Nadal, Djokovic Escape Again In Rome, Can The Young Guns Dimitrov And Raonic Spoil A 1-2 Final?

by Sean Randall | May 16th, 2014, 10:55 pm

For the second straight day the top two players in the world, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, found themselves against the ropes at the Rome Masters, this time against fellow Top 10ers.

First Djokovic who had come into the event on shaky footing after that mysterious wrist setback. But this week the wrist has been a welcome non-issue and his from sound. Today he matched up with veteran and 2013 French finalist David Ferrer.

Djokovic jumped out early, though blew his first chance to serve for the opening set. Ferrer stiffened to take the second. Novak regained some form in the third yet once again – as we’ve seen him do much of the season – squandered a break advantage. Ferrer fought back to level but Djokovic eventually closed it out for a hardfought 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 victory.

“It was the most physical match I had on clay this year,” said Djokovic. “I am really glad to overcome this challenge because David is a great competitor. I respect him a lot. We all know how good his record is on clay – the best after Nadal. Knowing that I am going to work for every single point of the match, coming out as a winner gives me a lot of satisfaction and confidence.”

The win puts Novak into the semis tomorrow against the surprising Milos Raonic. The Canadian has benefited from a great draw absent of any true clay threats. Still, he did beat JW Tsonga and this afternoon Jeremy Chardy was his victim 6-3, 5-7, 6-2 so he’s playing with confidence this week.

“I don’t think clay will be my best surface, but I think it can come close,” said Raonic who trainer in his early days on the clay in Barcelona. “I like having the time. I’ve just got to not doubt my game plan in tough moments, like at the end of the second set where I got a little bit too defensive. I’ve got to keep my foot on the pedal, play aggressive and try to dictate as much as I can. I think the clay can be good for me.”

Anyone with a serve like that is a threat on any surface.

In the second semi, it’s Nadal against the rapidly improving Grigor Dimitrov. Playing on his 23rd birthday, Dimitrov got a nice present from 36-year-old Tommy Haas who had to retire after losing the first set 6-2 with a shoulder injury.

“It was one of the most memorable days of my life,” said Dimitrov. “I was just talking to my team, it’s my first win on my birthday, so it feels good. It’s a bit unfortunate, the way it ended up. But I’m just a happy birthday boy today.”

Birthday boy today, tomorrow chum for Rafa? Maybe or maybe not.

Nadal’s struggles resumed today this time to Andy Murray. In their first meeting in over two years, Murray shockingly took the first set 6-1 from the “King of Clay”. After a tense opening two games, Nadal forged ahead 2-0 to seize control of the second.

But things against got tight in the third with Murray recovering from an early break before finally succubing 1-6, 6-3, 7-5.

“I went more to the net in the second set and played with more passion,” Nadal explained. “During the night the ball got slower and the bounces got slower.

“This match gives me the power and confidence.”

Um, ok. But fact is, Rafa, you’re not playing well because if you were playing well you wouldn’t be losing 6-1 sets to guys like Murray! Murray’s good, but he’s not “6-1 good” on clay!

And Rafa knows. Heck, everyone knows. For whatever reasons Nadal’s just not feeling it right now.

As for Murray, he looked very good at times tonight, and it’s a good sign for sign his Wimbledon title defense.

“I don’t fell like people have respected the severity of having back surgery, it takes time and I feel I am getting closer to where I want to be,” Murray said. “Tonight was the best I hit the ball and best I felt physically since the surgery.”

Now to some quick thoughts on tomorrow.

Milos Raonic v Novak Djokovic
I give Milos a chance but like I said, he hasn’t played anyone worth a lick on clay this week. Now he’s matched up against the very best returner in the business on one of his better surfaces. Granted, Djokovic has been prone to lapses and he’s hardly in peak 2011 form, but he’s got the exeperience and the game, and even though he had a grinder of a match today, he should be fresh for success.

The only time these two paired up was on clay last year and Novak whipped him in straights at Davis Cup. So more of the same tomorrow.
The pick: Djokovic in two

Rafael Nadal v Grigor Dimitrov
The way Nadal’s giving sets out like Halloween candy you have to like Dimitrov’s chances here. He pushed Rafa at the Aussie and took a set from him at Monte Carlo last year. In fact, while Nadal leads the Bulgarian 4-0 Grigor’s won a set in each of those losses. And based on what I’ve seen from Nadal this week, there’s little reason to think that trend won’t continue.

