There’s still hope for Rafael Nadal! After meekly dropping the opening set of the Hamburg tournament to countryman Fernando Verdasco, Rafa has reeled off eight straight sets to reach the finals where tomorrow he’ll face new nemesis Fabio Fognini.
Today, Nadal didn’t have much trouble between the lines against Andreas Seppi, belting the Italian 6-1, 6-2. Though it wasn’t as crisp as the scoreline indicated. There were still some misses (though far fewer than we have seen), some ill-timed double faults and a mysterious injury time out for some sort of upper body, stomach/ab muscle ache.
But Nadal did have depth on his shots and he did have some zip on that forehand, finishing with 21 winners and just 7 unforced. But he was playing Seppi! That said, he did have some decent wins earlier in the week over Jiri Vesely and Pablo Cuevas after running away from Verdasco.
“From the beginning I played great, since the first game that I hit a few winners,” Nadal said. “I was very comfortable on court today, feeling the ball well, with topspin to his backhand and then changing to his forehand down the line – a very important shot for me. In general it was a very positive match.
“Every victory is important. And this year with the up and downs that I’ve had, obviously every improvement is important. I played at a very high level. I’m very happy for that, playing with not many mistakes, very well with my backhand, very well with my forehand, hitting winners, changing speeds, changing directions. I think I played a great match.”
So he is looking good.
Tomorrow, the task is far tougher against another Italian in Mr. Fognini. Fabio, who beat qualifier Lucas Pouille today in his semi, has beaten Nadal the last two times they have played stunning him in the Rio semifinals and again in the third round at Barcelona.
Could Nadal actually lose to Fognini a third straight time this year? If he did would the internet break?
Well, yes it could happen, and not sure on what would happen to the internet as we know it. But what we do know is Nadal is working out his game and his mind right now, trying to get right after a disappointing French and Wimbledon.
For Rafa, it’s really not about winning Slams at the moment, it’s about beating guys like Fognini to win smaller titles and working his way back up the ladder. About building some sort of confidence. So I think Sunday he gets it done and wins his first European clay title since the French Open last year. And above all, he beats a guy who’s given him problems of late – ok, it’s not Novak Djokovic, but it’s a start. Then, maybe as he heads to the hardcourts in Canada, this gives him a lift. Becuase he damn sure needs one.
“I will try to keep playing well and enjoy today’s victory,” said Nadal. “These are important points for me – 300 points for my goal of qualifying for the ATP World Tour Finals is important. Matches like today help to bring you your confidence and your motivation for what you are doing.”
Hamburg isn’t the only clay final Sunday, we have another in Gstaad, and it’s a good one between two of the younger stars, David Goffin and Dominic Thiem. Thiem handed Feliciano Lopez a 3-set loss to win his seventh straight match while Goffin took out Thomaz Bellucci quite comfortably 6-4, 6-2.
Both guys are terrific players. I just wish they were winning matches on the hardcourts – it is August after all!
Speaking of the hardcourts, that’s surface of choice in Hot-Lanta where John Isner is currently trying to 3-peat. He plays the improving Denis Kudla last today. And then tonight Marcos Baghdatis battles Gilles Muller. It’s nice to see Marcos playing good tennis again.
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