May 31, 2010
Ever wonder how the pros’ receive their new clothing and shoes prior to a Grand Slam event? Well, the nice folks over at Nike recently posted a variety of pictures on their Facebook page, showcasing their star athlete’s picking up their fresh new gear at “The Club” Nikesportswear at Piscine Molitor, France.
The Nike gallery features photos of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal picking up their French Open attire.
I’ve always wondered if any of those bags were left over after everyone had received one? Oh well.
For the full Nike tennis bag pick up gallery, click the link below.
May 31, 2010
Roland Garros—Paris, France
It’s been wet, it’s been slippery, it’s required scarves and jackets, and if you listen close enough, Gael Monfils and Fabio Fognini are still arguing with the tournament director in the middle of Court Philippe Chatrier—but what it will always remain (hopefully) is Roland Garros.
A draw which contained 128 of the best men’s players in the world has been minimized to the big eight. We’ve encountered a few notable upsets, but for the most part, all of the major favorites have advanced.
The countdown towards another Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal final remains in the bounds, but the two top dogs will have to defeat a variety of trigger happy and clay-court specialists in order to keep their Sunday showdown.
Let’s now take a look at the four quarterfinal matches and what lies ahead for each encounter.
Roger Federer vs. Robin Soderling
Federer leads the pairs head-to-head 12-0, which includes three victories on clay.
Soderling has shown incredible gusto in reaching the final eight for the second straight year, considering his recent slump coming in. The Swede has lost one set en route, and has executed his game to perfection. However, there is that little matter of his head-to-head deficit against his next opponent—a deficit that can’t be ignored.
The trouble for Soderling historically against Federer has been (believe it or not) his lack of power. There’s no doubt that Soderling can blow through the court; but because he doesn’t have a cannon forehand like Juan Martin del Potro, and he doesn’t exude the spin of Nadal, his name has come in second place a dozen times. Coupled with the fact that Federer loves to play against pace, La Sod is in danger of encountering a 13th loss.
I will say this for Soderling, however: He’s accepted the challenges that have been put before him, and he’s gone at them at mach speed. It will be crucial for Soderling to make this a hitting match, and forget about rallying with Federer. Although the tactic will not tire out the Swiss, Soderling’s best chance at victory will reside in winning a high percentage of less than three shot rallies.
With that being said, I just can’t see how Federer won’t continue to display the form that has historically been good enough against Soderling. Federer’s serve has been solid in Paris, and his forehand and movement are in top form.
Last year’s final has come two rounds early, but don’t hold your breath for a different result. Although Soderling ended Nadal’s campaign last year, it’s unlikely that he’ll stop Federer from reaching his 24th straight Major semifinal, and holding onto his No. 1 ranking.
Pick: Federer in four sets
Rafael Nadal vs. Nicolas Almagro
Nadal leads the pair’s head-to-head 6-0, which includes four matches on clay.
I remain guilty of predicting a five set thriller the last time these Spaniards met in Paris in 2008. During that quarterfinal contest, Nadal took Almagro to the cleaners with the loss of just three games. Two year’s removed from that beat down, Alamgro enters France with renewed belief and at peak form.
The Spaniard took apart Fernando Verdasco in the last round, and remains one of only two players this season to take a set off Nadal on clay-courts.
Almagro’s back has been an issue during the fortnight, and Nadal’s high spin to his one-handed backhand won’t provide any injury relief.
If Almagro comes out firing on all cylinders, I could see him taking a set—remember what happened the last time I predicted that? But remaining in the laws of nature, and all that distinguishes reality from crossing over to fantasy, it will take the best performance of Almagro’s career to cause an upset.
All in all, Almagro is a far better player than he was in ‘08, but in many ways so is Nadal. Starting off strong will be a must for the lower ranked Spaniard, but the trouble will still remain winning two further sets. Only one player has been able to pull off that feat during Nadal’s clay-court dynasty, and the chances of lightening striking two years in a row are slim.
Good luck Nico, it’s going to be struggle.
Pick: Nadal in four sets
Novak Djokovic vs. Jurgen Melzer
Djokovic leads the pair’s head-to-head 2-0. First clay-court meeting.
Having avoided a top 30 opponent along his road to the quarterfinals, Djokovic has struggled to some degree, but pulled through when necessary. His allergies and technical problems have become a broken record, and his breathing ailment appeared to resurface in his match against Robby Ginepri.
However, with all of the baggage that Djokovic has brought into Paris, he can’t complain about facing quarterfinal newcomer Melzer next. Although Melzer does possess a tricky left-handed game, his confidence and shot selection have gone south in the past when he’s trailed. Melzer has never really been the type of player to comeback from two-sets-to-love. An early start to his charge will be crucial.
Melzer will likely look to take the ball early and often, hoping that Djokovic malfunctions in some way. It’s tough to predict the outcome of this encounter simply because both players have exhibited flaky behavior in the past. Melzer has tanked his share of matches, while Djokovic has been physically less than 100 percent for quite sometime.