Nadal’s just been too patchy and the shots often don’t have that power or that depth we usually see. What we do see are a lot of bad errors deep in rallies or the errant frame job off the forehand.

And perhaps all the tennis he’s played – three straight days of three set matches – are piling up. While, Dimitrov, who just celebrated birthday No. 23 today, has to be fresh as a 23-year-old should be!

So I absolutely give Grigor a chance for the upset, however he’ll have to do it two. That’s because like Grigor’s girlfriend, Maria Sharapova, Rafa’s just been awfully tough in final sets this month. So I’ll with lean on him here. But you can see the magic if fading.
The pick: Nadal in three

In the women’s semifinals, Serena Williams is the big favorite to come away with the title this week. She’ll take on former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic. In the first semi it’s Jelena Jankovic against Sara Errani.

Tennis Channel has live coverage of all four semifinals starting at 6am ET.

CENTRALE start 12:00 noon
WTA – [6] J Jankovic (SRB) vs [10] S Errani (ITA)
Not Before 2:00 pm
ATP – [8] M Raonic (CAN) vs [2] N Djokovic (SRB)
Not Before 4:30 pm
WTA – [1] S Williams (USA) vs [11] A Ivanovic (SRB)
Not Before 8:00 pm
ATP – [1] R Nadal (ESP) vs [12] G Dimitrov (BUL)
After Suitable Rest – R Haase (NED) / F Lopez (ESP) vs G Dimitrov (BUL) / L Rosol (CZE)

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70 Comments for Nadal, Djokovic Escape Again In Rome, Can The Young Guns Dimitrov And Raonic Spoil A 1-2 Final?

Humble Rafa Says:

Not lucky, gutsy!

skeezer Says:

^so humble. NOT.
“During the night the ball got slower and the bounces got slower.”

Margot Says:

What a fabulous match for you lucky neutrals!
As for us Andy fans, well WOW is all I can say! Andy’s worst surface, playing in conditions that don’t suit him, short of match practise on clay and he produces his best match of the year so far!
He said he wanted to use this match as a gauge for RG, well he certainly did that. Well played Andy!
And congrats to Rafa, significantly raised his game when he needed to, as I thought. Coms said he was “unplayable” at times, and our Andy refused to go away!
Wow again!

Michael Says:

Dmitrov is a gutsy customer and Rafa although he should be the favourite in this match may find the going touch considering the dip in his form. However, as per Sean’s prediction, Rafa should scrape through in three tough sets. As regards Novak Vs Raonic, I feel that Novak would win this hands down. So, in all probability, Rome is moving towards an eagerly awaited clash between Novak Vs Rafa.

Hippy Chic Says:

As a fan of both i wouldve been happy with the result either way,i didnt actually see the match as hubby was watching football,but i recorded it so will watch it later,and it sounds like a cracker,i dont know what will happen at RG,but Andy can certainly gain alot from this week really troubling Rafa,but back Rafa came as he so often does,hes not been at his best this season on clay,but the positive thing is hes still in the tournament?

Hippy Chic Says:

Michael with the way Rafas played this season on clay,any Tom,Dick or Harry can beat him,put it this way im not that confident,but im ready for whatever happens,im in an almost resigned frain of mind these days?….

Jess Says:

That was a great match to watch! Will definitely go down as a classic.
It was surprising how Murray was the crowd favorite though? I always thought Fedal were the ones beloved worldwide- especially in Italy

nick Says:

Organisers scheduling the Nadal-Dimitrov match to 8pm. Got to wonder if they’ll schedule the final to Monday just to help Cheatdull a bit more.

Roasting in the finals incoming.

Perfect fan Says:

WOW!! what a match I witnessed last night….simply STUNNING!!

I had always anticipated this matchup of rafa-andy and last night was a treat. What a 1st set andy played….what character, what spirit, he literally took the game to rafa and dominated him like a routine player. Well, though andy lost, he clearly did sent a message to the current top 4….”dnt get relaxed, if you find me in your side of the draw at RG >:)”

And now, I mus say I’m seriously baffled at some of the ppl here who thinks that rafa is struggling and may not win RG this time. Well, IMO if he is coming from behind to win matches….he is jus getting all the more toughened and all the more prepared for the battle royale at RG. Rafa is one of the few players, who gets all the more vicious if he loses 1st set and simply pounces on his opponent once he traces a slight moment of weakness/tiredness.

