Nadal, Murray Try To Complete Fab Four’s Return To The French Open SFs; QF Picks And Pans
by Sean Randall | June 6th, 2012, 12:09 am
  • 148 Comments

With rivals Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer already booked, it’s Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray’s turn to join them making a third straight Slam with the Fab Four hogging the semifinals.

Will it happen?

After the nailbiting drama we saw Tuesday, I think thinks things settle down today. Here are my picks:

Rafael Nadal v. Nicolas Almagro
In what could be the first of two matches against countrymen en route to the final, Nadal will put his 18-match French Open win streak on the line against Nicolas Almagro. Like most friends and foes from Spain, Nadal has dominated this series leading 7-nil and there’s little to think an upset can be had today.

Almagro, though, I think keeps it close. Like he did in their last meeting won by Nadal 7-6, 7-6, 6-4 in 2010 French quarterfinals, the baby-faced Almagro can pack a punch and put Nadal on the defensive. Nico has an excellent one-handed backhand, a formidible forehand and he’s got some extra pop on his serve, though he’s not the lightest on his feet. So I think he could even take a set or at least push Nadal in one or both of the first two. But Nadal is still too tough, especially if the weather becomes an issue.
The pick: Nadal in three

Andy Murray v. David Ferrer
Ferrer is just three sets from his first French Open semifinal, and this close in what could be his last/best chance I think he gets it done. Murray, though, won’t be an easy out despite those nagging back spasms. Ferrer’s been untouchable thus far through four matches, but he hasn’t faced anyone close to Murray’s quality. The Scot trounced a hot-handed Richard Gasquet to reach the last eight. And under new coach Lendl, Murray’s going to be right there, shot-for-shot, with David, fighting until the bitter end.

In this series, Murray’s won five of nine meetings however it’s Ferrer leading on his favorite clay surface 3-0. And for me that’s the difference. Ferrer’s flat-out the better player on this surface and this French Open is the event David circles on the calendar every year. Unlike Murray who targets Wimbledon (and the Olympics this year), for Ferrer the French open means the world to him. And after many disappointments this is a match he’s got to have.

I also think the numbers are against Murray (or Nadal for that matter). How many more times can the Fab Four continue to make the semifinals at the Slams? US Open, Australian Open and now the French Open all after the French Open last year? It’s a remarkable run and incredible that these four could have that much separation from the field, that’s why I think it ends here, and unfortunately for Murray I don’t see Nadal losing so the Scot becomes the fall guy.

On the flip side, Ferrer is 30 and by reaching the semifinals he would join Federer in the semifinals, making for two 30-year-olds in the last four of a Slam, quite a rarity. That said, age makes this one that much more urgent for Ferrer.
The pick: Ferrer in four

ESPN2 is on live at 8am ET with the women’s semifinals, which I think will go to Sharapova and Kvitova. Then Tennis Channel comes on later.

WEDNESDAY FRENCH OPEN SCHEDULE

Court Philippe Chatrier 2:00 PM Start Time
Kaia Kanepi (EST)[23] v. Maria Sharapova (RUS)[2]
Nicolas Almagro (ESP)[12] v. Rafael Nadal (ESP)[2]
Maria Kirilenko (RUS)[7] v. Andrea Hlavackova (CZE)[5]
Nadia Petrova (RUS)[7] Lucie Hradecka (CZE)[5]

Court Suzanne Lenglen 2:00 PM Start Time
Yaroslava Shvedova (KAZ) v. Petra Kvitova (CZE)[4]
David Ferrer (ESP)[6] v. Andy Murray (GBR)[4]
Elena Vesnina (RUS)[5] v. Klaudia Jans-Ignacik (POL)
Leander Paes (IND)[5] Santiago Gonzalez (MEX)


Also Check Out:
Nadal v Murray, Djokovic v Gulbis; French Open SF Picks And Pans
Will It Be Nadal v Djokovic In The US Open Final? Men’s SF Picks And Pans
US Open Thursday Picks And Pans: Berdych v Cilic, Federer v Monfils
Federer Masters Murray, Steps Closer To Sixth Cincinnati Title; SF Picks And Pans
Nadal v Djokovic, Tsonga v Ferrer; French Open SF Picks And Pans

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148 Comments for Nadal, Murray Try To Complete Fab Four’s Return To The French Open SFs; QF Picks And Pans

Michael Says:

I go with Sean pick for Murray Vs Ferrer match. I do not think Murray can handle Ferrer on Clay.


jane Says:

After watching Murray in those final two sets versus Gasquet, I got the feeling that perhaps he can beat Ferrer here. I am not sure but it seems like a possibility anyhow.


Michael Says:

Jane,

It is possible, but not probable !!


Gannu Says:

Good article that explains Djoker’s wins….But if he does that again to Fed on Friday i am sure to die of a massive heart attack ;-) Lol

Sometimes thinking is a bad idea. Ian Leslie draws on Dylan, Djokovic and academic research to put the case for unthinking…

From INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, May/June 2012

It was the fifth set of a semi-final at last year’s US Open. After four hours of epic tennis, Roger Federer needed one more point to see off his young challenger, Novak Djokovic. As Federer prepared to serve, the crowd roared in anticipation. At the other end, Djokovic nodded, as if in acceptance of his fate.

Federer served fast and deep to Djokovic’s right. Seconds later he found himself stranded, uncomprehending, in mid-court. Djokovic had returned his serve with a loose-limbed forehand of such lethal precision that Federer couldn’t get near it. The nonchalance of Djokovic’s stroke thrilled the crowd. John McEnroe called it “one of the all-time great shots”.

Djokovic won the game, set, match and tournament. At his press conference, Federer was a study in quiet fury. It was tough, he said, to lose because of a “lucky shot”. Some players do that, he continued: “Down 5-2 in the third, they just start slapping shots …How can you play a shot like that on match point?”

Asked the same question, Djokovic smiled. “Yeah, I tend to do that on match points. It kinda works.”