I’ll still have to go with Djokovic in this match for the dominate reason that surrounds his movement. Clay tennis revolves around a players’ wheels, and Djokovic has some of the best court coverage in the business.
Melzer played great to defeat David Ferrer earlier in the event, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he somehow pulled through. In saying that, although Melzer is a top flight player, he doesn’t possess the experience or the consistent ball-striking ability to outlast the Serb.
Djokovic should bend down and pray to the draw gods for his draw this year; a draw that could very well increase in difficulty in the next round.
Pick: Djokovic in four sets
Tomas Berdych vs. Mikhail Youzhny
Youzhny leads the pair’s head-to-head 6-4, which includes 1-1 record on clay.
Who saw this one coming? I can’t say that it was me. Nevertheless, credit to both players for winning their matches and advancing to their first career French Open quarterfinals.
Berdych appears to be back in his Miami form, while Youzhny, who has quietly been advancing to a handfull of lower tier Tour finals, has lost two sets in reaching the final eight.
Berdcyh destroyed Andy Murray and John Isner in the previous two rounds, and could become the one player no one wants to face going forward. Berdych has enough power to hit through the damp conditions in Paris, and that could become a critical factor against the Russian.
I’ve always felt that Youzhny should have done better on clay in his career, considering his finesse and consistency. Taking into account his recent form, this could be his best (and last) chance to make another drive to the top 10.
To me, Berdych will remain the favorite here, especially if it rains on Wednesday. Youzhny will have to weather both the storm from above and on court level if he is to advance. The match will inevitably lie on Berdych’s racket, and depending on how you interpret that, it could either favor or hinder his chances.
Nevertheless, a great opportunity for either player to reach the final four of Major.
It just seems that based on court form, Berdych is ready to cash in.
Pick: Berdych in five sets
May 31, 2010
Q. You beat Bellucci two years ago in three sets, and today again in three sets. Was it more difficult today, and in what way?
RAFAEL NADAL: I didn’t remember exactly, no? But that match was a tougher one in the tournament for me in 2008. That’s the true, no?
I don’t know. But, you know, my feeling was I was closer to lose a set or something like this in 2008 than today.
But the score was closer this time.
Q. Are we going to have a Nadal/Federer final, or don’t you let yourself think that far in advance?
RAFAEL NADAL: I am in quarterfinals. I am very happy to be here, and you will have Nadal/Almagro, sure.
Q. What made this kid so difficult? Because he was left handed?
RAFAEL NADAL: Was difficult, but was in three sets, so every match is completely different. Sure, every match is difficult in fourth round of one Grand Slam. In Roland Garros every matches can be very, very difficult.
Bellucci is a very good play, especially on clay. Good serve, good forehand, good backhand, too.
Q. His opponent was good, too.
RAFAEL NADAL: What?
Q. His opponent was good, too.
RAFAEL NADAL: I played probably my best match today in the tournament.
Q. There are certain shots that can change a match. When you played your backhand pass at 5 All, did you think that was a moment when you established yourself in the match and maybe he was a little upset and perhaps he went down a bit?
RAFAEL NADAL: Was very important moment, because I lost the serve two times. So I had the match under control set and 3 2, 40 15 I think I remember. Playing well in that moment. I had two mistakes: one net outside and another one long.
But without play bad, playing two good points. After that, everything was difficult. Sure, in the 5 All was the key of the match, because after that I gonna serve in the 6 5 with the wind. (In Spanish.)
Q. Between Verdasco and Almagro, for instance before the they played the match, do you have a preference on, Oh I would like to play this or that player, whoever wins, or you don’t care about who’s going to be the next point? Do you sometimes have preferences on the next round, I would rather play this or that person?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, first thing, I didn’t have any preference before because I didn’t play, so I was focus only on me. To try to play against Verdasco Almagro, sure later you never know. Believe me.
I don’t know if I don’t care, but I don’t know which one I prefer, I think. Both players are good players. Gonna be very good match.
Q. Can we say that after the Soderling match of last year, this has like made you be even more careful than ever before with the earlier rounds, before the final that you’re accustomed?
RAFAEL NADAL: No.
RAFAEL NADAL: Same.
Q. You always play your matches at a certain level of intensity. It’s always very strong. Do you think it’s possible to win this title or win any Grand Slam playing at anything below your best intensity?
RAFAEL NADAL: For me?
Q. For you or for anyone, but for you.
RAFAEL NADAL: I think some players can play some moments more relaxed because they have the serve and they can play a little bit with that, no? But not for me.
Sure, I can play a few games if I have the match under control probably a little bit more relaxed, but not normally not.
I try my best every day. I think every day a little bit better here in this tournament, and that’s because I am very focused all the time to improve.
I go on court and try my best in every point. That’s what I try.
THE MODERATOR: Questions in Spanish.
Q. This was probably a very important victory for you, I suppose. Last year you managed to reach this level, but now you’re going to go even further.
