Local Hopes, O2 Intake, and No Bull for Chardy
August 11, 2010 · Print This Article
Rogers Cup—Toronto, Canada
We’re almost at the halfway mark of this year’s Rogers Cup, and all appears well on the draw sheet, and from a fans’ perspective. However, I’d bet the Corona hat that I was given yesterday that the level of play of some of the major seeds hasn’t been up to their standards.
I started off my day by watching the last Canadian in the field, Peter Polansky lose in straight sets to Victor Hansecu. Although the match went a close 6-4, 7-6 (4), I found myself asking the same question of Polansky that I did three years ago: Will his backhand groundstroke, and more importantly his backhand return ever gain the margin and penetration that it needs in order to become a top-flight shot?
Polansky is a tremendous athlete, and has beefed up his serve considerably since last summer. Able to drop 120 MPH serves at ease, Polansky has also altered his serve variety to include more slice and kick serves. Unfortunately for Polansky, his backhand does remain a noticeable weakness, and I’m sure that the Tour boys have figured that out by now.
Here’s hoping that Polansky can turn the corner on his career, because he’d be a great ambassador for the Canadian game.
The day really kicked into gear with the arrival of Novak Djokovic. The former champ was in suspect form throughout his straight set win over Julien Benneteau, requesting the trainer on numerous occasions, while suffering from breathing issues. Djokovic’s battle with heat and allergy ailments is by no means a new story. The Serb has encountered, and lost the battle to heat-related problems during some pretty big matches, and he almost found himself out of the first-round of a Masters event for the second time this season.
Djokvovic’s serve was also underwater for most of the contest. He dropped serve on four occasions, but was lucky enough to break serve six times. To be honest, I’m really not confident that Djokovic would have won, or even finished a third-set if it had taken place. I like Djokovic’s game, and I’m in noway claiming that he isn’t sincere when he’s struggling, but it certainly is starting to become a regular occurrence which he could soon do without.
“It was a big struggle. It was obvious that on the court I wasn’t feeling the best, but I overcomed it. It was nothing unusual, just little heat issues that I have, but, you know, the life goes on. I won another match, and usually when you win the tough first round like this, second round, actually, my first match in this tournament, now I get more confidence and hopefully I can be ready for the next challenge.”
I’m not sure if we can call them “little heat issues” for much longer, but it won’t be getting any cooler in Toronto as the week goes on, and that certainly will not bode well for the No. 2 seed.
Moving along through the chaotic bliss that is the grounds of a Masters event, I was fortunate to witness the finishing touches on the Alexandr Dolgopolov vs. Mikhail Youzhny dogfight, before venturing off to catch David Nalbandian obliterate Tommy Robredo.
Dolgopolov, who overcame a disgruntled Philipp Petzschner yesterday, poured in another up-and-coming performance against the Russian veteran. Trailing by a set and 4-1, Dolgopolov roared back to capture the second set, while squeaking out a momentum shifting final set.
Using a superb blend of drop-shots and slice backhands, Dolgopolov is beginning to showcase his mettle—which was once questioned—against formidable opponents.
The 21-year-old will next face Tomas Berdych.
What can be said about David Nalbandian, that hasn’t already been put on pen and paper?
Although the Argentine has been on the DL for the better part of a year, he never really left the conversation, or the minds of the game’s elite. Winning his 10th match in a row against his Spanish foe, Nalbandian’s footwork, forehand, and most importantly his fitness, were all in top gear. The former world No. 3 will next face Gael Monfils in an intriguing third-round match up.
After chowing down on an overcooked hamburger, I decided to check out how Fernando Verdasco was coming along.
I’ve had high hopes for Verdasco during the current hard-court swing, considering that he sustained a relatively poor grass-season. Facing another promising star in Jeremy Chardy, Verdasco was forced to withstand an hour plus first set to edge in front. Displaying his renowned forehand and artistry for the intimate Grandstand crowd, Verdasco quickly gained an early break lead over the Frenchman to lead 1-0 in the second set.
Holding onto his lead until the doorsteps of victory at 5-4 in the second set, Verdasco never really seemed to settle into the match, even though he was ahead. Looking over at his father and coach Darren Cahill on numerous occasions, Verdasco broke a racket over his foot, while letting out a record amount of F-bombs. I’ve never seen Verdasco need his box of supporters more than he did today, but after he lost the second set—a set which he never should have lost—the wheels, and his constant stares to his box subsided.
To Chardy’s credit, the struggling Frenchman continued his strong breathing—doesn’t it seem that the French players have the deepest breathing habits from any Nation?—while blasting his multi-faceted forehand into the corners of the court.
Finding himself a few points from victory, Chardy’s green and lime shoes caught my attention. Tightly wound around his narrow and long feet, Chardy’s shoe of choice dawned the famous Rafael Nadal “bull” symbol.
Playing nothing like the current top dog of tennis, Chardy was undoubtedly looking for any means necessary to dig out of his under .500 season.
The 23-year-old Frenchman will need his dancing shoes and then some, when he next faces Nikolay Davydenko for a place in the quarterfinals.
With no rest for the weary, I’m off to catch Nadal light up the Rexall Center.