RG: Drop shot this

Photo by AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau

After a day of rain, Rafa was finally able to play his second round match early on Friday. He took on up-and-comer Horacio Zeballos (#44) for a chance to earn his 101st win in a Slam tournament. Zeballos was recently featured on the ATP site as the next good, up and comer…he’s 2 years older than Rafa. It was pretty much a no contest affair, but kudos to Zeballos for not just folding and going away in the third; he was trying to out drop shot Rafa right up to the end. He actually broke Rafa back before being broken again and giving Rafa a chance to serve it out. Serve it out he did and Rafa is through 6-2 6-2 6-3.


Nadal Zeballos
Statistics on Serve
Aces 1 2
Double Faults 2 0
1st Serve % 80% 63%
1st Serve Points Won 47/59 (80%) 24/48 (50%)
2nd Serve Points Won 7/13 (54%) 13/28 (46%)
Break Points Saved 5/6 (83%) 4/10 (40%)
Break Points Won 6/10 (60%) 1/6 (17%)
Total Service Points Won 54/74 (73%) 37/76 (49%)
Total Return Points Won 39/76 (51%) 20/74 (27%)
Total Points Won 93/150 (62%) 57/150 (38%)
Other Stats
Winners 23 24
Unforced errors 12 23
Net Approaches 16/21 (76%) 5/13 (38%)

As it happened blatherings:

Players in the middle of their warm-up. Looks to be sunny and clear. Flags blowing in the windy.

Rafa to start us off serving. Not that you can tell that from TTC’s broadcast.

Rafa holds at love. 1-0.

So…I’m home, awake and still having to watch via a stream. *sigh*

If I wasn’t already awake, that out call would have done it. Another easy hold for Rafa. he leads 2-1.

Definitely windy – ball kid having a problem holding the shade umbrella steady for Rafa.

Zeballos’s game plan appears to be: drop shot. He just hit his first decent one and wins the point. Nice forehand pass from Rafa. It doesn’t quite get by Zeballos, but it draws a very weak reply: break point. Rafa breaks and is up 3-1.

Rafa takes control of a point and finishes it off with a smash from the service box: 15-0. Nice work from Zeballos and he draws an error from Rafa: 15-15. Rafa’s approach shot isn’t that great and Zeballos takes advantage: 15-30. Beautiful, deep one-two punch from Rafa: 30-30. Zeballos’s ball is long: 40-30. Zeballos can’t do anything with a serve return and Rafa holds for 4-1.

DavidLawTennis: How nice to see Rafael Nadal looking like Rafael Nadal again. What an athlete he is. Could have played so many sports professionally.

Zeballos’s shot is long. Rafa returns the favor: 15-15. Two beautiful drop shots in a row from Zeballos – so much spin that they barely bounce: 40-15. Another dropper, this time Rafa tracks it down and Zeballos’s shot is out: 40-30. Another drop-shot attempt that Rafa tracks down and smashes a reply winner from the follow-up lob attempt: deuce. Ad Zeballos and then he nets a ball: deuce. Rafa sends a shot long: game point. With a nice short angled forehand, Zeballos holds for 2-4.

Nice forehand down the line winner: 15-0. Pushes Zeballos wide and comes in to finish off the point: 30-0. Flat out return winner from Zeballos: 30-15. Game point for Rafa. Another stress-free hold for Rafa: 5-2.

Oh, Yay! Rafa on my TV now.

Zeballos’s shot is wide: 0-15. Zeballos tries to go behind Rafa, but his shot it out: 0-30. Ace: 15-30. Ace: 30-30. Service winner: 40-30. Zeballos miss hits a ball: deuce. Rafa works his way into a point and runs down a short ball and fires off a winner: break point. Rafa breaks and takes the first set in 34 minutes: 6-2. 75% first serves in; 10 winners; 5 UFEs; 87% of first serve points won; 7-9 net approaches won.

Rafa holds at love to start set 2.

Rafa miss hits a service return: 15-0. Good point from Zeballos – well constructed and executed: 40-15. Rafa hits behind Zeballos for a winner: 40-30. A drop shot winner from Zeballos and he holds: 1-1.

