Tag Archive | "Baghdatis"

Rafael Nadal Answers to the Press at Sony Ericsson Open

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Rafael Nadal Answers to the Press at Sony Ericsson Open

World number one Rafael Nadal sat down with the press this afternoon at the Sony Ericsson Open.  Nadal answered questions about Roger, Federer, Novak Djokovic, Juan Martin Del Potro and issues with his serve at Indian Wells.  On the social media front, Nadal has no plans to join Twitter at the moment. Here is his complete interview with the media.

Q. I know you’ve won almost everything in this sport, but not Miami. Is this kind of one you’d like to get? I think you’ve won 6 out of 9 Masters?

RAFAEL NADAL: No, I play every tournament with the same motivation. It’s always play well and then I gonna have a good result. In this tournament I think I had two finals, another semifinal. So I had the chances; I didn’t win. Is impossible win in every place. I just accept the challenge and try to play my best tennis. That’s only way to win the tournament where all the best players of the world are playing.

Q. Is it tougher than most because it comes right after Indian Wells and you always seem to go deep into that draw?

RAFAEL NADAL: No. No, I don’t think so.

Q. Did you consider playing in the soccer game the other night? I know you went to watch. Did you consider playing?

RAFAEL NADAL: I would love, you know, but for me is important ‑ probably most important ‑ part of the season right now since Indian Wells until Wimbledon. I had the knees problems and seriously, I don’t want any risk right now, no?

Q. What did you think of the game? We heard that Andy Murray and Baghdatis were the best players.

RAFAEL NADAL: I didn’t see all the game, because I had to work with a sponsor in another place. But they told me, yeah. But remain the star, remain me. (Laughing.) No, seriously, Baghdatis and Murray told me ‑‑ Djokovic told me that Baghdatis and Murray was playing unbelievable. They lost 5‑2, so, anyway, important thing is not the result, is the charity of the event. I think was really good because the crowd was full there, very good atmosphere. After in the dinner with Nole, I was there supporting the dinner, too. So I think was fantastic, too. That’s important, always be active in these charity events, especially for Japan at this moment.

Q. About 10 years ago you probably would have been one of the taller players on the tour. Now you play guys like Querrey and Isner, Raonic and even Djokovic and these guys are 6’3″ and higher. Do you feel like the game is going in that direction? Just gonna get taller and taller? Is it tougher to play against these guys, too?

RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, but the best players of the world play from the baseline. That’s true. Djokovic is very good from the baseline. Federer is very good from the baseline. Myself. Last couple of years, my best quality is from the baseline. Murray is from the baseline. Soderling, too. Davydenko, too, Berdych, too. That’s true, is coming ‑‑ Del Potro is the only one, but he’s characteristic is from the baseline, too. Is true that the game is coming very tall guys, but at the end of the day, I think the best players of the world and the players who are in the top are players who plays from the baseline. Is true is not easy play against Isner, against Karlovic, against Raonic, but we will see if that is the right way to be in the top. I don’t know.

Q. Is there anything that you notice from your game at Indian Wells that you feel you could improve on in this tournament?

RAFAEL NADAL: A lot of things. (Smiling.) I think during the tournament I didn’t play really good. It wasn’t a good level for me. Semifinals and final I improved my level of tennis, but during the final my serve worked terrible. So that’s the first thing. I have to serve better if I want to have chances to compete against all the players. And from the baseline, seriously, I think I finished the tournament playing much better than the beginning of the tournament. So that’s always a very positive thing.

Q. Did you and Toni work on your serve? Did you find out what was wrong with it?

RAFAEL NADAL: We hope so, but we never know. (Smiling.) We gonna see tomorrow how it works hopefully better.

Q. What is it that you love about playing tennis?

RAFAEL NADAL: I love the competition. Yeah. I love the support in general, all the sports. Tennis is my sport, so I like the tennis and especially I love the competition.

Q. What is your perception of Djokovic? Over the years he was joking, doing impersonations, this and that. He’s still very funny, but he seems to have tried to tone down a little bit maybe. He’s playing very, very, very well now. What is your relationship with him? What do you think the perception of him among the players is?

RAFAEL NADAL: My relationship with him always was fantastic. We are close. I think he’s a funny guy, but he’s not playing now better because he’s not doing his imitations or these things. That’s for sure. You know, always the people, when somebody is playing very well, try to found the things outside of the tennis. Seriously, the only thing what matters is what’s happen inside the court. Outside the court you can do imitations all the day, or you can do anything. You can’t go out every night, that’s for sure, no? But you can do anything. You can have a really normal life and play very well or play very bad. That doesn’t affect inside the court.

