The good news for Roger Federer is that he’s now a perfect 7-0 on the red clay this year. The bad news is that he hasn’t beaten anyone of significance and his next opponent in Monte Carlo just happens to be an in-form David Nalbandian.
If there is another nemesis outside of Rafael Nadal for Federer it’s Nalbandian. Last fall, David ripped Roger not once but twice indoors at Madrid and Paris to level their series head-to-head 8-8, which Roger had dominated of late until those October meetings.
Now we get along-awaiting rematch between the two, and this time on the dirt where Nalbandian has looked good, especially so after his 6-1, 6-0 destruction of Tommy Robredo.
While David’s busy ripping the hearts of his opponents, Federer’s been teetering. After shaky wins in Estoril and a poor opener against Ruben Ramirez-Hidalgo in which he had to overcome a 5-1 third set hole, Federer finally found good footing on the clay today against the erratic youngster Gael Monfils. A good win yes, a good clay win, um, not really.
Provided he completes the match, Nalbandian will be a true measure of just where we stand with Federer and what we are to expect of the Swiss this clay season, and perhaps even for the rest of year.
The numbers don’t lie, Federer has yet to win a complete match over a Top 10 player this year – and no Pete Sampras doesn’t count – and with his aura in the toilet he desperately needs to send a message that he’s still the guy to beat. And that he’s over his mono or whatever it is that has prompted him to start losing to Americans, start dropping sets to qualifiers and start needing lifelines to get wins over guys with hyphens in their name. Fed needs to get back on the road to greatness, this is his chance.
That all said, I think Nalbandian gets him here just like he did last fall. And I base that on the results. Again, if Federer’s struggling with players like Gremelmayr, Hidalgo, Rochus on clay, what’s an elite dirtballer like Nalbandian going to do to him? Not to mention Nalbandian has his number anyway.
Now if Roger does in fact lose but he keeps the match tight and respectful, I think there’s still some hope for Fed this clay season. If he wins, he definitely sends that message. But if he gets blown away then I think Federer’s in real, real trouble. Like kiss-the-year-end-No. 1-goodbye type of trouble. But heck, how many times have I been wrong before? A lot.
As for the rest of the quarterfinal Monte Carlo Tennis Masters matches, it’s a shame Nadal and David Ferrer have to meet so early. I know many of you think Rafa will not be able to replicate his past clay form, but I think he will and then some. And so far so good for Rafa in blow-out wins over Ancic and Ferrero. And I think he’ll take care of Ferrer as well and ultimately take this title.
Nikolay Davydenko and Igor Andreev is a tough one to call. I’ll stick with the hot guy, Davydenko, who’s been impossible to beat with the new racquet.
And look at Sam Querrey. The kid’s proving Americans with big serves who stumble around on the clay can still win after wins over Moya, Seppi and Richard Gasquet today. I’m a big Sam fan (how can you not like someone who once hit a record ten consecutive aces) and someday I think he’ll be Top 10 (magic ATP formula: big serve + American + lots of low-quality U.S. events = Top 10) but he’s probably going to get overmatched by Novak Djokovic. No shame in that, Sam, at least you made the trip unlike every other American. Then again you did miss out on a Mardy Fish bachelor party in Vegas, which isn’t such a bad thing either. Guess Sam’s already got his priorities in order. Or maybe he doesn’t.
Should be a great day of tennis, just wish it wasn’t on TV so damn early!
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