Sunday, March 18, 2007

Pacific Life Open Men's Final Preview

by MadProfessah

[12]N Djokovic (SRB) vs[2]R Nadal (ESP)
The men's semifinals played Saturday were a bit of a let down after the previous round's thrillers (Andy Roddick d. Ivan Ljubicic 7-6(7), 7-6(8) and Andy Murray d. Tommy Haas 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(8)). World No. 2 Rafael Nadal made quite a statement by demolishing Roddick in straight sets 6-4, 6-3 by serving at nearly 90% percent and made 33 winners to a mere 12 unforced errors (and really some of those 12 were "attempted winners" that just missed), an astonishing +21 performance that rocked the American's confidence so that his serve was diminished in accuracy and impact (a mere 16 aces).

Novak Djokovic's career has neatly paralleled Andy Murray's: they were born one week apart (Murray was born 15th of May 1987 and Djokovic was born the 22nd of May 1987), are now one World ATP ranking position apart (#13 and #14) and have almost identical ATP Tour records. However, on Saturday's match between the two was not close: Djokovic won 6-3, 6-3.

Sunday's final will be an interesting showdown between two young guns showcasing the first of many important clashes in the future: 20-year-old Nadal versus 19-year-old Djokovic. They have only played once before, at last year's Roland Garros where the reigning King of Clay was leading the Serbian 6-4, 6-4 when Djokovic said "No Más!" and retired.

I doubt that Nadal will have it so easy in Sunday's final but if he plays anywhere near the level he displayed against Roddick it will be a very short day at the office. Djokovic should celebrate reaching his first ATP Master Series final, but he knows that it is possible for a 19-year old to win an ATP Master Series shield--his opponent in Sunday's final has won six of them as a teenager in 2005-2006.

Mad Professah's pick: Nadal.


Craig Hickman said...

MadProfessah, your summaries/previews are top notch. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

As a fan of Roddick, I am concerned about how his game keeps deserting him the closer he gets to the finish line of a tournament. Three semis and a final to open the year is a best record Roddick has ever achieved in a season, however....

Nadal played great, but Roddick gave up at 2-2 in the first set, when he missed 5 first serves in a row and got broken. Other than make first serves, Nadal hadn't done anything spectacular before then, and all of a sudden Roddick's game fell apart. He never recovered. Nadal gained in confidence and ran away with it. It's my opinion that Andy made Nadal look better than he was (not that Nadal didn't play great, but even Chela put up some resistance and managed to break serve in the quarterfinals), as he did against Federer (to an extent), Murray (who he turned right around and beat the next week, fully determined not to go down to the Scot two weeks in a row!), and Haas earlier this year as well.

Connors must be spitting bullets. Roddick's mechanics have improved, but his mentality has regressed and Jimmy can't do anything about that. (See Murray comments above.)

Where is the never-say-die Roddick who won that marathon quarterfinal 21-19 in the 5th set against Younes El Aynaoui in Melbourne in 2003?

Amazing what the mind can do.

Anonymous said...

Craig, Nadal is back. Big week. Feel like last year after losing Wimbledon he was too drained from getting caught up in the "Good grief I"m really the #1 player in the world, better than Fed" vibe. Took a month or more off and while he hasn't been average, Nadal's lacked that extra umph that made him the #2 player in the world.

He's backkkkk. Too good of a player not to get it kick started again.

Roddick has a defeatist attitude at times, especially when his serve isn't clicking. But, right now against the top players his game boils down to net play. Approaches and volleys. In short, they're at best average. He's not the all around athlete of Fed or Nadal. Or McEnore. Andy's not 'gifted.' He's bit of a rock farmer. Hard work and tan lines with attitude.

If there's anyway for his net game to improve it needs to soon. Even Agassi punched balls away at the net better than Andy does most of the time.

He's in a tough spot of knowing what the right thing to do is, but not quite being good enough to make it happen as much as is needed.

My opinion anyway.

Good to see Fed lose.

Will he be tested again?