Federer’s inability to win Grand Slams in the last two years hasn’t been due to physical decline so much as a new mental frailty that emerges at crucial moments. In the jargon of sport, he has been “choking”. This, say the experts, is caused by thinking too much. When a footballer misses a penalty or a golfer fluffs a putt, it is because they have become self-conscious. By thinking too hard, they lose the fluid physical grace required to succeed. Perhaps Federer was so upset because, deep down, he recognised that his opponent had tapped into a resource that he, an all-time great, is finding harder to reach: unthinking.

Unthinking is the ability to apply years of learning at the crucial moment by removing your thinking self from the equation. Its power is not confined to sport: actors and musicians know about it too, and are apt to say that their best work happens in a kind of trance. Thinking too much can kill not just physical performance but mental inspiration. Bob Dylan, wistfully recalling his youthful ability to write songs without even trying, described the making of “Like a Rolling Stone” as a “piece of vomit, 20 pages long”. It hasn’t stopped the song being voted the best of all time.

In less dramatic ways the same principle applies to all of us. A fundamental paradox of human psychology is that thinking can be bad for us. When we follow our own thoughts too closely, we can lose our bearings, as our inner chatter drowns out common sense. A study of shopping behaviour found that the less information people were given about a brand of jam, the better the choice they made. When offered details of ingredients, they got befuddled by their options and ended up choosing a jam they didn’t like.

If a rat is faced with a puzzle in which food is placed on its left 60% of the time and on the right 40% of the time, it will quickly deduce that the left side is more rewarding, and head there every time, thus achieving a 60% success rate. Young children adopt the same strategy. When Yale undergraduates play the game, they try to figure out some underlying pattern, and end up doing worse than the rat or the child. We really can be too clever for our own good.

By allowing ourselves to listen to our (better) instincts, we can tap into a kind of compressed wisdom. The psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer argues that much of our behaviour is based on deceptively sophisticated rules-of-thumb, or “heuristics”. A robot programmed to chase and catch a ball would need to compute a series of complex differential equations to track the ball’s trajectory. But baseball players do so by instinctively following simple rules: run in the right general direction, and adjust your speed to keep a constant angle between eye and ball.

To make good decisions in a complex world, Gigerenzer says, you have to be skilled at ignoring information. He found that a portfolio of stocks picked by people he interviewed in the street did better than those chosen by experts. The pedestrians were using the “recognition heuristic”: they picked companies they’d heard of, which was a better guide to future success than any analysis of price-earning ratios.

Researchers from Columbia Business School, New York, conducted an experiment in which people were asked to predict outcomes across a range of fields, from politics to the weather to the winner of “American Idol”. They found that those who placed high trust in their feelings made better predictions than those who didn’t. The result only applied, however, when the participants had some prior knowledge.

This last point is vital. Unthinking is not the same as ignorance; you can’t unthink if you haven’t already thought. Djokovic was able to pull off his wonder shot because he had played a thousand variations on it in previous matches and practice; Dylan’s lyrical outpourings drew on his immersion in folk songs, French poetry and American legends. The unconscious minds of great artists and sportsmen are like dense rainforests, which send up spores of inspiration.

The higher the stakes, the more overthinking is a problem. Ed Smith, a cricketer and author of “Luck”, uses the analogy of walking along a kerbstone: easy enough, but what if there was a hundred-foot drop to the street—every step would be a trial. In high-performance fields it’s the older and more successful performers who are most prone to choke, because expectation is piled upon them. An opera singer launching into an aria at La Scala cannot afford to think how her technique might be improved. When Federer plays a match point these days, he may feel as if he’s standing on the cliff edge of his reputation.

Professor Claude Steele, of Stanford, studies the effects of performance anxiety on academic tests. He set a group of students consisting of African-Americans and Caucasians a test, telling them it would measure intellectual ability. The African-Americans performed worse than the Caucasians. Steele then gave a separate group the same test, telling them it was just a preparatory drill. The gulf narrowed sharply. The “achievement gap” in us education has complex causes, but one may be that bright African-American students are more likely to feel they are representing their ethnic group, which leads them to overthink.

How do you learn to unthink? Dylan believes the creative impulse needs protecting from self-analysis: “As you get older, you get smarter, and that can hinder you…You’ve got to programme your brain not to think too much.” Flann O’Brien said we should be “calculatedly stupid” in order to write. The only reliable cure for overthinking seems to be enjoyment, something that both success and analysis can dull. Experienced athletes and artists often complain that they have lost touch with what made them love what they do in the first place. Thinking about it is a poor substitute.

We live in age of self-reflection, analysing every aspect of our work, micro-commentating on our own lives online, reading articles urging us to ponder what makes us happy. Much of this may be worthwhile, but we also need to put thinking in its place. Djokovic’s return was both the culmination of his life’s effort and an expression of careless joy. It kinda worked.


Nirmal Kumar Says:

I would go with Murray against Ferrer. Murray’s defense is pretty good. I have not seen him being this good for long time. He is also going more for his FH and trying to kill the returns on second serve.

If he can go against Ferrer’s serve we have a good match for Murray. Murray needs to attack more and come to net against Ferrer. I doubt Murray is that bad a player to go 4-0 against Ferrer even if it’s on clay.

Though much has been said of Ferrer’s clay prowess, the guy has not reached FO finals yet. He is not too supreme clay courter compared to Murray.

Except Nadal, I think all other spanish clay courters are beatable. I expect Murray to scrap thru in 4 sets.


jane Says:

“…Ferrer’s clay prowess, the guy has not reached FO finals ” – I don’t think he’s reached the semis either, but Murray has. Ferrer has been in the semis of both the AO and USO I think.

Gannu, interesting article. It is like somehow Nole digs deepest and overcomes himself when he needs it most. Not always, but quite often in the past year and a half.


Steve 27 Says:

Nadal 6 3 75 6 2
I want Ferrer win that match but I suppose Murray will be the winner on five sets


Michael Says:

Gannu,

If Novak had not made that blind folded return against Roger at match point, things would have been pretty different and Roger who knows might even have gone on to win the tournament. But that is how it is and we need to live with it. Simple to say, it happens in Tennis.


