The men’s draw churned out some major surprises today. And it’s about time. First, the Clay King Rafael Nadal held court and ousted the pesky Lleyton Hewitt in three tough sets.
If it seems that Nadal and Hewitt meet every year at the French Open you’d be right. The two Grand Slam champs played again in Paris for the fourth time in the last five years and Nadal again won in straight sets, this time 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 in some rather ugly looking weather conditions.
“I was a little bit worried,” the four-time champ Nadal said. “The weather conditions weren’t very good. I don’t know. The weather conditions can make for a difficult match. I saw the clouds gathering. When I walked on the court, I looked at the sky, and I kept looking at the sky because I really wanted to wrap up this match. I did not want to continue playing this particular match tomorrow.I really want to have tomorrow off to take a break, and also to work. In the first set I believe I played well, then I believe I had a bit of a dip. The second wasn’t so good, but the third one, until 6 3, I played well, really well. I had to play against the wind, I played the whole match really well. I was very comfortable with my forehand, my backhand, but there was the wind. Because of the wind, you know, Hewitt takes the ball really early, and so the ball came to my side fairly low. Sometimes I had trouble catching the ball because I was playing against the wind. But those were my main difficulties. In spite of all these difficulties, I felt fairly comfortable.”
Credit to Hewitt who on face value wouldn’t seem to give Nadal trouble but he often does. The Aussie is quite the scrapper and really matches up well with Rafa on the dirt.
Also in the men’s draw Mikhail Youzhny finished off Victor Troicki 2-6, 7-6, 6-2, 6-3. Tomaz Bellucci was better and fresher in a win over former French Open semifinalist Ivan Ljubicic 7-6, 6-2, 6-4.
Novak Djokovic struggled but survived some tense moments to turn away Victor Hanescu 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2. And Fernando Verdasco survived a five set dogfight with Philip Kohlschreiber 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 6-7, 6-4.
Now to the story of the day: The upsets.
First up was Andy Roddick who absolutely got blitzed by Teimuraz Gabashvili. Roddick was never in the match against the Russian qualifier who won in a breeze 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.
I’ve been saying for a year that Roddick’s become a pusher. And today we saw what happens when Roddick cannot generate any pace on the ball and the other guy can. Many of Andy’s shots sat up right in the strike zone allowing a power slugger like Gabashvili to tee off. And he did. I just didn’t think Gabashvili would convert that many winners. And bad luck for Roddick who again found himself on the slower Suzanne Lenglen court on a very heavy, windy, damp day.
“The tricky thing is for him normally is having enough time to take those kind of swings at the ball,” Roddick said on Gabashvili. “Today he definitely had plenty of time to take swings at the ball, so, you know, it was tough for me to penetrate him. He was, you know, similar to, you know, Soderling last year. His swings are big enough to where he can create length even when it is heavy. My swings are a little bit more compact and more based on timing as opposed to kind of long, kind of fluid, kind of lengthy type thing. You do that over and over, I’m probably gonna come up short against that on conditions like these.”
But American hopes for the men weren’t completely dashed. In a surprise Robby Ginepri pulled out a rabbit and took down former French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero in five sets. Ginepri who’s been MIA from the pro circuit for a while now has put together quite an impressive run this week capping it off with a well earned 7-5, 6-3, 3-6, 2-6, 6-4 win over Ferrero.
“Yeah, I really wasn’t sure what to expect going into this match,” Ginepri said. “I don’t do well with game plans, so I just kind of went out there and tried to apply my game, kind of feel the match as it went on. But it was a tough fight. You know, he’s such a great competitor out there. I knew he wasn’t going to give up after I was up two sets to love. You can never count someone out like that. But, you know, I hung in there and wasn’t too nervous when I served the game out at 5 3. Made a couple unforced errors and didn’t really play long points, and then fought hard to get the break and go on to the fourth round.”
Ferrero wasn’t the only member of the Spanish Armada to hit the exits. In the big shock of the day tournament contender David Ferrer was given a thorough whipping by one Jurgen Melzer. The Austrian somehow crushed Ferrer 6-4, 6-0, 7-6(1).
Mezler is a talented player, but he’s not that good on clay against someone like Ferrer. That scoreline is really a stunner.
On the women’s side, the highly anticipated Maria Sharapova-Justine Henin matchup was suspended at a set apiece. Meanwhile, Serena Williams won in three sets and Jelena Jankovic was also a winner. Sam Stosur now awaits the Henin-Sharapova victor.
Tomorrow the fourth round begins and it’s a fantastic lineup of men’s matches. Roger Federer and buddy Stan Wawrinka are in action. Tomas Berdych tangles with Andy Murray. Last year’s surprise Robin Soderling meets Marin Cilic and Mikhail Youzhny plays the last French man or woman standing, JW Tsonga.
As for my picks, I think Roger really gets pushed – maybe five sets – but prevails. I also like Berdych to end Murray’s hopes, Soderling over Cilic and in an upset i’ll pick Youhzny over Tsonga.
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