Tuesday, June 05, 2018

French Open Day 9: Rafa's 900th Nirvana

Hi All. Galileo here.

It is with a sense of inevitability that Rafa Nadal reached 900 wins. Jimmy Connors leads with 1,256. Roger Federer is next with 1,149. Then it is Ivan Lendl on 1068. Guillermo Vilas has 929. Rafa is 5th all time.

This April Rafa registered his 400th win on clay. He now sits at 412. So that is about 45 per cent of his wins coming on clay. When he retires it will be over 50 per cent. Federer has 725 wins on hard court, which is well over 50 per cent. They are two sides of a coin, Rafa and Roger.
By the way, did you know that Roger has won 25 per cent of the tournaments he has entered? So if he goes into any tournament he has a one in four chance of winning it. It is probably one in two on grass.

Now Serena’s withdrawal was big news. She says it because of an injured pectoral muscle. The speed with which she has come back has been amazing, especially considering how close she is to 40. Rough births like the one she had can sometimes set a mother back from working in an office for years. Now imagine trying to do it in the most competitive environment you can. Men can’t get pregnant and there is no more competitive women’s sport in the world than tennis. It’s amazing. The other explanation you might hear is that she so badly does not want to lose to Maria Sharapova she opted to withdraw instead. Let’s just rain on this parade right now. That is rubbish. It simply is not true. She will be back and winning Wimbledon before you know it.

Now onto our epic doubles match. Herbert/Mahut had already gone onto the quarterfinals with a straight sets win. They beat Sock/Johnson 6-4, 6-3. On the other side of the draw the Spanish Lopez’s won an epic two hour, 21 minute three set contest. They won 6-4, 6-7[2], 7-6[3]. The Spaniards got up 6-4, 3-0 but crumbled, losing both their breaks. At 5-4, 40-30 in the third Kontinen/Peers had a chance to end it. But they lost their serves and a few minutes later the match. The Spanish pair won 105 points and their opponents just 104. The third seeds won 54 per cent of second serve return points while their opponents won 53 per cent. Break points taken in percentage- 44 for the Spaniards and 42 for the other team. The big difference, though, was that Kontinen/Peers only got 49 per cent of their first serves in. Their opponents got 71. Everything else was equal. If they had just been a shade more accurate they probably could have won.

...Nadal took the first two sets against Maximilian Marter 6-3, 6-2. He broke four times to one. and hit 24 winners to 11. To the German’s credit the first set could be called competitive. He didn’t roll over and die. But forget those two sets because in the third the German made a go of it. Honestly, this has got to be the trickiest of Nadal’s winning Roland Garros without dropping a set runs so far. Two tiebreakers? Wow! Anyway, it was one break apiece. The German really went for it, his W/UE was 14-16, and played Rafa tough. But the Spaniard took out the tiebreaker 7-4. Now it gets hard. He will play Diego Schwartzman, Del Potro or Cilic and then Zverev, Djokovic or Thiem. He could drop a set yet. The German has had a lovely Cinderella run through to the fourth round. He had dropped just one set on his way to play Nadal and that in his upset win over Denis Shapovalov. He will go to 50 in the world, 17 spots higher than his previous best. He now has exactly 999 points. His 20 spot rise is tremendous and well deserved.

...Fabio Fognini could not produce the magic this time. Marin Cilic won 6-4, 6-1, 3-6, 6-7[5], 6-3. Just when you think the Italian is going to go all the way to the semi-finals he crumbles. He is good enough to have done it too. He literally disappeared in the second set. The big problem is that the Italian went 38-68 on the W/UE mark. Cilc won the break battle 7 to 3. Cilic is no longer a joke waiting to be upset. He used to be a waste of top 16 seed. No longer. Much to this BACKSPINNER’s irritation he has turned himself into a real force on the tour. He is relevant everywhere. He can just contend anywhere. He could even take on Nadal and maybe get a set. His match with Del Potro is going to be a festival of thumping forehands and huge serves. Delpo's slice could be the deciding factor in that one. Fognini has had a good tournament but the way he went out was such classic Fognini that it’s irritating. He has such easy power and so much prowess on clay. He makes the tour better by being so irritating. But he needs to get the results to go along with his attitude. He keeps suffering from the same problems. How many times do we have to write the same thing about him? It’s like how Todd can just copy and paste everything he writes about Simona Halep from one slam to another. Fognini will never fix his problem and, honestly, this BACKSPINNER cannot see Halep holding a slam and the world number one position at the same time. Right now winning a slam is impossible for her.

...John Isner has lost just one set. He has hit 95 aces, 20 more than his nearest competition, and has been a breath of fresh air in this tournament. His run has been the best of his career outside America. He has been brilliant. You have to think he will be able to cause some damage at Wimbledon now. The third most aces in the tournament is 45, from Alex Zverev. He is 50 aces better. But in this match he could only muster two break points. He took none, Delpo took three from seven and won 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. Both guys got 64 per cent of first serves in, won well over 70 per cent of those points and played well with ball in hand. But Delpo won 62 per cent of his second deliveries while Isner only won 45 per cent. There is the difference. There were actually a number of very entertaining rallies in this match and some great passing shots. But Delpo moves through to face Cilic. He has only dropped one set so far and he is definitely a favourite in that. He must be feeling on top of the world. if he can make the final he could be a top four seed at Wimbledon. In fact the word number one spot is in his grasp if he can win the title here.

...Anderson served for the match at 6-1, 6-2, 5-3. He lost that set 7-5 to Diego Schwartzman. He served for it again at 5-3 in the fourth. He did not serve for it a third time. Incredibly he did not have a match point. Also incredibly this was a very fractious match.

They say it’s always the short ones.

This was a monumental choke job. How Anderson, who was playing beautifully, blew this one… well, Freud himself could not tell you. He had about eight chances to finally kill the match and he could not do it. He should have made the quarterfinals. He should be going up against Rafa Nadal tomorrow. It’s a total letdown. He hit twice the winners that Schwartzman did. He broke ten times to the Argentine’s nine. When has he ever lost his serve nine times? He won two more games and just four less points. In a funny twist they both served eight doubles. This was not a classic. It was a filthy bar brawl of a match. It was dirty and nasty. And somehow more epic for that. But now the diminutive 11th seed must take on the king of grind in his castle. The target for Schwartzman is 15 games. He needs to get 13 games against Rafa. That’s a passing grade. 13 games or a set and he will have passed. We all know he won’t actually beat him.

Thanks and visit WTA BACKSPIN.

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