A short return pulls Rafa in and Zeballos nets Rafa’s reply: 15-0. Rafa takes control of a point with a series of forehands to Zeballos’s backhand; he’s pulled in by a short, defensive reply and sends a volley wide: 15-15. Double fault: 15-30. Rafa nets a forehand and has double break point against. A deep forehand from Rafa draws an error: 30-40. A good serve that Zeballos can’t handle: deuce. Service return winner by Zeballos – that was an excellent forehand: break point. Zeballos’s attempt to pull Rafa into the net backfires: deuce. Again, deep shots draw an error from Zeballos: game point. Zeballos takes control of a point and is running Rafa. He follows a short ball in, but doesn’t hit it high enough. It ticks the top of the net and gives Rafa extra time. Rafa holds for a 2-1 lead.

Zeballos is again in control of a point – he pushes Rafa back and Rafa’s defensive shot is long: 15-0. Zeballos sends a shot long: 30-15. Rafa’s cross court passing attempt lands in the net: 40-15. Zeballos sets up his shot…and nets it: 40-30. Zeballos holds for 2-2.

Rafa sets up his forehand cross court winner, but sends it well wide: 30-15. Another error and Rafa’s starting to look grumpy. This time, he makes his shot and draws an error from Zeballos: 40-30. Service winner and Rafa holds for 3-2.

Rafa’s shot goes long and he starts talking to himself: 15-15. Zeballos miss hits a drop shot attempt: 15-30. Another drop shot, but Rafa anticipated it and tracked it down: 15-40. Rafa breaks for a 4-2 lead in the second.

Amazing point – that boy can run…and more importantly, can do something with the ball when he gets there: 15-0. Zeballos sends a shot out: 30-0. Rafa tracks down a fluffy short ball, takes it in the air and hits a winner: 40-0. A very strong love hold from Rafa: 5-2.

I just noticed Rafa’s gone for watch + big wristband today. No more dinky sized 70s wrist band.

Beautiful cross court forehand winner: 0-15. Did Rafa kick things up again? Winners are falling from his racket: 0-40. Ace: 15-40. Rafa leaves too much of the court open and Zeballos passes him: 30-40. Zeballos sends a backhand wide and Rafa breaks and takes set 2: 6-2. 35 minutes; 75% first serves in; 78% of 1st serve points won; 3 UFEs; 6 winners; 6/9 net approaches.

TennisLuvah: Rafa’s backhand makes me sweat.

Zeballos sends a forehand wide: 15-0. Again: 30-0. Beauty of a forehand service return winner from Zeballos: 30-15. Pushed deep, Zeballos sends a looping ball out: 40-15. Nice hold for Rafa to start set 3.

Triple break point down, Zeballos hits a drop shot that bounces and heads back to the net: 15-40. Rafa breaks to go up 2-0.

Into mid-court and a lovely forehand winner: 15-0. Ace: 30-0. Rafa nets a forehand: 30-15. Fierce forehand: 40-15. Easy hold for Rafa: 3-0.

Hey, did you know Michael Phelps wanted to meet Rafa at the Olympics? You know, those ones that happened 2 years ago? Are announcers required to mention that at least once every tournament?

Nice forehand from Zeballos: 40-30. A drop shot winner and Zeballos holds for 1-3.

Both players into the net and Rafa hits a winner from a popped-up volley attempt: 15-0. I must have gotten distracted by something, because next thing I know, Rafa holds a love for a 4-1 lead.

Zeballos holds for 2-4.

TennisLuvah: Clearly the 2010 tactic for playing Rafa is “Drop shot him. Just drop shot the shit outta him.”

Forehand winner from Zeballos: 15-15. Double fault: 15-30. Zeballos service return is wide: 30-30. Rafa nets a forehand and is looking grumpy again: 30-40. Zeballos nets a forehand: deuce. Rafa nets a ball: break point #2. Another fierce forehand from Rafa draws an error: deuce. Rafa’s defensive skills kept him in the point for longer than he should have been, but his last shot floats long: break point #3. Second serve. And Zeballos breaks for 3-4. We are back on serve in the third.