With that said, I still think that he may more likely to get defeated in a masters (or any 3-setter match tourneys)on clay, but defeating him in a 5 setter on clay is one hell of an accomplishment. You have to have the fitness of a Spartan warrior if you wanna do that….bcoz on clay, slogging 30-40 shots rally every now n then, you gotta lose steam….and that’s what rafa waits for. One weak service game and you are gone for good.

I dnt think rafa going to lose his domination on RG any time soon….heck, I m confident he can take on a double’s team on the other side of net at RG alone.

PS: Rafa winner RG 2014….PERIOD.

Margot Says:

Oh and PS.
NB Andy’s comments about his back operation…….

Klaas Says:

Great match, especially third set. Reminded me of Djoker-Murray semifinal 2011.
Best point for me was Andy moving Nadal around with alternatively a sharp short FH cross and a long FH down the line until Rafa was so far out he could just roll in the winner. Not often you see that against Rafa. You must admire Rafa for his will and tenacity, but all those tough matches surely have to catch up with him, at least if he is human?

Colin Says:

Oh boy, did I suffer during that match! Andy’s complete dominance in the first set made the other two all the more agonising to watch.

I watched the first set on a stream pirated from Sky, and one of the comms was Peter Fleming, one-time doubles partner of Johnny Mac. When Andy sent down two great first serves, Fleming said “What a different animal he’d be if he could do that whenever he wanted.” True enough, and you’d think it would be fairly easy to sort out a serve, but the best sever I’ve ever seen, Ivanisovic, was wildly erratic, and the year he won Wimbledon he’d hardly won a match all year.

Andy had said this match would tell him where his game was and what he needed to do, but as it turned out Rafa profited just as much in that respect.

If the draw is not too unkind, Andy can pick up some valuable points at Roland Garros and, perhaps over-optimistically, I’d like to see him play Andy best of 5 on clay. The Scot hasn’t got the brute strength of Rafa but he has plenty of stamina. Roll on Paris!

Colin Says:

“Best sever”? I’ve heard of going for the jugular, but that absurd!

Colin Says:

Or even “that’s”. I’m going back to bed…

Salleh Ahmed Says:

This is beyond belief how many choke against nadal

youzhny set and break up- lost
murray break up in final set
nishikori set and break up-lost

madmax Says:

Margot Says:
Oh and PS.
NB Andy’s comments about his back operation…….

May 17th, 2014 at 2:47 am

I saw it Margot! Don’t you worry!

First time Andy has complained about his back injury. Before all of this, he has always commented on it being a MINOR surgery.

Well, I haven’t seen the match, but I will and I am very pleased that Andy was working hard in the first set to win it. He did extremely well and must have shaken rafa. Andy deserves it after his previous setbacks. I think he is coping well being Lendl Less.

With more practice, he will be back to his best, that is for sure.

I think rafa is just testing the water, not expending too much energy. Though having played 3 sets, he really is someone you simply cannot write off. He has to be the bookies favourite to win RG, and even though Murray isn’t in top 5, Murray IS a top five player, and has a dark horse chance.

Good luck!

Federer though to reach the Finals! I am going all out here. I don’t care. It’s about time that Roger forged ahead and got to number 1 by the end of the year! Yes! You heard it here first!


Giles Says:

SA. You mean similar to fed choking against Nadal? Lol

Colin Says:

Salleh Ahmed, for someone who is presumably a Nadal fan, you are curiously reluctant to give him the credit he deserves.

Andy didn’t choke in that third set; his official “unforced errors” were really forced, by Rafa’s fierce pressure. Had this been a best-of-five match, I think Andy might well have won the fourth and taken it to a decider. Rafa might still have won the match, but Andy is not a choker.

Giles Says:

SA is not a Nadal fan but a fed fan. Can’t you tell??

skeezer Says:

Good posts in description of your fav. Its nice to see you Human with your spelling and grammar, ;).
Thought Andy played more passively as the match went on. Imo his downfall. His 1rst set beatdown on Rafa was a beautiful sight to behold. If he keeps that style of play up he’ll get more titles for sure. Don’t think he has to play all out like the first set all the time, but just know when at times to play aggresive style tennis and execute. He said it all, good measuring stick of where his game is at. Want to to see that serve get better!

Polo Says:

I think most players get too excited and lose their composure once it enters their mind that they are on the brink of beating Nadal on clay. Make it a five set match and the pressure on the other players is multiplied 5x. Only Djokovic seems to be exempt from that but with a questionable wrist it becomes complicated.

