Nadal, Djokovic Overcome Early Deficits In Rome; Serena Wins, Sharapova Tumbles
by Staff | May 15th, 2014, 9:59 pm

The top three remaining seeds at the Rome Masters had a tough day Thursday. Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic both lost their opening sets before rallying while Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka suffered his second straight early exit this month in Masters play.

Wawrinka, who added an impressive Monte Carlo title to his resume last month, fell this afternoon to 36-year-old Tommy Haas 5-7, 6-2, 6-3. The third round loss for the Swiss follows a opening round exit last week in Madrid to Dominic Thiem, and Wawrinka says he’s fighting a minor back injury.

“I couldn’t move too well,” said Wawrinka after spraying 40 errors in the match. “It’s really nothing serious. It’s just painful and I need some rest — maybe a few days.”

Later, Rafael Nadal’s ill-form continued against heavy underdog Mikhail Youzhny. Nadal failed to close out the first set before dropping it in a breaker. Then alarmingly went down 2-0 in the second before storming back winning 11 straight games at one point to run away from the Russian 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-1.

“I played with passion and motivation even if the feeling was not perfect,” said Nadal. “That’s always very good news, because when you have a lot of opportunities during the match, you keep fighting, trying to find solutions. That always means that you really want to win.”

Despite the win, the Nadal doubters grow in numbers as the Spaniard has now lost sets in his last three matches, albeit he’s won them all.

Next for Nadal in longtime rival Andy Murray. Playing on his 27th birthday, the Scot breezed past Jurgen Melzer to set up his first meeting with Rafa since 2011.

“It will be a great match for me with the French Open just around the corner, because I’ll see exactly where my game’s at and what I need to improve,” Murray said looking ahead. “I haven’t played him for a long time, regardless of the last time on clay. I didn’t play him at all when Ivan was coaching me. Both of our games will have changed in the last three years.”

Nadal leads Murray 13-5 in their head-to-head series.

“It will be a tough match and I need to play much better,” said Nadal. “I am confident. I have to go on court with the right mentality, I have to be aggressive, and doing the right things if I want to have chances to win, a little more control, a little more spin.

In the evening, Novak Djokovic got off to a slow start before pulling away from Philipp Kohlscreiber 4-6, 6-2, 6-1.

“I was trying to spin the ball too much and the court wasn’t getting that necessary bounce that I was looking for,” said Djokovic who showed no signs of any wrist troubles. “But then I started to be a little bit more aggressive and open up the court. It worked well.”

Also, Grigor Dimitrov lost the first set before putting together an excellent win over Tomas Berdych. He’ll now clash with Haas. And David Ferrer advanced to the quarters with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Ernests Gulbis. Ferrer will be Djokovic’s quarterfinal opponent. The Serb leads Ferrer 11-5.

“[He] has had an incredible career overall, but especially on clay,” said Djokovic of Ferrer. “It’s going to be a big challenge and we’ll see where my game is.”

In the women’s field, the surging Maria Sharapova was upended by fellow French Open champion Ana Ivanovic 6-1, 6-4. Sharapova had won 12 straight matches on clay and hadn’t lost to Ivnaovic since the 2007 French Open until crashing out today.

“I had a great two weeks,” Sharapova said. “My energy level today maybe was not the best, but Ana played a really great match, she came out with winners from all over the court and she was the better player, that’s it. She was more aggressive than me, she wasn’t making a lot of mistakes. I felt that when I had a good shot I didn’t do much on the next one. I had opportunities but I didn’t follow through, and hesitated a little bit.”

Serena Williams, Li Na, Aga Radwanska and Jelena Jankovic were also winners.

CENTRALE start 12:00 noon
WTA – [10] S Errani (ITA) vs [2] N Li (CHN)
Not Before 2:00 pm
ATP – [15] T Haas (GER) vs [12] G Dimitrov (BUL)
Not Before 4:00 pm
ATP – [5] D Ferrer (ESP) vs [2] N Djokovic (SRB)
Not Before 7:30 pm
WTA – [1] S Williams (USA) vs S Zhang (CHN)
Not Before 9:00 pm
ATP – [1] R Nadal (ESP) vs [7] A Murray (GBR)

GRANDSTAND start 12:00 noon
ATP – [8] M Raonic (CAN) vs J Chardy (FRA)
Not Before 2:00 pm
WTA – [13] C Suarez Navarro (ESP) vs [11] A Ivanovic (SRB)
Not Before 3:00 pm
WTA – [6] J Jankovic (SRB) vs [3] A Radwanska (POL)
After Suitable Rest – [1] B Bryan (USA) / M Bryan (USA) vs T Haas (GER) / R Stepanek (CZE)

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57 Comments for Nadal, Djokovic Overcome Early Deficits In Rome; Serena Wins, Sharapova Tumbles

Colin Says:

Rafa ought to win this, but as he says he’ll have to raise his game a notch. Andy needs to do the same, but over the years he has made a habit of improving in quarters and semis. As always, his first serve will have to be on song. His back seems OK and he’s otherwise fit. Psychologically, they are both somewhat vulnerable right now, and who’d have thought that would ever happen to Rafa?