What he’s doing well is he’s playing with confidence. His level probably is not much higher than three years ago or two years ago or one year ago. I always saw him as fantastic player. His potential always was very, very high. Everybody knows how good is him, and he can do what he’s doing now. He started the season like in 2008 and was the same. So is nothing new. We will see what’s going on. I think he’s a very complete player because he can play on all of the surfaces very good, and that’s an advantage. He started better than possible, so he’s in a very good position.
But the season always is long, and we will see what is going on.

Q. Novak recently joined Twitter. You’re very present on Facebook. Do you have any plans to join Twitter?

RAFAEL NADAL: Not for the moment. I happy with the Facebook. I don’t know. No, for me is enough for the moment.

Q. I want to ask you also about the Bacardi, the thing you’re involved in with drinking responsibly. Can you talk about that? I wasn’t at the event, but can you just tell us a little about that, the campaign.

RAFAEL NADAL: I think is a very important social campaign, especially I think for everybody, but for the young people more. The campaign is champions drink responsibly, but is a social campaign about if you have to go out, have a plan how to come back home safely. Is a campaign about if you go out, you don’t need to drink crazy. You can drink few glasses of alcohol, but drink alcohol‑free and drink water. Is important quality than quantity. That is the campaign, no? For sure I think everybody knows when you go out and you go for party with your friends, alcohol is part of that, part of the night. But sometimes seems like you go out and you have to drink like crazy. In my opinion, that’s not like this. That’s the campaign. I think it’s important campaign. I’m very happy to be the ambassador.

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Novak Djokovic Addresses Media at Sony Ericsson Open

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Novak Djokovic Addresses Media at Sony Ericsson Open

World number two Novak Djokovic sat down with the press this afternoon at the Sony Ericsson Open.  Djokovic answered questions about soccer, Juan Martin Del Potro, and Andy Roddick.  He also commented on his recent entry into the social media outlets of Twitter and Facebook. Here is his complete interview with the media.

Q. You’re awake. You must be really tired with all that’s been going on.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, well, it’s been exhausting couple of days, you know, from Indian Wells, traveling to Colombia, playing an exhibition match ‑‑ which, by the way, was amazing and great atmosphere and great reception we got there ‑‑ and then came back and we had, of course, the charity event, football match, and then the dinner that was going on. So it was a lot of obligations, but still, it was enjoyable, because it was all for the good cause; we had a lot of fun yesterday.

Q. How are you taking your first loss of the season against the Strikers?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, not great. (Laughter. We scored two goals. I mean, it’s good enough for the first time, you know. We were just discussing right now in the locker room how we need to work on our game. We are planning actually to play couple of more similar charity football games throughout, you know, the next six, seven, eight months. You know, I’m not gonna say still where and when, but we have something in our minds. Hopefully we can make that happen, because most of the players really, we love playing football, and you could see that. You know, you could see that they are enjoying playing that sport and of course being very competitive, even though it was first time that we managed to become a team. But we wanted to win badly. Yeah, but it was fun.

Q. Who’s the best player?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Ah, the best player? Baghdatis. Second best, Murray. They scored both one goal and they were good.

Q. Do you worry about injuries? I mean, soccer, even if you’re playing a charity event, you could still twist your ankle or something.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, you know, we didn’t think about that too much, to be honest, you know. (Smiling.) It was more of adrenaline rush that we had of just being there. To be honest, in the first place, everybody didn’t expect that event to be that successful. And it was incredible, you know. Big thanks to everybody who came there, and of course media and all the players, the Strikers and everybody. You know, it was a great cause obviously, and obviously and everybody felt the need to show their support. But on the other hand, it was ‑‑ you know, it was sport that we love to play, but we don’t have an opportunity to be able to play an official match with the referees. But it was great. You know, I don’t think they thought about injuries that much, but we had to sign the paper that they are not responsible for our injuries, like in States. It always works like that. (Laughter.)

Q. With everything that’s been going on, have you had a chance to reflect on what has just been an amazing start to the season?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Um, the best couple of months of my career, definitely. Um, playing really, really well on the court, feeling emotionally very stable, and I just have more self‑belief that I can play good tennis, you know, and that I can win against any player on the tour. It’s really important, you know. I always had, I think, that quality, but mentally I was having a lot of ups and downs, and I didn’t have enough confidence on the court when I played the big players in the big events. But now it’s different, you know. It took time. It took definitely time for me to come to this point where, you know, where I play, I think, the best tennis of my life. It took a lot of patience, a lot of hard work, but it all comes from that. It all comes from dedication.

