Thursday, March 19, 2009

Face Of The Day


How else can David Nalandian look after squandering 5 match points against a player he has practically terrorized on the tennis court the last two times he played him. I didn't see the match, but Rafael Nadal had to be lucky to escape. That final set bagel tells me all I need to know about the affair.

I just couldn't stay up. I tried. But Victoria Azarenka's shrill squeals after every shot were far too annoying, and muting the television didn't make the tennis she and Dinara Safina played look any better. I'm surprised I got through the first set. Karen, your wish came true.


JJ said...

I actually happened to tune right around 5-3 in the 2nd set, when Nadal had to start saving MP, and dozed off towards the end of the 2nd set. Nadal wasn't playing great, and Nalbandian was pretty much outplaying him. But somehow he just couldn't convert on the MP. Even though Nadal kept saving MPs, it still felt like a foregone conclusion that Nalbandian was going to win. But, Nadal toughed it out! As Nadal said post match, it looked like he didn't really have a game plan going in. He just looked like he was playing the points, one at a time. Since I only saw about 3 games (from 3-5 to 6-5), I can't say if Nalbandian choked it away. But Nadal definitely toughed it out.

Beth said...

As I said under another post, I would have loved to have seen the 2nd set. Nalbandian is so streaky: he can cause so much trouble when he's 'on' and be so easy to dispatch when he's not. I guess he was 'on' last night, at least for the better part of the match. I think this is a great mental victory for Rafa despite how difficult it was to prevail.

Karen said...

I made sure I stayed up to watch this match to its completion. Give credit to Azarenka, she won that match and frankly speaking she deserved to win, howling notwithstanding (that is so not a shriek). Dinara needs to go work on her game. She cannot serve, her forehand is atrocious, her mental game is so poor (and I dont care how many match points she has saved, the girl just self destructs in matches, when things are not going her way). Sorry that she lost, but glad because Serena gets to stay No. 1

Pamela said...

I have several observations.

In the beginning until the end of the second set Rafa looked uncomfortable on the court. He was tugging at his shirt, and had that look of "why aren't my shots going in"? He was so error prone, it's been a very very long time since I've seen him look like that, and it was not 100% Nalbandian, although he's capable of doing that to players.

It reminded me of how Fed looks playing Rafa on clay, Nalby was in Rafa's head. When you get beat so soundly twice in a row, it's bound to have an effect. Rafa didn't have confidence.

When Nalby was up 5-3 and Rafa was serving to stay in the match, there was a noticeable shift in how he approached his game. The crowd was there for him and Nalby's serve totally left him, but Rafa stepped his game up. From the moment that he broke him to get to 5 all, his entire body language changed.

He had self belief again, and that's how he played that tie-break. It's twofold. Nalby ran out of gas, but if Rafa had played the way he did in set 1 and the first half of set 2 he would have lost anyway.

This was a mental victory for him. It was strange to see him look like that, like he did maybe 2 years ago but I don't think he'll play Nalby the same anymore. He knows he can beat him now.

Pamela said...

I've said it before, but I think Azarenka is louder than Maria and that's disturbing to me. I just can't tolerate the audible assault.

Dinara is a nice girl, but her game is so rudimentary. She was not and is not ready to become #1. At least with Jelena there was (emphasis on was) an element of consistency.

oddman said...

I couldn't stay up either, even if it was Rafa playing. Went to bed at 3-6, 1-0 in the second, after a nice love hold for Rafa at start of set two.

What an amazing result when I got up! I thought Daveeed had him by the short hairs, but was not to be. He must feel gutted this morning.

Rafa! You are simply amazing! How in the hell...

(shakes head admiringly)

oddman said...

May I also just say what a treat it is to read Rafa's presser comments - not afraid to let anyone know he was afraid of Nalby's backhand, wasn't sure of himself, admitted he'd let those two demolishings by Nalby get into his head... how refreshing.

This is probably the 437,584th time I've said here 'I love this kid'. Ain't he great?


Graf_sampras said...

Rafael Nadal
One thing Nadal fans have to be happy about: Their man no longer wastes time in the early rounds. In Australia, he won efficiently until the semifinals. So far this tournament, he hasn’t expended much energy (we’ll see if that continues against David Nalbandian Wednesday evening). If Nadal can continue to limit his time on court, he’ll have a better chance of staying healthy, and staying on top for a long, long time. Grade: A+


Rafa's "grade" so far from Tom Perrotta in

Graf_sampras said...