So, it’s probably Rafa, but I’ll be disappointed if Andy doesn’t at least take a set.

Hippy Chic Says:

Colin as i said yesterday given the way hes playing i would give Andy more than a legitamate chance against Rafa,Rafa is playing some of the worst CC tennis i have ever seen him play,although hes still finding answers and winning,by contrast this is some of the best CC tennis i have seen Andy play ATM,still i will be happy with whatever the outcome as i do love both players,may the best man win bring it on….

Hippy Chic Says:

Off topic but the commies are discussing whom is the greatest player never to have won a GS,its always been something ive always found to be an interesting subject,come on Sean Randall and staff we discuss the GOAT topic ad nauseum,how about the none GS GOAT,how about a thread??

youyong Says:

I’m thinking Andy will likely win tonight as well. Rafa was lucky to get through the last 2 rounds against players who do not have the weapons to really threaten him. Especially in yesterday’s match, Rafa was down not because Youzhny suddenly raised his game but rather Rafa’s game and confidence suddenly went AWOL when serving for the 1st set. Against a better player like Andy, I rate his chances today 40-60. Nonetheless, I hope he can find his way to a victory again. :)

Giles Says:

Just reading that Wawa did not shake the umpire’s hand after losing to Haas. The man needs to learn some manners.

Colin Says:

When players beat someone ranked much higher, we often see them collapse in the next round, but credit to Chardy, who’s taken the second set against Raonic. The Canadian is running away with the decider, though.

Ben Pronin Says:

Chardy already passed the “don’t collapse in the next round” test. He cruised past Dodig yesterday (apparently he was an underdog in that match, too).

Daniel Says:

Dimtrov just handed a birth gift from Hass.
Assuming Djoko beats Ferrer any of the upcoming matches will be nice: Nadal x Dimitrov, Murray x Dimitrov, Nadal x Djoko final, Murray x Djoko final or Dimitrov x Djoko final.

Daniel Says:

Assuming Djoko beats Ferrer and Raonic, well, assumin he is the final:-) I think it will get the more interesting matches pre RG

Gordon Says:

By making the semifinals Raonic will jump over Nishikori into 9th place in ATP rankings. With DelPotro out this means he gets the number 8 seed at aril and Garros and avoids a 4th round match against the guys above him.

No matter what happens tomorrow Rome has been a good tournament for Milos.

Gordon Says:

That should read at Roland Garros. Sorry.

tramlines Says:

If Dimi wins Rome and Missile loses tomorrow, Dimi will leapfrog him for the RG 8th seed.

Okiegal Says:

David hung in there and took the second set. Novak’s wrist seems to be working nicely. When Novak misses a shot…..the look on his face is like “I can’t believe I missed that…..My “face look” is ” I can’t believe you did either”…..dang, he’s so good!!

courbon Says:

This match was great for Novak-tested properly by Beast.

Hippy Chic Says:

Well the wrist doesnt seem like its an issue anymore,a great match from both,but Daveed has never had a good record against the top guys,so it was NID IMO….

gonzalowski Says:

Uau great match! Enormous Djoko, holding David’s pressure.
2,30h. of hard tennis.

Daniel Says:

Well, no one will want Kei in his fourth round oponent.

Giles Says:

Was Joker’s wrist ever injured to begin with?? Nah!

skeezer Says:

Indeed great match! I know Ferrer lost, but is he one of the best players aeound never to win a Slam? He always shows up, gives most everyone a good battle.

Hippy Chic Says:

Daniel one can only hope that Kei is actually fit for the FO…. Says:

Hippy, in response to your earlier question: Me.

Hippy Chic Says:

Tennis Vagabond sorry dont understand what question?

gonzalowski Says:

????? Tennisvagabond, who are you, then?
Soda? Berdy? Alex Corretja? Says:

Bacon O’Rourke, underground tennis legend! Greatest player never to have won a Slam, sworn enemy of the infamous Tennis Illuminati, the ancient masters of the game.