Q. How did you address those mental up and downs? Was there one thing that made a difference?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It’s very hard to make a difference between a private life and your professional life. There were some things that affected my game, you know, from private life. It was hard, for me, to kind of, you know, show my best on the court. You know, bottom line is this is mental game. Everybody’s physically fit, and, you know, everybody’s working really hard each day. But if you’re not stable emotionally, then you’re not able to perform your best on the court. Now things are coming together, so just happy for that.

Q. Can you tell me about all your experiences in Bogota?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I cannot tell you about all the experience, but I can tell you the experience that we had on the court. (Laughing.) It has been a fantastic trip for us. Even though it was very short, it was maybe one day, but we didn’t have much sleep, that’s for sure. You know, from Indian Wells we had a long travels, and we slept for a couple of hours only that day before the exhibition event. We had a lot of activities. We had a tennis clinic with sponsors, with kids, and we had a lot of media activities, as well. And then, you know, we went back to the stadium where we played the match. It was packed. I think it was 14,000 people. It was, for me, the best atmosphere in the exhibition match that I have experienced ever. I was not aware of the popularity of tennis in Colombia, to be honest. It was amazing. The president of the country came, and we really felt ‑‑ we really felt great.

Q. With all the matches you won now, is there a danger of becoming too confident?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I guess it’s never enough to have, you know ‑‑ more confidence you have, I guess, there is no limits in confidence, you know. It’s really important to be able to have a feeling that you can win against anybody in the court. I think the bottom line is that it’s all about confidence, and only couple of points basically decide the winner when you are playing against the top players, against Roger, Rafa, you know, Murray, all these guys. It’s very high level of tennis, and, you know, if you’re able to be calm in the certain moments, to be confident, to go for the shots, you know, then you will have a success. I guess in last two, three months, that’s the state of, you know ‑‑ that’s the feeling that I have right now, and it keeps on going well for me. But it’s only a start of the year. I want to move on. I’m using the experience that I had two years ago, three years ago when I won a Grand Slam, when I won Indian Wells, and then I lost here first round. I had a lot of opening‑round losses throughout the year, and I wasn’t managing to be consistent with the success. This time I will do differently.
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Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and Murray Still In the Hunt at Australian Open

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Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and Murray Still In the Hunt at Australian Open

Seven days of competition have passed at the Australian Open.  While Rafael Nadal has breezed through his matches to get to the round of 16, defending champion Roger Federer had a hiccup in the second round.  As usual, there were a few unexpected departures in the first week.  Here’s a summary of what has taken place this initial week.

It’s been smooth sailing for Nadal in getting through to the round of 16.  The world number one’s excellent form will come in handy as he faces 2010 semifinalist Marin Cilic.  After two easy matches, Cilic edged out John Isner 9-7 in the fifth to earn a crack at Nadal.

After a thrilling first round five setter against Lleyton Hewitt, David Nalbandian called it quit in the second round, four games away from being handed a straight set loss.  Mikhail Youzhny also departed earlier than expected.  The tenth seed was sent packing in the third round by Milos Raonic.  The 20 year old Canadian qualifier with the humongous serve also ousted Michael Llodra, the 22nd seed in the second round.  Next up for Raonic will be David Ferrer who is a relentless competitor.  Ferrer’s experience may prove too much for the youngster.  Thus, a Ferrer-Nadal quarterfinal showdown is the likely scenario.

Without much fuss, both Robyn Soderling and Andy Murray have been taking care of business.  Soderling’s fourth round match will be against Alexandr Dolgopolov.  The Ukrainian upset 13th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the third round.  Following an impressive second round match versus Juan Martin Del Potro, Marcos Baghdatis was forced to retire down two sets to one with a hand injury in his third round match against Jurgen Melzer.  As such, Murray will battle Melzer for a quarterfinal berth.

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Can Nadal Make it Four in a Row or Will Federer Defend?  Australian Open Preview

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Can Nadal Make it Four in a Row or Will Federer Defend? Australian Open Preview

1969 was the year when Rod Laver accomplished the calendar grand slam for the second time.  Laver had done so previously in 1962.  At the Australian Open, Rafael Nadal will attempt to become the first person to hold all four majors simultaneously, although not in the same calendar year.  Like Nadal, Roger Federer has won three majors in a single year on multiple occasions, but never held all four.  With a historic sixteen majors, Federer, the defending champion, will be one of the competitors trying to halt Nadal from revising  the tennis annals.  Indeed, if the Australian Open draw holds up, Nadal’s route to his second title is fraught with red flags.

