Has there ever been a more forgotten former World No. 1 than Juan Carlos Ferrero? Just after the turn of this century Ferrero was not just the King of Clay, he was the King of Tennis, winning the French Open, reaching the US Open final and then a few weeks later finally ascending to the No. 1 Ranking. But then poof, just like that he’s gone.
Today Ferrero had his biggest win since his No. 1 days, beating the unbeatable Rafael Nadal at Rome on a clay surface on which Rafa had lost just once in his last 103 outings and never on the Foro Italico. That’s now changed after a convincing 7-5, 6-1 setback to Ferrero.
I took notice of the score at 4-4, and finally began watching the match online once the second set got underway. Ferrero was playing really well, pushing Nadal around the court. But Rafa was hitting the ball surprisingly short, and Ferrero took full advantage punishing Nadal with an assortment of angles and really attacking the forehand wing to open the court up.
It was a great strategy employed by Ferrero and it paid off in the end. A much deserved victory for JCF who I admired when he was at the top many years ago. So I’m glad to see him back in the spotlight again and I hope he can follow through.
Of course then there’s the issue of Nadal’s blister, and if you caught the match on TV or online no doubt it was there (nice to see the camera to really focus in on that one, glad I wasn’t eating anything while I was watching. Nothing spells ratings like a close-up of a gash in someone’s foot!)
Nadal was quick to say afterward he wasn’t 100% due to the blister which he says first surfaced Sunday. To his credit, Nadal gave it a go and finished out the match. Despite the circumstances, for Ferrero it’s still a great win. He still had to hit the shots and he did. And Ferrero mentioned he too was battling an injury, an adductor problem. So maybe the injuries cancel each other out, that’s one way to look at it!
At the end of the day though it’s tough to draw much from the result given the injury to Rafa. I don’t really buy the argument that Rafa’s loss will be a blessing, giving him time for more rest. Rest is fine the week before the tournament, but right now I’m sure he’d rather be playing and winning matches, not worrying about his feet.
And the loss probably won’t have much of an impact in the locker room. Apart from Ferrero gaining some needed confidence I don’t think guys will suddenly think Rafa’s beatable.
As for the rest of the tournament, the door is now wide open for someone to steal a big-time title and grab some precious points. Roger Federer and his newfound drop shot are now the clear-cut favorite to win in my mind. Fed blitzed Canas yesterday and with Ferrer also getting bounced today I think his path is pretty cushy until the semifinals where I think he’ll run into Nicolas Almagro – sorry, still not believing in Novak just yet – or maybe even Igor Andreev (yeah, I’ll probably have to eat my words but…).
With Nadal exited, the bottom half is up for the American taking. Say what?? It’s a stretch but could we get a Andy Roddick-James Blake semifinal? Heck, they each need just two match wins to do it. Now if that wouldn’t set the clay game back a few hundred years I don’t know what would? (Actually I do know, an Ivo-Roddick final.) Okay, not likely to happen but that fourth quarter is really a coin flip with Ferrero, Blake, Fernando Verdasco and Stan Wawrinka. Roddick will have is hands full with either Tommy Robredo or Nikolay Davydenko that is if he gets by the last Italian standing, Simone Bolelli.
So an eventful start to Rome and at the very least we’ll have some new faces (or a face) in the final. It is also the first time since 2003 Hamburg that Rafa’s played a clay Masters Series event without reaching at least the final. Perhaps a sign of things to come for Rafa? Not just yet.
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