Old Balls Please: 30-Somethings Serena, Castano, Nalbandian, Haas And Benneteau Bid For Sunday Glory
Shall we call it Turn Back the Clock Day tomorrow because each of the five pro tournaments remarkably have a 30-something in the final! There’s Serena Williams in Doha. Then there’s Tommy Haas in San Jose. Julien Benneteau is out for his first title in Rotterdam. David Nalbandian has made an incredible return by reaching the Sao Paulo where he’ll face Rafael Nadal. And in Cali, Colombia, 33-year-old Catalina Castano has stunned her home country fans reaching that final. So yes, maybe something is in the air – meteors, anyone?
As for the matches, after dumping Maria Sharapova for a 10th straight time, 31-year-old Serena Williams renews her rivalry with “friend” Victoria Azarenka. Serena’s won 10 of 11 so it’s hard to call it much of a rivalry, but the two who’ll swap ranking spots on Monday did play a good one last September at the US Open and I think in Doha it will be another close affair. Azarenka is playing well, Serena is so-so. So wouldn’t it be fitting to see Azarenka win and stay undefeated on the year just when Serena returns to No. 1? I’ll drink to that!
“I just have to be consistent and really focused on my own game,” Azarenka said. “We all know she has a great serve. She’s really aggressive and really consistent. So for me it’s important to just focus on myself and execute my game. That’s it.”
Down in South America, Rafael Nadal’s Sao Paulo (mis)adventure continued. Yesterday, the 7-time French Open champion nearly got bounced by Carlos Berlocq. Yes, that’s the same Carlos Berlocq who once got double bageled by James Blake. Today, Nadal again needed three sets this time against someone named Martin Alund. The scoreline: 6-3, 6-7, 6-1. King of Clay? At least the French is three months away.
With the poor court conditions, I said a few days ago when Rafa withdrew from doubles (Nalbandian was his partner) that I wouldn’t be surprised if Nadal went home early. To his credit he hasn’t – though who really would want to lose to Berlocq or Alund? Tomorrow, it’s a big jump in class against David Nalbandian. The 31-year-old Argentine who’s making his return to tennis for the first time since Winston-Salem, beat Nicolas Almagro yesterday and then in the semifinals today whacked Simone Bolelli 6-3, 7-5.
We know Nalbandian has the game, especially the backhand, to really hurt Nadal. After playing all this tennis the last week will he have the fitness? In this best match up of the day, Rafa should get through this one.
Juan Martin Del Potro should also get through his title bout in Rotterdam with the 31-year-old Benneteau.
“Being in the final means a lot to me after an early loss at the Australian Open,” Delpo said. “I think I’m serving really well, but I feel like I can improve a little bit for tomorrow. I faced break points today, so that means I need to improve if I want to win tomorrow.”
Julien of course slayed a very subpar Roger Federer in a straight set stunner Friday. And now the Frenchmen is out to clear his name from the “Best Player To Have Never Won a Title” label. Unfortunately for him, in his eighth career final I don’t see his luck changing tomorrow. After losing to Federer in the final last year, I think Del Potro gets his Rotterdam trophy.
And in San Jose, the senior citizen of the Sunday 30 club is the 34-year-old Haas. The former Top 5 from Germany is having a rebirth of sorts this week (and really the last 6/7 months). After dealing with a multitude of injuries and ailments and pure bad luck, Haas is back playing solid tennis again this week and today he authored an excellent win over American big man John Isner 6-3, 6-4. But tomorrow he’ll have his hands full with 2-time defending champion Milos Raonic who’s never lost at the tournament anbd like Haas, hasn’t dropped serve.
“It’s a tough sport, but these moments really make me just appreciate the hard work you put into it,” said Haas who’ll be 35 in April. “As long as I’m healthy and can play at this level, and still enjoying these tournaments, it’s a blessing to be around and still playing tennis at this level.”
Indeed, it is a blessing some of these guys are still around.
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