Drop shot winner: 15-0. Zeballos floats a ball long: 15-15. Zeballos tries to hit a winner when he’s out of balance – ball goes long: 15-30. Zeballos nets a high backhand volley attempt: 15-40. Zeballos breaks himself.

Service return goes long: 15-0. Fun point with players all over the court ends with Zeballos knocking off a winner at the net: 15-15. Zeballos sends a shot long: 30-15. Zeballos forehand pushes Rafa back and draws an error: 30-30. Zeballos sets up his shot and then nets the forehand: 40-30. Game, set, match: 6-2 6-2 6-3

54 Responses

  1. Jose says:

    Smooth sail as expected…vamos rafa…looks like gonzo is goin out…

    • fay says:

      Yes gonzo got beaten by that scrappy little upcoming Ukranian that gave Rafa a bit of a hard time in Madrid I think was it? first round? I know he played him recently. Sad for Gonzo though!

      • Anita says:

        Olexsander Dolgopolov Jr. beat Gonzo. Jr. is a scapper! He plays Almagro on Saturday.

  2. rahul says:

    Missed the match.. left early from office, but could see only last 2 points.. the stats look pretty decent..
    Can someone tell how did Rafa play??

    • miri says:

      He played well enough to get the job done: not his best, but not bad.

    • Marilyn Wasserman says:

      Workmanlike is what comes to mind. Good job serving, but I didn’t think he was going for much. Hopefully Rafa will be plenty fit for tomorrow’s match. I liked Juan Monaco’s advice to Zeb – “Wear a helmet and body armor”

  3. Nana says:

    I’ve definitely seen way too many dropshots in the past month!

    Yes it was a job done. Apart from wobbles in a couple of his own service games and getting broken in the 3rd set.

    Istomin/Hewitt is still going on. I’m glad Rafa got a short match and can get some rest before tomorrow.

  4. Stf says:

    I only got to watch part of the second and the third set. I agree with you miri, he played well enough to get the job done. I did have my small moment of “pfff” when he was broken in the third set but I was sure he would break right back. There was this lack of focus at around that time and he made 4 unforced errors that he normally wouldn’t have made but that’s alright. But the beginning of the third set was great, winners all around. Still, 12 unforced and 24 winners is awesome. Don’t know who will be Rafa’s next opponent, seems pretty uncertain for now. But if it’s Hewitt, then Rafa will have to play better because Hewitt is always a dangerous player.

  5. mary says:

    I think Rafa will be reasonably happy with his performance. The harder the opponent the smarter & harder Rafa works at it. If you can win a match without having to put all your heart & soul into it, especially knowing the matches are going to get tougher, then I say it is a smart tactic on Rafa’s behalf. He became more relaxed towards the end of the third set as his confidence is on the rise.

  6. An says:

    Calm winn, nice points now and then… think he could have bin a little more agressive but then again he wasn’t pushed to being agressive…

    Hard to say something about his level off play but all looked ok to me, lets wait what he has to say himself!

  7. chelez says:

    i also couldn’t watch the match >_
    i was desperately trying to get home just in time for the third set but a heavy rain just had to get in the way of my going home fast.
    i’m satisfied with the stat except with the getting broken in the third set. i was wishing for an unbroken record ^^

    • sia says:

      Yes, I think Rafa was going for the 6-2 scoreline this tournament and Zeballos just messed up the routine. :)

      • fay says:

        Yes he was really trying for a double break at 4-1 in the 3rd set and must have been a bit peeved at not doing so, consequently getting broken in the 7th game, not a brilliant performance is hasn’t got his act together yet and is going to have to up the anty if he is to play Hewitt tommorow! I don’t like it when he is getting broken, he has done so well of late to get out of this rut, its not the fact he got broken its who by that bothered me!

  8. Maria says:

    I think he played well. Zeballos was not hitting like a wimp by any means and his backhand seemd quite powerful. Rafa seemed to be muttering quite a lot to himself. And the odious smaller wristband is gone.

    • rahul says:

      Third round vs hewitt will be interesting. Rafa should pull it off in straight sets, but hewitt is a fighter and a good baseliner, so we should expect some good long rallies and enoguh practice for rafa to raise his level for the coming big matches.

