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And this is the week Fritters accidentally canceled our Tennis Channel subscription! Thank God for the internet. Though this evening’s match in Madrid was the kind that would have had me turning off the tube in my weaker, more innocent days of Fed fandom due to the pure, unbearable tension of it all. But then I would have missed Roger Federer’s sneaky triumph as he waited until the very last moment to edge out rising star Milos Raonic: 4-6, 7-5, 7-6(4). Yes!
Though I have nothing but fresh, fangirl praise for Milos Raonic. He has a pleasing, classic game with a serve that’s fresh out of a top secret R&D laboratory – if what we’re talking about is developing ballistic missiles. The Canadian didn’t lose a point on his first serve for a set and a half. The big guy also has nimble feet and soft hands, as this “shot of the day” showed off:
It doesn’t hurt that he seems like a sweetheart.
But let’s get back to Roger, who was a sight for sore eyes in his blue on blue ensemble. This was just the kind of win he needed to get his mental footing under him as he enters the toughest part of the season. (I’m assuming maintaining his physical footing will be an even bigger struggle this week, given the blue clay’s reputed slip-factor.) Though Milos won a whopping 86% of his first serve points, Roger wasn’t far behind at 79%. Roger’s insistent net rushing throughout the match got frustrating at times, but it also pointed – along with that screaming forehand winner on match point – to a steely resolve to stay aggressive at all costs. The best stat for Fed fans: he was 1 for 2 in converting break point chances vs. Raonic’s 1 of 8. I need not remind you of his rougher patches of play over the past few seasons, when those stats were often reversed and Roger would lose matches he should have won. Now I savor these stolen victories! (Total points won for Roger: 99, Raonic: 103.)
While Roger appears ready to fight on, Rafael Nadal is dominating. He spanked Nikolay Davydenko in their match today, 6-2, 6-2. But the match-up, as routine as it appeared, gave commentators the opportunity to bring up a fun bit of tennis trivia: Until today, Kolya had beaten Rafa four times in a row (including a win last year in Qatar) and he still enjoys a winning head-to-head over the top Spaniard. With Kolya you have to expect the unexpected.
Novak Djokovic is a bit of a mystery right now. He needed three sets to get over Daniel Gimeno-Traver in his first match in Madrid. After an understandable emotional flame out in Monte Carlo, he’s returned to the court fuming over the surface (via Tennis.com):
”To me that’s not tennis. Either I come out with football shoes or I invite Chuck Norris to advise me how to play on this court,” said Djokovic. ”Center court is impossible to move on. I hit five balls throughout the whole match. With everything else, I was just trying to keep the ball in the court.”
In response to the uproar by Nole and all the top players, the tournament owner is now. . . contemplating fluorescent balls!
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images via Daylife
This tournament feels a bit disjointed at the moment, with the surface wreaking havoc and stealing headlines as the players slip and moan in disgust. But there are so many good matches coming up tomorrow, I think Madrid might end up being great in spite of itself. Tomorrow’s highlight may be Serena Williams vs. Caroline Wozniacki. Serena is coming off a win in Charleston and appears to be riding on a wave of positive play (via the WTA):
“I’m serving and moving well. I’m playing pretty good right now,” Williams said. “But I still feel I’m doing everything just okay – I really feel I can keep learning from playing on clay. I want to keep working on things and try to do them better. I really do love this surface and want to keep winning.”
It’s exciting to have Serena back in the mix, especially as the rivalry between tops seeds Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka continues to boil. Sharapova plays Safarova in her next match. Azarenka waits around to play Li Na in the quarters.
The men have some fun round of 16 matches coming up, with Fed playing Gasquet, Rafa playing Verdasco and Novak facing Wawrinka tomorrow. The line up on Manolo Santana Stadium is ridiculous, with Sharapova, Serena, Nadal, Federer and Djokovic all playing back-to-back-to-back. Now that’s a hot ticket!
And Fritters just put things right with Direct TV. Phew!