After seemingly comfortable initial two rounds, Nadal may see Marin Cilic in the round of 16.  Despite disappointing results the remainder of 2010 after a semifinal placement in Melbourne, for Cilic knowing that he’s gone that far at this major can be an inspiration.  Moreover, the only time these two met in 2009, Cilic was the victor. In the quarterfinals, Nadal also has a few pesky potential opponents to look forward to: Mikhail Youzhny, David Ferrer and David Nalbandian.  On any given day, these men can be a real thorn on any individual’s side.

The second part of the top half of the draw has Robin Soderling and Andy Murray as the top seeds.  Either player could clash with Nadal in the semifinals.  Soderling appears to have a favorable trek until the round of 16 where he will possibly collide with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the 2007 Australian Open finalist and 2010 semifinalist.  On the other hand, 2010 finalist Murray may get Juan Martin Del Potro, Marcos Baghdatis or Jurgen Melzer.  Del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, and Baghdatis, the 2006 Australian Open finalist, would be a contest for anyone.  Whether it’s Murray, Soderling or Tsonga in the semis, Nadal will have to his hands occupied in order to reach his second Australian Open final.

To say Federer is hungry for the title is an understatement considering the implications if Nadal prevails. Could Mardy Fish or Sam Querrey trouble the defending champion in the round of 16?  Possibly.  However, with Federer’s four titles out of five his last five tournaments, it’s unlikely anyone will down him early on. Both Gael Monfils and Stanislas Wawrinka have a win over Federer, but are a combined 2-11.  Therefore, it’s inconceivable that either Monfils or Wawrinka will upend Federer in the quarterfinals.  Once again, Andy Roddick may find himself in the position of needing to go through Federer to advance to the semifinals.  Despite Roddick’s 2-20 against Federer, he is the most formidable rival who can actually put a crimp in Federer’s style.

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Federer and Nadal in Awesome Form Going into the Second Week at the U.S. Open

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Federer and Nadal in Awesome Form Going into the Second Week at the U.S. Open

The initial week at the U.S. Open is complete and the men’s field has been scaled down to sixteen players.  Two names missing from the roll call are Andy Roddick and Andy Murray.  These two touted favorites were upset early on. Here’s a summary of the past seven days and an analysis of what could unfold the next few rounds.

While Rafael Nadal barely passed his pre-tournament exams in Toronto and Cincinnati, in his first three matches at the Open, the Spaniard gets an A plus.  Despite being tested, with a beefed up first serve to the tune of 130 miles per hour at times, Nadal has dispatched each adversary in three sets.  In the fourth round, Nadal will face compatriot Feliciano Lopez.  With Nadal’s 5-2 record against his fellow citizen, Lopez is likely the subsequent sacrificial lamb.

After surviving a five set tussle in the first round against Fabio Fognini ranked 86th, Fernando Verdasco is in the round of 16 and will take on David Ferrer, the tenth seed.  Although Verdasco has a 6-4 edge in their encounters, Ferrer prevailed at their last meeting on clay and at their only battle on hardcourt in 2004.  David Nalbandian, one of the few players who could have troubled Nadal, was easily given his marching orders by Verdasco in the third round.

Also in the top section of the draw, seventh seed Tomas Berdych was surprised in the first round by Michael Llodra.  However, the jaw dropper came today with  Murray, the 2008 finalist and fourth seed, dismissed by Stanislas Wawrinka in the third round. The Swiss advanced for the third occasion to the fourth round in New York.   Wawrinka will meet Sam Querrey for a spot in the quarterfinals.  Consequently, for Querrey, this is the ideal scenario to book his maiden quarterfinal berth at a major.

The Spaniards have ruled and Tommy Robredo made sure to partake in the round of 16 festivities. With John Isner beaten by Mikhail Youzhny in the third round, Robredo and the Russian will fight for a place in the quarterfinals.

Another American  propelled into the limelight this week was eighteen year old Ryan Harrison.  After coming through three rounds of qualifying, Harrison stunned Ivan Ljubicic, the fifteenth seed, in the first round.  Furthermore, Harrison was one point from a win in a fifth set tiebreaker in the second round.  Harrison became the first American teen to vanquish a top twenty player at a major since Roddick in 2001 also at this event.

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Federer, Murray, Roddick and Nadal Stand Out of the Heap as U.S. Open Favorites

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Federer, Murray, Roddick and Nadal Stand Out of the Heap as U.S. Open Favorites

The U.S. Open draw has been unveiled with the usual suspects at the top pack.  Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are the highest seeds followed respectively by Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.  For some, the path has multiple green lights, but for others it is lined with yellow flags.  Here’s a breakdown of the draw.

