Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Wk.17- Nadal’s 10th...on Nadal

Hey, all. Galileo here.

This week Rafael Nadal won his tenth title at the Barcelona Open. And he did it on himself. Yes, Nadal is now at the level where he plays on courts named after him.

Imagine that. Just imagine doing anything on a court named after you. It must be bizarre in a way. Imagine Todd playing wide receiver for the Washington Redskins at Todd Spiker Stadium. Or me playing shortstop for the Boston Red Sox at Galileo West Park. For Nadal, it must be a strange experience. It is also a tonne of pressure. You cannot imagine the embarrassment of losing on your own court, at a tournament you have dominated for a decade.

Only one other player has ever won an event ten times. Nadal has equaled his own record. Ten in Monte Carlo, ten in Barcelona and seven in Rome. Nadal owns April in the same way America owns Puerto Rico.

Nadal has won 71 titles. Now either you find it impressive that he has won 56 of those on clay or you call him a one surface wonder. For somebody who has been number one for so long, and to have the career he has had, to win just 16 hard-court titles in 14 years is rubbish.
There’s no skirting around that fact. But Nadal is not the only one with a weird statistical anomaly. Roger Federer has won only 11 clay court titles. That is also rubbish. Murray has only been to five clay court finals. His record is 3-2. That is truly, terrifically rubbish. Novak Djokovic’s 13-9 record in clay finals is one part surprising and two parts rubbish.

Nadal has single-handedly made a whole surface off limits. Andy Murray needed nine years to learn how to play on dirt properly, so put him aside. But the other two can play on clay. Federer is probably a top ten all-time clay player. The Spaniard, with his domination of all things, has dominated clay in a way not seen since Chrissie Evert.

Look at Barcelona. In 2014 and 1996 there were no Spanish finalists. In every other year for 21 years there has been a Spaniard in the final, often two. Since 1996 only four non Spaniards have won it. Rafa has lost just one set in finals here; in 2008 he beat David Ferrer 6-1, 4-6, 6-1. So he was always going to be a heavy favourite for the title.

Oh, by the way did you know that Lucas Pouille can speak Finnish? Yes, he can, and he also had a very good week. But we talk about Nadal instead. There are two reasons for this. When the Milwaukee Brewers and Seattle Mariners both win who do you want to talk about more? Also, one more injury to Nadal's knees, thighs, wrists, feet, legs, calves, arms, chest or head and that is it. Nadal is a serious injury away from the end. Lucas Pouille has the luxury of time. And on that note, we’ll dive right in.

S: Rafael Nadal def. Dominic Thiem 6-4/6-1
D: Mergea/Qureshi d. Petzschner/Peya

S: Lucas Pouille def. Aljaz Bedene 6-3/6-1
D: Baker/Mektic d. Cabal/Farah

...Same as last week, really. This year feels like a hark back to 2007. Federer wins three hard court titles to start the year. Nadal dominates the clay. Nadal should beat Rog in four in the Roland Garros final. With the general ineptitude of Murray and Djokovic returning, it does feel like the good old days. The WTA in chaos, with Serena absent from 2005-07, while the ATP’s duopoly continued. Times were simpler. This BACKSPINNER has a theory as to why. Svetlana Kuznetsova is relevant once again. It took her eight years. But now she is relevant again she has restored balance to the tours. This BACKSPINNER always thought she was the chosen one. All we need now is a French woman in decline, an upcoming male Serbian and a rematch of that Venus/Henin semi-final. Then it really would be 2007 once again. But this BACKSPINENR digresses.

It is 2017. Now we could talk about Nadal winning another big tournament, where he doesn’t drop a set and then bites the trophy.

But that is rather old hat. Let’s instead talk about the Nadal effect. It is a special phenomenon that happens to Rafa’s opponents on the clay. It doesn’t happen with Federer because when he sweeps you aside. He at least makes it quick. Nadal grinds you down, he starts with your game, then your willpower, then your soul and then... then it’s handshake time. During the first set you win a couple of good rallies, you seem to be holding well. A deuce here or there on your service games, but nothing to worry about. But your winners aren’t really working. So you decide to mix it up. You go big to his backhand, come in on his forehand. He has too much distance to make up - now he’s hit that incredible forehand pass. About ten minutes later you’re down 6-3, 2-0. How did that happen? You still feel like you can maybe fight back, take the set. If you can get into his head - but it’s 3-6, 2-5. Oh lord, what is happening? With Federer he just blows you away, but Nadal hasn’t done anything. Nadal hasn’t blown it by you, he hasn’t hit 50 winners. Now it’s about damage control. You’re down 3-6, 3-6, 2-3. You kind of know this is your last stand. If you can’t hold him off here it’s going to go quickly. And that’s what you’re thinking about at the handshake. Well done on your hard-earned eight games. Playing Nadal is horrible. Because he is bloody good. And he doesn’t win by blowing you away. He wins by grinding you into the dirt.

