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Nadal Recoups Title at Roland Garros

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Nadal Recoups Title at Roland Garros


With an unbeaten record and a historic three Masters clay titles leading up to Paris, victory seemed a mere formality for Rafael Nadal at the French Open.  Still, with Robin Soderling, the only rival to defeat Nadal at that venue as his finals’ opponent, an interesting twist was added to the plot.  Irrespective of the challenger, Nadal demonstrated that he is the master on this surface.  The Spaniard triumphed 6-4,6-2,6-4 to claim his fifth “Coupe des Mousquetaries” and recapture the number one ranking.

Soderling commenced the first set with a couple of unfettered games. Then, with a forehand down the line error by Nadal had break point. However, Nadal got to deuce when Soderling’s backhand traveled out of play. With Soderling donating two forehand mistakes, Nadal equalized the set at 2 all.  Promptly, when Soderling made another forehand error, Nadal had his initial break point.  Despite Soderling dismissing one, Nadal obtained a second and capitalized with a backhand crosscourt pass for winner.  Quickly, Nadal consolidated to widen his advantage to 4-2.  In the next game, Soderling double faulted on game point resulting in deuce and later gave Nadal two additional opportunities to break. Yet, the Swede maintained his composure to pull off the game and remain one break down. When Nadal himself double faulted, Soderling had break point.  But, on a forehand miscue by Soderling, Nadal rubbed out that previous error.  A second break point came along after Soderling crushed a second serve return and Nadal was unable to deal with the subsequent shot.  Yet, with Soderling gifting another error, Nadal won the point.  Thereafter, Nadal secured the game and eventually seized the set 6-4.

After Soderling’s uncomplicated game to open the second set, on an errant forehand by Nadal, the Swede had double break point. With an ace and a botched backhand by Soderling, Nadal reached deuce.  Soderling manufactured two more opportunities.  Nevertheless, each was snuffed out by Nadal to tie the set at 1.  Soderling short memory helped as he held at love right after.  Nonetheless, Soderling’s next time out, Nadal connected on a couple of winners for triple break point.  When the Swede misfired with the forehand up the line, Nadal broke for 3-2.  Later, with a glut of mistakes, Soderling handed Nadal a double break lead.  The Spaniard easily closed out the set at 6-2.

Unlike last year, for Soderling, the errors far exceeded the winners.  Moreover, the serve, a potent part of Soderling’s game was being neutralized by Nadal’s excellent defense.  Conversely, as the match progressed, Nadal cleaned up his game.  Following an ace for game point, Soderling committed another error for deuce.  With two consecutive forehands flubs by Soderling, Nadal bagged the break to begin the third set.  By charging to net, Soderling forced Nadal to place a backhand pass out of play for his eight break point.  Yet, by netting the backhand return, Soderling was now 0 for 8 on break points.  Eventually, Nadal guarded serve for a 2-0 edge.  The next couple of service games, Soderling comfortably held.  When the Swede double faulted in the seventh game, Nadal had another break point.  Still, Soderling dealt with the pressure and maintained serve for 3-4.  But, Soderling was given no further looks at a break point by Nadal.  As the mistakes flew off Soderling’s racket, Nadal promptly held the rest of the way to take the championship in straight sets.

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Clay : You Have To Love It For It To Love You Back

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Clay : You Have To Love It For It To Love You Back


img_9979_bwFor as long as I live, when I think of the red clay at Roland Garros, the picture that will always come to mind is that of Brazilian Gustavo Kuerten tracing the contours of a heart on the ground after his grueling five sets win over Swede Magnus Norman in the 2000 French Open final.

Bar none, clay is the most demanding surface to play on. The points can be endless.  A men’s three set match can last longer than three hours. Thus, that type of court can exact a significant mental and physical price. Ironically though, clay is much gentler on the body than a hard court where joints can be prone to injury. Despite the clay presenting some significant health benefits, the list of players who excel on that specific turf is far shorter than that of those who perform well on hard court. Therefore, the question must be posed as to the source of this disconnection.

One explanation may be the competitors’ lack of familiarity with the surface. The majority of Americans and non- Iberian Europeans nowadays grow up playing on concrete. Red clay practice courts and tournaments have become a rarity in the U.S. Currently, the ladies have a choice of either Charleston or Jacksonville; many have characterized both as “simulated clay”. Players have described the green surface as a hard court dusted with clay which makes their movement feel awkward. For the men, their only option is the U.S. Clay Court Championships in Houston. Although it is more suitable than what’s available to the women, in many respects it falls short of the necessary requisite to offer a full fledge European red clay experience.

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