Wait, I won that?

REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

Rafa and countryman Nicolas Almagro attempted to follow-up the emotional farewell to Safin today in Paris. Almagro hadn’t taken a set off Rafa in their previous 4 meetings, but it only took 32 minutes for that stat to change. Almagro had a plan and was executing well; Rafa was serving awful and his timing was off on his shots. Suddenly, Rafa won a 2nd set tiebreaker. Then things got really weird. I’m not sure I can or want to describe that third set. Let’s just say I never want to see one like it again. Rafa is through to the next round: 6-3, 7-6(2), 7-5.

Stats:

Nadal Almagro
Statistics on Serve
Aces 9 12
Double Faults 4 1
1st Serve % 59% 64%
1st Serve Points Won 40/65 (62%) 50/79 (63%)
2nd Serve Points Won 24/45 (53%) 19/45 (42%)
Break Points Saved 6/12 (50%) 8/14 (57%)
Service Games Played 16 17
Statistics on Return
1st Return Points Won 29/79 (37%) 25/65 (38%)
Second Return Points Won 26/45 (37%) 21/45 (47%)
Break Points Won 6/14 (43%) 6/12 (50%)
Return Games Played 17 16
Statistics on Points
Total Service Points Won 64/110 (58%) 69/124 (56%)
Total Return Points Won 55/124 (44%) 46/110 (42%)
Total Points Won 119/234 (51%) 115/234 (49%)

As it happened blatherings:

*sniff* So long, Marat.

Players take to the court, but I’m totally distracted by the Balearic Islands promo that @margolibri tweeted.

Pascal Maria in the chair.

Rafa on court, the Balearic Island photos and my DC ticket vouchers all arrive at once. I’m overcome.

Rafa has a break point in the first game, but Almagro ends with a beauty of a cross-court passer to hold and win the first game.

Nice smash from Rafa! Ball bouncing so low, you can hear Rafa’s racket hit the ground as he tries to slice a backhand. Stress-free hold from Rafa: 1-1.

Easy hold for Almagro: 1-2. Another easy hold – this time for Rafa: 2-2

Pretty low-key affair so far. I think Marat took all the energy and emotion with him.

Excellent pass from Rafa – Almagro thought it was going out, he forgot about that topspin. Rafa’s trying to stay closer to the baseline and not retreat. Almagro’s pushed him back a few times, but Rafa keeps moving forward when he has a chance. Rafa double faults and then nets a ball: deuce. A second serve right on the service line and Almagro sends the reply long. Game point, Rafa. Rafa sends a shot wide and it’s deuce. Rafa double faults again – break point for Almagro. He breaks with a shot deep to Rafa’s forehand and it’s 2-4.

Down 0-40 on Almagro’s next service game, Rafa takes control of a point and moves Almagro well. He finishes it off with a smash at the net. Easy hold for Almagro, though. Rafa will serve to stay in the set.

Ace! That’s more like it. Rafa’s first serve percentage is in the toilet. Rafa holds at love.

Rafa’s too hot for my cable company. Whenever he’s on TV, my signal starts freezing up. *sigh*

Nice aggressive point from Rafa. Almagro sends a point long and it’s 30-30. Shot from Rafa is just wide and Almagro has set point. Rafa nets a ball and Almagro takes the opening set in 42 minutes: 6-3.

48% first serve percentage. Not pretty.

First game of the second set and Rafa’s already had to save a break point. Almagro has a ball called out, but the call is overruled and they replay the break point. Almagro nets a serve return: deuce. Almagro gets upset that a chair over-rule of a line call isn’t a let, but it gives Rafa a game point. Almagro smokes a second serve return and it’s deuce again. Almagro sends a shot long. Rafa’s trying to pump himself up. Second serve. Almagro is teeing off on those second serves and taking total control of the points: deuce. Almagro sends a shot just long: game point, Rafa. Second serve. Double fault: deuce. Almagro sends the ball long and Rafa has another game point. Ace. Rafa finally holds.

