Nadal the Destroyer; Gonzalez, Dementieva Win Before the Rain
by Sean Randall | June 2nd, 2008, 10:52 am
  • 38 Comments

Waking up to Roland Garros today has turned into waking up to rain, again. Roger Federer was up two sets on Julien Benneteau before the rain hit. And Maria Sharapova sneaked out the first set but will be down a break when play resumes, which is hopefully fairly soon.

Before the inclement weather, Elena Dementieva used three sets to turn away Vera Zvonareva, and Fernado Gonzalez ran his record to a perfect 16-0 on clay this year, thumping Robby Ginepri. (Looks like I didn’t miss much while I slept!)

But the tournament story really isn’t the rain, but it’s a word that rhymes with rain, pain. And pain is something that Rafael Nadal has been afflicting on all comers.

Novak Djokovic might be playing well and Roger Federer is having his way with a pretty easy draw. But Nadal is destroying his opponents. And the stats bear it out.

Losing just three games to Fernando Verdasco and five games to Nieminen spells trouble for everyone else. Plus, in the final sets of his four matches this week he’s surrendered just five games total. That tells me that he’s either getting stronger and/or his opponents are running out of gas.

So for Nicolas Almagro, his next opponent, or even looking ahead to Djokovic or Federer, how the heck are one of them going to win not one, not two but three sets in a single match over a healthy Nadal? How is that going to happen when Rafa has lost a total of one set this year and the last combined.

As I said before, Nadal’s greatest weapon at Roland Garros may be the best-of-5 format.

Further, while Nadal’s been obliterating the competition, Fed’s having trouble serving out sets against mighty dirtballers like Julien Benneteau and dropping sets to Albert Montanes. Djokovic has looked the sharper of the two, but let’s face it, neither guy has really played anyone worth his lick on clay. Paul-Henri is okay, but late in a Slam the guy has no belief. And Gremelmayr, who was on top of Novak in the opener, is no where near among the elite on the dirt.

However that should change moving forward. Ernests Gulbis is a worthy foe and one who I think figures to test Djokovic, so we’ll see just where the Serb is. And Gonzalez should be able to push Federer a little more than anyone else has thus far.

But at the end of the day I still see Fed and Rafa getting to finals, and I’m hoping my man Gael Monfils can navigate through Ljubicic and the Stepanek/Ferrer winner (I could see either player winning, I’ll almost lean toward Radek there) and end up in the semifinals somehow. Would be great to see!

As for the women, looks like an Ana Ivanovic v. Svetlana Kuznetsova final. And I think Sveta might just win it! Sharapova keeps getting lifelines from her opponents, but I think Sveta will take care of here, and Ana should finally put away the banged up Jankovic.


Also Check Out:
Dementieva Beats Sharapova for WTA Toronto Title
Dementieva Runs Through All-Russian Final at WTA Auckland
Nadal Hammers Absent Gonzalez, Advances to US Open Sunday Semifinals
Jankovic Survives, Williams Sisters Friday at French Open
Federer Grabs Olympic Gold in Doubles; Djokovic Beats Blake for Singles Bronze

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38 Comments for Nadal the Destroyer; Gonzalez, Dementieva Win Before the Rain

jane Says:

This pretty much says it all Sean,

“Losing just three games to Fernando Verdasco and five games to Nieminen spells trouble for everyone else. Plus, in the final sets of his four matches this week he’s surrendered just five games total. That tells me that he’s either getting stronger and/or his opponents are running out of gas.”

Rafa seems to get stronger as matches go on, which doesn’t bode well for competition. Federer was talking about his health in one of his pressers this week (I think it was the one after Ancic) and he said how he’s feeling good and ready for 5 setters. So I think he’s well aware of the challenge Nadal will pose.

But I agree that it’s difficult to see anyone taking 3 sets off Rafa here.


andrea Says:

there was a hilarious tongue in cheek article on the onion.com a couple of years back regarding nadal and clay. can’t find it but it basically paid homage to the fact that the guy lives and breathes for the clay.

the match yesterday was a bit strange. verdasco seemed to be favoring a leg making everyone think he was going to retire and then in the third set found some gumption to play ball. despite this he was still whacked by nadal in a rather embarrassing way.

haven’t read much about the apparent dizziness nadal was concerned about – hope that isn’t a factor…still dreaming for my fed-nadal final….


Agassifan Says:

lets wait for djokovic/nadal match. They would be playing for the no 2 ranking for the second time in less than a month!

Fed nadal it is. But this time, Fed has a better shot. There are far less expectations from him, plus he has a sharp clay court mind on his side (Higueras), something he has never had. Of the 4 sets he has lost to Nadal, he lost three of them 5-7, while leading in all three, so he definitely has the goods to beat nadal in 5 sets on clay, if he doesn’t choke again.