Gannu Says:

Michael..it does happen…but one shouldnt underestimate the imp of luck there…!


King Federer Says:

Federer made a better serve in FO 2011 and he hit an ace/service winner on match point. he won that match.

In USO 2011, fed went for the wide serve and didn’t get enough spin on it and novak was able to get there and hit it for a winner. Federer still had another match point and he actually got a weak return off an excellent body serve (only nole could have put that serve in play) and fed had his favorite inside-out forehand lined up and he hit it wide.

That to me was the bigger goof than novak’s return. Sometimes analysts miss the obvious and fall for the “hype”. As good as novak’s return was, it was federer who missed his opportunities on his own racquet – and federer has had an history of doing this – i like to call it “federer playing with his food.” As excellent a competitor as fed is, he is even more of a colossus when you think about naturally talented tennis players. nadal/djokovic rely on being excellent competitors to win matches – they scrap and fight for points and hence in a pressure situation where people are scrapping for every freaking point nadal/joker hold the edge, but when it comes to pure talent – federer, safin, gasquet, mcenroe, rios, edberg – they are not street-fighters like nadal/joker/hewitt.

coming back to my point, federer has always had an history of playing with food – something gasquet/safin used to do on an everyday basis. with those two, it was so common that people called them walkabouts or them being mental weaklings (which they very well might be! but when you have talent by the tonnes, you donot cultivate the ability to fight and scrape for every point. it is the lesser gifted that develop this ability as they need to find a way to survive and in case of nadal/joker/hewitt to rise to the number one). with federer, he has won so much, that you assume he is GOD ( yesterday, steve tignor of tennis wrote an article where more than one french people call federer “Jesus). such inabilities of federer – to fight and keep holding on to the bone and not let go, just show that he is only human.

It is like federer on clay, he may not be the best of the last decade, but surely he is the 2nd best player of the last decade on clay. similarly, in competitive abilities fed is behind nadal and djokovic, but thankfully for federer and his fans, there is daylight between him and players like djokovic/nadal when it comes to pure tennis talent. infact, i would rate gasquet/murray/safin/berdych and even delpotro higher than nadal/djokovic when it comes to talent.

As for the choking, I would dare these experimenters to repeat those tests between caucasians and asians/indians/ middle easterners. you will see that the latter groups will spank caucasians when it comes to pressure situations. why? because, they are naturally more street-smart and competitive than caucasians. you live a few days in asia and you will see what competition is!

It is like pitting a suave polished combatant like james bond (fed) against tarzan/conan the barbarian (rafa/nole). James bond might get all the ladies (win all accolades in tennis) but in a pressure situation he will come 3rd best.


Gannu Says:

Hahaha King Federer…Brilliant Super Brilliant…Being an Indian i know my competitive instincts and our fight for survival in every walk of life ;-) Loved ur post


King Federer Says:

Gannu:

thank you. i have a lot of indian and chinese friends and I am amazed how street-smart and adaptive they are.

being competitive under pressure comes down a lot to what sort of a life you have led. if you come from a more competitive family where everyone lives their life through your success, you generally tend to be able to deal better with pressure. and ofcourse there are more such factors, like nole being brought up during civil strife in his country – it makes for better competitors. not just him, tipsarevic or even ljubicic from croatia and i would even say mr. karlovic, who has certainly punched much above his weight or maybe even his height!

you can also read about afghanistan’s cricket team’s exploits which is very inspiring. such war torn regions and tough living conditions (another example is sharapova/serena/venus) make people better competitors.

i am not a big fan of competitors – good for them, but i prefer genius like federer, gasquet, safin, murray, rios, edberg, rafter, j-mac. just like i prefer brazil/argentina/france over italy/germany in football.


Chico Says:

@KF

Good points. Don´t remember why, maybe prejudice to your ´in your face´-nick, but I’ve skipped you for a while now. Maybe have to change that :).


King Federer Says:

well, chico – you got to be able to wear your fanism on your sleeve or nick!

glad you like my points.


Mike Says:

Ferrer is the only guy who can take down Nadal.


Humble Rafa Says:

The pick: Nadal in three

Thank you. You get the award for stating the obvious.


Nirmal Kumar Says:

Ferrer is the only guy who can take down Nadal.

Did you mean in a tennis match?


the mind reels Says:

If I had a dollar for every moonball Nadal hit, well, I’d be a rich man.

Tough point for Almagro there to bring up break point for Nadal. Guys never move in against Nadal, which they need to in order to win.


the mind reels Says:

Nadal looks offended after Almagro pulls out that gutsy hold.


dari Says:

I didn’t pick Andy on my bracket, but go Murray!


the mind reels Says:

Nadal wraps up the first set 7-4 in the breaker. Let’s see if he’s also broken Almagro’s spirit. The guy has been hanging tough with Nadal and getting into his service games, so if I were him I wouldn’t change much about the tactics. Maybe cut out a few UEs, but easier said than done.


Lulu Iberica Says:

Rafa’s not looking that hot in this match. He’s too far back, hitting short, a few too many UEs. And Almagro’s backhand is a thing of beauty. Still, Raf’s just tougher, so I’m not worried about this match. Murray or Ferru could push Rafa in the next round, though.


the mind reels Says:

@Lulu: he is dropping the ball pretty short — you’re right. Almagro probably doesn’t have enough variety/consistency to take full advantage of it, but I agree if Nadal plays like this in the next round, it could be much tougher.


the mind reels Says:

Almagro is starting to unravel a bit…


jane Says:

Sean, you got it right that Nico would keep it tight, but apparently only for 1 set. Murray’s forehand is not working like it was versus Gasquet – though he just hit a zinger – he needs to get fired up. He lost the first set to Gasquet and then started to play well.


jane Says:

Andy needs to stop feeding Ferrer pace too; he loves rhythm. He should mix up the pace, come in, etc.


jane Says:

Murray back on serve, coming back…


jane Says:

Murray fought so hard to get back on serve, but then he lost his own serve and the first set. :/ Too bad. As long as he keeps up this level, keeps fighting. But I think he needs to take the second set to have a chance.

