Rotterdam, The Netherlands: After a disappointing start to the year, it’s nice to see Robin Soderling in the winner’s circle. He played well throughout the week and probably would’ve gone on to win even if Mikhail Youzhny hadn’t retired. It’s funny how so many people expected Nikolay Davydenko to beat Soderling, me included, but he fell in straight sets. Soderling matches up well with Davydenko but Davydenko is the master of best of three set matches! That’s tennis for you. But I’d like to see Soderling deliver in the big events. The North American Masters are starting soon and if Soderling flounders there, then perhaps it’s true that he’s just a flash in the pan. Hopefully that isn’t the case and he’ll showcase some awesome power tennis.
As for Davydenko’s compatriot, Youzhny played some great tennis in his win over World Number 2 Novak Djokovic. His backhand was firing from every part of the court and he came up with some incredible shots in the tie-breakers. But this is a terrible loss for Djokovic. When the match ended, the commentator gave a brief assessment of the match by saying Djokovic played sub-par, but then he corrected himself. Djokovic played a pretty typical match for himself but definitely not his best. That’s how I felt, too. Djokovic played well, controlled plenty of points, but couldn’t come up with the goods the way Youzhny could. Djokovic’s current rank has been mostly occupied by two particular players who made a living off winning on their decent days. It’s really time for Djokovic to step up. Throughout the match, his facial expression seemed to say the same thing I was thinking: “With all this talent, how can he be finding so many ways to lose?” Two tournaments, two easy draws, two close losses when he’s pushed.
San Jose, California: As hard as it is to believe, this is Fernando Verdasco’s biggest title. It may not have been overly start studded and his draw wasn’t filled with top players and slam champions, but he’s never beaten as good as Andy Roddick in a final. This was Verdasco’s third win in 12 matches against Roddick which means he had to overcome some mental demons as well. Like Soderling, Verdasco still needs to play better in the big events. He’s making a habit of doing well outside the top 10, but then putting his tail between his legs against the big dogs. So congratulations, Verdasco, on a good win over a big guy.
Speaking of Roddick, he must not have played a lot of tiebreakers before he turned pro because it’s as if though he’s trying to make up for lost time. But he played a terrific match against Sam Querrey. Querrey was definitely the better player for the most part, but Roddick played some brilliantly smart tennis and held his ground when he had to. I always love watching Roddick play for the very reason that he never goes down without a fight. If he doesn’t find a way to win, it’s because his opponent didn’t give him one.
Querrey and Djokovic both lead in the second tiebreakers of their respective semifinals. Querrey got a little nervous and was beaten by a more experienced player. Djokovic let his mistakes get to him and lost to a less experienced player. Querrey should be disappointed but no one expects this guy to be mentally tough against a top 10 player. Djokovic is number 2 in the world, so why did he look more like Querrey than Roddick?
Costa do Sauipe, Brazil: I’m against clay events during what should be a hard court season, but at least it gave me a chance to see some great tennis from former World Number 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero. Injuries really derailed his career and it’s a shame because his tennis is a sight to behold. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have enough game to really pose a threat to any of the top guys. He’s like Lleyton Hewitt, only it doesn’t look like he’s in denial about the game passing him.
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