Think the Spaniards like red clay? After Thursday’s action, five of the Spanish Armada are through to the quarterfinals.
He may be king of clay, but Rafa isn’t clairvoyant. A reporter asked him on Wednesday about his upcoming Round of 16 match vs. Michael Berrer:
Q. You beat him recently, Berrer.
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, last year in Indian Wells. (Rafa beat the German 6-2, 6-1)
Q. You beat him quite easily on hard court. What do you expect on clay from him?
RAFAEL NADAL: I think he is better on clay.
Rafa beat Berrer on Thursday: 6-0, 6-1. Berrer’s one game came at 5-0 in the second set. Afterwards, Rafa insisted that the match wasn’t easy – maybe he felt some nerves while trying to score the first double bagel of his career?
He probably won’t get the “bicycle” in his quarterfinal, where he’ll play countryman and fellow clay court expert Juan Carlos Ferrero. JCF threw cold water on my dream of another high-energy, sweat-soaked and sexy quarterfinal by beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in three sets on Thursday. Not that I’m complaining – Nadal vs. Ferrero should be clay court tennis at its best. JCF is one of the very few people in the world (what is it, like 4 guys?) who have beaten Rafa on clay.
David Ferrer will hope to meet one of his good friends in the semis. He took out Ivan Ljubicic 6-0, 7-6(4) on Thursday. He faces Philipp Kohlschreiber next. Kohly won his Rd. of 16 vs. Petzschner, but the other Phil got the “Hot Shot of the Day”:
On the top half of the draw, Novak Djokovic defeated Stan Wawrinka to set up a tasty meeting with David Nalbandian, who took out Tommy Robredo. It’s always fun to see Nalby take on one of the top guys – and as one of the best returners in the world, all the chatter about Nole’s serve must be music to his ears.
Novak talked about the shot at length with reporters after beating Florent Serra on Wednesday (he hit 4 double faults along the way):
Q. When you say the serve could be better, you tried to go back to your old serve or…
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It’s very confusing. It’s complicating. The worst thing you can do is to think about a bunch of different things technically wise because then you come to the stage where you really don’t know what to do, especially in the match when pressure comes up to you, and you start feeling uncomfortable serving. That’s what happens.
But I’m just trying to make it as simple as possible. It’s not easy. People say it’s easy, but it’s not. As much as you practice on the court, as much as you work on it, you know, the real thing comes from your head, and that’s where you need to break it through.
Q. You try to bend your arm more?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I mean, as I said, technically there are a couple of issues. I’m aware. The important thing is I’m aware of what I do wrong. So right now I will try to work on it.
Q. Is that something you analyzed specifically, sat down with a video recorder, taken the serve apart?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Of course, you know, yes.
But, as I said, it’s a very mental game. On the court, you’re by yourself, and you have to face all these problems by yourself. It’s not a team sport where you can just have five minutes’ rest and somebody can substitute you.
This is a one on one game, and there is no excuses. It’s either you lose or you win. So you have to face pressures and expectations, especially when you’re somebody on top of the game people look up to. So your every move is being watched. So it’s not easy to face these problems.
But, you know, you got to work on it. I am aware of that. I have motivation, and I have the desire and will to improve that and get back to the old serve.
It’s gonna come sooner or later. But it’s a process I guess that needs patience.
Q. When you say sooner or later you’ll get back to your old serving, do you have a time scale on that, how long it’s going to take you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Look, it’s too many things that I already think about when the serve is in question. So another question mark over the time, time limit, really, I don’t need it. It’s not necessary. It would put too much pressure on me.
There are certain stages and days where I’m patient and I really want to have good serve. In doubles a couple days ago, I served well. In the practice, I served well. So this is a true example of the mental toughness that you need to have on the match.
I mean, it’s a difficult game because anything can happen. In one point, just something can click in your head and you can start playing worse and worse. So confidence is an easy thing to lose, but very difficult to gain. So you got to work hard.
Yeah, that’s way too much talk about the serve. I feel like I’m reading an Ana Ivanovic or Maria Sharapova transcript.
Fernando Verdasco, who came back from a set down against Tomas Berdych on Thursday, will play Albert Montanes (def. Cilic) in the second all-Spanish quarterfinal in the Principality.
Suck that clay out, Albert!
All together now: VAMOS!!!!
Back to Andy Murray, who won only three games in his loss to Kohlschreiber on Wednesday. It was a little disconcerting to see this in print (from Murray’s presser): “I have to make sure that, uhm, you know, I don’t panic.”
Yikes! Given our ongoing conversation about Andy Murray’s lackluster performances, lately, I’m wondering what you all think about this analysis (via wagering site Betfair):
There’s a feeling that Murray might have got ahead of himself by trying to focus purely on the big tournaments. That’s fine if you’re Roger Federer. But even Rafael Nadal takes his A game to every other venue, as he proved yesterday by crushing Dutchman Thimo de Bakker in under an hour.
Is this a fair comment or not? It actually states pretty succinctly what I’ve been thinking lately about Andy – even he’s referenced Roger’s long breaks and non-participation in Davis Cup when asked about his own scheduling.