      Federer match just ended, he is playing superb.. It seems rafa has to get to his top notch.. coz fedex looks very prepared/

      • rahul says:

        Right, exactly. Roger recently said that on clay you don’t need a volley or serve. You just need legs, an incredible forehand, and backhand. You can be competitive even with a very incomplete game. What are your thoughts on that?
        RAFAEL NADAL: Everybody has his every guy’s free to have his own opinion. No, I think probably a lot of years ago when you play with the slower balls, with the slower racquets, you know, with the small racquets and you can’t have a winner, was very difficult to have a winner, probably.
        But in my opinion now, in the sport is important to think how to win the match. Probably in very fast surfaces that’s not happen, because you can have one serve and one forehand. That’s the only that’s the only way for the moment, one serve or one volley, only one serve.
        Here you can play with more tactics. You can change your style. You can play attacking; you can play defending; you can go to the volley; you can play with the baseline.
        So you have many options to do, and I think that’s nice for the sport, too. I think every surface has difficult things. But sure, have a good forehand, good backhand, good legs and good movements, that’s not an easy thing.

        • rahul says:

          Wow.. love you rafa..

          I was really surprised.. when federer said that clay court game is easier.. I dont think anyone would agree to that.. Rafa clearly explains why..

          • Maria says:

            I honestly think that sometimes we are getting a little too obssessed with this battle of ideas, as in Roger said this about clay, Rafa said that; Roger said that RG results are the measure of success on clay, Rafa said that his Masters victories also tell a success story.
            I think that Rafa played well today. That’s all. The vid from his presser is already up on the RG site and he says he feels he’s improved his performance over the match with Minna. ‘Not perfect’, but he’s improved and hopes to keep improving. That’s the most meaningful statement to me right now because you could sense he was more at ease today than in the 1st round. Plus, the first few seconds of the vid are very,very nice.
            No doubt, Lleyton is a great player and it’s a pity they get to face each other so soon in the tournament.

  9. fay says:

    No surprises that roger is playing well he will improve as he goes through the tournament, but its Rafa I am worried about, others like Murray (a nemesis of Rafa’s) is playing well on the clay. Djokovic also, Rafa has to get to the final first and its a long way off, he definately has to play better, if you ask me I haven’t been too impressed by Rafa yet. I hope he can improve tommorow!

    • wendya says:

      I didn’t catch today’s match….going to watch it later,but from the results Fed, Nole and the Sod, among others, appear to be playing really well. Nole in particular seems to have got his act together. I’m just worried that there might be another Rafole semi. Although this matchup is always great to watch, I would hate it to be a repeat of last year’s Madrid semi where Fed mopped up in the final because Rafa had nothing left in the tank! I know I’m looking too far ahead, but I can’t stand the thought of Fed beating Rafa at RG, Rafa would never hear the last of it!

      • Stf says:

        I think that Nole is still struggling. He’s still struggling with his serve, last time I checked today, he’d made 9 double faults. Nishikori broke a few times only to be broken back, but with a more experienced opponent, I’m not sure he’ll be able to get away with it. Let’s not forget that if Nole is to be in the semis, he has to go through Ferrero and, worst of all, Ferrer. I don’t think Nole can beat Ferrer at this point, to be honest. Daveed is very consistent and a fighter. If Djoko goes to a five setter, I don’t think he will be able to pull it off.

        And then again, I still think that Rafa can beat Djokovic. He has the game and he just refuses to lose. Rafa’s gone a long way since the last time they met, game and confidence wise. I am not worried.

        • wendya says:

          I haven’t seen Nole play, I’ve just been looking at his impressive scoreline. But you’re right it would certainly be a different prospect to play Rafa over five sets rather than three. I just think that this year both Nole and Fed have more of an incentive with the rankings situation and of course Fed would like to prove that he could beat Rafa to win the title.

          • Stf says:

            Well, Ferrer is out. That makes things interesting.