Lets see.


Nara Says:

The big question for me is why Fed is choking so much when trying to serve out sets. It does not bode well for when he plays top-tier players.


Agassifan Says:

BTW, fed has lost only one set in reaching the QF at the french this year, that too at 6-7. So he definitely is playing the big points well, which is a good sign, since he has had a few close sets.

If Nadal beats almagro, djokovis, and then fed, then he definitely deserves his 4th FO title, since these three have been the next best 3 players on clay this year after him.


jane Says:

Agassifan,

“If Nadal beats almagro, djokovis, and then fed, then he definitely deserves his 4th FO title, since these three have been the next best 3 players on clay this year after him.”

Very true – he has a tough road ahead.

Just to throw some crazy ideas out there, what if it’s Gulbis, or Stepanek? I know this would mean big upsets, but I wonder how they’d match up with Rafa? Rafa’s not played Step since 2005 (but does hold a 4:0 H2H) and he’s never played Gulbis.

I think the Djoko upset is more likely than the Fed one, but one never knows.


jane Says:

Monfils blows it serving for the set. Also, his court positioning remains too defensive; he’s way behind the baseline most of the time, and Ljubicic will capitalize on that.


andrea Says:

what about the safina come back! down a set and 5-2 in the second set, wins the 2nd set tiebreak and then takes the third. bye bye sharapova.


jane Says:

Overall, nice tennis in this Monfils vs. Ljubicic match thus far. Monfils simply flows when it’s clicking for him; he’s wonderful to watch. He moves well, volleys pretty well; he’s instinctual. But step in a little Gael.

I guess if he wins today he’ll face the winner of Ferrer and Step, which would mean a tough out.


Von Says:

Safina, Yes!! That girl’s got nerves of steel, unlike big brother. I’ve seen such comebacks from her before in two previous tournaments. I would love to see a Dementieva/Safina final. Now that Sharapova’s gone, I can listen to the commentators again — no need to hit the ‘mute’ button.

I’m rooting for Stepanek to take out Ferrer.


PJ Says:

Von, Dementieva and Safina are meeting in the quarters. I give credit to both girls in that match. Maria really didn’t play poorly, and Safina turned it on when her back was against the wall.

And, the rain delay was nice because TTC showed some doubles, which typically doesn’t happen this early in the tournament.


I like tennis bullies not tennis sissies Says:

Shriekapova got booed off the court LOL! Great match from Safina but is she capable of going all the way to the title or will she falter in the next round like she usually does?

http://www.theonion.com/content/news/rafael_nadal_credits_french_open
—————-

rotflmao!


Voicemale1 Says:

Federer has been inconsistent in his play here thus far: he looked flawless against Ancic (the Ralph Maccio look-a-like), but looked less than inspiring against Benneteau today, and he didn’t look that great losing the tiebreak to Montanes earlier. In the last 2 years at The French, Federer has played some tight-looking tennis from the QF’s on. Last year against Robredo in the QF he got his serve broken 3 times in a single set, losing that set 6-1!. And he should have outright lost the SF last year to Davydenko, who was up a break in all three sets before he choked that match away – as Kolya often does in Majors. His QF this time is with Gonzo, who’s playing really well and is excellent on clay. Last year Federer came into the French with a much better record than this year, and lest anyone forget – Gonzo was the only guy to beat Federer outright at the YEC in Shanghai last November, and came from a set down that day. Federer’s got a rocky road ahead of him if he wants to get to the Final here again, to be sure.

Djokovic hasn’t looked all that good here either: he’s had his serve broken 9 times in four rounds. Gulbis is one of those dangerous types: a young gun that hits big and has nothing to lose and everything to gain in a match like this QF – Djokovic will have all the pressure. That said, Gulbis has also coughed up a LOT of unforced errors thus far, including 51 in his 2nd Round match alone. It’ll be about which one of them can keep up the most error-free blasting.

Nadal has looked the best of the Top 3, by far. Verdasco had some sort of physical thing going on, and to his credit he finished out the match. Nadal’s not only getting the depth back on the forehand side, he’s getting it on the backhand too. And his slice backhand nowadays isn’t just being hit – it’s being knifed, and going deep into enemy territory. As for Almagro, he’s got a single handed backhand, which means Nadal’s Topspin Superball will force Almagro to hit his backhand from above his ears most of the day, rather than below his shoulders like he has been so far. His backhand is his better shot, but the tough thing about Nadal’s relentless pounding of a right-handers backhand is that it forces the opponent to keep covering the backhand side almost instinctively in every point, until they get so focused covering that side and forget the wide open court on the forehand side, which Nadal then hits into at his choosing. Can’t say I like Almagro’s chances to win.