Marat Safin on Nadal:

" He is more talented than he looks " (from what marat says is the impression made by people because of rafa's style)

oddman said...

The only other player I can think of off the top of my head with that kind of openness is Andy R. And of course, Andy has a much better knowledge of English, and is hilarious in his own pressers. (although Rafa does have a good sense of humor, when asked whether his doubles team could do better against the Bryans over the Swiss duo of Allegro and Fed (won 2 games only) he said 'win three games.' Hee.

Rafa said 'I was lucky...' to get away with that one.

Pretty cool.

Graf_sampras said...

the first set -- Nadal was just distracted by the news that roger is having a should have been his..

second set -- nalbandian got distracted by news that roger is having a should have been his..

third set -- david realized this wasn't Davis

Graf_sampras said...

"I don't know (how I won)," Nadal said. "I had a lot of luck. I started the match with some doubt because the last two matches were very easy for him."

Once he broke the Nalbandian serve in the opening game of the third set, though, that was it and Nadal ran away with the rest of the set to set up a clash with another Argentine, Juan Martin Del Potro.

Federer was also made to battle for his quarter-final spot, beating Chilean Fernando Gonzalez 6-3 5-7 6-2.

"I enjoy playing (Gonzalez) because it's so tactical," Federer said.

"But then at the same time it's so brutal, so aggressive. You think you have a slight chance to win the point, and then you realise, no, there's actually none."

oddman said...

Pamela, great insights. I just finished watching the last two sets, and agree pretty much with what you said there.

I don't like seeing that 'hardcourt' face that Rafa sometimes wears, but I see it less often now as he figures out what to do on this soofrace.

As to Nalby being in his head, oh, yeah, big time he was. But after last night, I think Rafa's exorcised him. Damn, David's got the game to give anyone fits. I like him when he's not playing any of my faves, and he gets my respect always.

HoiHa said...

Pamela you are spot on in your terrific analysis of the match - many people are saying it was simply a Nalby choke but I did not see it that way at all - did Nalby get tight? Yes he did , but not so tight that it cost him the match - it was Rafa who stepped it up. You could see exactly when Rafa decied to play his own game at that 5-3 point in the 2nd set.

It was a great win for him largely I think because it will add to the "legend" of how tough he is to beat, right down to that last point. If he still comes back at you with 5 match points - an opponent will never be able to feel comfortable with a lead against him - a powerful mental weapon for Rafa to have.

rabbit said...

oddman, Rafa is quite generous in praising opponents, but I think it is an exaggeration to say that he and Andy are the only ones who admit being lucky when they actually are lucky. Like Roger, in the biggest stage, in Wimbledon 07, said that he was very lucky to win. And like after the Verdasco match yesterday:

Q. At 4 2 in the second set, you seemed to be in control of the match, and then there seemed to be a string of games where you lost timing on both the forehand and the backhand. Can you say what happened?

ROGER FEDERER: Yeah. I mean, I don't think I served great, you know, in those games, and I think he got some good hits in. You know, he started the rally off neutral and was able to neutralize me. Because he's got such big shots, especially his forehand, you know, he can, you know, put you under pressure quickly.

I think he knew that was his last chance, you know, that he had to play well and not make mistakes, and he was able to deliver.

And I struggled with my rhythm on the backhand, you know. I don't think I played the best match of my life, but I think it was solid. And, you know, when it got tough I couldn't come up with the backhands I wanted to, so I think those kind of let me down.

I got lucky to get back into the match. I played a good breaker, so good luck I snuck out of it. But I hung in there and I put him under pressure early on so I did have a chance. If I were to break back I could still win the match.

It was difficult. I wasn't quite happy with the match today, but for a while there I actually was playing okay.

oddman said...

Sure, rabbit. I did say 'off the top of my head', so it's not like I put a whole lot of thought and quote-searching into my post. I think I was more reacting to Rafa being more candid than usual about his problems in the match. Not the usual 'I try my best, fight, and maybe get chances to win, no?' that we're used to reading.

Interesting and good presser Q&A with Fed as well.