            • wendya says:

              Yeah, I’m getting really frustrated because Eurosport, in their wisdom, have taken Rafa’s match off in favour of Nando/kol’s match, so I’m stuck with looking at the flash player…crap!! It’s interesting that Mats Wilander is saying that Rafa is hitting his shots flatter and closer to the line, but is not using his usual topspin which he felt could disadvantage his game on clay! Shit…I hope he’s wrong!

      • fay says:

        I know wendya! thats how I feel, if Rafa gets to the semis and plays Nole it will be Nole fancying his chances no? scary thought and whats more federer hasn’t had to deal with a rain delay either like others, he will be fresh as a daisy. Still we are only into the 3rd round and there is a heck of along way to go folks.

  10. loverafa4ever says:

    I am not worried about Rafa’s game. He will be at his best by the second week. He usually does take time to ramp up to his best. Let all the other guys play well, and continue playing well. Its a long way before Rafa get to meet any of those guys. Andy Murray will have to make it to the finals to meet Rafa. Which I don’t think is a possibility, unless our Fedex says bye bye early (I wud luv to see that;)). Anyways our rafa is the best at beating the best. If he is alrit physically, nobody stands a chance.

  11. midsun says:

    I think Rafa is playing as well as he has to win the match. He will raise his game when he needs to, which is what he always does. As far as Fed, yes, he’s playing great, but he’s also had some closer score lines than Rafa has. In the second round, Falla took him to a tiebreaker in the first set. We would have been hyperventilating here if Rafa had been taken to a tiebreaker in the eary rounds!

  12. Ravi says:

    Rafa says:

    “But in my opinion now, in the sport is important to think how to win the match. ”

    And not to say excuses like roger???

    I loved his reply to that question

  13. Atch2 says:

    I think it was a good match, showing that he improved from the 1st round, and the stats shows it in all areas. As long as Rafa keeps improving with every match I think we’re be great in the 2nd week.

    Wonder if Rafa will do his karaoke now he’s won and has the rest of the afternoon off.

    Anyone geeky enough to count the number of drops shots in this match? Wouldn’t mind knowing how many drop shots Fed had played either. From what we saw in Madrid, Fed’s going for the world record for drop shots on clay.

    Rafa’s beaten Lleyton 3 times at the FO, in 2006, 2007 and 2009. He knows how to play him, but it’s not going to be easy bec Lleyton’s a fighter like Rafa. Look forward to seeing a pregnant Bec Hewitt too.

    Saw bits of Nole vs Nishikori too. Nole looked tired.

    The Armada are doing well too, with Ferrero, Almagro, Nando, Ferrer going through.

    • aRafaelite says:

      Of course Fed is going for the drop shots… this is the magic of Ernests! Suddenly now everyone is drop-shotting against everyone else like crazy! What fun! But it’s a bit like using “Expelliarmus!” If everyone knows it’s coming, they’ll have their Shield Charms ready!

      It will take every bit of magic Lleyton (and everyone else!) possesses to get past Rafa on clay this year. He can disarm his opponents with just a casual flick… and disarm his fans, too ;-)

  14. midsun says:

    Zeballos was asked if anyone was playing well enough to beat Rafa in his current form, and he said “Maybe two or three.” Then, after pausing , he add “But at the same time; playing together. If they play together, maybe they can win.”

    • aRafaelite says:

      Heh! It sounds like Nole after he lost the Madrid semi to Rafa last year, asking himself what more he needed to do to win, he said next time he’d try playing with two rackets at matchpoint!

      • Karen says:

        Rafa played a good match today with very good statistics. Commentator said looked like he was giving a lesson to Zeb. He’ll certainly crank it up when the opponents get better! Looking forward to some exciting matches & not just Rafa’s.

    • fay says:

      Oh I like that comment lol.. (hope its true)

  15. djb says:

    Zeballos was impressive with that drop shot, but I think he was a bit too drop-shot happy out there. One thing he knows now, is that in order to beat Rafa, it’ll take more than a drop shot.

    Nice win for Rafa. We’re not used to seeing him play lefties all the time, but nonetheless, he played his game and didn’t waste any time, which is part of the game plan. I hope Hewitt’s ready tomorrow, because he definitely ain’t winning this match, and it definitely ain’t going 5 sets either. He will get crushed.

