Cincinnati Day 1 – Safin and a Spanish Flavor
by Dan Martin | August 18th, 2009, 6:18 pm
  • 50 Comments

Preaching to the Choir

If you have not attended a professional tennis tournament, please do so if you can. I highly recommend the event in Cincinnati. The number of players a fan can see at close range on the practice courts and side courts is always great on the first few days of an event. Due to receiving byes, the top players are not seen on day 1 as frequently as in years past. Still, watching Novak Djokovic practice was impressive. His strokes are grooved perfectly, and Djokovic is a great athlete. Anyone who has tried to play tennis ought to be floored watching how easy Novak makes tennis look even compared to most of the other pros playing and practicing in his vicinity.

Impressions from the Day Session

On a day like today, there were many courts to choose from and a lot of sun, heat and humidity to absorb. It was so hot that clouds with visible lightening flashes were still welcome sights as they temporarily cooled the venue while passing over head. Despite the heat, the crowd was strong for an opening day.

I tried to divide my time as best I could to see enough of multiple players and matches. I wanted to see great things, so the first place I stopped was the Igor Andreev – Nicholas Kiefer match as I had never seen Andreev’s forehand live. When he has time to hit it, Andreev generates a ridiculous amount of pace and spin on his forehand wing. An unexpected bonus was seeing Nichols Kiefer serving big and executing nice drop volleys in a tight 2nd set. At 5-5, Andreev trailed by a break point and crushed a forehand that hit the top of the net, bounced about 6 inches into the air, hit the net again and rolled onto Kiefer’s side of the court. Instead of facing a likely 3rd set, Andreev led 6-5 and broke Kiefer to end the match. I expect Andreev to give Gilles Simon all he can handle in the 2nd round. This was a good start to the day.

After being wowed by Djokovic’s practice, my companions (more below) and I watched most of the Stanislas Wawrinka – David Ferrer match. If this were boxing, Stan and David would be an undercard bout headlined by a Federer-Nadal main event. While I was impressed with Wawrinka’s backhand and most of his game, it was clear early that Ferrer is a bad match-up for the Swiss. Stanislas’ lacks an overwhelming weapon to earn free points. On a hot day versus a lightening quick and consistent Ferrer, Wawrinka had to force the issue more than he usually does. Playing more aggressively meant errors and missed 1st serves. This was a fairly routine win for Ferrer minus some colorful language from the Spaniard (more below).

I did get to watch the end of the Ivo Karlovic versus Gael Monfils match. (Are Wawrinka – Ferrer and Karlovic – Monfils really 1st round matches?) Before play began, I saw Karlovic stretching near the press box. He is obviously tall, but in person he also looks a lot stronger and more intimidating than John Isner did when I covered Indianapolis in July. Karlovic won the final set in a tie-breaker by serving back to back 135 mph aces. Ivo does not move well if an opponent can hit behind him, but his service motion alone leaves him ¾ of the way to the service line as he rushes the net. Ivo could give Nadal a tough match if they meet in the 3rd round.

Fernando Verdasco is incredible. Feliciano Lopez and Verdasco won their doubles match. Lopez is a strong smooth athlete, but Verdasco was jaw dropping at times. Verdasco is exceptionally quick and hits his forehand even bigger than Andreev. His backhand has pop, he has good hands at the net for a baseliner and his serve is solid. With his speed and forehand, he can bully players from the baseline in doubles. Whatever “it” is, Verdasco has it. I hope to see more singles results akin to the 2009 Australian Open as his game and athleticism are top flight.

Jeremy Chardy also has a live arm. His win over the steady Tommy Robredo was an exhibition in huge serves and crushing forehands. Chardy won the match with a deft cross court angle volley. Chardy has all of the tools to contend for big prizes.

Night Session – Safin’s Last Stand?