Is everyone hung over from yesterday’s exciting tennis and dramas or what? Where is everyone? :)


Skeezer Says:

Rafa is in practice session with his homey and sparring partner, another compadre is next hehe


Nirmal Kumar Says:

It’s just tough to appreciate tennis today, after having such high voltage match y’day. It looks like 2nd tier tennis.

Jane..how is the match between Murray vs Ferrer. I don’t have a stream to watch it. Just hoping Rafa’s match gets over quickly.


RZ Says:

I’d like to see Ferrer win b/c I think he’ll play Rafa tougher in the semis.


kriket Says:

KF, you believe in your own (western) propaganda, if you include Serbia in war-torn regions. There was no war in Serbia, apart from the NATO bombing campaign in 1999. which lasted for 78 days, and of course the fight against nato-supported terrorists in Kosovo, which is far away from Belgrade.

You cannot compare the situation in Serbia, to middle-east and other constant-crisis regions in the world. Therefore, to call Djoković street-smart based on his phenotypic origin might seem obvious to you, but it’s far from the truth.

If you based your judgment on that, than the best players and sportsmen in the world should all be Jewish, based on their history of constant fighting for survival. There are no Jewish tennis players in the top 50, as far as I can tell.

On the other hand, there are lots of good Slavic players, from all over mid-south-eastern Europe, Checzs, Slovaks, Serbs, Russians, Croats, and others, to name a few. Raonic is of Serbian-Montenegrin origin. Tomic, of Croatian origin. Maybe that’s got something to do with something, rather than the street-smartness.


kriket Says:

…and of course, we are all caucasian too.


jane Says:

Nirmal, Murray is not mixing it up enough and he’s not as fired up as he was versus Gasquet. Ferrer is consistent like he always is. I feel like if Murray can just get this set, he has a chance. But he’s facing break point as I write. He’s not “on” today. I wish the crowd were booing him because that seemed to bring out Murray’s fire and desire to beat Gasquet, or maybe just coincidence.

Anyhow, the matches do seem much less dramatic after yesterday and all that fire power. But it could just be tennis hang over – two simultaneous 5 setters.

Almagro with a chance to break, but misses backhand.


the mind reels Says:

Nadal taking 35+ seconds on these break-point opportunities for Almagro.


racquet Says:

Murray breaks! Too many UFEs so far but that’s because he’s going for his shots today. I don’t mind that. 26 winners is good for him at this stage. I still think Ferrer will prevail but I want him to go down fighting.


racquet Says:

Bah…Ferrer breaks back.


jane Says:

Ferrer breaks right back. :/


Mike Says:

Yes in a match. hes beaten him before in a GS, I think he matches up better vs nadal than fed and djokovic. It was a tightie in Barcelona … now i dont think he will win but he should take a set er two.


Nirmal Kumar Says:

It’s an inherent problem with Murray. He has the game of Top 3, but not consistent. We just never know what his form going to be on a particular day. He played fantastic against Gasquet. I had high hopes for Murray based on the match.

Let’s see if he can hit the A button at some stage in this match.


Maso Says:

Almagro’s putting up a truly valiant fight! It never seemed like he’d pocket that first set, but he’s definitely offered Rafa the most resistance so far. Yet, you don’t feel like Rafa’s really having to push himself even the way Almagro is playing.


Lulu Iberica Says:

Another BP opportunity for Almagro.


jane Says:

racquet, I feel like Murray doesn’t quite have the looseness and mental intensity he HAD versus Gasquet. His serve quite as good either – lower percentages. But he is hanging on: come on Andy, take this set!


jane Says:

^ oops didn’t mean to put those caps on “had” sorry


Lulu Iberica Says:

Poor Nico just can’t break Rafa! He seems to miss at the crucial moment after having the upper hand in a rally.


Lulu Iberica Says:

jane, you’re so lovely I hate to say it, but I’m rooting for Ferrer! He’s such a good CC player he needs to get to an FO semi already!


the mind reels Says:

Almagro’s just not playing the big points well. He’s giving himself opportunities but then pulling the trigger too soon on BP chances. We’ve seen this before.


Maso Says:

Could be over soon for Almagro…


racquet Says:

Jane, no I agree, not as intense. Ferrer does that to players though – they’re forced to constantly re-think what they need to do. He’s hit some beautiful BHTLs. Needs to do that more often…oh, and higher % 1st serves.


Tennis Vagabond Says:

Kriket: Mardy Fish is top ten. On the women’s side, Shahar Peer is top 30 (there may be other Jewish women but she’s the obvious one being Israeli).


Maso Says:

Almagro wasn’t patient enough on his BP opportunities. But at the same time, he probably felt like he couldn’t keep up much longer in most of those rallies, hence why he tried to cut them short. It seems everyone has trouble converting BPs against Nadal. I remember a certain 07 final between Federer and Nadal where Roger kept on missing break point after break point.

Oh, here comes the break. Bye bye Almagro.


steve-o Says:

jane: I just don’t think there is much chance of equaling the suspense of yesterday. Even if Murray manages to take this to a fourth or fifth set.

There seems little point in watching yet another Spanish player exhaust himself in trying to blast his way through the brick wall, and then fall apart on court. Just like everyone else.

Even Nadal fans must be getting a little bored of it, though they will deny it fervently.

Yesterday’s quarterfinals featured four swashbuckling, larger than life players (including a Frenchman, which is a guarantee of crowd interest). Murray is a great player and a clever player, but he just doesn’t seem to have that panache–at least, not today.

And Almagro, while valiant and skilled, does not rise to that level.


kriket Says:

Nadal will have yet another cakewalk to the finals.
And Đoković has to beat no.2 and no.3 back to back yet again, if he wants to win the championship.


steve-o Says:

Could be over soon for Almagro…

It was over before it even began, to use an oxymoron.