RAFAEL NADAL: It’s an important victory if you look at the points, that’s true. But I knew he was a very tough opponent. It was a very important match for me. I succeeded well because I managed to play even better. I could shoot into the balls the way I wanted to, mainly the backhand shots, but also my forehand.
Unfortunately, my shots were a bit too short. I wanted to have longer and deeper shots. I wanted to improve this. Sometimes, you know, these details are such that the opponent could take this opportunity so as to dominate the game. It’s better to have deeper balls so as to dominate the game.
I think I served better today than any other day, and I’m very satisfied because I think I’ve improved. I’ve not yet dropped a set. Well, a set, yes. But no, no, I have not yet dropped a set.
The most important thing is that I won my match.
Q. You’re going to play against Almagro. He won a set in Madrid against you. What do you think about this?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, it’s going to be very difficult, because the way he plays is really excellent. He’s managed to maintain the same level here in the tournament. It’s going to be complicated; he’s going to be very aggressive. It’s normal. He knows how to do this.
And as far as I’m concerned, I’ll try and play my way and do my best. I’ll do my best so that he feels a bit uncomfortable.
Q. Do you think you could say something about his serve, because you played in Madrid not long ago against him?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, I can tell you his second serve is really very good, but there’s nothing special about it. The ball bounces back really high. Okay, it’s a good serve. Not bad.
In general, his first service and even the second serve are good, are excellent, one of the best servers in the world.
Q. This is your 200th victory on clay. That gives you a total of 98% of victories on clay. This result is even better than Bjørn Borg’s. What do you think about this?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I don’t really think that much about it, but it’s really good. What I’m thinking about is practicing tomorrow morning, and of course today’s match and tomorrow’s training and practicing, and then the following matches. All these statistical data, you know, as I’ve said before, as I’d like to repeat, are quite valid when you’ve finished your career, but not before.
There’s never one day when I think, Oh, okay that’s my 200th victory or umpteenth victory. No, I don’t think in these terms. We never know when these statistics are still valid or if they’re going to continue to be as good.
Now, I can tell you that from the year 2005 onward my statistics have improved, but I never really think about this very much.
Q. I have the impression that this was an easy match. You’ve not really suffered. Is it something you deserve, or is it due to the opponent and the way he played?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, the match was not easy. It was a very difficult match. Now we’ve reached quarterfinals, which means a good tournament for most of the players here.
My objectives are still very high and very demanding. All matches are complicated. All players are difficult to play against. It’s very important for me, you know, considering what’s happened to me in the past months.
I couldn’t win last year, as you know, so it was very difficult. I wanted to tell you this, because for 11 months now I’ve not really won that many matches. I know what it means to win a tournament.
Q. Despite your excellent results, despite the fact that you’ve not yet lost any sets, you’re not boasting about it. You’re not that happy.
RAFAEL NADAL: What do you want me to say? Do you want me to jump and shout?
Of course I’m very happy. I’m still in the tournament. I’ve reached the quarterfinals. But then, you know, this is a press conference, so I’m quite normal. I try and be myself, and this is it.
I’ll start jumping when I’ve won the tournament. For the time being, it’s only the quarterfinals. My objective is you know, I’m very demanding and like to be here, but I like to continue and move forward and do my best.
Q. Robin Soderling is ready. He is going to fight back strongly. So what about Soderling’s chances? What are the odds?
RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t really know. He has chances, I think. I think he’s not the favorite, but I think he can win. I think he’s not yet lost a set. I think he’s going to play well.
We can say the same about Federer. I think it’s been his 23rd or 24th semifinals. He’s not going to lose this, I think.
Q. Well, the second set was very difficult for you. Bellucci made your life harder. Could you tell us more about this, how the end of the set ended?
RAFAEL NADAL: I had the impression I was dominating the court and I had taken control, but sometimes I was playing against the wind. It was very difficult. It was not really the wind. It was a slight breeze.
The other day it was so windy that it was difficult to play when the wind was blowing in your back, but today as well it was difficult. When we were at 3 2, 40 15, I played excellent points. It was a bit difficult at that moment.
But otherwise, I can’t really explain this 4 2. I could have had a tighter match. But as you know, what’s done is done. We can’t play the match again. Bellucci plays really well.
I can tell you he played really well on the points that I gave him, more or less. He took advantage of this. It was a bit complicated for me sometimes.
Q. What seems to be a bit of a paradox is that the only man who could perhaps win Roland Garros could become No. 1 again.
RAFAEL NADAL: If I were No. 1, I would be very happy. But what is important to me is to play well, to play a good match, and, of course, to win the tournament.
And if I am No. 1 or No. 2, never mind. It doesn’t really matter. Last year my level was not excellent. I don’t really want to think about this. It’s only quarterfinals. I’d like to win the tournament.
Now, whether I want to be No. 1 or not is a different thing. To be No. 1 I think I should play a good tournament and reach the finals. We’ll see. We’ll see what’s going to happen next.