Marat Safin is one of the most vexing talents tennis fans have ever encountered. Look at the semifinal and final rounds of the 2000 U.S. Open and 2005 Australian Open. “Safin could have …” and “Safin should have …” are sentences that have passed through all of our minds. His two handed backhand is still among the best on tour. Robby Ginepri put up a valiant effort in losing 7-5, 7-6, but Safin lives to play at least 1 more match in Cincinnati. The trajectory of their ground strokes told the tale of the match. Ginepri must put some air under the ball to get depth. This is not bad, but it also allowed Safin to at times tee off even if Robby’s shots landed close to the baseline. Marat can change the direction of the ball and drive the ball through the court with depth at will. Had Robby won the 2nd set, I think Marat might have folded as both players looked drained by the ridiculous humidity of southern Ohio.

La Familia

My youngest sister and father drove from Louisville to watch the day session. I spent most of my time watching matches with them rather than hanging out in the air conditioned press box (blood is thicker than wisdom?). My sister lives in Spain working as a teacher during the school year. Not surprisingly we saw a lot of Spaniards play today watching Tommy Robredo and David Ferrer play singles as well as Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco play doubles. We kept an eye on Juan Carlos Ferrero’s practice session as well. Spain is a dominant force in tennis with a deep crop of talented players. Of course Spain is also the reigning Davis Cup champion and home to Rafael Nadal holder of 6 Grand Slam titles and a gold medal.

My sister jotted down some of the words David Ferrer yelled at different points in his match with Stanislas Wawrinka. While I know more than 1 semester of Spanish, having a translator around added a new dimension to match analysis. I will simply say Ferrer dropped several joders/f-bombs and said a few things that go beyond the f bomb when translated into English. To be fair, I was not offended by what he said. The fact that Ferrer was berating himself and risking audible obscenity penalties in sweltering conditions during a match he was winning has me thinking that David could conserve energy by avoiding such outbursts. Ferrer will need all the energy he can muster versus Marin Cilic. Humorously, Fernando Verdasco yelled “puta!” when he got lobbed in his doubles match, and Feliciano Lopez smashed his racket on 2 occasions for no discernible reason.

Travel Odyssey

I have not had good luck in my journeys to professional tennis events in 2009. My drive to the Indianapolis Tennis Center was marred by bad directions from an internet site that led to a stream of words that might have put Ferrer to shame. This morning I should have had a simple 45 minute drive to Mason, Ohio yet an entire set of roads going the direction I needed were closed. The road signs should have just said, “All exits from the county are blocked.” I can take heart that neither trip lived up to the misadventures seen in “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” as I was not beaten up by a bible salesman. Then again Lleyton Hewitt versus Robin Soderling could generate a man of constant sorrow on day 2.


Also Check Out:
Safin Returning to Tennis, Senior Tennis
Haas Wins, Safin Out; Tuesday Schedule at ATP Madrid
Marat Safin Elected To Russian Parliament
Nadal Wins, Federer v Wawrinka in All-Swiss Thursday at Monte Carlo
Federer, Nadal Cruise Into Wimbledon Semifinals

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50 Comments for Cincinnati Day 1 – Safin and a Spanish Flavor

Polifka Says:

Whatever Verdasco had, he must have lost it. He is out. He is on a bus out of town.

I’m sick of these guys messing up my ATP Bracket Challenge.


jane Says:

Dan sounds like an excellent first day; thanks for the recap and especially your words on watching Djoko practice. He does seem very athletic and incredibly flexible.

I was surprised to see how well Isner played against Haas; he’s really rounding out his game and who knows? Maybe he could be a formidable USA talent going forward?


gordon Says:

Thanks Dan for bringing to us the Cinci atmosfere…


The Binocular Says:

I don’t think the criticism of Safin is fair.

He never sounded like a man aspiring to great heights, rather somebody who just wanted to have fun.

His distaste for grass courts was typical of him.

Safin is just a great entertainer.


The ranking system probably needs to be changed though


PietjeP Says:

Nice post Dan! You really gave a good impression of the experience/feel of the event!

How long will you stay in Cincy? Whole week?


sar Says:

Overcast yesterday, much better but still steamy. On practice courts I saw Djokvic hitting with Vassalo Arguelo, Ferrer hitting with Andreev, Nenad and Z, Bryans, Almagro, Dr. Ivo and Murray, and PHM. Watched some excellent matchess.
Met with tenisbebe during the day briefly. A very wonderful person. Later, we had a cocktail and chatted after her shift. Leaving hotel now to watch Djoko, Nadal, Fed and Murray. Roddick tonight.


Dan Martin Says:

Alas, I was given credentials for only the first 2 days of the men’s event – the press box was packed even with the representatives of some media outlets such as Tennis Magazine not having arrived yet. I think in the food chain I was on the bottom, but maybe next year I’ll get more days. I made the most of the two days I had.

My day 2 report should be up soon.


Dan Martin Says:

I also met tenisbebe yesterday! She is a nice person who is putting int 2 weeks to help tennis grow in the Midwest and lives 90 minutes from Cincy.


Cindy_Brady Says:

I will be attending this years U.S. Open. have tickets for the final.

I’m praying Federer will be in it. I might scalp my tickets if Roddick is there and Fed isn’t. Von, would you be interested?

Seriously,

I was in Cincinnati 5 years ago and witnessed Agassi slaughter Hewitt in straight sets. Everyone was predicting Hewitt would win because Agassi was looking old. Agassi’s ground game was magnificent that day. Incredible the way he picked up the ball consistently on the rise with ease. Best ground stroker I’ve ever seen of off both wings.

Dan Martin is correct. Cincinnati is the BOMB!!


Dan Martin Says:

Agassi did have 1 in 1 billion hand eye coordination and eye sight.


Tennis Vagabond Says:

The thing about Verdasco is, his entire reputation is built on 1 match. Otherwise, he’s an older Berdych- a man with terrific athleticism and potential but no results. No one ever talked of Verdasco as a threat until that semis in Australia. Since then, we keep talking about him and he never does anything special. At his age, the odds are against him suddenly becoming a contender. So he will likely continue to be, like Karlovic or Cilic or Berdych or Simon, an interesting floater.


Voicemale1 Says:

Tennis Vagabond Says:
“The thing about Verdasco is, his entire reputation is built on 1 match. Otherwise, he’s an older Berdych- a man with terrific athleticism and potential but no results.”

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Exactly right. Verdasco has had more “promise” than actual results. When Cahill had Agassi and they asked Robredo about all the scuttlebutt about Verdasco as the next big thing from Spain. Tommy said way back then “Nope..Rafa – he’ll be the one”. They insisted it was Verdasco. Robredo laughed and said “OK..but it’ll be Nadal. You’ll see.”. At big moments, Verdasco’s still prone to choking. And he’s more interested in the “drama” during a match (either his own or something else) instead of actually winning it. He’s 0-12 against Federer & Nadal combined. This year will be his career year, and he’ll start the slow fade not long from now.
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Dan Martin Says:
“Agassi did have 1 in 1 billion hand eye coordination and eye sight.”
– - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -

Totally true. But evidently the next one in the billion happened along. Mary Carillo was talking to Nadal about three years ago and wanna know what he told her Federer had over everybody else? “Unbelievable Eyesight” were Rafael’s exact words on the subject. And it’d be hard to argue, give how well Federer’s done neutralizing something like the Roddick Serve.


Dan Martin Says:

Voicemale and vagabond – good points on FV – I feel like a guy who saw a lot of flash at a car dealership only to find the car while powerful has no handling.


jane Says:

Tsonga is down a set and two breaks in the second set against Guccione. Tsonga can be compared to Verdasco; while he’s had better results, he also gets caught up in the drama of a match, and he shares the same inconsistency. Hot one week; not so hot the next. To me, Tsonga has the greater potential of the two and really should win a slam with his talents. But.

Djoko’s scraping by versus Ljub with an overall mediocre serve. At least there have been no strings of double faults. And he has shown some flashes, like the game to get the break in the second set. He’ll have his hands full with the winner of Isner or Chardy – both of these guys could be tough on this fast surface.

Speaking of eyesight, apparently Djoko has that going for him; they say he does the best with hawkeye challenges. Meanwhile it’s the bane for Fed.