Nirmal Kumar Says:

Good that we have been relieved by the misery now. Hoping for some good tennis from Murray and Ferrer.


jane Says:

Lulu, no worries. :) I like Ferrer, just would love to see Murray reached the spot he did last year – don’t want him to lose points. Congrats on Rafa’s win.


jane Says:

Nice tiebreak so far from Muzz. racquet, I like this backhand DTL returns!


kriket Says:

TV, okay, I didn’t know Fish was Jewish, but I suspect KF wouldn’t “accuse” him of being “street-smart” about his game.


Tennis Vagabond Says:

Actually, the Ball Bashing era of the early 90′s was perhaps the zenith of Jewish tennis: Brad Gilbert, Aaron Krickstein, Jay Berger, Justin Gimmelstob and Amos Mansdorf.

Great Moments in Jewish Sporting History.


Tennis Vagabond Says:

Kriket: I think that the difficulties Nole faced during the bombing campaign and the conflicts at that time (even if they were not on Serbian soil) are well known and I don’t think its outrageous to suggest that a youth might acquire mental toughness (ability to focus and shut out distractions) by growing up overcoming such obstacles/environment.


racquet Says:

Murray takes the 2nd set – played the tiebreak great.


jane Says:

Huzzah! Muzza gets the 2nd.


Nirmal Kumar Says:

Murray takes the 2nd set. When he moves well, he is very elegant player and pleasing to watch.


Tennis Vagabond Says:

KIMBERLY: YOU WERE HALF RIGHT AND I WAS ALL WRONG! Almagro made double digits, though he didn’t win a set.


Lulu Iberica Says:

Well, I admit it’s certainly more thrilling to watch a five set Fed-Delpo, or Djoko-Tsonga match than Rafa cruising to a near inevitable victory over Almagro. However, at the end of yesterday I was PO’d — all that drama and excitement only for the freaking expected result in both cases! Furthermore, even when a top player gets upset, usually the winner goes on to blow it in the next round. If someone other than the top 3 or 4 actually had a shot to win the whole thing it would be more exciting. If Tsonga had beaten Novak, he would’ve had to go on to beat Fed, then probably Rafa. The top guys form a near impenetrable brick wall!

As for Rafa, when he’s playing (especially earlier rounds) I prefer straightforward wins, because otherwise I’m a nervous wreck and can barely watch the match!


kriket Says:

TV, everything that happens in someone’s life has it’s consequences, or influences, of course, but to claim that one circumstance defines someone as a player and character, is a stretch, to say the least.
KF elaborated that Đoković is a top player because of these circumstances, not because of his talent and dedication. That’s just not true.


racquet Says:

Play suspended. Ugh. Might be a good thing – conditions were so heavy.


jane Says:

“The top guys form a near impenetrable brick wall!” It seems like it doesn’t it Lulu, though two valiant opponents were storming the Bastille yesterday. I have a feeling that we might see someone different come through at Wimbledon. I don’t know but it seems like a Delpo or definitely a Tsonga could go one better there, and there could be tough early matches/upsets against big servers. But maybe not. Just a thought.


kriket Says:

Ouch, rain delay… sucks


jane Says:

racquet, but Murray had finally seized momentum. :( And meanwhile, Rafa is already probably having his massage. Oh well, hopefully it’s not long.


Lulu Iberica Says:

Why is Chris Evert talking about Errani v. Stosur rather than showing me the men’s quarter final!!!


Lulu Iberica Says:

Oh, rain… That explains it.


racquet Says:

jane, he seized the momentum but I get the impression it’s doubly hard to play in those conditions (heavier ball, having to hit harder to get through the court, etc).


Tennis Vagabond Says:

The brick wall.
Very true.
But for how long can it last? Since 2004, Fed and Rafa have held the bastion, then Nole joined them. With each Slam we get closer to the inevitable, the brick wall coming down. Will it shatter, or will it leak? And when?
Even if we are bored with this state, and hunger for new champions, we must realize that it will come. No champion beats time.
Rafa will stop winning ROland Garros. Someday soon after that all three of these men will be outside the top five.
I think the next generation of champions has yet to emerge. Perhaps Del Potro and Raonic will be among them, but I’m not sure Tomic, Nishikori or Harrison have that royal jelly.
The other current princes are too old: when their Lords leave, they will follow. The absence of clear successors will perhaps allow these three to stay at the top a bit longer than most world beaters, but sooner or later will come another Rafa, another Fed, another Nole. And they will have no patience for the Tsonga, Monfils and Tipsarevic who have been waiting their turns.


jane Says:

Rafa getting 11 slams will give him another confidence boost pre-Wimbledon and Olympics; if he gets another slam this year, he’d be only 4 slams away from Fed’s 16! This could be a huge win for him at the FO in terms, mostly, of momentum. It would also put Rafa closer to taking back number one this year; he can’t gain points, but he would have defended his biggest amount.He does have finals to defend at Wimbledon and the USO, which could be tough, but he didn’t do well on the US hard court masters so he can gain there.

The rest of this season could be dramarama.


racquet Says:

Apparently the covers are coming off the court and play will resume shortly.


jane Says:

Yep, they’re on their way back out.


Kimberly Says:

Tennis Vagabond—i was sort of right, jane was closer than me on the prediction.

Almagro is a great player. I have had the pleasure of seeing him live and do not understand why he doesn’t do better. The guy has a seriously big game. He moves well on clay + weapons, great serve, great backhand. I assume the problem is mental. At the Australian Open he lost 3 tiebreaks to Berdych. The guy has got to lead the tour on tiebreaks and close matches lost. I also don’t understand why he has so much more success on clay than hard, with the big weapons he has his game actually seems suited to hard. But I believe the guy has like 11 titles, all clay. If he were playing anyone else I would have been rooting for him to win, as I feel maybe he needs one big result to open up his game.


