Archive for the ‘Rafa’ Category

21 May 2013

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This week we talk hot topics of Rome including Rafa’s dominance and his fans, the Jerzy Train on track again, and the fun frustration of Benoit Paire. Apologies for the lateness due to technical difficulties.

This week we plan to preview Roland Garros soon after the draw is up. Thanks for listening!

Remember to subscribe to us on iTunes (it comes right to your telephone! Technology!) If you like it, give us a rating and even a review and we will love you forever. Also, check out the always great The Changeover and all of its lovely members: @linzsports, @juanjo_sports and @AmyFetherolf .

29 Apr 2013

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Nadal is the king, Sharapova is the queen, and Amy would rather watch bowling than tennis. Schiavone, Rosol, and we make some picks for the week ahead.

Remember to subscribe to us on iTunes (it comes right to your telephone! Technology!) If you like it, give us a rating and even a review and we will love you forever. Also, check out the always great The Changeover and all of its lovely members: @linzsports, @juanjo_sports and @AmyFetherolf .

3 Mar 2013

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Djokovic wins Dubai, Nadal wins Acapulco and neither drop a set. Gulbis, bad kits, Ferrer’s poor effort and more!

Remember to subscribe to us on iTunes (it comes right to your telephone! Technology!) Also, check out the always great The Changeover and all of its lovely members: @linzsports, @juanjo_sports and @AmyFetherolf .

11 Feb 2013

Rafa is back! Should we be expecting him to win Roland Garros, or is his return underwhelming? Fed Cup, predictions and more!

Remember to subscribe to us on iTunes (it comes right to your telephone! Technology!) Also, check out the always lovely The Changeover and all of its lovely members: @linzsports, @juanjo_sports and @AmyFetherolf . And for this week, follow @TennisNewsTPN and @FierceTennis, as I mentioned at the end.

4 Feb 2013

We’re back! Between Nadal’s return, Davis Cup, Fed Cup, and all that was last week and will be this week, there was a ton to talk about. We managed to get around to most of it and pick off the juicy dark meat for you. I think we’re getting the hang of this!

Remember to subscribe to us on iTunes (it comes right to your telephone! Technology!) Also, check out the always lovely The Changeover and all of its lovely members: @linzsports, @juanjo_sports and @AmyFetherolf

23 May 2012

Originally posted to

Now the final major clay event before Roland Garros, Rome gave fans an oppurtunity to see their favourite players on a truly slow, traditional surface.

On the ATP side, the King returned to the throne as Rafael Nadal once again defeated Novak Djokovic in the final, 7-5, 6-3. Having been rained out on Sunday, the final did not get under way until noon local time on Monday. A critical point at 30-30, 4-5 in the first set was wrongly called out against Djokovic and quickly corrected. A point he likely would have won to gain a set point ended up going against him. The frustration mounted and Nadal sprang like a shark to blood, breaking Djokovic and then holding once again for the first set. Despite some trading of breaks early in the second, Nadal settled and took hold of the match to take the title.

Nadal won 12 sets and lost none, defeating Ferrer and Berdych en route to the final. Having already won titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona, Nadal becomes the favourite for Roland Garros once again, if only slightly ahead of number 1 Djokovic and Federer.

The WTA final saw plenty of drama as Maria Sharapova climbed back from a 4-6, 0-4 defecit to eventually take the title from the grasp of Li Na, winning 4-6, 6-4, 7-6. The epic affair was nearly spoiled as rain delayed the third set tiebreak, but was completed later on the Sunday to crown the champion.

This gives Sharapova her second clay title of the season and was her fourth final of 2012. With Petra Kvitova struggling to be fit, Sharapova’s devastating baseline play may set her as the favourite for Roland Garros along with Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams. Roland Garros remains the only major title to alude Sharapova over her career and will be hungrier than ever with a new found success on clay.

ATP Surprise of the Week – Andreas Seppi – Home field advantage is a term often tossed around in sports around the world, but rarely mentioned in tennis. This past week, the Italian crowds of Rome were clearly behind their man, clay journeyman Andreas Seppi. Seppi needed three sets in all three of his wins including massive upsets of Isner and Wawrinka. After dropping the first set in a tiebreak against Wawrinka, Seppi rode the wave of the crowd in a momentus win over three sets, all in tiebreaks. The Italian easily fell to Federer in the quarterfinals, but the run will remain an unforgettable effort in his career.