If I reach semis, we’ll see. In this case I might be No. 1. But if I don’t reach the finals, then I think that Federer would be the favorite. Because as you know, the second half of the year is better for my opponents because the other surfaces are more difficult for me compared with clay.
As you know, if it’s a hardcourt or other surfaces, the other players play at a high level. But this is pure speculation.
Courtesy of ASAP.
May 31, 2010
Painting the Lines
– A tennis media blog by Chris Oddo
Tennis Channel’s Bill Macatee: Unsung Hero of Roland Garros
Everywhere you look, there is inspirational tennis taking place on the red clay courts of Roland Garros. As the whittled down field turns the corner and begins second week of the French Open, Rafa and Roger are playing at such a high level that it’s difficult not to be awestruck. Additionally, there is also an alluring cast of characters who have battled their way through the draw and into the second week – dark horses like Robbie Ginepri, Teimuraz Gabashvili, and Yaroslava Shvedova have been inspiring, and the play of veterans like Elena Dementieva, Robin Soderling, Mikhail Youzhny, and Nadia Petrova has exceeded even our wildest expectations.
While it’s easy to appreciate the players, for it is their on-court exploits that we admire most, we tend to take for granted the hard work that gets done behind the scenes of a huge event like the French Open.
Enter Bill Macatee and his microphone.
All tournament long, the polished television veteran has been camped out on the Tennis Channel set, which is located just off the Place Des Mousquetaires on the Roland Garros grounds. Immaculately dressed in a sports coat and open collar dress shirt (though sometimes he sports a necktie), Macatee has played host to a revolving door of A-list tennis celebrities throughout the first week of the tournament.
Thanks to his polished yet laid back interviewing style, tennis viewers are getting the chance to experience the game’s elite players in an up close and personal interviewing environment – one in which insight into their play is as readily divulged as insight into their personalities.
Macatee, a Rome, New York native, has a casual air about him that naturally facilitates an intimate conversation. Even with tennis dignitaries such as Roger Federer, Serena Williams, and John McEnroe, he is loose, confident, and improvisational. His interviews – sometimes three minutes long and sometimes twelve or more, depending on the subject – move at a nice tempo, and they are colored with questions that exhibit his knowledge of the sport, of the players, and of his craft.
He can go from asking Bob Brett and Roger Rasheed about the greatest clay players of all time to asking Jo-Wilfried Tsonga if he really is enjoying himself as much as he appears to be when he is playing.
He can go from asking Lindsay Davenport and Rennae Stubbs about what the girls talk about in the locker room to asking Marin Cilic if he is happy with his progress at the moment.
Macatee has the ability to elicit interesting responses from his subjects, and he does it in a way that puts himself in the background and the player in the spotlight – a key ingredient to any good interview.
Go here for a collection of Macatee’s interviews for Tennis Channel.
The Tennis Twitterverse:
Eurosport commentator Miguel Seabra, on Sharapova
“Though Sharapova lost to Henin, I was really impressed by her level of commitment, motivation, and even technical progress; she’s a champ.”
“Practicing with Roger today and again tomorrow. He is the king!”
“Having dinner at the players restaurant. Great day today. This one was big for me!!!!”
“Bellucci has shown some great stuff, just not consistently enough.”
Novak Djokovic, after defeating Robby Ginepri
“I’m not really a morning person, so it took me a lot of time to get into the rhythm and basically warm up for the match.”
Jurgen Melzer, on reaching a Grand Slam quarter final for the first time
“Well, to be the oldest player is not a special feeling. Reaching the quarter finals for the first time, that’s a special feeling.”
200 The number of clay court victories that Rafael Nadal has won after his 4th round victory over Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci.
12 The number of consecutive victories that Roger Federer has won over his quarter final opponent Robin Soderling (not counting exhibitions)
97 Number of points won at the net by Jurgen Melzer in his first four matches.
From the Video Vault
Novak Djokovic is still funny, in case you were wondering.
May 31, 2010
Although there was no hearts drawn in the clay of Court Philippe Chatrier today, Brazilian tennis appears to once again be healthy and at the forefront of the sport.
Even though Thomaz Bellucci’s march at this year’s French Open came to a disappointing end by losing to Rafael Nadal, an abundance of positives were taken away. The 22-year-old Sao Paulo resident gave the four-time champ everything that he could handle, but the machine gun Mallorcan was once again too good.
Facing off in the first-round of the 2008 French Championships, Bellucci entered that event as a relative unknown who was full of spirit. Bellucci would also lose that encounter in straight sets, but arguably pushed Nadal to his sternest challenge of the fortnight. Nadal would provide a red alarm alert after defeating Bellucci during his post press conference that the youngster would become a future force on clay.
Winning two clay-court titles coming into his next Roland Garros contest against Nadal, it was evident that Bellucci’s game had improved. His serve had gained much more pop from ‘08, and his backhand had become a bonafide weapon. Bellucci’s mettle has also improved substantially in recent years; providing no fear when facing Nadal.