I wonder how Rafa meant Fed’s eyes were so good, since they’ve apparently failed him at dusk at Wimbledon and he often makes abysmal challenges. Maybe Rafa was referring specifically to hand-eye coordination, which is different. And in that regard, Fed does seem to be superior.


jane Says:

It tiebreak city this morning/afternoon in Cincy and I see PHM took the first set from Dr. Ivo in just such fashion. Hmmm.


Veno Says:

Congrats Jane, Novak got the job done, however enough room to improve…Hope his serve will click better next round. Agree on Tsonga, picked him in 2 but Vonnie was right, Chris overpowered him…

Let’s see how Safin will fare!!!


Duro Says:

Hi Janie!


Duro Says:

Jane, one detail for you. When Novak lift his hand up to signalize the ball wasn’t good in the match with Roddick and after that all went wrong for him (he was up one break and 40-15 on serve in that moment) the English commentators said that it wasn’t his job to do so and that he should concentrate only on his game. But, that’s our Nole… Too expensive school in his case, but maybe the one that he’ll never finish, partly because it’s his nature and he wants it that way. In today’s mercy less sports – unimaginable.


jane Says:

Hi Duro! I think it was a nice gesture by Djoko, but the commentators are probably right that it’s not his job. Still, it was honorable, and I admire him for that, win or lose.

Let’s cheer for more wins. : ) Hope your little ones are well…and you too!


jane Says:

Veno, Some nice clutch serving from Safin in this match so far, eh?


Veno Says:

oh yes, break point down and boom!!!

Fed also serving much better….8 aces in 4 service games…


Veno Says:

make that 10 in 5…


jane Says:

Veno, imo, these days, Fed’s serve is his best weapon, more so than his forehand, which is less consistent. His serve, to me, has been most consistent overall, as was evident, for e.g., in the final with Roddick at SW19, and has dug Roger out of some tough spots.


Duro Says:

Jane, I am on my hollyday, so very well thank you. My youngest is making his first steps (just turned 10 months) and I gave him a racquet to hold on to.


Veno Says:

I agree Jane, he’s turning into Pete more lol


Von Says:

“Tennis Vagabond Says:
“The thing about Verdasco is, his entire reputation is built on 1 match. Otherwise, he’s an older Berdych- a man with terrific athleticism and potential but no results.”

I agree, he’s presently hyped to the ‘nth by Cahill ad nauseam on ESPN to the point that I have to mute my TV. I think of Verdasco as a player who’s more interested in the neon lights than his tennis — it’s as though he thinks he’s always on show, which he is for his tennis, but in his mind it’s only ‘HIM’ the crowd’s watching. I think after his match with Roddick last week he’s lost some heart and is now thinking that he really can’t cut it with the top 5 guys regardless of how much he tries, hence his poor match play yesterday. Roddick has stated on a few occasions that Verdasco is one who is prone to highs and lows in a match and if one is patient, he’ll eventually crumble.
____________________
Dan, glad you mentioned those ‘F’ bombs by Ferrer. Considering how much the English speaking athletes are crucified for anything they say, and an accusation I’ve defended many times by saying ‘they all do it’, it’s nice to know that my observation has some merit. I’ve often stated the English speaking players should learn to speak a second language which would eliminate the criticisms levelled only at them by those who love to rip them apart. Case in point, at DC, DelPotro levelled some hot ‘expletives’ in his native tongue at Norm Chryst, but no one seemed to notice, they only heard Roddick’s question to the umpire on a disputed call. Anyway, some of that is due to selective hearing and criticism due to personal preferences by some for specific players whereby inappropriate behavior is selectively tuned out, but it’s really sad and petty IMO to be so selectively discriminatory.


jane Says:

Too bad, was really hoping to see Murray vs. Safin, presuming Murray will come through today. But Stepanek played a way better 3rd set.


Tennis Vagabond Says:

Jane- very true about Fed’s serve. And fact is, that weapon was what went missing during the “slump” year, as highlighted with the dismal serving in the AO final.
It was in Madrid that Fed’s game came back, and it was the serve that led the way.
His forehand, though shakier than Classic Fed, is still MUCh better than it was in ’08, especially more aggressive, but I think his backhand is much improved as well.