As Pefect Fan said and I concur: “Rafa winner RG 2014….PERIOD”.

skeezer Says:

Djoker in a TB against Roanic. Roanic getting this far on Clay? Well done for the big man!

tfouto Says:

It’s not being easy to Djoko at all…

skeezer Says:

Can’t believe how much Raonic has improved his movement on Clay. Wow.

tfouto Says:

It’s good to see new players coming in, but sad that it’s players like Raonic style… Big serve and power above all…

Tennis Fan Says:

What a bunch of crap… Raonic movement is improving rapidly … big serves … big groundies … Djok is being outplayed. A taste of the future and Raonic is a big part of it.

How many guys with big serves show up on clay … virtually none. I can only come up with Soderling. Where is Isner on clay …nowhere. Raonic is a special player …

Tennis Fan Says:

… and now he breaks back on Djoker with a brilliant drop shot out of nowhere … special indeed

madmax Says:

Giles Says:
SA. You mean similar to fed choking against Nadal? Lol

May 17th, 2014 at 7:31 am

Giles, when I post here, I really hope to see something which nears an intelligent,thoughtful post from you. I never find it. It’s only ever about your continual hatred for the GOAT. It goes on and on.

I really hope you grow up soon and are able to converse properly instead, your constant thoughtlessness clogs up an otherwise reasonable discussion.

Try Giles. Try.

contador Says:

Tennis Fan, you are right.

Raonic’s game has improved and right now, the big man from Canada is winning. I mean he is one tie break away. And we know how he plays Tie Breaks!

That said, not ready to say good-bye to my man Nole. Ajde Nole

contador Says:

Great match!

Nole wins the 2nd set. This decider should be fun watching.

Tennis Fan Says:

OK … 1-1 with a set to go. I predict Raonic still comes through today. He just looks completely determined to win.

contador Says:

Well @ Tennis Fan, we know Nole can get determined too – will he?

Raonic wants this :D

Okiegal Says:

Raonic’s serve let him down in the tiebreak…..umm…..the young ones get nervous too! A routine TB for Milos…..gone awry!! He probably just missed his chance of being the finals…

skeezer Says:

One cannot forget Djoker’s fortitude either. Took the 2nd and he is up a break in the 3rd.

Ben Pronin Says:

“Only Djokovic seems to be exempt from that but with a questionable wrist it becomes complicated.”

This myth has grown to a hilarious extent. I’m pretty sure he tightened up, too, being up a break in the fifth before ultimately losing. I want him to win the French as much as any Djokovic fan but let’s be a little more realistic.

Tennis Fan Says:

The thing is Raonic has the weapons to dictate who wins … he just has to finish. He’s hit twice as many winners as Djokovic and has dictated play most of the match. He’s getting very close to a break through I still wouldn’t count him out today even down one break in the final game.

… he looks to me that with his rapid progress since switching coaches that he is going to move into the top half of the top ten this year. Djokovic is at peak age for a tennis player … Raonic won’t peak for a few more years.

Gordon Says:

With every match Raonic seems to be getting better. He is no longer just the guy with the huge serve. One day – and it may be soon – he is going to notch some big wins.

Margot Says:

Wow! Those first two sets were close. Milos has improved a lot since I last saw him play. Once Nole took the second though, I knew he would win.
He gets that glint in his eye and kerpow!

Giles Says:

Well done Serena!

Scena Says:

Enjoyed it thoroughly!!

Daniel Says:

This match is going fast. Dimitrov is too far behind and can’t do match. He actually won first point in every service game from Nadal but couldn’t make any inroad apart from one 30-30.

princessice Says:

Yay! Rafa took the 1st set. He’s poised at extending his clay semi-final record to 50-1. :)

gonzalowski Says:

33 min. 6-2 for rafa Weeeelll!

Daniel Says:

Too many errors. He is trying to be more agressive but making even more mistakes. This is just what Nadal needed, a fast match where he will be 1 hour on court and get some rest for a Djoko clash tomorrow. RG could be determine tomorrow if Nadal even not playing his beat willbe able to defend Madrid and Rome

Daniel Says:

Nadal os very confiant now. Painting the linea as we haven’t seen in a while. Tomorrow promisses to be a good match

Humble Rafa Says:

Playing at 50%. First time in a long time.


Gordon Says:

Actually Daniel, even if Rafa gets thumped tomorrow he will still be the favourite to win RG. When someone does as well as he has for this long he does not drop down to contender in that best-of-five clay event.