There are defiantly many parallels that can be drawn between Bellucci and Nadal’s skill sets. They are both left-handed, they both use extreme grips on the forehand side, and they both move like gazelles. Bellucci is slightly taller than Nadal at 6′2″, but his slight frame will need to become stronger if he’s to take his game to the next level.
What became a glaring upside for Bellucci today was the respect level that Nadal gave him. It goes without saying that Nadal respects each and every opponent that he faces, but the look in his eyes during the second and third sets spelled a rare and distinct message: This guy can play on clay.
That look of respect from Nadal was given on more than one occasion during the straight set affair. Although Nadal broke serve on eight occasions, he also lost his serve four times. Even though many players and pundits have said that the clay at Roland Garros is playing faster this year—when looking at the 12 breaks of serve, and 20 break point chances in total—there’s definitely a viable argument against the claim.
Nevertheless, those four break points converted by Bellucci could very well go along way in his development. Nadal did not give those games away by playing poorly—in fact, he was without question outplayed. Bellucci has the type of arsenal that can create chaos for a legend like Nadal on a consistent basis.
In particular, the Brazilian’s backhand-up-the-line may become a text book shot, similarly to how Nadal’s backhand crosscourt pass has become the envy of every aspiring and current Touring professional.
Let’s for a moment, though, move aside from what took place inside the lines, and focus on what Bellucci’s forecasted success would mean for his native country.
Since the departure of Gustavo Kuerten from the circuit, the tennis crazed country of Brazil has been without a formidable contender. Ricardo Mello and Marcos Daniel have put forth their best efforts to carry Kuerten’s flame, but their results have been pale in comparison to the former world No. 1 and three time French Open champ.
The bouncy, flamboyant, and curly haired Florianopolis resident has certainly been missed since his premature retirement. Who could ever forget Kuerten’s two sets to love comeback against Michael Russell during the 2001 event—which was famously followed up by a heart-in-the-clay tribute to Paris? The artistic nature of Kuerten has seldom been seen on Tour in recent years, and although I don’t believe Bellucci will ever duplicate Guga’s charisma, his on-court results could make some noise.
For now, anyway, as we wait for the development of Bellucci to flourish (while hopefully taking the nation of Brazil back to the forefront of the sport), a determined Spaniard seems to be back on his way to his cherished Sunday podium.
Reaching his fifth quarterfinal at the French Open (while capturing his 200th match victory on clay), Nadal will next face countryman Nicolas Almagro.
Almagro was on fire today in dismissing a tired and regretful Fernando Verdasco. Dusting Verdasco 6-1, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, Almagro will look to redeem his pride against Nadal in the next round. Losing an embarrassing match to Nadal in the quarterfinals of the ‘08 event, Almagro appears to be peaking at just right time.
The same can not be said for Verdasco, unfortunately. The playboy Spaniard made some haste decisions during the spring season that cost him dearly in Paris. Playing every week during the clay calender, Verdasco was virtually out of gas against Almagro. I’m not quite sure why Verdasco played in Nice last week, except for the fact that he received a hefty paycheck for his appearance. If that is the case, Verdasco’s outcome in Paris was well deserved.
Elsewhere, Jurgen Melzer reached his first career Grand Slam quarterfinal by defeating Teimuraz Gabashvili 7-6(6), 4-6, 6-1, 6-4. Fighting through some nerves to close out the contest, Melzer will next face Novak Djokovic, who ousted the last-standing American in the draw Robby Ginepri, 6-4, 2-6, 6-1, 6-2.
Djokovic appeared to be struggling physically throughout the affair, but continued to be aided by his cupcake draw.
Tuesday order of play will feature: Roger Federer vs. Robin Soderling, and Tomas Berdych vs. Mikhail Youzhny.
May 31, 2010
Q. What do you think contributed to your surge after two sets? Why did you seem to struggle in the first two sets?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I’m really not a morning person, so it took a lot of time for me to get into the rhythm and warm up basically for the match.
He was very aggressive from the start. He played well. I was lucky to pull out that first set in my favor. Second set, as usual in these tournaments, went the other way for my opponent.
Unfortunately I lost focus. But I overcomed it, you know, again. Third and fourth were really, really good. I was aggressive, I was serving well, and playing from all over the court.
With that kind of game I performed in the third and fourth set, I think I have a good chance against anybody on the court now.
Q. Do you feel that Ginepri in that match was maybe getting tired? Did you have any feeling when you saw his moves?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, he was moving well, I think, all the time. The difference is that I was being in the control of the point in the third and fourth. I was very aggressive. So then, you know, I made him move more and make more unforced errors.
Q. Comparing to your first set, you especially struggled more in the second set. It looked like some Bermuda Triangle there. What happens? A physical thing or…
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Why do we have we keep on getting back on negative things, you know? Always struggle, struggle, struggle. I won the match. That’s what happened. I think I finished in a good way with a lot of winners and aggression and the game that is recognized when I’m on the court.