Von Says:

Veno: Hello, a shout out to you! I’ve had one busy morning and early afternoon today and am finally able to take a break. So I was right after all about Tsonga losing to Guccione, but am not happy, however, I’m not surprised also. Jo wil seems to operate nowadays like an electrocardiogram readout or the stock market thus ensuring dips in concentration and play. It’s so sad that he’s prone to such predictable inconsistencies.

I noticed from the posts that Djoko won his match today, so good for him, and I bet jane is happy that she has something to look forward to for tomorrow. It’s funny how we are all so grateful for these tiny morsels thrown our way when our players win and live to fight for yet another day.

What are the results for Safin/Stepanek?


Dan Martin Says:

Von, That section got a little long so I edited it down. My Spanish is not bad and I heard “baracho” after Ferrer missed a shot late in the match. My guess is what he muttered before that implied he was playing like he was drunk. “coño”, “joder”, “puta”, “hijo de puta” and “miedra” were all flung around by Ferrer during his match with Wawrinka.


Von Says:

Dan:

David does use expletives and has some very laughable on-court histrionics much worse than a lot of players. The ‘F’ bombs and expletives don’t bother me at all, as I’ve heard much worse traveling on the NYC Subway System, which was indeed a huge eye-opening experience and a crash course on expletives for me, having lived with nuns at a Catholic Boarding School for most of my teenage years. LOL. My point is that ALL of the players do it, even the perceived saints, and it’s normal for most young men, therefore, I don’t understand why some posters like to harp on it and make it the focal point of their match breakdown. To reiterate, it’s petty and it demonstrates that some are just looking for a smidgen of negativism to beat up on selective players because of their dislike for those players.


Von Says:

jane: “To me, Tsonga has the greater potential of the two and really should win a slam with his talents. But.”

I don’t think so at all. I think Verdasco is a far superior returner than Tsonga will ever be, (Tsonga returns ala Blake and Gonzalez without much thought). Additionally, Verdasco being a ‘lefty’ can always, and should be a problem for the right-handed players, except he doesn’t exploit that facet of his potential to the fullest and it almost seems as though he’s unaware that he has such an advantage.


Polo Says:

Hi Von,

How do you think our pet Roddick will do this week? Let me analyze how he will do against the others. Oh, Federer, Nadal, Murray, del Potro, Djokovic are playing? Tough luck then. He will probably beat one or, if lucky, two of them but to get through all of them? Formidable task wouldn’t you say? When was the last time he beat all those guys. It must have been quite a while now or so rare that I don’t seem to remember it anymore. Maybe you can remind me. By the way, do you need somebody to hold your hand when Roddick plays. You do need a lot of support because you seem unable to handle his loss quite well. And he does seem to lose a lot against the really good players, doesn’t he. Well, hopefull this time he will be really lucky. He needs it, the poor guy, trying so hard after all these years and still coming up empty. Do take care. Remember, while there is life, there is hope.


jane Says:

But Tsonga can play better all-court tennis, imo, Von. He may not be as good of a returner (to be honest, I’ve not paid that close of attention to Verdasco’s returning skills), but to me Tsonga’s got a stronger serve (Verdasco’s may be more consistent – he has a better 1st serve% – but Tsonga is a better server all round and the stats bear that out), he has way better touch / volleying abilities, and Tsonga has an equally as powerful and effective forehand. Plus Tsonga’s had more wins against the top guys, which suggests to me that when he knows he’s playing well, Tsonga is also mentally stronger than Verdasco (i.e., in clutch moments).


Von Says:

jane: I agree that Tsonga’s history v. the top guys is more impressive than Verdasco’s and that translates to him being more mentally tough, e.g., last Friday, but overall, I do believe Verdasco is the better player, talent wise, except for that litle problem — his mental toughness. Also, Verdasco is pretty good at the net from playing doubles. Based on talent alone, I give the edge to Verdasco, but Oy Vey, his deficiency on mental toughness is his Achilles heel However, it’s been something he has been working on and could still become a plus for him, but Only time will tell …


Von Says:

Polo: Out of respect for some Fed fans whom i like very much, I won’t answer your little digs, but I could really come up with some nice ones on your fave. However, I’d advise you to start looking for another avenue from which to obtain your cheap thrills instead of focusing on Roddick and me. BTW, is your life so meaningless that you’ve got to stoop so low (as in the mire) as to perpetually seek pleasure from harassment? sheesh Remember: hate kills.