And even should Djokovic get through the Gulbis match, Sean has a point. It took Djokovic three years and a 3 hour-match to win his only SET from Nadal on clay, and that was two weeks ago in Hamburg – where the cold and damp conditions that day basically negated Nadal’s Topspin Forehand from the uber-high bounce he gets on faster clay. Djokovic gets the better of Nadal on hard courts because of power – harder, flatter shots. Power like his is negated by clay. And Nadal has no fear of anyone here anyway. Neil Harman of the London Times was saying at the Draw before the tournament, Nadal was sitting in the front row as Ana Ivanovic drew the men’s seeds, and when she drew Djokovic’s name to be in his half, Harman saw Nadal give her a wink & smile. Seems like Rafa WANTED Djokovic to be in his half. Guess Rafa’s feeling pretty good about his chances :).


jane Says:

“Harman saw Nadal give her a wink & smile. ”

Course this could’ve been for other reasons as well; she is rather cute.


Sean Randall Says:

Great win by Safina. She certainly has the game the beat Maria on clay (many players do), but when i gets to crunch time can she put it together upstairs and get the job done, which is what she did. Impressive.

I also like Monfils. Just hope he can hold it together. And Stepanek does pull it out against Ferrer I think Monfils should beat Radek and get to the semifinals. That’s right, Monfils in a Slam semi!

Perhaps I am getting ahead of myself…

Nice analysis Voicemale1. I would agree with just about everything but Almagro, who I think is strong enough to handle the Nadal forehand spin off his backhand. We’ll see.


Agassifan Says:

She IS rather cute. I would say the cutest on the tour!


Von Says:

PJ:

“Von, Dementieva and Safina are meeting in the quarters. I give credit to both girls in that match. Maria really didn’t play poorly, and Safina turned it on when her back was against the wall.”

Thanks for the info. I have not been keeping track of the draw. However, Dementieva has a great game; so does Safina — they would have made a great final instead of a QF. I’ts now difficult to choose a winner. May the best woman win!!

I read somewhere that Nadal has been dating Wozniacki off and on. She’s very cute also.


Tote Tennis Pro Says:

erb comeback by Dinara Safina to stun and defeat her more famous Russian compatriot Maria Sharapova (aka Miss Gruntapova). What a game i had the feeling that if Safina can win the second set tie break, then she can step up a gear and with nothing to lose can really go for it. And she took her chance!

This years Ladies tournament is probably the most wide open in years, especially with the Willams sisters going out early, Sharapova out and of course Henin’s shock retirement form the game. Anyone from Ivanovic, Jankovic, Safina,Dementieva and Kuzentsova can go on to win it.


andrea Says:

federer has to be much better than today to beat gonzalez (and possibly ferrer…by the looks of the scoreboard so far) and not to mention nadal. he had too many errors today. 42 or something like that.

he knows that everything has to be firing to beat nadal. if his serve or forehand take a nap during the match, bye bye french open title.

i’ve been watching how nadal plays other players cos he is ruthless about getting federer into the ad court plowing his backhand. not so much with other players. he knows he’ll eventually get the error from fed in that corner.


Smith Says:

I like Sharapova, but she deserved to lose that match today, Her lapses in concentration and her choking in these kinds of matches is becoming a real issue. Everyone talks about her mental toughness, but his is not a one-time occurrence with her. She lets leads – big leads- slip away quite often.

Whenever she serves for matches or sets she seems to lose her serve. This is happening more and more often. Never should have lost this match, but good job from Safina in keeping her wits about her and letting Sharapova self-destruct out there.

I have no idea who will win the women’s title. With the way this tournament is going, Kaia Kinepi or Suarez-Navarro could win.


UTP Says:

Nadal has been pretty much invincible and I would be surprised if anybody comes even close to beating him….

One guy I have been watching out for is Monfils…he is somebody who may just surprise a few people…lets see….


jane Says:

Wow – I went off to work when Step had won the thrid 6:1 and assumed he was on his way to the upset. Not so. Guess the road-runner wore him out? Guess I’ll have to watch it later.

Glad to see Monfils through; it would be nice to see him get to the semis.

Either way, whether Monfils or Ferrer get through, I think Fed’s road to the final is paved. I may be wrong; I realize Gonza can be tough, and maybe if Monfils gets on a roll, with the crowd behind him. But I just can’t see it. In all likelihood, Fed and Nadal will square off in their 3rd FO final. And although people talk about Djokovic wearing Rafa out, I can’t see it. Rafa will be ready for whomever whenever at RG. He’s like Javier Bardem in /No Country for Old Men/ minus the bad haircut. They both have special weapons; they are both unstoppable.


