Jan 20 press roundup

Ooodles of press today about the Rohus match and how well Rafa played – lots of it very repetitive, but there’s at least one article that is very interesting. Since I want to quote so much of that one, it’s after the break.

Late Night Massacre – go read the whole article. Author Tom Perrotta has a lot of interesting thoughts on Rafa’s hard court game.

No matter how well he plays and how many titles he wins, Nadal still doesn’t inspire as much confidence on hard courts as he does on clay and grass. This isn’t surprising, but perhaps for different reasons, I suspect, than most observers suggest. The book on Nadal is that he often plays too defensively on hard courts (and hits the ball too short), and that he doesn’t serve well enough. I don’t think that’s true these days, as his gold medal run at the Beijing Olympics showed. Nadal plays more aggressively each year, no matter the surface and his game is perfect for hard courts. It just happens to be more perfect for clay and grass. The chief reason? On cement, to my mind, Nadal’s superior hand-eye coordination becomes less of an advantage.

Reach for it! (Photo by AP Photo/Mark Baker)

Reach for it! (Photo by AP Photo/Mark Baker)

How often do you see Nadal mishit the ball or hit an outright shank? Considering how hard he swings, and how much spin he applies with an extreme western grip, not too often. That’s the case on clay and grass, too, where the bounces are unpredictable. In the rain, in the dark (the Wimbledon final), in the blinding sun, on clay, on grass–it doesn’t matter. For everyone else, it does, or at least, it matters more than it does for Nadal. I can’t help but think that his Uncle Toni, who made a point of teaching the young Nadal to deal with shoddy courts and conditions, has a lot to do with his nephew’s impeccable timing, no matter what the ball does after it bounces.

Hard courts, of course, give the truest bounces in the business. On hard surfaces, Nadal’s supreme spin, so effective (and so unpredictable once it crashes into clay or a worn down patch of grass) becomes more predictable. His drop shot, which is underrated, becomes less of a weapon, too.

What makes this even more interesting to me is that I heard some commentators saying the exact same thing about Venus Williams.

Top-ranked Nadal in top form at Australian Open

Showing no sign of the knee problems that sidelined him at the end of last year, Nadal yielded only eight points in six games in the first set. When Rochus finally got on the board while already down a break in the second, the capacity crowd in Rod Laver Arena gave him a huge ovation.

Rafael Nadal breezes past Christophe Rochus at Australian Open

The first set took just 19 minutes as Nadal ripped into his work at breakneck speed.

Nadal sends out warning

Rochus was almost reduced to a spectator at times as Nadal’s ground stokes either landed deep in the corner or hugged the sidelines.

Nadal in Super Form

Nadal looks in superb touch and this does not bode well for the other players in the fray. He doesn’t seem to be in the mood to let up even a bit till he has the coveted trophy in his showcase.

Nadal Powers His Way to Opening Victory

“You know, the sport is like this,” Nadal said. “Because if you are not playing all the time 100 percent — if I had some mistakes in some moments — he can come close back to me and anything can happen.”