Europeans Robin Soderling and Fernando Verdasco entered Sunday with a shot at successful title defenses at their respective events this week. Soderling has already taken care of his end defeating JW Tsonga 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 to win a second straight title at Rotterdam, his eighth overall.
Later today Verdasco gets his chance against Canadian phenom Milos Raonic in the San Jose title match.
The win for Soderling is already his second on the season after his Brisbane ivictory over Andy Roddick. It’s early, but it looks like Robin’s going to have another big year, much bigger than I had thought.
“I’ve had two wins and one final, it’s very good, I like it here a lot,” said Soderling. “It suits my game and when you come to a place where you’ve played well before it brings out good feelings. Of course it’s tough trying to defend the title, it adds some extra pressure, but I felt good and had only positive feelings. I’ve had a very good start to this season. I’ve already won two titles and only lost one match in three tournaments.”
For Tsonga, who has not won a title now in 15 months, it was a good week with a lot to build on.
Shifting to San Jose, Verdasco has been playing ruthless tennis. I caught some of his match last night in a 6-4, 6-4 win over Juan Martin Del Potro. If Verdasco plays up to that level he’ll get through the Canadian. To me, Verdasco’s biggest problems is his nerves and with Raonic blasting serves we should see some tight sets and ample opportunity for both guys to seize up.
“I’m playing great,” Verdasco said. “I haven’t lost here in nine matches, so I must be unbelievably happy. After the Australian Open I had two weeks on my couch in Madrid, and last year I had a 10-day holiday before coming here. I think I will do this before the Grand Slams.”
Courtesy of a Gael Monfils semifinal walkover, Raonic is also in his first career ATP final. So it will be interesting to see how the 20-year-old handles the occasion. I talked of Verdasco’s nerves but maybe it’s Raonic who will feel it the most, especially with having the extra day to think about it.
“I was practicing with Milos before the Australian Open and I knew he’d do really well,” Verdasco said of his opponent in the final. “I didn’t think fourth round, but I knew he’d do well. He has one of the best serves in the game right now, but he’s also aggressive off the return. I just have to try to get the returns in and then play deep, move him. If he comes into the court, he’s dangerous.”
By the way, it’s interesting to note that Verdasco and Raonic will play again in the first round Wednesday night in Memphis! How strange! Raonic will move into the Top 70 for his effort of the week, and even higher should he win the title. But I do think Verdasco will repeat today.
As for Del Potro, despite the loss (Delpo was up a break in the second) it was a very encouraging week.
“Fernando played better,” Del Potro said. “He served well and took his opportunities. It’s difficult to come back against someone when they’re playing that well. But I had a good week. I hope I have a similar week in Memphis. I’m playing better every day.”
If the Argy can just stay healthy, get fitter and improve his footwork (which will all come in time) there’s no reason that he won’t be a factor at the Slams.
Del Potro now moves on to Memphis where Wednesday night he’ll be in for quite the battle against John Isner in the first round. His ranking of No. 484 should jump back into the Top 300.
Down in South America, congratulations to Nicolas Almagro who’s quietly playing some great tennis. Yesterday, the Spaniard beat Alexander Dolgopolov 6-4, 7-6 to win the Costa do Sauipe title. It wasn’t a repeat job like Soderling or what Verdasco’s trying to do, but it was Almagro’s second victory (2008) at the event and his eighth overall, all on clay.
“The truth is that it was a beautiful final, a final that I was very happy to be part of,” Almagro said. “It’s clear that the tournament is a very important one not only for me but here in all of Brasil and I’ve been lucky enough to win it twice and I will continue to try my best in the future here.”
The San Jose final will be televised live on Tennis Channel starting at 8pm ET and streamed online via their website.
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