....Occasionally, escaping defeat early on in a tournament sets you up for a run. During her successful 2016 title run Down Under, Angie Kerber saved several match points early on [Todd can fill you in.] It was the same for Lucas Pouille. In the first round he beat Jiri Vesely 6-3, 4-6, 7-6[5]. Down 4-5 in the third the Frenchie survived two match points. After that he never looked back. He won the tiebreaker 7-4. He had survived the Czech and his surprisingly good backhand. That shot had wrecked Pouille all day. Afterwards he beat Klizan 6-4, 6-3. He eased past Lorenzi, the 6th seed, 6-2, 7-5 to make the final. Qualifier Alex Bedene was no match for him. The Frenchman dismissed him 6-3, 6-1. But it’s alright Bedene fans. You might enjoy this strangely tender moment they shared.

It is rare at these smaller event for a top seed to actually sweep to victory in such a manner. Usually the 7th seed or the guy who won it four years ago wins it. But this time the Frenchman was very solid. Only one other seed made the round they were supposed to. The only dampener was losing in the first round of the doubles in straight sets with Gilles Simon. With the win he's now 2-2 in finals, with half played on indoor hard and half on clay. His ranking of 14 is his highest ever. He will soon be the best in his country.
...Last year he made the third round. He beat Bedene and Bautista Agut before losing to Dolgopolov. He did that after qualifying, too. Plus he did this.

He was just 19. Now that he is 20 he has gone a round further. He has beaten Bellucci, Cuevas and Goffin. That is a horrible draw, but he has managed it. He is the world number 42. He will be a seed next year. He could be a seed for a slam this year. What a week. A quarterfinal and a new highest ever ranking. Superb.
...Ageless, timeless, without peer. If Karlovic and Ivanisevic played doubles against Sampras and Isner on a really quick grass court, could they fire 200 aces between them in a long five set match? At the age of 38, Dr. Ivo is still being seeded second. Sometimes the simplest tactics are the best ones. So little can go wrong with his game. It is bizarre, however, that he has less than 350 wins. You feel like he would have millions, but he doesn’t. Still, just winning matches so close to 40 is a rare achievement. His constant tour presence should be admired. Even now, nobody wants to see him in their section of the draw.

...He turns 28 this year. He was born in Ljubljana, but now lives in a small town outside of London. His life story, which would be a fascinating read, just had another chapter added to it. Two years after a final run in Chennai he has made another one. Now ranked 58 he is just 14 spots from achieving his highest ever ranking. He was top seeded in the qualifiers and came through with only a little bit of trouble. He beat Marius Copil 6-3, 6-7[4], 6-1. The Romanian came back as a lucky loser and, as is always the way, they played in the first round. This time it was easier. He won 6-2, 7-5. Following that he swept Haase and Karlovic aside in straight sets to make the semi-final. He played fellow qualifier Laslo Djere. He won 6-2, 6-4. He was trounced in the final, but the run should still be admired.
...At this point we have to question what is going wrong. It goes beyond a loss of form. The Australian is struggling in a big way at the moment. If it is injury he needs to sort it out. If he is going through a rough patch, that’s fine. But his withdrawal is just the latest in a long series of troubling signs.
...We cannot rave about this kid enough over here on BACKSPIN. It used to be that kids could burst onto the scene and win Wimbledon. Nowadays it is a slow burn. It took Kei Nishikori an age to break out. Some may unfairly argue he is still doing so. Chung has posted another fantastic result this past week. In one of his best ever performances at the 500 level, he qualified by beating Gulbis and Pella. He did not drop a set. Then he beat Istomin and 12th seeded Philipp Kohlschreiber without losing a set. He spanked 8th seed Alex Zverev 6-1, 6-4. He led Nadal 3-1 before crumbling. Few have challenged Nadal to that extent here. He is 55-3.


Dasha Gavrilova returns in Morocco this coming week. The Aussie is seeded third and has a huge chance to scrape some ranking points together. A-Pavs is having a banner year, with a singles and doubles title plus a slam quarter under her belt. Our girl opens with Maryna Zanevska. There are some decent veterans hanging around, but she should make the semi-finals. If she can beat the top seeded Russian it could be a turning point for her season.

In the doubles, she has paired with Aleksandra Krunic. They have already defeated third seeded Olaru/Savchuk in the first round. Up next are Bondarenko/Lepchenko. A deep run in the doubles is also a possibility.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

Read more!


Post a Comment

<< Home