WTA Surprise of the Week – Angelique Kerber – Perhaps the surprise is not the semifinal result on the week, but the season. Kerber continues to be a mix of Wozniacki-like consistency, both in matches and week to week, and Kvitova-like lefty power. The German has now provern herself on all surfaces, and a combination of improving movement with devastating power and placement has earned her some massive results this season. A darkhorse that could make some serious noise at Roland Garros, she is one to spot on the draw.

The Long Haul

Posted by Brodie under: Australian Open, Fergasm, Nole, Rafa

31 Jan 2012

It was bound to happen eventually.

Novak Djokovic not only turned the tennis world on its head last year as he won three of four majors, he turned the seedings we’ve become so accustomed to upside down. Regardless, it was the same old as Federer continued to draw Djokovic and Nadal drew Murray. Nadal/Federer could be a possible semifinal, however being the second and third seeds, and it was exactly that for the first time in ages.

It’s been said so many times in tennis circles it’s become a cliche. The left handed, physical, unconventional, clay master Spaniard. The right handed, smooth, elegant, gentleman of Wimbledon Swiss. We’ve heard it all. Hell, books have been written on it. Yet, late in the first set, I believe we all realized once again how palpable those differences are, and indeed how special this rivalry continues to be.

It is the type of extreme difference nigh on impossible to achieve let alone see in team sports. It’s also such an extreme difference rarely accompanied by such greatness and regularity in tennis.
It may have been the perfect stage. With Djokovic now a slight step above all, Nadal and Federer were allowed to fight among themselves and show off just how relevant not just their rivalry is, but how relevant and close they remain.
In reality, this match was an audition. A reminder of perhaps the greatest rivalry tennis has ever seen. Yet it was not the final, it was a semifinal. The old rivalry versus the new. And so it was fitting that once again Rafa was dragged around court by the master, but outlasted him and eventually outplayed him quite handily.

Cometh Brutality

Due to Federer and Nadal’s large chasm in styles and approaches, their matches turn into wildly entertaining cat-and-mouse affairs that are largely based around trying to hit the ball to the other’s backhand. Once that happens, one uses lazer like precision, the other relentless physicality, to push the opposing player around the court and win the point. This is all wonderful for Nadal, and has been for years. Nadal’s wildly unconvential matches up perfectly against Federer’s convential, albeit effortless and precise, style.
But what if Nadal were to meet his match? A player who’s game matches up in the exact perfect way to tear down the war machine that is Rafa. You know where I’m going with this. Of course, Rafa has lost many matches over the past several years. But when pre-2011-Nadal was healthy and played his best, he simply did not lose.

It has to be noted, that Nadal met his match, a player playing at the top of his ability, and a player with the exact type of game to tear the Spaniard’s down. And it was’t Novak Djokovic.

Fernando Verdasco pushed Nadal to the absolute limit in 2009 and foreshadowed the type of play that could defeat Nadal. Verdasco and Djokovic aren’t the same player, but there are similarities. First off, Verdasco is left handed, Djokovic is right handed. However, Verdasco’s forehand is incredibly flat, (on that day) reliable, and able to expose Nadal’s backhand by firing cross court from any spot on the court. This is all true of Djokovic’s backhand. Much like Verdasco’s forehand and left-handededness “cancelled out” Rafa’s largest weapon, his forehand, it also dismantled his reliable approach to point construction. Nadal is finding the exact same difficulties in this area due to Novak’s backhand.

Breaking It Down and Breaking Down

The Australian Open final will be remembered for what is now the longest major final ever played. This largely implies that the match was incredibly close to have dragged on for so long (after the epic Isner-Mahut, it is difficult not to jump to this conclusion). In reality it should be remembered for not being close at all.
After winning the first set 7-5, Djokovic dominated what was a series of pretty junky tennis, winning the next two sets 6-4 and 6-2. In reality, he should have wrapped it up in four. It is almost as if these two are resigned to the fact that they’re in it for the long haul, and it is going to be gruelling, regardless of the scoreline.