Almagro holds at love.

Almagro managing to take control of points mid-way through a rally. Ace: 15-15. Rafa splays a shot wide: 15-30. Almagro sends a shot long: 30-30. Rafa’s 17th unforced error gives Almagro a break point. And another one gives Almagro the break.

Break point for Rafa. Second serve. Let. Short balls from Rafa. Almagro paints a line to save the break point. Almagro serves wide and then hits behind Rafa as he returns to the center of the court. Perfect. (And frustrating.) He sends a ball long to give Rafa another break point. Excellent serve and a weak return, but Almagro sends his shot long and Rafa breaks. Back on serve: 2-2.

Almagro is working that cross-court backhand, but he sends a forehand just wide: 15-0. Rafa holds.

Banana time!

Almagro holds at love: 3-3.

Perfect forehand winner from Almagro. Rafa follows with a nice deep forehand of his own: 15-15. Almagro runs Rafa: 15-30. Almagro handcuffs Rafa at the net and it’s deuce. He sends a shot wide and Rafa has a game point. Rafa holds for 4-3.

I think it’s time for another rousing chorus of “deeper, Rafa! Deeper!”

Rafa can’t find a ball kid to take his racket to the stringer, so Maria gets down out of the chair to give it to a confused ball kid. A photographer finally yanks it out of the kid’s hand and gives it to Rafa’s team.

Rafa gets the first point on Almagro’s serve, but nets the next return: 15-15. Rafa pounces when Almagro leaves the court and angles off a winner. But, he follows that up by netting a ball and it’s game point for Almagro. The net cord reaches up and gabs Rafa’s ball and shoves it back at him. Almagro holds. Rafa holds and it’s 5-4.

Toni was watching a slo-mo replay of Rafa on the big screen.

Almagro sends a shot long: 15-15. He nets a ball and Rafa has the start of a wee chance at 15-30. Ace closes that down. Almagro sends a shot barely wide: break/set point for Rafa. Service winner: deuce. Almagro sends a shot long: break/set point for Rafa. Good point construction/execurtion from Almagro and it’s deuce. Rafa sends a shot long and it’s game point. Rafa sends a lob long and Almagro holds: 5-5

A smash at the net and a service winner: 30-0. Beautiful touch volley from Almagro: 30-15. The net hates Rafa today. This time it plops Almagro’s ball just over: 30-30. Rafa sends another ball long and it’s break point. (12th UE of the set) Let. Massive aggression and Rafa saves the break point. Rafa double faults to give Almagro another break point. Almagro pounces on short balls, but sends a ball well wide as he tightens up: deuce. Almagro earns another break point. Rafa nets a ball and is broken: 5-6.

Alamgro serving for the match. Rafa ends a longish rally by sending a ball long. Lather rinse and repeat. Brilliant backhand by Almagro and he has set point. Rafa paints a line: 40-15. Second serve. Almagro sends a shot just wide: 40-30. Brilliant cross-court forehand from Rafa and it’s deuce. Rafa totally miss-hits a deep ball and Almagro has his 4th match point. Almagro sends a shot just out and it’s deuce. Ace. 5th match point. Almagro blinks first in a game of rally-chicken and it’s deuce. Almagro sends a shot just long and Rafa has a break point. Rafa lost his vibration dampener on the return of serve, but stays in and wins the point! He breaks and we are going to a tiebreaker.

Tiebreaker for the set….and match? How about just for the set, please.

Almagro nets a ball: 1-0. Mini-break to Rafa on an error from Almagro. He pushes Rafa around in the next point and it’s 2-1. Service winner from Rafa: 3-1. Weird late call. But a good one. 4-1 for Rafa. Excellent point from Almagro: 4-2. Almagro sends a shot just wide: 5-2. Second serve. Nicely constructed point from Rafa: 6-2. Rafa wins the second set!

The life of a Rafa fan: he’s not playing well; what’s wrong with the serve; he’s about to lose. Wait, he won that set? How did that happen?

