Monday, June 04, 2018

French Open Days 7 & 8: Fernando Verdasco and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Hi All. Galileo here.

Gael Monfils. He is the enigma of our generation. He makes Hana Mandlikova look like Gilles Simon. Compared to him Fabio Fognini is David Ferrer.

We have seen every side of the Monfils, including taking a selfie on court. Today he got out the tennis stare. This is a powerful weapon. Serena Williams and her fourth round opponent (or not, as it turned out) both have it. So does a certain Serbian. Roger Federer has it. Monfils used it face to face with Goffin at 5-5 in the 4th set. It is one thing watching Fognini give a linesman the look after a third [or was it fourth?] foot fault. That is fine. But to do it to your opponent, one who is usually so mellow, well that is pretty appalling. The Frenchman really got up in his face. It was quite alarming. This was a match in three acts. Every match is a performance where Gael is involved and this was no different.

In Act One, Monfils took the first set 8-6 in the breaker only to lose the second 6-3. Up 3-2 in the second, with a break, Goffin was in charge. After two sets Monfils’ W/UE tally was at 26-32. Goffin’s was at 23-23. Of course darkness intervened and the Frenchman came back refreshed. In Act Two he turned that deficit into a 6-4 set because he is Monfils. He is Monfils playing at Roland Garros. He had four match points with Goffin at 4-5 in the fourth. He was also a break up but lost it. The minute he lost that game we went into Act Three. Goffin held, and dropped just four more games. He won the last two sets 7-5, 6-3. In the end Monfils losing his serve 11 times was probably the breaking point even if he did break eight times himself. Goffin hurt his elbow during the effort which significantly affected his next match. So nobody won. Except the crowds.

The doubles, meanwhile, had another steady day. The 6th and 5th seeds cruised in straight sets. The second seeds Marach/Pavic were tested but won 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in just under two hours. They beat Arevelo/Cerratini on Court Seven. You can tell that we’re getting further into the tournament because the men’s doubles court number is getting smaller. That is a sure sign. It was a tight match with just the one break in each set. Both pairs served exceptionally well and even won over 50 per cent of second serve points. On clay that’s pretty good. This was a standard, gritty clay court duel.

On a final note, the placing of Simona Halep on Court 18 has generated controversy. She is the top seed and she was playing Andrea Petkovic. But she hasn’t won a slam, she isn’t as popular as Rafa and she doesn’t play super exciting tennis. She isn’t a draw. When she wins a slam she can feel aggrieved then. If she ever does. This BACKSPINNER felt the same way about Jelena Jankovic being put on Court 18 at Wimbledon when she was world number two. That was the right decision. She was soundly thumped by Tamarine Tanasugarn. Plus she would have complained no matter what court she was on. If you want the right to complain, Halep, then go and win a slam. We’ve been waiting for five years, and 20 slams now.

MS 1st Rd: Djokovic [20] d. [q] Dutra Silva {W}
MS 2nd Rd: Gasquet [27] d. Jaziri {W}
MS 3rd Rd: Carreno Busta [10] d. Cecchinato {L}
WS 1st Rd: Bertens [18] d. Sabalenka {W}
WS 2nd Rd: Keys [13] d. [Q] Dolehide {W}
WS 3RD Rd: Wozniacki [2] d. Parmentier [WC] {W}
WS 4TH Rd: Williams [PR] d. Sharapova [28]

…This match was over, with a scoreline of 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 officially in two and a half hours but it was actually over long before that. Fernando Verdasco could not handle the pressure. He lost the match when he walked onto court. If this match has been on the Bullring or even on Lenglen he may have had a chance. He does his best work on the back-courts usually. He hit 48 errors. He won just 56 per cent of his first serve points. He did not turn up. He had a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. The worst thing was that Novak Djokovic wasn’t very good. He was only 21-29 on the W/UE count. Verdasco gave away his serve five times. Nole is still a total question mark. We have not yet seen him properly tested. And now he will get an easy looking matchup. But look at these updated rankings and you will see another story.

Marco Cecchinato has had a meteoric rise. He has nothing to lose. He has game and momentum. He is riding high. To beat him Nole will have to focus on taking away his serve and he will have to use all his experience in big matches too.

...Dominic Thiem played at the highest level he has played at for months. It may even be the best he has played ever. But he could only manage it for two sets. He won those 6-2, 6-0. He won 54 points to Kei Nishikori’s 23. He broke five times and never saw a break point himself. He served 32 times. He won 28 of those. That is seven points in eight, meaning Nishikori averaged a point a game. 25 of his 32 serves were first serves. Stats can only begin to describe the dominance. In the second set he won 68 per cent of return points. But Nishikori is canny. He knew if he waited the Austrian might drop his level a tad. And that is exactly what happened. He snatched the second set 7-5, converting on his first and only break point of the whole match. In the fourth set it was a very nervy affair, with Thiem desperate to close it out and struggling mightily to do so. He clung onto his break and finally ended it 6-4 in the fourth. He will face Alex Zverev soon. The German is on his ninth life and must be getting tired. To win Thiem needs to break down the forehand and keep the rallies long. The longer the rallies and the more dropshots he can execute the better his chances of winning get.

...After the third set the German looked done. Karen Khachanov led 6-4, 6-7[4], 6-2. How many times can you avoid death, after all? But the German, for the third time in a row, came back to win from two sets to one down. He is like the girl from Scream, or the Xenomorph in Alien. He just will not go. In the three and a half hour contest both men had five breaks. But Zverev went 63-51 on the winners front. His opponent could only manage 45-51. The Russian has had quite the run. He is building into slam form very nicely. It would not be a stretch to say he should one day lift this trophy. And now Zverev must face a huge test- Thiem. To beat Thiem he will need to win points quickly. His backhand is the biggest weapon on the court. He needs to use it accordingly. Thiem sometimes returns far back so the serve-volley play is there too. The Austrian suffers from nerves. He has done so throughout the tournament. If Zverev can apply pressure he could win points that way. Overall, Thiem is who this BACKSPINNER would put 50p on. All the pressure is on the German and this is his first slam quarterfinal. Thiem is looking great too.

...Hampered by an elbow injury Goffin nevertheless put up an admirable fight. The Italian took the match 7-5, 4-6, 6-0, 6-3. There isn’t much point talking about this match. The Belgian was hurt. He was not fit to play. You could tell that looking at him. And the Italian falling to the floor was pretty poor form. It was very Andy Murray. The rain has made recovery very difficult for those players who have to play back-to-back tough matches. He will have nothing to lose against Djokovic but what he needs to do is to go out there and play like he has nothing to lose, because he doesn’t. He will know how vulnerable Nole is currently. He will be aware that the Serb is there for the taking. He should mix it up and let Djokovic not get any rhythm. Deploying the dropshot frequently is a good idea. His defence and court coverage are fantastic. He has more natural clay ability than Djokovic. In spite of all this, you still look at this match and feel like he can’t really win. It would be a colossal upset.

Thanks and visit WTA BACKSPIN.

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