Imagine if Feliciano Lopez could have put away that bunny overhead he had last week against Roger Federer in third third set tiebreak. Fortunately for the Swiss he missed, otherwise this clay season lead-up to the French Open would have been a complete bust.
Federer’s French Open prep ended early today to the capable and talented hands of Richard Gasquet who was able to do what Lopez couldn’t, remain cool enough and calm enough to deliver the final blow in a third set breaker against Federer. Gasquet prevailed with a terrific 4-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(4) win over Federer in the Rome fourth round.
Federer’s final pre-French clay tally: six wins, three losses and no finals. But there’s no panic from Roger who says he will be “fine”.
“I had multiple chances [to win],” said Federer who has just once title on the year. “That is how it goes. Sometimes it is unfortunate because I was playing well and then it didn’t happen at all any more so it was a disappointing end to the match. But it will not affect my preparation and work for the French Open, I will be fine. I definitely think I should not have lost this match and that is kind of annoying.”
I thought Federer (and Gasquet who really hit his forehand better than ever) played well but in the tiebreaker it wasn’t Gasquet who cracked but oddly Federer. And that’s often a mental issue which is much tougher to correct than say a bad forehand.
Gasquet now meets Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals tomorrow.
“I did a very good match for sure and as you can imagine I am very happy to beat Roger,” said Gasquet after his second career clay win over Roger. “This does not happen so many times so I have to enjoy it. His forehand is very fast and the court today is very fast and very difficult conditions, but I tried to play good as I had nothing to lose and this is very important. I cannot play my game with a lot of pressure.”
As for the players Federer looks up at in the rankings, Novak Djokovic continues to look unbeatable. Against a worthy Stan Wawrinka, Djokovic gave the Swiss very little to work with in a 6-4, 6-1 win.
Wawrinka pounded groundstrokes from all directions but the Serb with his incredible movement and cofidence just sat perched on the baseline and rifled them back at the Swiss with even more pace. Some of the points at the end of the first set were remarkable.
Djokovic and his 36 match win streak will be supremely tested i tomorrow against the dangerous Robin Soderling. The Swede ended Rafael Nadal’s run at the French two years ago and he has the firepower, the attitude and the brass the do it again.
With Nadal struggling a little and really no one else with a good shot at an in-form Djokovic, Soderling may be the last hope of ending the Serb’s streak in Rome. If Novak wants to let it go and rest up for Paris this would be the match.
As for Nadal, first it was altitude and now it’s sickness. After a shaky opener yesterday, Nadal played better thumping his buddy Lopez today and afterward he said he’s been a bit under the weather of late.
“I had a fever this morning but I feel better now,” said Nadal. “Certainly I didn’t really understand why yesterday I felt slow and without energy and I understand now better today. That is that and I am here to fight and to try my best like I have always done. I am ready for everything.”
In the quarters tomorrow Rafa will meet Marin Cilic. Nadal should get through but Cilic with his height and sturdy backhand should match up well with Rafa but the Croat hasn’t had a big win in a while. And with a win Nadal would salt away the No. 1 ranking through the French Open.
Also tomorrow, Andy Murray has quietly overcome an elbow injury to reach the quarters against Florian Mayer.
Murray and Mayer will start the Tennis Channel coverage at 6am ET, noon local.
FRIDAY ROME SCHEDULE
CENTRALE start 12:00 noon
F Mayer (GER) vs  A Murray (GBR) – ATP
Not Before 2:00 PM
 R Nadal (ESP) vs M Cilic (CRO) – ATP
Not Before 3:00 PM
 S Stosur (AUS) vs  F Schiavone (ITA) – WTA
Not Before 7:30 PM
 V Azarenka (BLR) or  A Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) vs  M Sharapova (RUS) – WTA
Not Before 9:15 PM
 R Soderling (SWE) vs  N Djokovic (SRB) – ATP
PIETRANGELI start 12:00 noon
G Arn (HUN) vs  N Li (CHN) – WTA
Not Before 2:00 PM
 C Wozniacki (DEN) vs  J Jankovic (SRB) – WTA
Not Before 3:30 PM
 R Gasquet (FRA) vs  T Berdych (CZE) – ATP
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