After his victories at the French Open and Wimbledon, Nadal is once more in pursuit of the U.S. Open trophy, the sole major he lacks.  In 2008, the Spaniard was halted in the semifinals by Murray and last year in the same round by Juan Martin Del Potro, the champion.  Although Nadal has been the most prolific performer on grass and clay this season, hardcourt has been a different story.  Nadal has a lone final appearance in January in Doha and went down to Nikolay Davydenko.  With neither injury nor fatigue an issue this time, Nadal is capable of going the distance.  However, there may be a significant boulder in his way in the quarterfinals.

Finally in shape after hip surgery, David Nalbandian has made himself part of the conversation and could clash with Nadal in the quarterfinals.  Although Nadal recorded the win at their last meeting at the Sony Ericsson Open in March, Nalbandian’s form has improved markedly since then.  Moreover, Nalbandian took the title as a wildcard at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic earlier this month.  As a result, the Argentine will not be an easy customer for the Spaniard.

While Fernando Verdasco, the eight seed, is technically another likely quarterfinal counterpart for Nadal, Verdasco is at best a minute obstacle.  With a 10-0 record against his countryman, in a five set match, Nadal is a sure bet.

De novo, Nadal has been placed on a collision course with Murray to reach his first U.S. Open final.  Twice on hardcourt this year, Murray has comprehensively beaten Nadal including the Rogers Cup two weeks ago.  After dreadful results most of the season, Murray is at last in form and defended his title in Toronto.  If they clash in the semifinals, Nadal will have a tough time getting a pass.

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Serving Notice:  Federer Wiggles By Fish for His Fourth Cincinnati Title

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Serving Notice: Federer Wiggles By Fish for His Fourth Cincinnati Title

Following his Australian Open victory in February, Roger Federer’s game had been in a tailspin.  In his best form since Melbourne, Federer made the final at the Rogers Cup last week, but went down to Andy Murray.  However, today, Federer edged out wildcard Mardy Fish 6-7,7-6,6-4 at the Western and Southern Financial Group Masters for his second straight Western and Southern Financial Group Masters title and  his 17th Masters’ shield.

This hardcourt season, Fish has positioned himself as a man to fear.  After a grass title in Newport, Fish claimed the initial trophy of the Olympus U.S. Open series in Atlanta.  In Cincinnati the first three rounds, Fish dismissed Gilles Simon, 9th seed Fernando Verdasco and Richard Gasquet in straight sets.  Subsequently, in the quarterfinals, Fish defeated Andy Murray for the third consecutive time.  Then, in the semifinals, Fish collected his second successive win over Andy Roddick by erasing a 4-6,2-5 deficit and improved his record to 16-1 since Wimbledon.  Thus, with these results, Fish’s confidence was astronomical.

Moreover, with Fish in the most outstanding physical shape of his career and an easy triumph over Federer in their last meeting at Indian Wells in 2008, the chances were excellent that in his fourth attempt, Fish would gain his first Masters’ shield.  Conversely, despite advancing to two other finals besides Toronto, Federer was denied in Madrid and Halle this year.  In his 90th career final, Federer was hungrier than ever to capture his 63rd career title and gain momentum heading into the U.S. Open.

Subsequent to a comfortable hold by each player, Fish got embroiled in a 15 minute plus game.  After surviving two break points, on the ninth deuce, Fish obtained a game point with a backhand volley winner and sealed the game with a strong serve for 2-1.  Thereafter, both men cruised on serve until the tenth game when Fish misfired on a forehand up the line to give Federer set point.  With an ace, Fish wiped out Federer’s advantage and later tied the set at 5 all.  At 5-6 on Fish’s serve, Federer arrived again at set point when Fish’s stroke hit the net and flew long.  Once more, Fish repelled his opponent and forced a tiebreaker.

On Federer’s backhand crosscourt error, Fish got a mini-break for 4-3.  But, with two forehand winners, Federer stole both points off Fish’s serve for 5-4.  Still, Fish reversed the tides with an overhead winner and a backhand error by Federer to fabricate set point at 6-5.  With Federer unable to catch up to Fish’s serve, the American bagged the tiebreaker.

Yet to face a break point, Federer continued to coast on serve in the second set.  However, Fish had no problem matching the defending champion.  In fact, Fish’s first serve percentage improved as the set progressed.  At two all, Fish pushed Federer to a deuce game.  But, Federer guarded serve to stay ahead 3-2.  After holding at love for 6-5, Federer got to deuce on Fish’s watch with a forehand up the line winner.  By readily finding his first serve, Fish held for a second tiebreaker.

