What’s wrong with Novak Djokovic? Well, maybe I should save that for a separate post. Anyway, for the second straight Thursday the World No. 1 stunningly crashed out of a hardcourt Masters event he was heavily favored to win. A week after getting trounced by JW Tsonga, today he was dumped to Spanish veteran Tommy Robredo 7-6, 7-5 in an error-filled display.
At 32 Robredo’s still a competent player, but he has no business beating Djokovic like that.
I didn’t see the full match – ESPN was bouncing to the Sharapova snoozer – but from what I did see of Djokovic it just wasn’t very promising. His shots just don’t seem to have any conviction and they’re not hit with any purpose.
After winning Wimbledon, getting married and with rival Rafael Nadal on the shelf, what an opportunity Djokovic had the last two weeks, but he laid an egg. Multiple eggs. Since I can’t explain it, I’ll let Novak.
“Just many, many, many things are not clicking these two weeks on hard courts,” offered Djokovic. “It’s unfortunate, but it’s more than obvious I’m not playing even close to what I’m supposed to play. I have to keep on working and trying to get better for US Open.”
He just better hope that whatever is bothering him doesn’t make the trip to NYC. Meanwhile upon seeing the upset – losing to a Spaniard! – the happiest family on the planet today could reside in Mallorca. Of course I speak of the Nadals, specifically Rafael and one uncle named Toni who must have been full of joy after their arch rival tumbled today.
Roger Federer also has to be happy. With Novak out of the way things are looking better for the Swiss to snag a sixth Cincinnati title. But it’s not going to be much easier even with the Serb long gone. Tonight against Gael Monfils, Federer once again let down in the second set, managed to recover saving break points in the third to eventually hold off an improving Monfils in three to win 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.
“I have a different eagerness today,” said Federer. “I was a bit more erratic when I was younger: good day, bad day, medium day, I was a bit all over the place. I think I’ve gotten my act together over the years. I think I’m in a good spell right now. I have a lot of tennis in my legs right now. I go day by day. I have a great team behind me and a wonderful family. I’m very much at peace with how I need to play.”
Is my man Monfils finally coming around? I hope, but…
Next the task gets tougher for Federer against old foe Andy Murray. Murray scraped by John Isner in – what else – but a third set breaker. Isner actually held matchpoints on Murray’s serve the game before but couldn’t close him out, ultimately falling in the breaker to Murray who just got more balls back and baited the American into mistakes.
The win sets up the much-anticipated Federer-Murray matchup in a battle of former champions. And Murray leads 11-10 in this one though Roger won earlier this year in Melbourne.
“I played a really good match against him in Australia,” Federer told ESPN about playing Murray. “I know he probably wasn’t at 100% but I personally played a good match. That’s how I have to come out tomorrow.
“I’m happy for him that he’s playing [well] again. He was close against Tsonga last week… could have had a run there. That’s why I know the danger of this match tomorrow. I think it was a huge match for him to beat Isner. Those are the kind of matches you need to win to get going again. I know I’m in for a tough one.”
Added Murray, “It can be a perfect test… The US Open is just 10 days away, and normally against him you’ll see exactly where your game is at.”
As for a pick, I think I have to take Federer just because he’s playing better and with more confidence. Murray, though, who hasn’t beaten a Top 10 player since winning Wimbledon arguably needs the victory more. So I expect a tight three set affair.
In other results, David Ferrer was down a break in the first before roaring back to beat Tsonga’s ouster, Mikhail Youzhny. Ferrer will play Robredo next and I like David in that one – I think Tommy will let down after his big win over Novak.
Stan Wawrinka is also playing decent tennis again. The Swiss chopped down Marin Cilic in three sets and he’ll go in as the big favorite against the French 32-year-old Julien Benneteau, a winner over Jerzy Janowicz.
In the other quarter, after a tough third-set breaker win over Steve Johnson, Milos Raonic will square off against Fabio Fognini. Raonic should win that one especially on a fast hardcourt but against the Italian you never really know.
In a loaded women’s draw, Serena Williams remains the class of the quarters. The World No. 1 crushed Flavia Pennetta to set up a collision with former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic who beat Sloane Stephens.
Canadian champion Agnieszka Radwanska will meet the hot-handed Caroline Wozniacki and Ana Ivanovic will test new star Elina Svitolina.
In the big showdown, Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep meet in a rematch of their French Open affair. I give the edge to Sharapova but I think Halep, despite this being her first hardcourt event of the summer, could just as easily win.
“She’s a great player,” Halep said. “She’s playing very well, so it will be a big challenge for me. I want to play against her because I want to see if on hard she will beat me again. But I just want to try my game, to play very aggressive, to open the angles like always, and also to stay very focused.”
ESPN2 has coverage for what should be a great Friday of quarterfinal tennis.
FRIDAY CINCINNATI SCHEDULE
CENTER COURT start 11:00 am
ATP –  S Wawrinka (SUI) vs J Benneteau (FRA)
Not Before 1:00 pm
WTA –  S Williams (USA) vs  J Jankovic (SRB)
Not Before 3:00 pm
ATP –  T Robredo (ESP) vs  D Ferrer (ESP)
Not Before 7:00 pm
ATP –  A Murray (GBR) vs  R Federer (SUI)
Not Before 9:00 pm
WTA –  A Ivanovic (SRB) vs E Svitolina (UKR)
GRANDSTAND start 11:00 am
ATP – V Pospisil (CAN) / J Sock (USA) vs  A Peya (AUT) / B Soares (BRA)
Not Before 1:00 pm
ATP –  M Raonic (CAN) vs  F Fognini (ITA)
Not Before 3:00 pm
WTA –  A Radwanska (POL) vs  C Wozniacki (DEN)
Not Before 7:00 pm
WTA –  M Sharapova (RUS) vs  S Halep (ROU)
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