It certainly will have us all watching his matches with a little more interest to see how in form he is, and we will look at the draw with a little more scrutiny, but until he loses again on the clay in Paris (I’m saying again and bringing up the anomalous Söderling defeat of 2009 because if I don’t some troll will) Mr Nadal deserves to be the favourite. Nuff said.

queen Says:

^ Amen

Daniel Says:

Agree Gordon he wil. Be favourite regardless. But if he beats Djokovic tomorrow basically will be no contest and RG will be his becaise Novak needs this win now, to get a clay win in the last event prior to RG an will resore his aura winjig Masters, last he did not win he was injured. If Nadal wins back ti back, Madrid and Rome after how he played the message will be just as strong, that even his 70% game is enough versus the field.

princessice Says:

Didn’t expect yesterday that this match would be over in just more than a hour and in straight sets. Happy for the Rafa win though. Rest is what he needs for tom. :)

Margot Says:

Ooh dear, poor Dimi. A bit of a damp squib that one.
Rafa too good!

Patson Says:

That was a pretty boring match. I mean Dimi just didn’t put up a fight. And Rafa didn’t even have to play his best tennis.

Hopefully the final will be a cracker !

Salleh Ahmed Says:

What a joke. Nadal wasnt really the winner of madrid. And he should lose tomorrow.

the DA Says:

Andy released the kraken last night. Dimi didn’t seem to have any set patterns of play – hitting short & slicing to Rafa’s FH are big no no’s. He was also 10 ft behind the baseline often.

James Says:

If Nadal wins the final tomorrow, he must thank his amigo Andy for helping him play better.

Hippy Chic Says:

Congrats to Rafa on making another final,if he wins it he wins it?if he doesnt he doesnt?as long as he does his best thats all anyone can ask?

Hippy Chic Says:

^Meant to say congrats to Novak too,who seems to be getting back to his best,thankfully the wrist doesnt seem to be an issue anymore,and what a cracker of a match today,Milos is destined for big things,but when push came to shove Novak just managed to find that extra gear^.

Hippy Chic Says:

Salleh Ahmed Madrids in the past,we are in Rome now….

Patson Says:


Dude just enjoy the tennis these great players have to offer to mere mortals like us. Don’t be bitter. The chances of us achieving 1% of what they’ll achieve in their careers are close to zero.

So relax and just enjoy.

Hippy Chic Says:

Patson exactly well said….

John Says:

What a pathetic display from Dimitrov, hope he starts playing better cause this match is not even worth watching ATM.

Okiegal Says:

Grigor is a very nice looking young man, but……a Baby Fed…..he ain’t!! lol

Congrats to Novak and fans…..hope for a great match tomorrow.

The “new” dogs didn’t show the “old” dogs any tricks today……just like a figured!

Vamos, Rafa!!!

Humble Rafa Says:

a Baby Fed…..he ain’t!! lol

Humble **longs for**baby Humble.

Okiegal Says:

When in Rome do as the Romans do……have a glass of bubbly and celebrate Rafa’s win!!

Humble Rafa Says:

I realize some people are watering in their mouths. I say, let’s wait till the Roman War ends tomorrow before coming to conclusions.

Margot Says:

Well said old chap/chapess…;)
Yes, I was surprised at apparent lack of any game plan, after all Racheed is a wily, experienced coach. Perhaps he filled Grig’s head too full with instructions and they just flowed out, the minute he got on court….;)
First Masters 1000 semi too, must’ve increased the nerves a bit.

gonzalowski Says:

A point: at Rome, Dimi has been for Nadal the first contender with a weak backhand; Simon, Youzhny and Andy they have powerful bhs. And so Nadal was able at the end to play effectively his ‘natural’ game.

2013 #massacreinrome
2014 #babymassacreinrome ;)

Giles Says:

How many times?? There is nothing wrong with Joker’s wrist and there never was. He wore a bandage as long as his arm in the MC final to convince everybody he was injured. He played well, didn’t he? This “injury” farce was just to skip Madrid where he is not the crowd fave taking into account his antics there last year. “SMD” anyone?

skeezer Says:

Novak beat Rafa with a fake wrist. Imagine how he would have beaten him with a real wrist. Doh!

RZ Says:

I was camping during the Murray-Nadal match and had not access to the scores. This should have meant victory for Andy! Guess that magic only works during Wimbledon. :-)

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