With a forehand crosscourt winner, Federer inched ahead with a mini-break for 2-0.  After stretching his lead to 4-1, Federer provoked two errors from Fish to take command of the tiebreaker at 6-1.  Next with an ace, Federer leveled the match at one set a piece and forced a decisive set.

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Another Argentine at Home in Washington:  Nalbandian Grasps the Title

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Another Argentine at Home in Washington: Nalbandian Grasps the Title

Although injury prevented Juan Martin Del Potro, the 2008-09 champion, from defending his title at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic; Del Potro’s countryman , wildcard entrant David Nalbandian, proved an excellent substitute.  Despite being gravely tested by Marcos Baghdatis, the 8th and sole remaining seed, Nalbandian walked away with the championship with a 6-2, 7-6 victory.

As a former world number three, Nalbandian’s current ranking of 117 due to hip surgery and other injuries the past twelve months did not reflect his talent.  In phenomenal form this week, dropping just one set prior to the final, Nalbandian felt his game was now coming together.  Classify it as arrogance, confidence or clairvoyance, after his semifinal win yesterday, Nalbandian intimated that if his form held up, he would run away with the title.

The first game of the match, following two errors by Baghdatis, Nalbandian connected on a forehand crosscourt return winner to earn triple break point.  When Baghdatis’ forehand landed long, Nalbandian took the game.  Next, the Argentine consolidated for a 2-0 lead.  His next time serving, Baghdatis got on the board for 2-1.  Too many return mistakes by Baghdatis especially on second serves led to short rallies and permitted Nalbandian to maintain the break advantage for 4-2. After having game point, Baghdatis double faulted for deuce.  Then, by netting a backhand down the line, the Cypriot donated another break point.  Nalbandian capitalized by hitting a backhand pass for a winner and 5-2.  By comfortably holding, Nalbandian wrapped up the first set in 32 minutes.

In yesterday’s semifinal, Nalbandian required just 72 minutes to dismiss fourth seed Marin Cilic.  His first set performance gave off the vibe that this might be another short match.  After having a game point, Baghdatis double faulted and later on in the first game gave Nalbandian a break point.  Fortunately for the Cypriot, he guarded serve.  The subsequent game, it was Nalbandian who cracked, committing two double faults to gift Baghdatis his first break and a 2-0 lead.  Quickly though, Nalbandian rebounded with a forehand down the line winner for double break point which he banked after a backhand error by Baghdatis.  In the fourth game, Baghdatis obtained double break point on another Nalbandian double fault.  Despite Nalbandian having to resort to his second serve, Baghdatis failed to seize those chances. Too casual on a forehand volley, Baghdatis dumped it in the net on his fifth break point.  Ultimately, Nalbandian salvaged six break points to level the set at 2 all.  Next, on another mistake filled game, Nalbandian broke to move ahead 3-2.  Nevertheless, Baghdatis did not relent and promptly stole the following game to get back on serve.  After holding, Baghdatis knocked at the door again, earning two break points, yet was rebuked by Nalbandian.  Following three love holds by the players, with Nalbandian serving at 5-6, Baghdatis reached set point.  As before, Nalbandian dug out of trouble and pushed the set to a tiebreaker.

Aided by miscues from Baghdatis, Nalbandian rolled off five straight points in the tiebreaker for 5-0.  With Baghdatis misfiring on an easy forehand, Nalbandian arrived at 6-3 and had three championship points.  As Baghdatis’ forehand up the line sailed wide, Nalbandian claimed his 11th career trophy.  The Argentine’s first since Sydney 2009.

Subsequent to the match, Baghdatis’ analysis was as follow when asked by MiamiTennisNews:
Q.  Did you feel you had to go for more on your second serve because Nalbandian returns so well?
Baghdatis: Yes. I felt in the second set I had to mix it up a bit, go for more.  I think I did pretty well in the second set.  We are two players who are great at returning.  I think if I served better today especially first serve, with more free points, I could have won.. I did not do that which was the key to the match.

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Then There Were Two:  Baghdatis and Nalbandian Progress to The Final in Washington

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Then There Were Two: Baghdatis and Nalbandian Progress to The Final in Washington

At the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, the first semifinal showcased Marcos Baghdatis, the eighth seed, against Xavier Malisse.  Baghdatis defeated Malisse 6-2,7-6 to earn his initial spot in the final of a tournament States side.  Later, David Nalbandian booked his maiden berth in a final on U.S. soil by thumping fourth seed Marin Cilic 6-2,6-2.