Trainer out for Rafa. He’s got his shoe off and it looks like is getting some tape/padding for a blister? Trainer blowing on Rafa’s toe. “This little piggy saved a match point.” Ball of his left foot is taped up now.

kefuoe: Is he keeping his shirt off to distract us from that foot?

SapphireSwell: wonder if nico will ALSO call for a trainer…. ;)

Lovely defensive lob from Rafa. Rafa starts the 3rd set by breaking Almagro.

Triple break point for Almagro. He nets a ball to give one bp back. Fierce forehand from Almagro and we are back on serve: 1-1.

Ace. He redirects the ball at will: 30-0. Rafa tees off on a second serve return: 30-15. Rafa sends a ball very long: 40-15. Rafa nets a ball: 2-1.

Miss-hit from Rafa: 0-15. Almagro runs him around: 0-30. Rafa can’t get a drop volley attempt over the net: triple break point. Make that 2 drop shots failed to get over the net: Almagro breaks for 1-3.

Both players figured Rafa’s shot was out. They head to their seats for the changeover, but Rafa challenged anyway…and the shot was good. Replay the point. Break point for Rafa. Excellent serve, break point saved. Deep shot from Almagro draws an error: game point. Almagro sends a ball long: deuce. Long shot from Rafa: game point. Long shot from Almagro: deuce. Beautiful cross-court backhand from Almagro: game point. Strong serve, weak reply, muffed shot from Almagro: deuce. Almagro tries to smack the ball too hard: break point Rafa. Rafa sets up his shot, but sends a forehand down the line wide: deuce. This turn it’s Almagro’s turn to set up his point and then he nets a ball. This is starting to feel like that weird set from Fed/Nole last week. In an error filled game from both players, Rafa breaks and they are back on serve.

Hey! A stress-free hold by Rafa!

Did Almagro forget how to move his feet? Almagro taking a mid-game time out. Having trouble walking. Looks like it’s a thigh cramp. Trainer working on it.

Beauty of a backhand cross-court and Almagro holds. Trainer back out in the changeover and is working on both thighs.

What the hell was that cross-court volley from Almagro? Sheesh. 0-15. Rafa’s got towel fluff stuck to his scruff. I think Fluff in the Scruff will be the name of my band. Almagro nets a ball to blow one break point. Almagro breaks – can he serve the match out?

Almagro sends a ball long. Another ball way wide. He’s cramping again. Smacks a winner: 15-30. Nets a ball: 15-40. Is this a WTA match? Can anyone hold serve? Rafa breaks and we are on serve: 4-5.

Another rub for Almagro.

Almagro splays a shot wide: 15-0. Rafa returns the favor, but decides to go long instead: 15-15. Another wild shot from Almagro. Ace. 40-15 Almagro chips a return that Rafa can get a racket on: 40-30. Rafa holds: 5-5.

Almagro tries just standing still and seeing what he can reach/smack. Rafa breaks.

Rafa holds. Game set and weird ass match to Rafa.

73 Responses

  1. Rafafan says:

    Yes will b very interested to c the presser! I was at work and got my ex to tape. Went quickly on the latest scores at work to c Rafa 6 3 down 1st set. God it was torture from 4pm english time – 2 risky at work to put it on anymore and my concentration levels at work were zeelch!. Whisked out of work and looked at the moby to c he had won! Had to look at it twice – thought got it wrong. Coz he wouldn’t ever lose to Almagro in a 1st set out of 3 set! Saw the vid and couldn’t really believe what I was seeing. Thank GOD I wasn’t watching it live!! Heart attack or what…..It would have been worse (almost) than watching th FO open against the SODlive. Anyway he came through but what the hell with his game plan. He just seems to shunt every ball back to the opponent.