It’s in my style, and I just need to be aggressive from the start and keep on playing all the way. Of course, I did have some ups and downs, and you could see that in second set. But, you know, you cannot always perform 100% in every single point.
So it happens.
Q. You’re playing Jurgen Melzer now. This is his first quarterfinal at a Grand Slam tournament. You played him twice; you beat him twice on different surfaces. What’s your prospect on that one?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: He’s been playing great. Definitely a player to look up to. In this tournament he made a surprise win against Ferrer. But, with the way he was playing, he was playing for top 10, definitely.
It’s gonna be a tough match for both of us. I wouldn’t give myself too much, you know, chances to win, because now it’s a second week of the Grand Slam quarterfinals. The matches are getting tougher.
Physically you have to be very fresh and you have to expect the longer rallies. But he’s very aggressive, you know. He can play defensive and offensive at the same time. So that’s what makes him very dangerous.
I will try to keep up the good rhythm that I had in last two matches, and the better will win, I guess.
Q. I don’t wish to be negative after the way you played those last two sets, but you looked at times as if you were really filling your lungs with air and that you were struggling a little bit for breath, particularly early in the match. Was it a problem today?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Not strange with me. I always have these kind of problems.
Well, you know, after a long point you lose a lot of air, so it was nothing unusual in my side, you know. I was just trying to get as much as energy and air for the next point. I had some long rallies and some intensive points where, you know, I had to give 100% of my abilities on the court, and that’s what I did.
Generally looking, my physical feeling is right now it’s good, which is a positive fact for upcoming challenges.
Q. Are you willing to play aggressive and offensive all the time? And if you don’t, can you win the tournament?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, look, you know, I am aware that I have a good defensive game. I can run a lot on the court, but this is something that I don’t want to have in my game, you know, in the future. I want to have more variety, of course.
You cannot always be aggressive. I’m not a typical serve and volley player, so I will have to base my game on the baseline, which is for today’s tennis it’s usual, because, you know, all the top players are baseline specialists.
But I do have to be aggressive, because that’s when I feel confident and that’s when I feel comfortable on the court, taking the ball early and using every chance that has been given to me.
Q. You made a very funny video with Viktor Troicki. Can we expect other things this week? Do you know if Rafael Nadal liked it?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I hope he gave a positive comment about it. I heard he stated that he’s seen funnier things from my side.
I was sad I didn’t do it with him, because then it would be very original. Still, it was a fun I try to enjoy every moment on the court, and of course off the court, as well.
I like to relax when I don’t have matches and don’t have practices, so I’ve done it before and I had lots of fun. I was sad that they didn’t have it in last two years, the karaoke. But I don’t know if you can expect this week now you know, with the upcoming challenges that I have, I will try to keep my focus on the court.
Q. Talking about Rafa, still is one match away, but there’s a chance you play him in the semifinals. I wonder what you remember from the semifinals you guys played in 2008 in Hamburg, and if that was the best match you ever played on clay, or at least against him on clay?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, yeah, that was a great match in Hamburg, but I think even better was in Madrid last year where I had three match points. It was obvious after that match we both kind of lost our rhythm on the court physically, emotionally, and mentally, however you want to put it.
We were exhausted and left out of the tank, and we didn’t make such a great results after that. But it was a match to remember. Of course, for me, not in the best way, because I think that was the closest that I got to win against Nadal on clay.
But in case I get to play him here in Paris, definitely I will try to play a similar game that I played in Madrid, because, you know, you need to be aggressive against him. I mean, that’s the only way you can win.
Q. As you say, our questions sometimes tend to be negative, but don’t you think your serve, you have been a little bit negative about your serve towards end of last year and beginning maybe of this year, and you try consciously not to be negative, to be more positive?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, you know, you always try to do that, of course. You always try to get the brighter side, the things that you have done good in the practice, in the match. That’s what keeps you going.
That’s the right thinking, because if you I mean, I learned a lesson, of course. You know, I’m still only 23. Even though I have played many years on the tour, I have experienced the highs and lows of the career of a professional tennis player.
I’m very emotional, so I get to those stages where I feel bad or I feel good on the court, but with the time I get experience, experience that is gonna show me how to deal with things in the future. And right now I feel that I’m on the right way and the right path. I just need to keep on going.
Q. Would you be so kind to give your word again to Melzer? What makes him so dangerous, especially at this stage of the tournament?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, since it’s his first quarterfinals of the Grand Slam, definitely he doesn’t want to stop there. He has nothing to lose right now. Nobody expects him to do to play finals here. That’s why he’s very dangerous, because he’s gonna go for the shots.
As I said, he’s very aggressive, and his probably preferred surfaces are the faster surfaces. But, still, he has proved here that he’s one of the best players on the tournament, definitely.