    • Stf says:

      Everyone is drop shot happy these days. Apparently, they have just discovered that drop shots can actually win you points on clay. :p I don’t know what the deal is with all this drop shot making but even if one’s plan to beat Rafa is to drop shot the hell out of him, it might work a few times but the rest of the times, either Rafa will get to it on time or the drop won’t work. One can’t really base their entire game plan on drop shots.

  16. reem says:

    Sadly, didn’t see the match .. However I found this highlights vid on youtube
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-jvqQ02Z2Y (Is it ok to post such links?)
    I thought he looked very solid .. alot of beautiful winners, smart shot selection .. So am abit puzzled to why people commenting didn’t see it as an impressive win .. also zeballos didn’t look a bad of a player at all too in the vid

    • sia says:

      Really nice set of highlights reem, it was a fairly impressive win. (I thought).

    • Isabelle says:

      Thanks Reem, I didn’t see the match either (just couldn’t do the 4am thing today!) No matter how many times I see Rafa I am always impressed by the shots he makes again and again and again, I never tire of watching him!

    • miri says:

      (Is it ok to post such links?)

      Since it’s 100% on topic, of course!

      Highlight reels are like promos for movies – they can make something average look impressive.

      • reem says:

        Thanks, miri ..

        And yes ofcourse, highlights give u the brilliant parts only .. but I don’t know, I was just watching highlights of old matches for him and the new ones and think .. there is something missing in the new ones .. This one gave me another impression .. most shots with in the rallies are catching the lines perfectly .. the fierce is there in full act .. and I was very impressed .. Maybe it is only mental in my mind :) but this one just looked better ..

    • sharon says:

      Thank you reem. Rafa was very solid and made some absolutely gorgeous shots – the kind that make you go ooh and wave your fist in the air in wonderment. The match was never in danger. I always felt like Rafa could pull a winner out of his bag of tricks.

      I agree, it is strange that some are down on him, or at least not all enthused, or nervous about the level of his game. I’ve seen some of Murray’s, Nole’s and Fed’s matches and none of them are looking as imposing as Rafa is right now. Murray is being run ragged, Nole is definitely not dominating, and Fed is shanking all over the place. I’m not sure what some expect from Rafa. *shrug*

      • fay says:

        Well its prehaps because I haven’t been able tosee some of the other players Eurosport coverage or highlights programme sucks big time,you hardly get to see anything, afte rthe comments on Feds game yesterday I watched the highlights but only saw Murray, fed wasn’t shown at all, I saw most of Rafas so that was good though. So I cannot really compare anyones game, Djokovic I have yet to see at all.

  17. Rafangel says:

    I saw about a third of the match thanks to France TV hopping all over the tournament site like a flea on acid (remind me not to complain about BBC coverage again), but he seemed to be playing pretty well. Well enough to dominate and destroy a respectable opponent and post some awesome stats. Please stop stressing, everyone – he’ll raise his level. Hewitt same stage as last year, and he killed him then without(as we now know) legs or head. Should be fun but fingers xed not scary (not that I will see it; I think we need to rethink social niceties, grump).

    New experience for me today: Rafa with mooing soundtrack. It works, somehow (but then I’d take him any which way). I discovered during FranceTV’s interminable peregrinations that the noise was not cows, but a seriously horny bull…and that, I’m sure we all agree, will make any experience stratospheric.

  18. dutchgirl says:

    I’d like to thank all of you who gave me support about missing Rafa in Paris. It was actually the 4th time that I tried to see Rafa play and didn’t succeed – I know I’m not the only one though, and will keep on trying). I had fun on wednesday though, I saw Thiemo de Bakker play a great match and saw Monfils in his thrilling five setter (well, until it was too dark).

    I did see the first set of his match against Zeballos, but afther that we really had to check out of our hotelroom.
    I had full confidence however that Rafa would win this one pretty easy and I’m glad he did.

    I’m back at home now, waiting for Nole to finish his match so Rafa can take the court. Nole wasn’t looking too good btw but at this moment there’s no tennis on tv, every channel is broadcasting cycling :(