Tennis Vagabond Says:

Kimberly: nail on the head.
Mental. I remember seeing him push Rafa around for a set on hard court a few years ago. His power is top notch. Then he fell apart. Its what he seems to do. Perhaps his fitness is not up to par as well, but I really think its a confidence issue, otherwise he wouldn’t be winning ANY tournaments, even the lesser ones. Maybe like Wawrinka- game to challenge the top players, until, coyote like, he looks down and notices he’s running on air.


jane Says:

After the FO, where he’s been in 3 QFs, all lost to Rafa (unfortunate draw for him), Almagro’s next best slam results are on the medium-slow hard court of the AO. He’s had a couple of marathon matches there, but I don’t think ((?) he’s reached past R16, never the second week.

I think I predicted the Almagro match would be somewhere between the rout of 08 and the tight match of 10, still straight sets, so I guess I was pretty close. I said 2, 3, 2, or something and it was 6, 2, 3.


jane Says:

California slide? I have never heard this expression before. But Gilbert is going on about it; something about sliding after the shot is hit.


Kimberly Says:

i am so depressed and angry over the miami heat i had a very little give a shit factor for rafa and maria’s matches today and their winning does little to cheer me up. Our coach needs to be fired.


jane Says:

Maybe these heavier conditions are an issue for Murray, racquet. Too many errors, lots of winners though. But the serve at only 52% today. I think it was 67% versus Reeshard. And Gasquet isn’t the returner Ferrer is.


racquet Says:

Conditions look better now. Ferrer just relentless. Andy played more aggressively that game and, surprise, it worked.


Lulu Iberica Says:

jane, I think you’re right re:Rafa and momentum. I am hoping he gets another Channel Slam. For the Olympics, I’m sure when the actual matches are played I will root for Rafa, but I kind of hope someone else wins. Fed’s resume would be 100% complete with singles gold, Djoko is so patriotic I’m sure he (and all of Serbia) would be thrilled to win it, and it would be nice for Murray to win and maybe shut up the British press. It would also be a great opportunity for guys like Ferrer, Tsonga, etc.


jane Says:

Come on and get the break Muzz. I’ve seen Ferrer do this before; get loose after going up a break.


jane Says:

Nice!


racquet Says:

Again, the aggression from Andy pays dividends. He breaks back.


jane Says:

Andy! Steady the ship.


racquet Says:

Aargh. It’s going to be one of those matches.


the mind reels Says:

@Kimberly: those old veteran teams can be dangerous. Really impressive shooting from Paul Pierce last night. Was not expecting him to drain a contested 3 with Lebron’s hand in his face with 52 seconds to go. Crazy stuff. For your sake, I hope they can notch a road in in Boston tomorrow!


jane Says:

Now hold Muzza!


racquet Says:

And then he plays a great game to break. Now f%&*@@ hold!


Nirmal Kumar Says:

Problem for Murray is holding his serve. He is capable of breaking, but his holding game seems to be a big issue for him.


Matt Says:

When Andy Murray stops playing pattycake tennis he might win great matches. For now, a potential Murray/Rafa semifinal will be underwhelming.


Skeezer Says:

Kimberly

Heat coach ;

For sure!!!!


jane Says:

He needs to get his first serve percentage up *consistently* and he has to consolidate his breaks.


jane Says:

Droppers don’t really work versus Ferrer! Too speedy.


Lou_tennisfan Says:

The way Murray is playing….it looks like Rafa will have a easy way en route to the finals! Go rafa…

For rafa fans: here is a treat:Rafael Nadal: Lessons from the King Of Clay! http://bit.ly/M8VKEE


jane Says:

That’s it Murray – SLICE. Don’t let Ferrer dictate; don’t feed him pace.


Humble Rafa Says:

Overall a fine 2 days for the Humble household.

Cleveland Traitor is on the verge of elimination. Your HH is on his way to the 7th FO title.


jane Says:

Commentators saying Murray’s forehand, second serve, but mainly his mood since the rain delay have been the key factors.


racquet Says:

Typical, they don’t give credit to Ferrer.


Matt Says:

All that skill, shame about the brain: watching Murray or Roddick play.


jane Says:

Gilbert has commented quite a bit on Ferrer’s efforts, how tough he is, compact swings, nice footwork, etc. P-Mac less so. But they do seem to be focusing more on Murray.


Humble Rafa Says:

But they do seem to be focusing more on Murray.

Same when I play the Arrogant One. They keep talking about his “class”, footwork, swing, etc when he is actually losing. Why not talk a bit about the guy winning. He may be doing a few things right.


Tennis Vagabond Says:

Just took a look at the rankings: although the Big 3 can shuffle as has been discussed, it looks like the rest of the top ten is pretty stable. Even assuming this loss, Murray will maintain a healthy lead over Tsonga and Ferrer. Del Potro might just catch Tipsarevic but I dont think so. So other than perhaps Fish slipping below Isner and Simon, I think the Small 7 remain stable leading to Wimbledon.


racquet Says:

David through to his 1st FO SF. So happy for him. Andy had so many chances in the 4th but Ferrer was typically relentless. Now he can rest up and focus on the grass.


jane Says:

Well I am sad for Andy, losing points from last year: he has Queen’s to defend and at least reach the semis at Wimbledon, though I’d love to see him win there. Murray has a healthy lead over Tsonga, and even though Tsonga will gain a few points, it’s not enough to make much difference.

All that said, it’s hard to not appreciate Ferrer’s efforts, and I *really* hope for his sake that he can make a match of it versus Rafa, maybe take a set.


blah Says:

ah, murray comes through again.


Eric Says:

FERRERRRRRRR


jane Says:

Sean you’re a healthy 3/4 on your semis predictions.


Matt Says:

Murray is the next big thing!


blah Says:

Next? You must mean ‘Already’!


Lulu Iberica Says:

I’m sorry for Murray, but very happy for David! So, he’s now been to 3 slam semis? He will give Rafa a fight, but I don’t think he can win. I want Rafa to win the FO without dropping a set, so sorry, but I hope for 3 tight sets!


jane Says:

Yes, Ferrer’s been in the AO, USO and now FO semis. Kudos to him indeed.


Tennis Vagabond Says:

WHO WOULD HAVE GUESSED WE’D WIND UP WITH THESE SEMIS?
The world of sport never ceases to surprise and amaze.

