Friday, June 6, 2008

Hope Rafa wins...

Today is the French Open Men's Semis and the match between Nadal and Djokovic is one of the most anticipated matches in the clay court. I am a Nadal fan so I am rooting for Rafa to clinch a slot in the Finals. Here's the match preview from the French Open website:

Day 13 - Match of the day: Rafael Nadal – Novak Djokovic

Rafael Nadal
Novak Djokovic
Rafael Nadal has been unbeaten in his 26-match career here at Roland Garros. If that were not impressive enough, in none of those was he pushed to five sets. He is the king of clay, the master of his art, and his outstanding performance in his first five matches (25 games lost, an Open era record) only serves to reinforce his commanding status. The Spaniard is far and away the favourite to win. Winner of the Australian Open and of the Masters Series at Indian Wells and Rome, Novak Djokovic has been the in-form player in first part of the 2008 season. To such an extent that the Serb, like Nadal, can consider himself to be a serious contender for Federer’s number one crown. From this perspective, if he shocks Nadal, he will move closer to the top spot. He has the weapons to worry the Spaniard, as he proved here last year in the semi-finals, but he still lost in straight sets…
Outstanding. Rafa has been suffering from blisters on his foot since Rome and he still wears a protective bandage but as he said himself, he is physically in excellent condition. Just ask any one his five defeated opponents, especially Nicolas Almagro who was crushed 6-1 6-1 6-1 in the quarter-finals. Nadal has perhaps never been as strong at Roland Garros. Nole lost the first set he played at the tournament, to the German Gremelmayr. Since then he has become stronger with every round. The Serb played a very good quarter final in what could have been a tricky match against one of the surprise stars of the tournament, Ernests Gulbis. But he made an even better impression in his fourth round clash with Paul-Henri Mathieu. He is in good physical form, but questions could be asked about his mental freshness, after playing, and winning, so much in the first five months of the year.
We are getting to know Nadal’s strengths very well. Firstly, he is extremely strong physically. His footwork and movement are exceptional, as is his stamina. But he also has an almost superhuman eye and anticipation. His cover of the ground is unmatched by anyone on the tour, he is mentally unshakeable and his confidence is sky-high. Add to that his devastating top-spin forehand, his great touch on the ball (ah, those drop shots…) and the fact that he’s a left-hander means that his opponents have practically no solution. Djokovic, like Nadal, has no weaknesses and is a force to be reckoned with. A great server with a fantastic first serve percentage and brilliant return, Nole has a destructive forehand and a solid backhand. His shots are very difficult to read and he can play inside-out shots or crossing shots at will, on the forehand or on the backhand. He is comfortable at the net and has improved his stamina over the last year. The man from Belgrade overflows with ambition and his confidence rocketed after his win in Melbourne.
Nadal is already being compared with Bj√∂rn Borg, even though the Spaniard does not welcome this comparison. But, like the Swede, he seems indestructible. We have yet to see any mistakes in his game here at Roland Garros and he has never shown any signs of weakness, even against Federer or against those rare players who have tested him, like Puerta or Mathieu. If Rafa plays at his best level and moves quickly into the lead, he will win. It is almost a certainty. Djokovic is not afraid of anything, but nevertheless he faces a huge hurdle. He will have to connect again and again, take risks, vary his game, come to the net…in short he will have to play some exceptional tennis in order to win. If he wants to keep the scores level he will have to get a large percentage of his first serves in. The first set will, without a doubt, be vital. He will have to take the lead rapidly in order to sow the seed of doubt in Rafa’s mind.
Nadal leads 7-3 in his head-to-head with Djokovic. In last year’s semi finals here at Roland Garros, the Mighty Mallorcan blew Djokovic away in 7-5 6-4 6-2, despite a strong start by the Serb. Even at Wimbledon, just afterwards, Rafa was stronger. On clay the head-to-head is even clearer cut: 4-0 to Nadal. Djokovic has beaten his opponent three times, each time outside on hard court. This year at Indian Wells he won 6-3 6-2. He also showed great resistance against the Spaniard in their last clash at Hamburg. Nadal won 7-5 2-6 6-2, but it was undoubtedly one of the most spectacular clay-court matches of the year.

Go Nadal!

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