifinalists.
HM- David Ferrer, ESP

1. Robin Soderling, SWE
2. Fernando Verdasco, ESP
3. Tomas Berdych, CZE
4. Mikhail Youzhny, RUS
5. Sam Querrey, USA
6. John Isner, USA
7. Nicolas Almagro, ESP
8. Thomaz Bellucci, BRA
9. Marin Cilic, CRO
10. Stanislas Wawrinka, SUI
HM- Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, ESP

1. Thiemo de Bakker, NED
2. Ernests Gulbis, LAT
3. Leonardo Mayer, ARG
4. Santiago Giraldo, COL
5. Rohan Bopanna/Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi, IND/PAK
6. Philip Petzschner, GER
7. Agustin Velotti, ARG (jr.)
8. Andrea Collarini, USA (jr.)
9. Filip Krajinovic, SRB
10. Lukas Lacko, SVK
HM- Bradley Klahn, Stanford University

1. Albert Montanes, ESP
2. Teimuraz Gabashvili, RUS
3. Frederico Gil, POR
4. Potito Starace, ITA
5. HoraCio Zeballos, ARG
6. Florent Serra, FRA
7. Oleksandr Dolgopolov Jr., UKR
8. Marc Lopez, ESP
9. Fabio Fognini, ITA
10. Julian Reister, GER
HM- Albert Ramos-Vinolas, ESP

1. Daniel Nestor & Nenad Zimonjic, CAN/SRB
2. David Ferrer, ESP
3. Jurgen Melzer, AUT
4. Nenad Zimonjic, SRB
5. Bob & Mike Bryan, USA
6. Fabio Fognini, ITA
7. Juan Ignacio Chela, ARG
8. Wesley Moodie & Dick Norman, RSA/BEL
9. Lukas Dlouhy & Leander Paes, CZE/IND
10. Robby Ginepri, USA
HM- Julian Knowle & Andy Ram, AUT/ISR

1. Richard Gasquet, FRA
2. Robby Ginepri, USA
3. Marcos Baghdatis, CYP
4. Lleyton Hewitt, AUS
5. Nicolas Massu, CHI
HM- David Nalbandian, ARG

1. Roger Federer, SUI
2. Juan Carlos Ferrero, ESP
3. Novak Djokovic, SRB
4. Andy Murray, GBR
5. Nikolay Davydenko, RUS
HM- Fernando Gonzalez, CHI

Seriously? SERIOUSLY?
Rafael Nadal's clay season couldn't have been more astounding. He went 22-0, won four titles (including a fifth RG), became the first man in the Open Era to win the same tournament six years in a row when he once again was crowned Monte Carlo champ, broke Andre Agassi's ATP record with his eighteenth career Masters title in Madrid and lost just TWO sets all spring. Whew!
Sixty-One Down, One to Go
the Bryan twins win in Madrid for their sixty-first career title as a team, tying Todd Woodbridge & Mark Woodforde's all-time ATP mark
When Losing is Sorta Like "Winning"
in Rome, Ernests Gulbis got a win over Roger Federer and won a set off Rafael Nadal in the semifinal. It turned out to be one of those two sets that Rafa lost out of the fifty-one he played this spring.
When Just One Won't Do
Nenad Zimonjic swept both the Men's Doubles and Mixed Doubles titles at Roland Garros

[I Went to a Tennis Match and the World Cup Broke Out]
Roland Garros 2nd Rd. - Fognini d. Monfils
A Frenchman blowing a two sets to none lead. An Italian fails to convert three match points in near-nighttime conditions, arguing with officials in front of an unruly crowd as he tried to get the match suspended for darkness. It finally was, at 5-5 in the 5th after 10pm. The next day, Fognini finally won on his fourth MP.
[An Uncommon Occurrence]
Belgrade Final - Querrey d. Isner
Two Americans in a clay final... and it wasn't even the green kind, either. Querrey saved a match point against his doubles partner to get the title.
[Old Gray Rivalry Ain't What It Used To Be... well, this time]
Madrid Final - Nadal d. Federer
In their first meeting in a year, the match ends when Federer whiffs on a forehand. Sure, it was a bad bounce and understandable... but the image was damning, especially after what happened later in Paris.
[The Blind Scottish Squirrel Finds a Nut]
Roland Garros 1st Rd. - Murray d. Gasquet
Sure, Murray gets credit for finding something good during his awful spring when he won this 4:00 match after falling down two sets to none. Of course, that this wasn't even the FIRST time that Gasquet had blown a two-set lead to Murray in a slam match tends to hang much of the "credit" on the Frenchman's shoulders.
[History, Smistory]
Roland Garros QF - Soderling d. Federer
Twenty-three straight slam semifinals is PRETTY good, I guess. Of course, so was that 12-0 career record against Soderling.

Richard Gasquet wins in Nice. It's his first singles title since 2007.

Both Gasquet and Gael Monfils blow two sets to none leads and lose in front of their home nations fans at Roland Garros
Speaking of blowing two sets to none leads, Novak Djokovic did it for the first time in his career. As a result of that QF match at Roland Garros, Jurgen Melzer reached his first career slam SF.
Roger Federer loses the #1 ranking following his 285th career week in the spot, just one week behind Pete Sampras' ATP record

Juan Martin del Potro's wrist injury kept him out of Roland Garros, and he'll miss Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, too

And, now, the next battleground awaits on the grass.

The last time Nadal was at Wimbledon, he was winning "The Greatest Match Ever Played." In 2009, Federer went into a Rafa-less All-England Club and won his sixth title in seven years, running his grass court record to an absurd 72-1 since '03 and following up his "GMEP" loss with a win in arguably "The Greatest Set Ever Played" against Andy Roddick in the final.

What could they possibly do as an encore to the encore? Let your mind explore the possibilities.

All for now.

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