Now would be the time to throw in the old cliched tennis to boxing analogy. Sure, it is a nice one. Both are individual sports, both involve breaks between periods of action, and it makes tennis look pretty damn good. The difference is, despite being punched in the head repeatedly, boxing matches don’t take six hours. If Nadal/Federer is a fencing match, Nadal/Djokovic is a Medieval bloodbath with battle axes. If Nadal/Federer is judo, Nadal/Djokovic is the UFC.

The two of them pushed the level of physicality in the US Open final to a point rarely seen. Perhaps we should have seen this coming. Both players move so well and play such good defense, they rely purely on instinct at the end of long points (and eventually, long matches). In the end, this is what makes the difference. Djokovic’s muscle memory, right now, is at an insane level. The smoothness and accuracy he was finding off both wings late in the match was incredible. The footwork wasn’t there, but he was still able to just his upper body strength to move the ball and keep the backhand flat.
For Nadal, it is not quite the same. The most obvious point is his missed backhand passing shot at 4-2, 30-15. Despite Nadal’s efforts to work on his backhand, and it has improved mightily over the past couple of years, old habits die hard. The power goes, and so does some of the accuracy and craftmanship. It becomes a “get me over the net” shot. Maybe it’s because Nadal is a natural right hander, but plays lefty? I’m not sure.

This makes life incredibly difficult for Nadal. Dictating points from the forehand is not as easy, as it is cancelled out by Djokovic’s backhand. To make matters worse, Nadal’s own backhand tends to fail him in long matches whereas the fitness and muscle memory of Djokovic’s largest weapon continues to tick and give him a slight upper hand.

Losing the Battle, Winning the War

Nadal and Federer’s rivalry has long been talked about, analyzed, and cliche’d into oblivion. It’s one of the greatest rivalries sport has ever seen. But what a treat to have, with an outgoing Federer, a new rivalry for the ages. The reasons for one man’s success and the other man’s failure are only now beginning to simmer in the minds of hardcore tennis fans. This rivalry is another that has never been seen before, dares to push the sport to the edges of physicality, athleticism, and endurance, and should be celebrated as such. As tennis fans, we should line up our water bottles, tug at our shorts, look to the heavens, tear off our shirts and jump in.

30 Jun 2011

Nadal’s Tournament So Far: Defeated: Fish, Delpo, Muller, Sweeting, Russell.

What Rafa Needs To Do: It hasn’t been breezy, but Rafa once again has himself in another Wimbledon semifinal. Getting this far never seemed too much in doubt, but Delpo definitely gave him a scare and Fish woke him up when he won a set.

For Rafa, things are pretty obvious. Keep that serve big, make sure the forehand is working and placing balls where he needs it, and be ready for a fight (which he always is). I think it’s safe to say that Rafa isn’t quite at the level he was from last year, and he’s got health issues that threaten to derail his run. He’ll need his A game for sure.

Murray’s Tournament So Far: Defeated: Lopez, Richie, Ljubicic, Kamke, Gimeno-Traver.

What Murray Needs To Do: It’s felt like Andy’s run to the semis has been easy. Routine. The draw helped him out, and it was simple. Right?

Partially. I think it’s safe to say that Andy’s draw could have been a whole lot worse, and wasn’t. At the same time, he’s dealt with Feli’s big serve, Richie’s variety, and Ljubicic’s Mr. Cleanness and made them look pretty routine. Those are definitely opponents who will ask the question of the big names, and Muzz has been ready to answer back right away.

It’s always a different beast, the business ends of slams, when only the cream of the crop remain. But I really do think Muzz is looking confident and solid. He had a fantastic clay season, looked comfortable, and looks absolutely fine with the pressure of Wimby.

In terms of his game and strategy, his serve is going to need to be cracking. If he starts having trouble on his serve consistently, it’s not going to be pretty. He will also need his backhand, probably his greatest weapon, which has been able to neutralize Rafa’s forehand in the past.

I’m going out on a crazy on this one and calling Muzz in 5 grinding sets.

For those who missed it, I asked on Twitter for people to send in their thoughts on who would win both semifinals, and how many sets it would take. Here’s the results. Whoever correctly picked both winners and respective total set count will get a follow Friday! Here’s the results from this match.