You know, as I said, in those conditions like they were today, I think we both have good chances to win.
Q. I guess you were in pretty bad shape when you pulled out of Belgrade and didn’t play Madrid. To think back to that time and now, how surprised are you at the level of tennis you’re playing?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I’m not too surprised, because I was I knew that if I took some time off that physically, first of all, and health wise, I would get back and feel good, and then the good game will follow. That’s what I was hoping for.
It was not easy, of course, keeping the home tournament, you know, retiring there, and then Madrid where I did well last year.
It was definitely surprising for all the people, but I knew that it’s for a better good, it’s for something bigger, and that’s Roland Garros. This is the tournament of the year on clay courts, and everybody wants to make their best results on this tournament.
So this was my goal. This was my ambition, looking back three weeks ago.
Q. Most all of tennis loves you for your showmanship. Could you take a minute and assess Robby’s form on his pushups during the match?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It was funny. You know, I like it. I tend to do some crazy stuff in the match, as well. It’s what keeps me a little bit more relaxed. Everybody has a different personality, so I like to have more relaxation throughout the match or throughout the tournament where I can keep my mind off the focus a little bit, you know.
Because you go through very stressed situations where you’re constantly under pressure to play well, and you have to think about points. Of course, you always want to keep your concentration on the level where you want to beat your opponent, but what he did today was funny.
I think it was just finding a good way to make the people laugh in that situation when he fell down. He showed that he’s very strong.
Q. You mentioned you’re not a morning person. Do you know any tennis player who is?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I think Nadal. Any time you wake him up, he’s gonna play the same.
Q. When you hear a lot of people talking about Federer and Nadal in the final, I don’t think you agree with that. I hope so. But how do you feel about that? Is it better for you, less pressure?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I think it’s normal to talk about a Federer/Nadal final. I mean, since both of them have been so dominant in last five years, it’s nothing unusual, and people expect that. They have played so many Grand Slam finals in the last four, five years.
But I’m in this small group of players behind them that is trying to get that final and force something surprising, you know, something that people don’t expect.
I mean, I try not to think about semis or finals. Right now I’m playing really well. I’m taking one match at a time.
Courtesy of ASAP.
May 31, 2010
Tuesday’s order of play in France will feature: Roger Federer vs. Robin Soderling, and Tomas Berdych vs. Mikhail Youzhny.
For the complete order of play for Tuesday, click the link below.
May 30, 2010
Monday’s order of play in Paris will feature: Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Fernando Verdasco.
For the complete order of play for Monday, click the link below.
May 30, 2010
Roland Garros—Paris, France
Recent Miami finalist Tomas Berdych reached his first quarterfinal at the French Open on Sunday by defeating world No. 4 Andy Murray 6-4, 7-5, 6-3.
Serving tremendously during his two hour and 10 minute victory, Berdych won 92 percent of his first serve points while striking 10 aces.
Dealing with the slow heavy conditions better than his opponent, Berdych broke the serve of the Scot on five of 14 occasions.
Murray, who had entered Roland Garros in sup par form, was attempting to equal his quarterfinal showing of last year. Falling to 16-8 on the season, Murray will now head back to London after a disappointing clay-court campaign.
Reaching his second career Grand Slam quarterfinal, Berdych will next face Mikhail Youzhny on Tuesday. Youzhny advanced to his third career Major quarterfinal when Jo-Wilfried Tsonga retired with a back injury after losing the first set.
Other winners on the day included top seed Roger Federer and Robin Soderling. Last year’s champion and finalist defeated Stanislas Wawrinka and Marin Cilic in straight sets, respectively.
May 30, 2010
Q. The match with Cilic, many people, myself, we thought it would be a very close match, hard match that maybe you would end up winning. I would think you would end up winning. But it happened much faster. Unexpected score, probably. How did you feel about that? The second question is: Are you happy to face Federer again, although it’s not in the final but it’s in the quarters?
ROBIN SODERLING: Well, I think first question I think you’re always expecting a tough match, whoever you play against. Against Cilic, we never played before, but he’s a great server. Against guys like him, it’s almost always tough.
But I think the conditions were a little bit tough today. It was windy; it was cold; it was tough to really get in a rhythm. But I think what was the biggest difference between us is I think I served better than him. I had more first serves in, and I was able to dictate play with my forehand a little bit more.
Second one, well, I mean, it’s a quarterfinal of a Grand Slam, and I have to play either one of the top four guys. Of course it’s tough to play against Roger, but it’s all tough matches. I hope for a good match. It’s always fun to play against him.
Q. In Abu Dhabi when you won the exhibition, you said or at least you were quoted as saying that the more times you play him, the closer you get to him. I wondered if you could talk about what your best played match against him has been, and what you did right in that match that you might take into this one.
ROBIN SODERLING: We played so many times over so many years now, so it’s tough to remember. But I remember a few times I played against him when I came pretty close, especially one in Halle a couple years ago when I served and returned really well.