Hippy Chic Says:

Tennis Vagabond sorry the pennys finally dropped lol,congrats anyway lol,but also lovely to get some feedback on the subject and to know it hasnt fallen an completely deaf ears,wonder what others think?

Hippy Chic Says:

^I wish Sean and co would open a thread on the topic?^

courbon Says:

Best non GS player for me?
Bacon O’Rourke definitely!

Daniel Says:

MurrYis winning all the long rallys not missing at all. Nadal seems tired since MC. Maybe he is mentally spent. Bad timing.

Daniel Says:

He lacks the usual energy to really hit some shots. He is just going on automatic

contador Says:

Gillies says:

“Was Joker’s wrist ever injured to begin with?? Nah!”

@ Gilles, i would like that veery much! Nole being not really injured, that is :D

Nice thought…

Okiegal Says:

Andy is about to serve up a bagel to my guy……Andy looking very wicked, I must say!

Vamos Rafa, get it together!!

contador Says:

Daniel, Hello.

I don’t have a stream today. Wanted to watch the Murray – Nadal match very much, All I have is a score to stare at.

Go Andy!

Gordon Says:

Don’t write any obits for Rafa just yet; Murray has not win a single point on his own 2nd serve. I don’t believe he can keep this level of play this high forever.

C!P! Says:

when someone makes 0 winners ,he cannot expect to win a match ,no matter what the other does or plays

van orten Says:

hahahha instead of leading with break up he is now 3:0 down in the second, how he does it again and again mr. nadal . how much longer can he do this to his opponents

tfouto Says:

Murray is feeling his back now. It’s obvious…

Daniel Says:

Hi contador.

Nadal started to be more agressive and going more inside out to Murray’s forehand. Murray serve drop a bit also. But they are both having chances in each other games. A lot of long ralllies.

El_Flaco Says:

I just noticed that Nadal picks his front side like Roddick used to do. Is this a new tic or has he always done that?

van orten Says:

what a bad game by murray. why so sloppy gifting nadal the re break. dont know why he cannot go away for once

Okiegal Says:

Me thinks Rafa’s Fruit of the Looms are causing him major problems! LOL

He broke back……Yes ma’am…..and a large vamos to boot!!

Polo Says:

I would be vry surprised if Nadal loses this.

van orten Says:

game set and match nadal

Polo Says:

Murray is giving away his service games.

andrea Says:

c’mon murray. hold it together and take it in the tie break.

Polo Says:

Nadal is playing very aggressively.

van orten Says:

just hope someone finishes him off in paris. it is overdue

Polo Says:

Nadal is still the boss on clay.

Polo Says:

The only one who has a realistic chance against Nadal at the French is Djokovic. However, I doubt if Novak’s wrist can last until the finals there.

Polo Says:

One can only get so close to Nadal on clay but in the end, you’ll stiil remain behind.

Patson Says:

Congrats to Rafa fans. Congrats to Andy fans as well, because I think Andy will gain ALOT of confidence from this match. As for Rafa, while he won, the field is catching up to him.

The semi-finals should be crackers.

Giles Says:

Vamos Champ! Great match!

Bad Knee Rules Says:

So far, Nadal has spent 9 hours on the court over three consecutive days, and Novak 5.5 with a day break in between.

This could be the chance for Grisha to beat Nadal, though I wouldn’t put my money on him yet.

Raonic is playing good, confident tennis. He’s in with a chance against Novak. Says:

For those of us waiting for the future, tomorrow is a big day (for us, tomorrow is ALWAYS a big day!).
Old Guard vs Young Dog, seminal 1
Young Dog vs Old Guard, seminal 2
Yeah! Storm those gates you dogs!

skeezer Says:

Does every match have to be a comeback win nowadays? Am sure Rafa’s camp is very worried. I am not. RG is in his sights now.
Keep playing for all out exhaustion for Clay so when Wimby comes you’ll once again become Wimpy, womp. Hehe…

mem Says:

Hey Giles,

totally agree, awesome match! our boy rafa is fighting his way back, step by step. im happy he won because this is good win for him. I love it that he is just focusing on a match at a time. he knows that nothing is guaranteed and the future will take care of itself! andy played some fantastic tennis also! good luck to him!

enjoy the rest of the tournament!

Zahran Says:

Nadal plays a lot of volleys and drop shots which is good preparation for Wimbledon I guess…

Hippy Chic Says:

Polo @May 16th 5.55pm it doesnt look like the wrist is an issue anymore for Novak….

Top story: Nadal Dominates In Monte Carlo Clay Debut, Dimitrov Next; Djokovic Returns Thurs.