Sunday, May 11, 2008

Roma 2008

by Savannah

It started with a bad foot.

Rafael Nadal went out in his first match to Juan Carlos Ferrero after playing a schedule that raised eyebrows. After that it was as if someone spiked the Gatorade. With Rafa out all eyes turned to Roger Federer who was widely expected to finally win Rome. Instead fans, and more than likely the Tournament Director, looked on in horror as Federer went down to defeat at the hands of Radek Stepanek while Americans James Blake and Andy Roddick, playing hard court tennis on the sun hardened European clay, moved on. Blake fell in the quarter finals but he can say he had a good run in Rome.

The mens semi finals featured as unlikely a scenario as one could find in a Masters Series Event. Andy Roddick was to play against Stanislas Wawrinka in what was expected to be a very interesting match, and Novak Djokovic was to play against Radek Stepanek who was playing the best tennis anyone had seen him play in quite some time coming into the match. It should be mentioned in passing that Djokovic reached the semi final via the retirement of
Nicolas Almagro in the quarter finals.

Semi final day at a Masters Series event is one to look forward to. I didn’t have any favorites but I was looking forward to good tennis. So were the fans in the stadium who had paid good money to have their butts in the seats. So was the Tournament Director. Instead the follies continued. Andy Roddick, who had led everyone to believe a man of his wealth and ego actually carried boxes up stairs during the move into the new midtown Manhattan apartment he and his fiancee will share, retired with back spasms and a shoulder issue giving Stan a free pass into the final. Okay, that can happen. There was another match no? No. Radek, looking as if he’d celebrated his win over Roger just a bit too much retired during his match as well giving Djokovic another get out of jail free card ride into the Final. Fans rightly booed. This being Italy I’m sure the security people were glad that’s all they did. The tournament director, probably aware that the last time Wawrinka had faced Djokovic Wawrinka won because – come on guess – Djokovic retired was probably climbing stairs to the top of the nearest tall building. When they finally got the poor guy off that ledge I’m sure he made it clear to both players that the “r” word would not be tolerated for the Final.

So the match went on and Stan, after winning the first set lost the next two to the much fresher Djokovic. Three set wins by Djokovic are always suspect in my eyes. The only difference today was that he lost the first set instead of the second. Usually if he loses the first set he gets ill in the second but I guess the image of the TD teetering on the ledge of that building – and all those ranking points - kept him in the match. Wawrinka seemed mentally fatigued after the first set and went away rather quietly.

Thanks to the inept, some would say sadistic, scheduling of the clay season by the ATP, one of the tournaments had to suffer. I had thought it would be Hamburg coming as it does after Roma, but that was not the case. I always look forward to Rome because for the last three years it has featured matches that many tennisheads consider among the best ever played. In 2005 there was Nadal vs Coria. In 2006 it was Nadal vs Federer. In 2007 it was Nadal vs Davydenko. Nothing epic or memorable happened during 2008. The last man standing – the man who had played the least tennis – won and will add a Master’s Shield to his collection. In my mind there will always be an asterisk for Roma 2008. Next year, unless something drastic happens, Etienne de Villiers “Brave New World” goes into effect and there will be only two clay Master’s Series events, Rome and Madrid. Everything else will be downgraded or no longer mandatory. Shame.

It should be noted that play in Hamburg started today instead of Monday as is usually the case.


Helen W said...

Great summary Savannah,

Is it just me, or do others find the commentary to the matches on ATP Masters Series TV irritatingly partisan? If I miss a point, I can always tell who won it by the commentary, whether or not they mention the player's name. I wish they would continue to give the stream with no commentary, but they do not offer it for the later matches in the tournament.

I have sent in my "feedback" on this matter and got a response with:

...We take all feedback seriously...

...This is certainly a good idea and one we hope to implement sometime in the near future.

Sounds promising, until you send another feedback and get exactly the same response. So I guess they realize that most people only send feedback once, and will assume that they have gotten a personal response, rather than an automated response tarted up to look like a personal response. Low cunning at its very best (to paraphrase the match ommentators) -- "inch perfect".

Helen W said...

I guess we will see on Monday whether Rafa is still #2? (I hope)

Craig Hickman said...

Give Andy some credit. And I woudn't call all those loopy, high shots he hit this week hardcourt tennis. But that's me.

Nice article.

Savannah said...

I read somewhere that Rafa will still be #2 Helen.

Yes the commentary on MSTV is biased. I love the no commentary stream but as you said they get rid of it late in the tournament. I'm going to contact them as well about continuing the no comment feed into the late stages of the MS events.

It was interesting seeing Andy hit those loopy shots but I thought he and Blake still took a hard court approach to the dirt. He's out of Hamburg now so lets see what happens in Paris.

Cate said...

Rafa will still be number two.
With a mere 160 or so points in between him and the Djerk.

Helen W said...

When I watched Andy play Bolelli, I thought "He's playing hardcourt tennis." But when he played Robredo, I thought that he incorporated a lot more clay-court play in his game. He took something off the serve and went for placement and variation. He was patient. He slid on the clay, and even played some dropshots. He used loopy balls to buy time to get back into position.

I'm not saying he's become a clay court specialist, but I was pleased with the change of game plan.

Helen W said...

I have no idea if these things do any good, but here is an on-line petition to support the ATP players' stand re the schedule.

Savannah said...

Doug Robson reports the following:

More trouble for De Villiers?
A source in Rome tells me that the Players Council voted this week to take down ATP Chairman Etienne de Villiers and the three players’ reps on the ATP board, which if nothing else, is a vote of no-confidence. De Villiers, meantime, threatened to resign. Stay tuned on this unfolding acrimony between the players and ATP leadership.

Here is the link.

The vote against the player reps is significant. Blake and Ljubo are the two I know off the top of my head. Not sure who number three is.

BTW I already signed the petition. :)

Savannah said...

Thanks to a fan over on TAT here are the player reps. Ljubo is president of the players council. Blake is a member. The player reps are not current players.

Jacco Eltingh
Perry Rogers
Iggy Jovanovic

I hope that clears things up.

Craig Hickman said...

I'm not suggesting Andy and James are Andre, but Agassi won Roland Garros playing hardcourt tennis. He took the ball early, hit it flat and hard; he didn't slide.

You have to stick to your strengths to win on any surface.

Helen W said...

The ongoing saga from Richard Evans in Tennis Week. Stay tuned!