(This is sarcasm.)

These are clearly the best four claycourters in the world. We knew that two weeks ago. We’ve learned nothing yet from this tournament.


Matt Says:

Mental health status of Rafa’s knees: gee I am so happy. David Ferrer is very great player no? no, no he is not, i am so happy knees right now.


blah Says:

here’s to Del Potro getting healthy soon and staying healthy (we know with big guys that’s always an issue) so he can rise and take his rightful place as number four.


Tennis Vagabond Says:

History tells us that Rafa is levels better than Ferrer on clay. However, Ferrer may be playing the best clay tennis of his career. Will that be enough to close the gap?

I doubt it. I expect something similar to Almagro’s score; Ferrer is the better player, but unlike Nico he has no weapons to really hurt Rafa with. The big difference is that Ferrer will give Rafa a real workout.

Well. This could actually be an incredibly boring match, come to think of it.


steve-o Says:

Sorry about your man, jane.


dari Says:

oddly, it is the clay semi that was last in coming for ferrer

bummer for andy, though he is clearly not the fourth best clay courter, so I am not surprised

echo jane’s thought that ferrer needs to make the most of his first FO semi!

i clicked him as winner over rafa in the semi on my bracket (though I don’t actually recall that action) so maybe there can be miracles

vamos Ferruuuuu!


Brando Says:

The RIGHT result. No shame for andy- he played to the best of his ability. Is he BETTER than any of the semi finalist on clay? I’d say NO- so it’s all good for him IMO. More rest for queens.


jane Says:

steve-o thanks but it’s okay. Nole’s still in it, and Andy can rest up for grass.

blah, I posted on the Delpo presser thread this article from Tennistalk:

“But the left knee which has been bothering him during much of that time, has not gotten better.While he didn’t want to use it as an excuse for his fifth loss this season to Federer, Del Potro was visited twice by the doctor during the match and given some tablets.He said that his first priority is to rest, but he is keen to be ready for the London start. “I would love to play Queen’s, I”m supposed to play Queen’s.”

http://www.tennistalk.com/en/news/20120606/Knee_haunts_Del_Potro_after_loss_to_Federer

Hopefully his knee does get better. Del Potro is a great player and exciting to watch, but he can become passive considering his power, and clearly he is also injury-prone.

The closer one to #4 is Tsonga, the only one to beat Nole, Fed and Rafa at grand slam level. I am telling you, if he plays like he did yesterday when he arrives at Wimbledon, he can win it or reach the finals. He was in the Queens finals and Wimbledon semis. Only 2011 Nole was able to stop him at Wimbledon. I am interested to see how he bounces back from the loss yesterday. He is fit, he is hungry and he is playing freely.


Tennis Vagabond Says:

Jane
For sure Wimbledon will add a few names as real dark horse players. Del Potro, Tsonga, Monfils, Berdych, Fish, Raonic, Tipsarevic, and of course Murray, will all be serious matches for the Big Three. Even Tomic or Roddick could be threatening. All the matchups at the French seem like foregone conclusions.


jane Says:

And blah, please don’t give Murray too much flack because he has been very consistent, reaching ALL of the last four semis of FO 11, Wimbledon 11, USO 11 and AO 12, not to mention AO 11 finals, which is a heck of a lot better than Delpo who lost meekly to Fed at the USO this year and while he powered through the first two sets yesterday, he didn’t even chase balls in the 4th set.

Trust me; the rankings don’t lie. Murray is THE MOST deserving of his present ranking out of anyone else in the top ten. He is very consistent and while clay is his weaker surface he can nonetheless play well on all surfaces.


jane Says:

TV, yes, the FO seems the least “open” of the slams. Maybe they should change the name to “French Closed”? hee hee.

But they’d have to leave it “French Open” for the WTA so that might get confusing.


jane Says:

Sorry I meant “AO this year” re: Delpotro. And I know he’s “coming back” from injury, but it’s been a full year. He had all of 2011.


Tennis Vagabond Says:

It would be easy to give up on DelPo as a long term prospect because his injury problems are now chronic, and athletes don’t get more durable as they age.

But then we remember Rafa!


the mind reels Says:

@TV: I’d strike Monfils, Fish, and Roddick from your list of potential dark horses at Wimbledon.

Monfils: never been past the round of 32 and is coming off the injured list.

Fish: has shown in recent years that he can play on grass, but he hasn’t played a match since April and before that has had a pretty mediocre year.

Roddick: despite having lost 3 finals at W (all to Federer), he’s been on a steady decline. Didn’t get past the round of 32 last year, and I don’t expect him to do much better this year. He continues to compete reasonably well at Queen’s, though, so I guess let’s see how he does there before I completely write him off. 7-9 on the season, including a 5-match losing streak at the moment, doesn’t bode well.


racquet Says:

“Murray is THE MOST deserving of his present ranking out of anyone else in the top ten”

Absolutely right Jane. Players have to EARN their ranking spot. I like Delpo but he has a ways to go before he can reclaim his previous high of #4. Plus, he has losing records against each of the top 4.


Matt Says:

Hopefully Del Potro’s 2009 US Open Championship will be enough consolation for him while he worries about Andy Murray being ranked higher than him.

Del Potro, #6 seed at 2009 US Open blitzed Nadal 2,2,2 then beat Federer….

then again Murray is #4 ranked.

When they call it a career everyone remembers the rankings and not the Slams anyway.


madmax Says:

Gannu,

that was an awesome article you posted, I need to read it again in more depth – but thank you.

On the flip side, Ferrer is 30 and by reaching the semifinals he would join Federer in the semifinals, making for two 30-year-olds in the last four of a Slam, quite a rarity. That said, age makes this one that much more urgent for Ferrer.
The pick: Ferrer in four

Sean, I have to commend you here! You got a prediction right! (and I don’t ever include nadal, because that really is stating the obvious).

