Mathieu lets Nadal off the hook, Federer vs. Hewitt
by Abe Kuijl | August 10th, 2007, 12:05 pm

Paul-Henri Mathieu is enjoying his career best ranking of 23, so it was clear that Rafael Nadal was in for a real test when he faced the Frenchman in the third round of the Rogers Masters in Montreal. That the recent Gstaad winner would have the match for the taking early in the second set was less expected.

Mathieu had won the opening set 6-3, after dominating Nadal in the majority of the points. The Spaniard was spraying unforced errors off both sides and went back to basics by just keeping the ball in play. Mathieu eagerly grabbed the initiative and earned the opening set on a single break. At 1-1 in the second set with Nadal serving, the 26-year-old Mathieu showed why he has never broken the Top 20 yet. The Geneva resident went up 15-40 but failed twice to put a forehand return in play off a second serve.

Mathieu was handed another break point when Nadal shanked an easy forehand well wide, but unlike PHM, Rafa knows how to step up on the important points. He got an exact same forehand after the one he easily missed on deuce, but this time smoked it for a winner. There was a fourth break point for Mathieu in that game. Nadal aced it.

Despite losing that tough game, Mathieu would not give in just yet. He cruised through his next service game and created another break point at 2-2. Nadal put up a sitter half court, but Mathieu smacked his backhand in the net. On the next point, the Frenchman powered that same shot from a tougher position in court into the forehand corner of Nadal, but Rafa scrambled the ball back and eventually passed Mathieu at the net before finishing off an easy putaway. It was the point of the match, and not only in the beauty department. Nadal let out a big vamos and left his mediocre play behind him. He immediately broke serve in the next game and claimed the set, 6-3.

As the Spaniard became more solid, Mathieu was going for increasingly desperate shots. The Frenchman undid an early break of serve in the third set, but after falling behind once more and seeing a forehand winner overturned with Nadal serving at 3-2 30-30, it was game over.

Nadal was playing decent tennis in the last set and a half, but the No.2 will need to further improve to really be succesful over the hard court season. Rafa has lost a bit of his aggressiveness, which could have cost him already in his opener against Safin. Nadal started out playing close to the baseline and going for his shots, but after losing the break of serve in the first set, it seemed Rafa quickly lost the confidence in his shotmaking ability, reverting to the way he played during last year’s summer hard court swing. If Safin would have consistently been able to smack groundies inside the court, like Berdych and Youzhny did so well in 2006, Nadal woud once again have been overpowered. Against Mathieu, it was the same story. No more post-season clay tournaments next year Rafa.

Federer cruises, Hewitt survives

After beating serving machine Ivo Karlovic in two easy tiebreaks to kick off his US Open Series campaign, Roger Federer only dropped one game per set to Italian qualifier Fabio Fognini, who had taken out Andy Murray 2-and-2 in the second round. Murray may skip Cincinnati next week because he is not feeling fully confident about the state of his wrist yet. The Scotsman is feeling reluctant hitting full power forehands.

In the quarterfinals Federer will face an old rival in Lleyton Hewitt. The 26-year-old Aussie was on court for 3 hours and 12 minutes on Thursday and survived two match points in his win over Slovak veteran Dominik Hrbaty.

It will be the 19th time Federer and Hewitt will square off. Hewitt dominated the rivalry in their younger years, while Federer has won the last nine meetings. The balance currently sits at 11-7 Federer.

The last time these two greats met was back in 2005, when Federer needed four sets to defeat Hewitt in the US Open semis. Nearly two years later, it goes unsaid that Federer will once again be favored to win, but Hewitt could pose a real threat. Despite having lost the last nine encounters to his Swiss opponent, it’s been quite some time since their last meeting and Hewitt has a real desire to get back to the pinnacle of the game again. He’ll want this win more than anything. Furthermore, Hewitt is a player who will always believe in his chances and therefore Federer needs to be at his best to avoid getting into trouble.