Although this was their first meeting on the ATP tour, Malisse and Baghdatis faced off twice in the finals at the challenger level with Baghdatis prevailing both times.  From the difficult hold that Baghdatis had his primary game, Malisse gave the impression that he was going to reverse the former results.  However, with Malisse unable to make the volley off a dipping forehand,  Baghdatis gained double break point.  As Malisse’s forehand went out of bounds, Baghdatis nudged ahead 2-1.  By surprising Baghdatis with a sliced backhand down the line and forcing an error, Malisse attained break point.  But, with Malisse misjudging the second serve return, Baghdatis eventually consolidated for 3-1.  By inciting a few unforced errors from Malisse, Baghdatis captured a second break and later shut down the set with a love game.

The first two games of the second set, Baghdatis had two break points; Malisse handled the pressure to stay in front 2-1.  Following a couple of easy holds, Malisse connected on a forehand down the line winner for break point.  But, by sending a backhand outside the field of play, Malisse wasted that opportunity.  As Baghdatis shifted his movement in an attempt to track down the ball, he twisted his left ankle slightly.

With Baghdatis on the ground, play was interrupted and the trainer dispatched. Genuinely concerned for his opponent, Malisse quickly crossed the net and brought Baghdatis a bag of ice to apply.  After the ankle was attended to, play resumed and Baghdatis held for 4 all.  Subsequently, Malisse rebounded from love 30 to keep his nose in front 5-4.  Later, following a loose forehand by Malisse, Baghdatis connected on a forehand crosscourt pass for break point.  With another mistake by Malisse, Baghdatis claimed a 6-5 lead.  Yet, serving for the match, Baghdatis was bitten by the error bug.  Therefore, the set moved on to a tiebreaker.  At that stage, Baghdatis justified his 11-3 tiebreaker record.  In baiting Malisse into two miscues, the Cypriot raced to a 5-1 advantage.  Then, on his fourth match point, Baghdatis succeeded to punctuate the match.

In reference to his noble act, Malisse cited in the post match briefing:  “I know he has been injured for a while . . .you don’t want [the ankle to] be more inflamed. . . You don’t want to win a match in that way”.

MiamiTennisNews asked:
Q.  You got the equalizer in the second set, what went wrong in the tiebreaker?
Malisse:  At 3-1, I hit a good forehand but it clipped the tape.  He served well the whole tiebreaker . . . I kept [going] for my shots . .  At 6-4, it’s a little different because he feels he has to win the point because it’s on his serve . . . I made a couple of mistakes, but if you are going to hit your shot, you are going to miss a couple.  Too bad, it’s in a tiebreaker.

Q.  Despite the result today, it’s been a good week for you.  What are the positives you take away?
Malisse:  I’ve played good matches, so I can’t really complain . . . I gave it my all and beat a lot of good players in the top 20.  I lost today, but I fought hard . . . You can’t win everything . . . But the positive is that my ranking [will go] up to almost 50 . . . The pressure is off now, I can play freely.   My confidence is really high  . . I’m a bit tired, but we will see how Toronto goes after some days of rest.

In assessing his performance, Baghdatis surmised that the key to his victory was “playing smart” and coming up with “the perfect game” plan.  Essentially, Baghdatis said:  “I played the right point at the right time . . .not opening the court on his forehand and not giving him any angles”.  On the ankle, Baghdatis’ comment was “I twisted it a bit . . . I feel ok now and hope that it won’t be bad tomorrow”.

In the second semifinal, Nalbadian clashed with Cilic.  The last time these two tangoed, it was in the quarterfinals of the Davis Cup in 2006 and Nalbandian was the victor.  Needless to say, with 21 year old Cilic now ranked 13th, Nalbadian was facing a different player.

In the first game, Cilic took advantage of multiple errors by Nalbadian and broke.  However, Nalbandian also pressured the Croatian into miscues to promptly level the set at 1 all.  Nalbandian then held at love for 2-1.  After getting to double break point with a backhand down the line winner, Cilic failed to capitalize on Nalbandian’s second serves.  Thus, the Argentine inched ahead 3-2.  With Cilic netting a forehand, Nalbandian earned his third break point of the sixth game.  Nalbandian converted when Cilic made his third forehand error in that game.  In his three previous matches, Cilic had only been broken twice, dismissing 12 of 14 break points.  After consolidating with a love game for 5-2, Nalbandian bagged another break to polish the first set in just 36 minutes.

