tennis10sBalls.com

Roger Federer Stumbles As Rafa Nadal Marches On In Madrid Tennis By Alix Ramsay

Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal celebrates after defeating Swiss Stan Wawrinka at the end of their quarterfinal match played at the Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament in Madrid, Spain, 10 May 2019. EPA-EFE/JAVIER LIZON

When Roger Federer said that it sometimes pays off in the long run to suffer in the short term, he was probably not thinking of a two-hour, three-set, nervy win over Gael Monfils on Thursday and then another two hours and a bit, complete with two match points, defeat at the hand of Dominic Thiem.

 

Then again, when you haven’t played on clay in three years and you suddenly find yourself up against the world No.5 who beat you in a Masters 1000 final a few weeks back on a hard court and who relishes the slower, clay courts, you know you are going to be in for a rough day.

 

So it was that Fed lost to Dominic Thiem 3-6, 7-6, 6-4 in the quarter-finals of the Mutua Madrid Open. Fresh from passing yet another career milestone – his win over Monfils was his 1,200th career win leaving him second only to Jimmy Connors (who has 1,274 wins) on the success spectrum – our hero looked as if he might make it 1,201. But he didn’t. Thiem saw to that. Two match points in the second set tiebreak came and went before Fed was finally dismissed.

 

Those match points hurt but, overall, our hero could have few complaints. He had played well but just not well enough to win on the day.

 

Switzerland's Roger Federer leaves the court after losing his quarter final match against Austria's Dominic Thiem at the Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament in Madrid, Spain, 10 May 2019. EPA-EFE/KIKO HUESCA

Switzerland’s Roger Federer leaves the court after losing his quarter final match against Austria’s Dominic Thiem at the Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament in Madrid, Spain, 10 May 2019. EPA-EFE/KIKO HUESCA

“Losing with match points is the worst, so that’s how I feel,” Fed said. “But nevertheless, if I take a step back, it’s all good. I feel very good about my game. I thought I had some good matches here, especially the last two. First one was good to get into it.

 

“And obviously, Gael and Dominic are tough on the clay so it was a good battle. I feel good on the clay right now.”

 

He feels so good, in fact, that he may yet play in Rome next week. He is in the draw but will wait until the weekend before making a final decision. Clearly he feels good on the slow, red dirt but even a living legend can have too much of a good thing. It’s a toss-up between match play and private practice before the start of Roland Garros.

 

Fed may be a sentimental favourite for Roland Garros (and even he admits he isn’t going there with any major expectations) but the real favourite is finally building up a head of steam. After a very ordinary start to the clay court season and a gippy tummy at the start of this week, Rafa Nadal is beginning to feel like himself again. He walloped Stan Wawrinka 6-1, 6-2 on Friday to reach his 70th Masters 1000 semi-final.

 

Wawrinka had won all 30 of his service games in getting to the last eight but once there, his serve was torn to shreds as Raf broke four times in the 68-minute thrashing. And, unsurprisingly, Raf was quite pleased with his work. It was, he thought, possibly his best match on clay this year.

 

“I know for a few of you guys this might seem very little,” Raf explained in his press conference, “due to everything I have been able to achieve during these last years on this surface, but I come from a complicated month with a lot of physical struggles.

 

“And the fact to be able to compete every single week I have been competing is a step forward for me. From then onwards, I think I have been able to consolidate a good base and try to give a little bit of base and energy. If you don’t have that base that I’m talking about, or the energy, having your tennis game and playing well, you cannot do nothing.

 

“Tomorrow it’s a complicated day against a complicated opponent, who is doing well, and it’s a very important test. And it is another match I have to be there trying to give my best, maybe the same as today or a bit better.

 

“Besides winning or losing, right now I’m in the correct path and in a positive path. And that is the important thing besides all the rest.”

 

Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in action against Alexander Zverev of Germany during their quarter final match at the Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament in Madrid, Spain, 10 May 2019. EPA-EFE/JAVIER LIZON

Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in action against Alexander Zverev of Germany during their quarter final match at the Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament in Madrid, Spain, 10 May 2019. EPA-EFE/JAVIER LIZON

That complicated opponent is Stefanos Tsitsipas, the 7-5, 3-6, 6-2 winner over Sascha Zverev. For all that Zverev played well in much of the first set and all of the second – and got the crowd on his side – he could not stop the Greek from heading into the semi-finals. Unfortunately for Tsitsipas, his stats against Raf make for depressing reading: payed three, lost three. And that includes an absolute thumping in their only clay court match so far (the Barcelona final last year where he won just three games).

 

Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic was having a day off. He has been due to play Marin Cilic until the big Croat cried off with a nasty dose of food poisoning. Heading back to the practice court, Djoko worked up a decent sweat all but it was still an easy day ahead of his semi-final with Thiem.

 

He leads their rivalry with five wins to two but the dogged Austrian has won their last two matches – both on clay – and he should present the sternest of all tests to the world No.1.

 

Maybe it is not just the mighty Fed who has to suffer this week.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *