Thursday, May 17, 2007

79 And Counting...

by Craig Hickman

In a match the commentators (over) hyped as a "Battle of the Heavyweights," Rafael Nadal avenged his 2005 loss to Igor Andreev 6-4, 6-1 without breaking a sweat. The win improved Nadal's streak on clay to 79 matches.

I suppose that since Andreev was the last man to defeat Rafa on the red stuff in Valencia, the commentators had high expectations for this encounter. Why, I have no idea. Igor is only recently back on the circuit after a few injuries, and he hasn't made a whole lot of noise in his comeback.

Halfway through the encounter, Doug Adler, the American commentator, seemed to want Rafa to lose, expressing audible disappointment at the Russian's inability to execute the game plan the announcer thought necessary to take out Nadal.

But Rafa was having none of it. He ran Igor ragged, forced him to shank countless forehands with Igor's big, loopy backswing with a hitch, and attacked the net to end the points on his terms. Rafa saved both break points he faced in the first set when he was already up a break.

Heavyweight trounces lightweight. It's about time pundits and fans alike accept that any match Rafa plays on clay against any opponent is his to lose.

The freight train that is Rafa will face Lleyton Hewitt or Nikolay Davydenko in the quarters.

James Blake blew a lead and squandered several opportunities to break Carlos Moya late in their match to crash out of Hamburg with a 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 loss at the hands of the Spaniard. I didn't see the match, but the way the scorline changed reminded of the match Blake lost last year to Mario Ancic in the round of 16 at this event. He served for the match in the second set and lost it in a third set breaker. It seems that Blake simply doesn't believe he ought to be in the quarterfinals of a TMS event on clay. Back to the drawing board for the American.

Third round action will be completed today with the quarterfinals set for tomorrow.

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