Von Says:

C’mon Rafa, kick some butt (unfortunately I like Seppi) and shut up the cttics while putting fear in some, so that their knees will again begin shaking. Go for it champ!!


Polo Says:

Von,

Thank you for your response. I love the way you spin things to make me look bad to other Federer fans who you are now trying to brown nose. You are transparent and your motives are obvious. But I am surprised that you took offense to my very objective assessment of Roddick. Anyone who follows tennis could tell how accurate to the face my analysis was. Unfortunately, sometimes truth hurts. I was trying to ease your pain but you are to deep in despair to feel it. I will let you fume and try to get more allies but whatever wiles you deem would work. I will come back at the end of this week. Maybe I will be congratulating you for Roddick’s win. Let us keep our fingers crossed.


Polo Says:

By the way Von, being inconsistent, I have stopped rooting for Federer since he has won so much already. I will still feel happy if he wins. But if he loses, that would be OK. Federer has so many wins already. It would be nice if others could win too. Some really good players have only one slam to show for their entire careers, you now. You could probably deduce by now, that I have decided to join you in cheering for Roddick. GO RODDICK!!!


Von Says:

How about a big round of applause for the Tennis Channel for finally realizing after approximately hello, 12 days that their programme needed updating, and one which made recording Montreal and Cincy a humongous and almost impossible task! Mazel Tov TC – way to go!!


Polo Says:

Yes, good job Tennis Channel. It is so exciting to watch the matches live from 1 to 9 PM.

Oh, no!!! Roddick lost the first set tiebreaker. Have no fear my co-Roddick fans. That is only Querrey. Roddick should still come out on top.


Ezorra Says:

Come On Roddick. You can do it!!!


Ezorra Says:

Poor Roddick. However, if we’re looking at the positive side of it, it may well be that Roddick will have more time to rest prior to the Open. He’s one of the best players in the world right now so I’m sure that he knows the best thing to do to ensure that he can perform excellent during USO.


Ezorra Says:

BTW, to sorry Von, TD Tam and other Roddick fans. Your good time will come, believe me! Don’t worry be happy!


Ezorra Says:

BTW, sorry to Von, TD Tam and other Roddick fans. Your good time will come, believe me! Don’t worry be happy!


Polo Says:

Oh, no! Roddick lost. I was so sure he was going to get even in the second set then take the match. Well, that was painful watching Roddick lost to the 26th ranked Querrey. What will happen to him now after losing too many matches which I and all his fans expected him to win yet lost prior to the US Open? Well, as a truly devoted, albeit new fan, I will continue to hopeful that some miracle will happen and he will finally win a second major. It hurts. It had been too long since his one and only major.


Dan Martin Says:

Sar,

I just found out we have a facebook presence here at tennis-x and I became a fan on FB. If you and anyone else wants to take a look at the page just search tennis-x on facebook. That may be a good way to initially share the Roddick – Sar – Querrey picture. I will send Rick and/or Luke an email to see if we can get it posted on the main website as well.

Dan


Von Says:

Polo:

“Oh, no! Roddick lost. I was so sure he was going to get even in the second set then take the match. Well, that was painful watching Roddick lost to the 26th ranked Querrey. What will happen to him now after losing too many matches which I and all his fans expected him to win yet lost prior to the US Open? Well, as a truly devoted, albeit new fan, I will continue to hopeful that some miracle will happen and he will finally win a second major. It hurts. It had been too long since his one and only major.”

LOL and LOL again, I get your twisted humor. As a pseudo fan you’re doing a great job accentuating and pressing home the negatives for Roddick while getting some cheap thrills, jolly good old chap, and enjoy the fun. Go back to worshping your god please, Roddick doesn’t need any fans such as yourself. LOL

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