I think that’s what you have to do against him, because of course he’s the best player in the world. But even against him you will always get a few chances. Then you have to take them, because he won’t give you any second opportunities.
You really have to play well in the important points, which he does so well, and that’s why he’s so good.
Q. A year ago you came here No. 23 seed, I believe; now you’re No. 5. Tell us what is so different from a year ago. Maybe part of that is tell us about Magnus Norman and what he has done to change you at all.
ROBIN SODERLING: I don’t know if I changed. I think one year ago or two years ago I think I could play really good tennis. My had highest level then was pretty much the same as now, I think.
But of course I’m winning more matches, and I think I’m winning more matches when I’m not playing my best tennis, which I didn’t do so often before. That’s the biggest change.
Of course, Magnus helped me a lot with a lot of things on and off the court, so he’s been really good for me.
Q. You’ve become more consistent. Is part of that Magnus?
ROBIN SODERLING: Well, yeah. Him and also me. We work together as a team. I think we did a really good job. As I said, you know, I have many things to thank him for. He’s been really helpful.
Q. I was wondering which would be a more satisfying victory for you, beating Nadal on clay or beating Federer.
ROBIN SODERLING: I don’t know, you know. It depends which tournament, which round, whatever, you know.
They’re both really tough players to beat. They’re No. 1 and 2 in the world. Beating them, it’s a great achievement, I think. I think you have to play your best tennis.
It’s very difficult, but it’s not impossible, which I showed and which many other players showed in the past.
Q. I think the clay court form before this tournament was maybe not the best. Have you been a little scared? And on the other hand, are you surprised now that it’s going so well?
ROBIN SODERLING: Well, no. I haven’t really been scared. Of course I wanted to win more matches than I did, but I think I played in finals in Barcelona, first clay court tournament, and I end up losing in a tough three sets against Verdasco, which is not a bad tournament.
Then of course I had a bad week in Rome when I didn’t play well at all. But, you know, it can happen to anyone. It can happen to, you know, Roger, Rafa, everyone. They cannot play their best tennis every week.
So it’s been I think overall it’s been pretty good, but I think of course I wanted to have some more matches before coming into this tournament. But now I played four really good matches, and I’m feeling good.
Q. If I understand you correctly, are you saying that basically the difference between last year and this year and maybe between a top 20 player and a top 3 or 4 player, 5 player, is that you learn how to win without playing at your best level, that is, knowing how to win without being at your top level?
ROBIN SODERLING: Yeah, I’d like to think so. If you look at all the top guys, they’re not playing the best tennis every week. Maybe you have three or four, maybe five matches in a year where you feel like you play really, really well.
The other 50 matches you still have to win, and then all the top guys, they win a lot of matches against good players without playing the best tennis. I think that’s the biggest difference between a guy ranked in the top 10 and the guy ranked in the top 30, 40.
Q. You’ve cracked that secret. Can you tell us how it’s done? Can you give us just one example of knowing how to win when you’re not…
ROBIN SODERLING: Of course, winning a lot of matches against good players gives you confidence. I think this year and also last year I won a lot of matches against really good players, so my confidence is good.
You know, in matches like this, it’s very often it’s a couple of points here and there which decides the match. And then the guy who has the best confidence wins the match and the points most of the time.
Q. Would you prefer quicker conditions for your next match?
ROBIN SODERLING: No, I haven’t really thought about it, but I think it doesn’t really matter. I think I can play well on both slow and faster surfaces and conditions. So, no, not really.
Q. You’re not any more an outsider, but you’re one of the top players. Does that add more confidence, or does that add more tension? Does it matter at all?
ROBIN SODERLING: No, I don’t think about it that much, because, you know, doesn’t matter if you’re ranked 5 or 50 in the world. You still have to win the matches. On court it doesn’t matter what your ranking is. You still have to win the matches. I think that’s how you have to think.
Q. Has your life changed at all off the court since you’ve become a top 10 player?
ROBIN SODERLING: Well, no, not that much. Of course, it’s been a little bit more hectic. I do more stuff outside the court, but, you know, I try to I try to live the same life.
You know, I think it’s pretty similar. I still do the same things every day.
Q. You’re not bothered on the street or when you’re eating at a restaurant?
ROBIN SODERLING: Well, of course, that, but it doesn’t bother me that much. I always wanted to be where I am now, and I know that’s the sort of things that comes with it. I have to accept it, whether I like it or not.
Q. Just to clarify just in the end on that one point, so a year ago were you somebody who, for example, when you lost those key points, would get down? And are you now a person who, when you lose those key points, you still retain your confidence and keep your energy up? Is that a difference?
ROBIN SODERLING: Well, at least I try to. Sometimes it works, and sometimes not.
But, again, as I said, I think I could still play as good one or two years ago as I can do now, but it’s you know, it’s when I’m not playing when I’m not playing my best tennis, that has changed when I’m winning more matches now.
Courtesy of ASAP.