    RAFA – Serve wide, volley – to the net and volley – aggressive forehand – but above all else aggresive return – not into the court and for f…ck sake not 3 metres by the baseline – come in and ATTACK ATTACK ATTACK. I am so f…cking frustrated with u rite now. What is it with you – that backhand RUBBISH slice against this court is ineffective and if youd do that again – loopy backhands to try and b a slice I shall give you a very big spank! – so hard you will not be able to walk again and be out of the tournament!! (from a very upset rafa fan). Go and to Robredo now for god sake in straight sets at least and don’t let your fans have a heart attack xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  2. Nada H. T says:

    Speechless .. kind of disappointed

    Was nervous most of the Match , Stopped watching in the middle of

    the 2nd set :(

    My sister was shouting to me .. Come but I was so mad at everything

    I believe the Surface is REALLY BAAAD .. TOO HAAAARD

    The French Guy’s KNEE who WON Against Federer WAS BLEEDING

    AFTER HITTING THE FLOOR !!!

    RAFA’s Feet were NOT moving Normally throughout the game

    it was like they were stuck or something

    I hope he will do Better next Round

    For his sake more than mine :(

  3. Rafangel says:

    Mmm, confidence – been a shattering year for him, professionally and personally. I wonder if he’s had such a tough time before in his life? He’s obviously thinking a lot, still a sea of doubts about all sorts of things. We believe in you, Rafito, and we’ll wait.

    Another thought: I wonder if he had an extra load of pressure today cos he had to face Paris and the Parisians again? Bet he’s still hurting from the RG loss, and then the way the fans were, and the ruckus caused by Uncle T. Bet he was very uncomfortable, he really doesn’t like not being liked – he’s a people person, as someone here said.

    • Ch F says:

      Actually I thought the crowd was cheering for him, I forgot to mention that.

      • Rafangel says:

        Yeah, I think it was about evenly split, but what I mean was perhaps he’s been nervous about it and therefore maybe not his usual 110% focussed on the match.

  4. Atch2 says:

    Hey I noticed Rafa’s posse is almost all here, besides Uncle Toni and Maymo, Benito and Xisca are also here.

    Looking forward to tonight’s match which is about 1.30am my time. Kick some ass Rafa.

  5. sunset says:

    Miri–this thread is currently categorized under “ATP Masters Shanghai” instead of Paris–52 comments posted yet no one pointed that out. Shows how frantic a state this match throws everyone into–completely lost in the endless questioning of “why? how? what to do?”
    Everything else just pales.

  6. CC says:

    Weird ass match indeed. The abuse I shouted to the telly was PRETTY bad…
    And then, as if my blood pressure wasn’t up already, you get half-naked Rafa getting treatment. Gosh. That kind of compensated a little bit for the poor performance.

    Anyways, Rafa needs to sharpen up. Now.

  7. jo says:

    side note: did anybody notice that nico’s gf (?) and xisca looked like sisters?! although i also noticed she definitely had more screen time than rafa’s girl and she looked like she was about to burst into tears at any given time throughout the match..
    nway,rafa continues to amaze me with his sheer mental strength…and i thought i couldn’t like him more…took a long nap this afternoon just so that i can stay up til early am to watch his next match, sheesh. oh well, vamos rafa!

  8. n!ls says:

    Sod through to round of 8.
    Lets expect a Paris-Revenge :)

    N!lesh

  9. Lou Lou says:

    So he held his nerves and smarts to fend off over 5 MPS, came back to win from a set down. Trailed the whole match. Got broken several times. Made Tons & Tons of UEs. Pretty much played a bad game. Sliced at everything. Inspite of all of this – he won… LOL! that’s so Rafa!

  10. Carol says:

    Hmmm, I wonder if we’ve all got a bit (inside of us anyway) to think that, especially after the magnificent 2008 season, Rafa can walk on water..?

    Roj F has just proved that the mighty can have their off day in tennis.

    The main point is that Rafa won (and we know from the tone of his presser – got a metaphorical kick in the culo)! Vamos Rafa!

  11. faeaki7 says:

    I turned over the match after the first set, just watching Rafa play like that wzs too much, I couldn’t believe it 3 hrs later when they were still playing and he had taken the 2nd set in a tie-break, frigging unbelievable Rafa!