In Beijing/China Open news:
Rafael Nadal came out on the winning end of a tight three-setter against James Blake, and was very pleased with the outcome: “I think I played a very good match. I feel it well – one of my best matches after my injury of the knee. I’m happy with how I played today. . .It’s a very important win.”
The Blake/Nadal head to head is now tied 3-3, with the last 3 wins going Nadal’s way. Will Blake’s new coach help him pull ahead?
Marat Safin will be Rafael Nadal’s quarterfinal opponent after he beat Fernando Gonzalez, 6-3, 6-4. When asked about the quarterfinal, Marat was surprisingly upbeat: “I know I will play better tomorrow. Nadal is going to be the favorite. I have no pressure; I’m just going to play my game, go for it, be aggressive and then we’ll see. It’s going to be my biggest match in a long time so I’m pretty excited.“
Marat, excited? I didn’t think that was possible anymore.
And in Marat retirement news, here’s his take on his final season:
I don’t have any disappointments this year. Even though I had some close matches I was 20 in the world in May. If I had won them, I’d be around 15 in the world but otherwise I played very well. I go on the courts and practice and do my job in the gym. I’m happy with myself, happy with the last year. I’m still 52 in the world, so it’s not a bad ranking to finish my career.
Do you think Marat’s being too easy on himself?
Oh, and a nice quote from Gonzo, on Gonzo:
Q: Into this match and the previous match against Federer, you were quite entertaining on the court. Why is that?
Gonzalez: I play many matches and I try to enjoy it. I try to express myself when I’m on the court. Sometimes I express myself too much. I try to be calm, but for me, tennis is still a game. I try to have fun, and for a longer time, I can do it.
Alas, Fernando doubts he’ll be able to extend the fun to the 2016 Olympics in Brazil (he’ll be 36 years old.)
The men’s China Open Quarterfinals have set up as follows:
Nadal vs. Safin and Davydenko vs. Cilic in the top half. Soderling vs. Ljubicic and Verdasco vs. Djokovic in the bottom.
The way the draw’s shaking out, we could have a few delicious final possibilities. Obviously, Marat in a final would be fantastic – but what about another Nadal vs. Djokovic epic or – even better! – a Soderling vs. Nadal grudge match? What final are you hoping for?
On the ladies’ side of thing, Serena Williams lost to Nadia Petrova in a tough three setter in Beijing: 4-6, 6-3, 6(5)-7. With Serena out, none of the top three seeds remain in the tournament. Here’s what she thinks about that:
Q: After the third round today, the top three seeded players are already out. Do you think this was a coincidence?
SERENA: No, I think we ran into some tough matches. I ran into a girl today that has never played so good in her whole life so I don’t know.
(Petrova: “Actually we both played well. . .”)
And of course, no Serena press conference would be complete without a little trash talk – especially since the Battle of the No. 1s will likely continue through the year end championships in Doha.
Q: With no more tournaments to go before Doha and with only five points leading in the ranking, what do you think about the competition between you and Safina for No. 1?
SERENA: My goal is just to do well, and I tried to do well tonight but that didn’t work out so well. I can be No. 1 for a week on this tour, but it doesn’t matter how many Grand Slams you win. It’s more about how many Grand Slams you don’t win. My goal is just to do well in Doha.
Serena was also on the iffy end of a line call at the end of the match. When asked about her reaction, she wisely said: “Obviously I’d be not smart if I were to do the same thing (as the US Open). It’s important for people to learn from things they did in the past, and I learned and I would never do the same thing.”
Flavia Pennetta and Vera Zvonareva had a rematch of their US Open thriller, and this time it was Zvonareva who came up on top: 6-3, 5-7, 7-5. Pennetta reportedly suffered from a back injury during the match. But from these photos, it looks like Vera was the one hurting:
The women’s China Open Quarterfinals are set:
Bartoli vs. Zvonareva and Dementieva vs. A. Radwanska in the top half. Kuznetsova vs. Pavlyuchenkova and Peng vs. Petrova in the bottom (Just want to pat myself on the back here and say that I can spell Pavlyuchenkova without any help! It’s not as hard as it looks . . .)
In Japan Open news, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga came back from a set and a break down to beat Richard Gasquet: 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 and will play a semi-resurgent Ernests Gulbis in the Tokyo quarterfinals (Gulbis’s last opponent, Juan Monaco, retired with a hip injury).
Gulbis is working with Safin’s old coach, Hernan Gumy, and things appear to be going well: “He (Gumy) has given me a lot of tips to get back my game. I’m playing my game, being more aggressive. Things have stabilised now. Tennis is a game of confidence. When you win, you don’t think. I thought too much before.” (via tennis.com)
The Japan Open Quarters set up like this:
(del Potro killer) Roger-Vasselin vs. Hewitt (who needed three sets to beat Fabrice Santoro) and Youzhny vs. Berdych in the top half and Wawrinka vs. Monfils and Gulbis vs. Tsonga in the bottom.
U.S.A. TV broadcasts of all tournaments start with the semis on Friday. Live streaming options abound – Beijing is 12 hours ahead of New York and Japan is 13 hours ahead. Click here for more info.
Photos via OSports Photo Agency.