A win is a win but is a three-set win for Rafael Nadal the same as a two-setter? I ask because when Nadal goes the distance in a hardcourt match – three sets or five sets – alarm bells usually go off and the vultures begin to hover amid the worry and speculation that Rafa’s knees, abs and/or whatever ailments he or may not have won’t hold up for the next round.
Well, for the second straight match Nadal needed three sets to win in Bejing, this time defeating James Blake 7-5, 6-7, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals.
Nadal served for the match twice in the second set, at 5-4 and at 6-5 but failed. Then Blake, who is working with new coach Kelly Jones, had chances at 2-2 Nadal serving at 0-40 in the third set but he couldn’t convert.
“Every match is important; every win is very important,” Nadal said afterward. “Every win gives you confidence. I feel it was a very good win. I didn’t have a lot of bad shots with the forehand, so that’s important.”
Next up tomorrow for Rafa, who’s now a perfect 13-0 in Beijing, is the soon-to-be-retired Marat Safin. The big Russian upset Fernando Gonzalez 6-3, 6-4 for one his better wins in a very long time.
Safin’s flat, power game which is anchored by a lethal backhand really sets up well against Nadal. But will Marat be able to maintain it mentally?
On a hunch, if Marat’s playing well I actually think he’ll beat Rafa, especially if Nadal is psychically feeling the six sets that he’s already played.
Also in China, perhaps the biggest news of the day was Nadia Petrova actually getting a win over a decent player! Petrova somehow, someway kept it together long enough to beat new No. 1 Serena Williams 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(5) in the third round.
After zero breaks of serve in the third set Petrova led Serena 5-0 in the third set tiebreak. But that’s when Petrova naturally went “Petrova” and in a blink it’s 6-5 when controversy crept it.
Down a third match point in the breaker, Serena slapped a forehand winner that was called out. But the call was overruled and the replayed point was ultimately won by Petrova giving her the match. I can’t recall the last time Petrova, who always loses to the top girls, ever had win of this magnitude. Credit to her.
As for Serena, mission accomplished. She got her No. 1 ranking back and she can now head home to prepare for Friday’s release of ESPN The Magazine’s “Body Issue” which features a naked Serena on one of its covers.
Now she’s No. 1 and she’s nude on the cover of a national magazine. Now way they can suspend her now!
Serena’s loss also leaves the $6.6 million dollar event with just three Top 10 players in the quarterfinals, and none among the Top 3. Aren’t you glad you put up that kind of money now, China? Unfortunately on the WTA these days you often don’t get what you paid for.
In Tokyo, we’ll have some interesting quarterfinals tomorrow. Stanislas Wawrinka tests my man Gael Monfils and Jo Tsonga, a winner today over Richard Gasquet, gets Ernests Gulbis. The top half features Edouard Roger-Vasselin v. Lleyton Hewitt and Mikhail Youhzny v. Tomas Berdych. Youhzny upset Gilles Simon in three sets.
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