Spirit Says:

Fed’s mental barrier against Nadal? Yeah, but what about the other guys? Not a single one of them came a thousand miles close to beating Nadal on clay, and we’re talking about “clay specialists”. Yeah, right. (Ferrero?… oh, give me a break :)

I think Fed will overcome the challenge of Gonzo and Ferrer (probably), and will make his third straight final. Where he will lost to Nadal, unfortunately (for me :(… and for a simple reason – it would be unfair to Nadal (being such a clay-monster) if anyone else (Bjorn Borg) had more consecutive RG titles than him.

Fed’s game is like a perfectly designed crystal glass, with only one problem – it can break easily at some point of a match against Nadal on clay, and when it’s broken, it’s broken :( Best-of-5 is mission impossible for anyone, if Nadal remains injury-free, he will chase down every single ball, you can bet.


Skorocel Says:

To Von:

I too would wish for a Dementieva vs Safina final, but to be honest, if I had to wish someone a win, it would be Dementieva. She’s got some excellent groundstrokes, but (as you may know) that awful serve has unfortunately let her down more than often… She has been there already for some 5-7 years, reached 2 slam finals, so it would be only fitting for her to finally lift that trophy I guess… As for the Serbians, they simply aren’t my favourites…


Skorocel Says:

To Voicemale1:

Djokovic & Federer fragile on clay, Nadal on the other hand invincible, his uber-topspin FH sky-high on a hot day, not so on a cloudy, rainy day, etc. etc. Can you dude speak about something different than this?


Von Says:

Skorocel:

“She has been there already for some 5-7 years, reached 2 slam finals, so it would be only fitting for her to finally lift that trophy I guess… As for the Serbians, they simply aren’t my favourites…”

I echo your sentiments as well. I too would love to see Dementieva lift the FO trophy. That girl has some game; she’s so fast and her groundies are superb; she plays good tennis — not the ball bashing type. However, as you stated her serve is her biggest downfall. She is to be commended though, in spite of it all, she’s still stayed close to the top 10. Her serve has become somewhat better, but at times it’s painful to watch her when it’s not a good serving day. I dislike when she has to play against the shrieka who seems to relish beating up on Dementieva. I’m not sorry the shrieka lost. I know you’re not sorry for sure. :)


All_Roger Says:

God offered a deal to Roger: ‘Winning against Rafa in Paris – losing to Djokovic in Wimbledon’

Will he accept?


Voicemale1 Says:

Skorocell:

Besides Federer, Nadal and Djokovic – nothing else in tennis is even worth talking about.


Agassifan Says:

I think Roger would accept the deal…..

Rafa played scarily well today. I think he will just blow djokovic away.


Skorocel Says:

Voicemale1 said:

“Besides Federer, Nadal and Djokovic – nothing else in tennis is even worth talking about.”

Hm… What about that guy named Gael Monfils? Or the Safina vs Shriekapova match? ;-)


Skorocel Says:

Von said:

“I’m not sorry the shrieka lost. I know you’re not sorry for sure.”

Well, you can bet that I’m not gonna lost that much sleep over it :)


Skorocel Says:

All_Roger said:

“God offered a deal to Roger: ‘Winning against Rafa in Paris – losing to Djokovic in Wimbledon’

Will he accept?”

If I was Fed, I wouldn’t hesitate for even a second to say YES, and I bet that he himself (despite still proclaiming that SW19 is more important to him) wouldn’t as well… :)


Agassifan Says:

One french title and he can then retire and still be GOAT. So definitely, he would take the deal. Especially considering how well nadal is playing – doesn’t look like he can beat nadal, unless djokovic takes him to 5 sets, 6 hours on friday. Now wouldn’t that be nice!


angel Says:

Nadal will win this thing without dropping a single set, there is nothing to do about that.


Agassifan Says:

No, nadal will lose one set as always to Federer in the final.

But he will straight set djokovic, I think.

Anyway, its a moot point, since he is going to win this thing anyway.


JCF Says:

“Fed nadal it is. But this time, Fed has a better shot. There are far less expectations from him, plus he has a sharp clay court mind on his side (Higueras), something he has never had.”

Nadal has only lost twice in his last 110 matches or so. I don’t think ‘expectations’ are much of an issue for him. He has enough goods to overcome the pressure. If he’s not used to the expectations by now, he damn well should be.

It’s like saying Fed faces a lot of expectation at Wimbledon. It’s true, but he’s won 5 of them in a row, so I don’t think expectation is going to stop him there either.


JCF Says:

“God offered a deal to Roger: ‘Winning against Rafa in Paris – losing to Djokovic in Wimbledon’

Will he accept?”

He will not. Fed has said Wimbledon is the #1 tournament for him, and his top priority. He said even if he had 10 wimbledons and no French Opens, he would rather have an 11th wimbledon than a 1st French. And he still stands by it. Which is why I hope he never wins the French. EVER.

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2 Roger Federer2 Maria Sharapova
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