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Final Four at the Legg Mason Classic: Malisse, Baghdatis, Nalbandian and Cilic

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Final Four at the Legg Mason Classic: Malisse, Baghdatis, Nalbandian and Cilic

The customary Washington heat returned today melting down two of the top remaining seeds.  In the first match of the afternoon, Tomas Berdych, the 2010 Wimbledon finalist and number one seed, was booted by Xavier Malisse 6-4,3-6, 6-2.  The same fortune befell Fernando Verdasco, the third seed.  The Spaniard was ushered out by Marcos Baghdatis 7-6,6-4.

In the evening session, David Nalbandian bested Gilles Simon, the 13th seed, 3-6,6-2, 6-3.  At number four, Marin Cilic is the highest surviving seed. Cilic toppled Janko Tipsarevic 7-6,6-4.

Having split their prior two encounters in 2006, for both Malisse and Berdych it was case of getting reacquainted.  Malisse drew first blood by capitalizing on his second break point chance in the third game.  The Belgian went on to readily consolidate for 3-1.  Down love-30 in the fifth game,  Berdych worked his way back to game point.  However, with Berdych failing to convert on eight game points, Malisse seized a second break and 5-2 lead.  Although Berdych narrowed the arrears to a single break, with the insurance edge Malisse managed to wrap up the set.

Unable to break in the second game, Berdych was gifted a double fault on double break point by Malisse for 5-4.  The Czech secured the following game to force a third set.  After opening the fourth game with a double fault, Berdych compounded it with a series of unforced miscues.  As a result, Malisse inched ahead 4-3.  With Berdych misfiring on three consecutive backhands, Malisse increased his lead to 5-3.  For good measure, Malisse broke Berdych one last time to earn his first semifinal berth in Washington.

After the match, Berdych expressed his discontentment with playing his third round on a non-show court and being scheduled first today after getting to his hotel late this morning.  At the preceding conference, Berdych alluded to jet lag being an issue, the early match he felt added to his wretched play in the first set.  Nevertheless, Berdych acknowledged that Malisse merited the win because he performed well.

For his part, Malisse commented that the key to his victory was his ability to return.  Malisse remarked that the third set was near perfect tennis from his end.

In the second singles, Verdasco had three break opportunities in the opening game.  Baghdatis survived the challenge and went on to break for 2-1.  Yet, Verdasco quickly got back on serve by manufacturing a break of his own.  Ultimately, the set was decided by a tiebreaker.  Courtesy of three double faults by Verdasco, Baghdatis built a 5-2 advantage.  As another Verdasco forehand traveled out of play, Baghdatis bagged the first set.

After Verdasco held to carry the initial game of the second set, Baghdatis netted a backhand giving the Spaniard triple break point.  However, Baghdatis once again disappointed his rival.  The next game, a disenchanted Verdasco dropped his serve.  Although Verdasco immediately equalized the set at 2 all, the errors became uncontrollable leading to further breaks.  When Verdasco’s forehand pass sailed long, Baghdatis had double break point.  With Verdasco flubbing a backhand down the line, Baghdatis secured a 5-3 lead which was the difference in the match.

MiamiTennisNews asked:
Q.  This was your first meeting with Baghdatis, was his game different than expected?
Verdasco:  No . . . I did not play [well].  It was very windy . . .so it was tough to play for both of us . . . [Too] many double faults [because of ] the changing direction of the wind . . . The bounce of the court was sometimes [irregular] . . . The conditions were not easy.

MiamiTennisNews was curious about Verdasco’s racket conundrum.
Q.  Earlier in the year you experimented with a different brand and you’ve since switched back.  What’s the reason?
Verdasco:  Before [the season started] I tried Yonex and I was suppose to play in Australia with it.  But, [the manufacturer] did not [fabricate] the racket the way I wanted.  So, I was told to play with my old racket in Australia . . . In San Jose and Memphis, I played with the Yonex racket.  On clay in Acapulco, I [noticed] it was not the racket I want . . . After Acapulco, the [team] spoke to Dunlop to see if it can make the [equipment that suits] my game. Dunlop worked on it for a few months, that’s why I played the clay and grass seasons with a black racket.  It’s still an [evolving process], trying to find the perfect racket.  It’s never easy like changing clothes or sunglasses because it’s such an [integral] part of the game.

Q.  Any plans to defend your title at the Pilot Pen?
Verdasco: I will just be playing the two Masters and the [major].  Last year I won New Haven, it was great and I enjoyed it . . . The people really treated me well . .  . But, last year, when I got to the U.S. Open, I had a micro-tear in my abs and lost in the first round  because of too many matches in a row.  I don’t want that to happen this year because I want to do well in [New York].

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