Rafa in 5: 4 total: @DancingPanda1, @jonscott9, @GVTennisNews, @elliejackson1
Rafa in 4: 14 total: @jeannab64, @delpotweeties, @nidsserz, @ljkingy, @stephinNZ, @marpal38, @omes_tennis, @ember_42, @sharapovanovic, @EllieFM, @rosso_neri, @AdjustingTheNet, @clairtennisfan, @emmpahickey
Rafa in 3: 3 total: @omygravy, @RacquetRequired, @DiscoDebMKE

Andy in 5: 4 total: @mitchjos, @sheilokavieira, @anna_tennisfan, @MindTheRacket
Andy in 4: 8 total: @BraveThinkSol, @tenniswatch, @ruthlesscourt, @Ms_Art_House, @R0si, @Daszmarelli, @zbrain, @Daily_Scores
Andy in 3: None

1. Rafael Nadal

Posted by Brodie under: Rafa, SW19

21 Jun 2011

Weapons: Changes tactics brilliantly, which helps him keep balls deep and returns aggressive
Weaknesses: Can be beaten down by big servers, game not firing on all cylinders as last year

Rafa comes into Wimbledon as the odds on favourite to win his title. Despite not playing his greatest tennis, he sorted things out in France en route to another Roland Garros title. As the defending champion, and the number 1 ranking in the balance, Rafa will have to navigate through a tricky draw to reach the late stages of this tournament, where he’ll likely end up the favourite to take it once again.

Men’s Final Preview

Posted by Brodie under: Federror, Rafa, Roland Garros

4 Jun 2011

It’s been a long time coming. Hit me.

What It Means For Rafa

Only one man has won more Roland Garros titles than Rafa: Bjorn Borg. Even though Rafa could retire today and be considered the greatest clay player of all time, it’s a record very much worth drawing even with. Not only will it bump him to double digits in the slams category, it will cement the fact that even though he played during the time of the GOAT, he was indestructible at his major in Paris.

What It Means For Fed

Clay has long been Roger’s worst surface, and has only ever managed 2 wins over Rafa on the dirt. He faced him 4 straight years from 2005-08 and managed to take 3 sets total, and only 4 games in the final in 2008.

Outside of the most weeks at number 1, defeating the King of Clay on his clay major has really been the only notable thing Fed hasn’t done. A win would not only give Fed that precious Roland Garros final win over Rafa, it would give him a legitimate shot at number 1 going into the end of the year, and ultimately show that even late in his career, is not a force to be underestimated.

Keys To The Match For Rafa

Rafa’s best opponent this fortnight has not been John Isner, but in fact himself. Mentally he’s looked unstable, the forehand hasn’t always been on, and he’s had some extremely slow starts to matches. That being said, he played the best he has all tournament against Cap’n Crunch in the semifinal, and looked more like the Rafa we know.

In other words, Rafa doesn’t need to “try” to do much of anything spectacular. He knows how to play Fed, and he sure knows how to play Fed on clay. Exploiting the backhand in forehand-backhand rallies, going down the line with the forehand, serving out wide to the Fed backhand, the list goes on. Mentally, however, he’s going to be as solid as he’s ever been. Fed is going to come at him with everything he’s got, and he needs to be prepared for a grind. Which I fully expect him to be.

Otherwise, he needs his backhand to be solid. It doesn’t need to be amazing, but good enough. It’s been a weak point at times this week, either slow, or on the back foot, and it’s ended points too early for him.

Keys To The Match For Fed

Simply put, Fed is going to have to do everything he did against Nole and then some. Not difficult, right? Fed’s backhand, both this tournament and this year, has been pretty average. Against Nole, it looked a lot more like a typical Fed shot. However, Nole really tried to exploit it, but his backhand wasn’t up to snuff. This meant that Fed actually got the advantage in backhand to backhand rallies because the ball wasn’t coming in too deep, or too quickly.

Now that backhand has to hold up to Rafa’s forehand. Fed needs to continue his great footwork, try to run around to the forehand, and stay aggressive. Along with the backhand, his serve was fantastic against Nole, and he’s going to need that for some free(r) points on serve.

Mentally, he looks ready and aggressive. The Fed we’re used to seeing. He’s going to need every ounce of that, and worry about things on his side of the net for the first set, and not let Rafa get in his head. He also needs to convert break points, and hold in games after wasted ones. But you don’t need me to tell you that.

If Rafa shows up, I really think he should be ok, but I think we’re in for a much closer ride than the last time these two met in this tournament.

Mind The Racket Podcast:

Episode 3 – Australian Open Finals, Week 2 Wrap