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Nadal Weathers Nishikori, Defending Champ Roddick Ousted

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Nadal Weathers Nishikori, Defending Champ Roddick Ousted



Despite being tested by Kei Nishikori, Rafael Nadal managed to close out his second round match at the Sony Ericsson Open in straight sets. Nadal overcame the talented Japanese 6-4, 6-4 to get to the third round where he will face fellow Spaniard Feliciano Lopez.

After Nishikori wasted a couple of break points which have given him a 3-1 lead, Nadal manufactured double break point. Nadal converted when Nishikori buried a backhand into the net. Nadal subsequently consolidated at love for 4-2.

Later on, Nishikori had double break points with Nadal serving at 4-3. Once more, this was to no avail. Nadal maintained the one break advantage to seal the first set.

In the second set, Nadal seized the break in the first game and guarded the advantage despite Nishikori’s formidable resistance. With triple match point, Nadal aced his rival to punctuate the set.

Nadal was particularly hampered by the serve in the final of BNP Paribas Open last week. Consequently, MiamiTennisNews.com inquired as to the changes he made to fix this problem “I tried to remember what I did when I served well. I slowed down the speed a little bit. . . Because I served 117 to 124, 25 miles almost every time. That’s enough speed if you put the right percentage inside and. . .the balls close to the lines. I think that worked well.”

Furthermore, Nadal said “Nishikori is a good returner. His returns are fast, deep and difficult. . . I have to improve a little bit on the second serve. The speed was [at times] 85, 88, 89, 90, 92. . . But in general, I am very happy with the match of tonight”.

Never one to take his opponent for granted. Despite a 6-2 mark versus Lopez, Nadal’s assessment of the upcoming match when asked by MiamiTennisNews.com was “[it’s] important for me to play my best tennis. . . He has a very good serve, volleys well and he’s an aggressive player. Very dangerous, but if I play very well, I have my chances”.

In addition, Nadal stated “I have to play aggressively with my forehand, try to move him and get to the net when I have the chance. The match will be similar [to the past ones in some ways]. Still, every match is [also] different and always difficult”.

Pablo Cuevas came into the tournament with a record under 500 at 6-7. With defending Andy Roddick across the net, Cuevas must have thought that his week at its end in the second round. To the contrary, Cuevas surprised Roddick 6-4, 7-6.

Cuevas caught a break in finding Roddick not at 100%. After Roddick erased a break point, he manufactured double break point the very next game. However, Cuevas found a way to turn him away.

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A New World Order:  The Year That Was 2008

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A New World Order: The Year That Was 2008


img_3045Fascinating is the word in a nutshell that perhaps best describes this past season. With 2009 looming, the time has come to reminisce as to why 2008 was such a quintessential year for the ATP.

The abundance of talent littering the tour foretold of a possible shake up as the year began, threatening Roger Federer’s supremacy. All dynasties have gone through a period of decline; perhaps, for Federer, 2008 will be viewed as such. In Australia, Federer faced two foes, mononucleosis and Serb Novak Djokovic. Unable to vanquish either, Roger succumbed in the semifinals. For Federer, this calendar had many ebbs and few flows with a spanking by Spaniard Rafael Nadal in the French final, a gut wrenching loss in the Wimbledon final in five sets, a much desired gold medal at the Olympics, but in doubles. Roger regained a bit of respect by capturing his fifth consecutive U.S. Open. But, for the first time since the dawning of the Federer era, Roger failed to grab a single masters’ shield. In 2008, not only did the Swiss have to get acclimated to the fact that Wimbledon was no longer his playpen, he also lost his grip on the number one ranking.

What a year for Nadal! Undoubtedly talent is an important part of success, yet hard work cannot be discounted. As the season started, the smart bet would have been on Djokovic yanking the top spot from Federer. Nevertheless, Roger’s clay nemesis, after more than two years of serving as best man, finally moved up to number one. After crushing defeats in the quarterfinals in Australia and finals at the Sony Ericsson, Nadal had a surreal clay run with one solitary loss. Moreover, Rafa won his fourth consecutive French Open and the crown jewel, his first Wimbledon trophy.  He was the first man in over twenty years with this dual combination. The ultimate feather in Rafa’s cap was getting Olympic singles gold. An arduous and lengthy schedule put the breaks to Nadal’s play with tendonitis stopping him from participating in the year-end tournament and the Davis cup finals. Regardless, Nadal could not have scripted this year any better.

In many respects, Djokovic had an up and down ride. After hoisting the Australian and Indian Wells trophies, the world number three had a reality check. Nadal unwilling to relinquish his hold on number two, schooled Djokovic when the two met in Rome and Paris. His confidence slightly dented, Novak was a non-factor mid-year with an early exit at Wimbledon. However, Djokovic finished strongly by winning the year-end tournament in Shanghai.

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