Well done! :)


the DA Says:

poor Matt seems like he worries about Murray being ranked higher than del potro. there there


Kimberly Says:

Humbe Rafa-while i am supportive of your quest for your 7th FO your commments about the NBA MVP, the cleveland traitor are not sitting well. its not lebrons fault, it is the coach. Spo’s gotta go.


steve-o Says:

Del Potro has now lost to Federer five times this year: in the last two major quarterfinals, in a final (Rotterdam), a semi (Dubai), and a Masters quarterfinal (IW).

If he had not had to face Federer so many times, he might have another title or two this year, and probably made the semis of AO and/or the French Open, in which case he would be in a far stronger position this year, maybe even to win a Grand Slam.

Instead, when he was hot during the early part of the year, he kept losing to Federer. Then he started to have injury problems in Miami and the clay season, but still did very well at RG…until he ran into Federer.

It’s another case of Federer almost single-handedly derailing the career of a very great player. Same as he did to Hewitt, Ferrero, and Safin many years ago.


jane Says:

Delpo was great for the last half of the 2009 season no question. But obviously that run cost him as he was out basically all of 2010 with an injury, and since his comeback, a year and a half ago, he’s reached the QFs of two slams and won 4 small tournaments.. He is now back up in the top ten where he should be.

But while Murray hasn’t won a slam, he’s been in 3 slam finals, and compared to Delpo, he has a lot more hardware overall: double the titles, 22 – 11, including 8 Masters titles (of which Delpo has none), not to mention a good record against Fed.

Delpo turned pro at the same time as Murray, 2005.

It will be interesting to see if he can reach that 2009 level again, mentally and game-wise. We’ve seen flashes of it for sure, versus Nole at last year’s FO, Fed at this year’s FO, and Rafa at last year’s Wimbledon, but he hasn’t had consistency. I was surprised when he lost to Simon at last year’s USO for example.


the mind reels Says:

@jane: true, though Murray has fared very poorly against the top 3 in Grand Slam play. He’s 2-10, I think, lifetime against those guys (two wins against Nadal at the US Open), so while he may have more hardware, it’s smaller hardware.

(Fwiw, del Potro isn’t exactly stellar against those guys either in Grand Slam play — 2-8 lifetime — but at least he’s got a major title.)


jane Says:

I know TMR: don’t know why that is with Muzza. It’s a best of 5 thing so far for him.


jane Says:

For Rafa fans, some amazing numbers below (copied from a poster at Tennis.com under today’s summary of Nadal’s match); also apparently J-Mac said Rafa’s “arguably the greatest player of all time” – just wait if he wins the Channel slam and gets within 4 of Fed. The talk will escalate.

• Nadal played his 699th match. He is only one match away from 700.
• Nadal won his 527th match outdoors, tying Moya for 10th place in the all-time win list.
• Nadal won his 50th match in Roland Garros, surpassing Borg and tying Pietrangelli for 4th place in the all-time list. Next up is Agassi with 51.
• Nadal now owns a stratospheric 98.04 winning percentage at Roland Garros, the best of all-time of any player in any Major.
• Nadal has reached the quarterfinals of a Major for the 23rd time, tying Becker for 8th place in the all-time list. He also reached his 11th consecutive quarterfinal surpassing Sampras for 4th place in the all-time list.
• Nadal has reached the semifinal of a Major for the 19th time, surpassing Becker and tying McEnroe and Edberg for 6th place in the all-time list


Lulu Iberica Says:

Thanks, jane! Johnny Mac is stirring up trouble!


mat4 Says:

jane,

trust me, JWT can’t play at that level often. A few times a year, I guess. But playing the way he did yesterday, he made the AO final in 2008, he beat Fed last year in Montreal, won Paris three years ago. But he needs to work more, and unfortunately, I don’t think he does.


metan Says:

Very sad day, number four is our,

Congrat to rafa and david


Michael Says:

Jane,

Nadal may or may not break Roger’s record in majors. But to compare with him favourably, you cannot win just 10 French Opens, 3 wimbledons, 1 US and 2 Australian to claim that you are a GOAT. Your wins at majors must be evenly distributed and must not be heavily loaded in favour of just one major. Moreover, Nadal has still not won the World series, whereas Roger has won 6. Roger also has the record of consecutive weeks as No.1 which Nadal has not been able to break. Therefore, you need to have a more comprehensive review before deciding the GOAT rather than riding on emotions.


Nirmal Kumar Says:

Michael,

Are we not supposed to take Rafa’s final wins against Roger for his proof of greatness. The what about winning only 1 FO. Can we use that argument against him for GOAT.

But at the end of the day, it’s bullshit to call someone a GOAT. It’s just a bunch of elite guys who should be considered greatest and Roger and Rafa would be part of that group along with Sampras and Laver. IMO.


Michael Says:

Nirmal,

Yeah Roger won only one 1 French Open, but he made four finals and two Semis (the outcome will be known today).

There is nothing wrong in calling anybody GOAT. So far, there has been no other player who can match Roger’s achievements in this sport and therefore he can be called as GOAT. If tomorrow somebody manages to excel Roger, then opinion can change. That being said, I do not think it is fair to bring Laver into this discussion because he played in an amateur era and as regards Sampras since he couldn’t even make a final at the French Open, he can never be part of that elite group as you like to club. I would put Borg in his place who atleast made four finals at the US Open.


Nirmal Kumar Says:

I would put Borg in his place who atleast made four finals at the US Open.

Excellent point. Borg is such an elite player. Just imagine two of the best players of our time are chasing his records and some of them could not be broken.

But Laver, it’s not fair to belittle him saying he played in amateur times. I don’t think great players like Mcenroe and Sampras would talk about him as their idle if that’s the case.

There is nothing wrong in calling anybody GOAT

Yeah, but what are the metrics used.

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ATP - Nov 24 WTA - Nov 24
1 Novak Djokovic1 Serena Williams
2 Roger Federer2 Maria Sharapova
3 Rafael Nadal3 Simona Halep
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5 Kei Nishikori5 Ana Ivanovic
6 Andy Murray6 Agnieszka Radwanska
7 Tomas Berdych7 Eugenie Bouchard
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9 Marin Cilic9 Angelique Kerber
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