Roddick vs. Djokovic
Another great match in prospect. Roddick easily routed Marcos Baghdatis in the third round on Thursday, but in all fairness, there was not much Andy had to do to take the Cypriot out. Baghdatis was nowhere near his best, producing one easy miss after the other. Roddick was serving well and he was effective with his slice backhand, which stayed low and had quite some stick on it. Against Djokovic he will have to do more than just keep the ball in play though, because the Serb has the edge when it comes to exchanging groundies. Roddick needs a great serving day and keep the points short to eliminate the red hot Djoker.

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10 Comments for Mathieu lets Nadal off the hook, Federer vs. Hewitt

penise Says:

Hewitt a “real threat” to Federer?

Joanna Says:

“Mathieu lets Nadal off the hook”?

Nice biased reporting from tennis-x as usual. We can tell how much you want Nadal to lose so that fanboy favourite Federer can have another free ride to the title.

Dancevic FAN! Says:

You guys need to grow up and face reality – DANCEVIC ALL THE WAY!! OH YAH!!!!

grendel Says:

Nadal himself indicated that Mathieu should have broken him early in the second set – Mathieu’s return off a second serve was apparently about 5 feet out, clearly he succombed to pressure. Isn’t that what letting someone off the hook means? Nadal also pointed out that if Mathieu had won that game, it would have been difficult for him (Nadal) to win the match.
Of course Nadal deserved to win in the end, because he had the steadier nerve, and that’s all part of tennis too.
But bias? That’s just silly.

Alistair Says:

There I was thinking Frank Dancevic was just another blip, that there’s a good reason he’d never won 2 tour matches in a row, that after Fall 2007 we’ll never hear from him again on the ATP tour and not be any the poorer for it. But I was wrong. He just pulled out of a doubles match 20 minutes before its scheduled start (Thursday night in Montreal, the official reason is partner Fred Niemeyer was injured; they were scheduled against Damm/Paes) So welcome to the big leagues, Frank! We trust there’ll be lots more final 8 appearances for you in Slams in the next few years.

samps Says:

I thought Dancevic played superbly though the way he was going for winners all the time was always going to make it risky. Nadal however is playing , lets face it, crap and I think Abe has been a bit kind to him. I think the idea of playing at Stuttgart to gain some points on Fed was ridiculous and completely lacked foresight. He should instead have got more prep on hardcourts where he is clearly struggling. There is no question of the fact that Mathieu had Nadal in the second set. He needs a considerable amount of improvement to beat Djokovic which in all honesty I don’t see happening here. I shall hope however that he plays flatter and more aggressive.

Hewitt seems to be in a bit of spin- his ranking isnt improving so he ends up playing one of the top rankers early and gets knocked out which stagnates his ranking. Maybe he should be playing a couple of smaller tournaments too to get his ranking up the charts. I am fairly certain he doesent have another slam in him barring the most fortuitous of circumstances.

FloridaMan Says:

I think Mathieu and Youzhny are among the biggest underachievers on tour, in terms of the technique of their games. I think they both have great talent, but not the greatest tennis minds, and that’s why they are not achieving what they should be.
As for Dancevic, I agree with Jimmy Arias’s and Leif Shiras’s comments that he is a poor man’s Federer. That’s actually a great compliment. He has graceful strokes where he can produce more power with less effort. Talented shots. He seems to be able to orchestrate points right from the first shot. I think he will go far, provided he does what it takes to get that far.

grendel Says:

Well, Hewitt made it to the quarters, which isn’t so bad. And I thought he was nip and tuck with Federer. Terrific match.
Also, Roddick was impressive in the first set against Djokovic – and I don’t mean his serve, he was actually outserved by the Serb. He was definitely matching Djokovic from the back. Trouble is, he doesn’t seem to be able to keep it up throughout a match against top quality opposition.
Hard to see how Connors can work on that – the mental side – with him. Having spent years being anti-Roddick, I feel rather sad. Can’t see Roddick challenging for the very top any more.

Dancevic FAN! Says:

Dancevic did play great. He has proven to himself that he has the game to compete at the top 50 level. He just has to keep believing!

JCF Says:

Wow.. Djoko beat Roddick, Nadal and Federer to the title? He is well and truly hot this year. Three way race is looking very likely indeed.

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