RG: Stop, drop and roll

Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Rafa’s played his third round match at Roland Garros against #33 ranked Lleyton Hewitt. You’ll be forgiven if you had a bit of déjà vu seeing that – they played the same round last year. Due to rain, both these guys were playing back-to-back days. The big difference being: Rafa’s match was a quick 3 setter; Hewitt’s was a tough 5. Rafa started nervous, but once he got his feet under him and loosened up his shoulders, the match had that inevitable feeling to it. Not that Hewitt didn’t put up a fight – he played well and fought as hard as he’s known to do – it just wasn’t enough. Rafa’s through 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.


Nadal Hewitt
Aces 1 5
Double Faults 1 2
1st Serve % 76% 54%
1st Serve Points Won 42/60 (70%) 38/59 (64%)
2nd Serve Points Won 10/18 (56%) 19/49 (39%)
Break Points Saved 3/6 (50%) 9/16 (56%)
Break Points Won 7/16 (44%) 3/6 (33%)
Total Service Points Won 52/79 (66%) 57/110 (52%)
Total Return Points Won 53/110 (48%) 27/79 (34%)
Total Points Won 105/189 (56%) 84/189 (44%)
Other Stats
Winners 38 25
Unforced errors 21 37
Net Approaches 11/17 (65%) 20/33 (61%)

As it happened blatherings:

I’m already ready to strangle the group of kids (I hope) that keep screaming “RAFA!” and we aren’t to the coin toss yet.

Oh, maybe I should mention that I’m grumpy and in allergy hell.

Oh look, Tennis Channel cut that stream and yet they aren’t showing it on actual TV. I have no coverage of the match to watch. Let me guess, NBC owns the rights to this match and their coverage won’t start for another hour.

bgtennisnation: @nadalnews not working today nbc has first right on the matches

Oh, I guessed right. Tennis coverage in the US sucks.

Thanks to twitter friends, I have a jerky feed with out of synch audio/video. I hope I also don’t have oodles of computer viruses.

Rafa serving to start the match. Ace: 30-15. Rafa nets a backhand: 30-30. Hewitt breaks in the first game.

MissQQuirky: @nadalnews I am glad I could watch the game live, but I am not sure whether who is more nervous, me or Rafa.

Ace for Hewitt: 15-0. On game point, Hewitt nets a forehand: deuce. Short ball from Rafa and a forehand winner from Hewitt: game point. Very long rally ends with Hewitt hitting a ball just out. At least, I think it was just out. I can’t see the ball on my stream. Anyway, we are back to deuce. Another out ball from Hewitt: break point. Rafa breaks back for 1-1.

Hewitt can’t track down Rafa’s forehand: 15-0. Hewitt’s service return is out: 30-0. Rafa smacks a forehand down the line winner: 40-0. Hewitt into the net on tracking down a net cord and fires off a winner: 40-15. Rafa holds.

Rafa looking at the skies on the changeover. It’s very windy there. Is a rain on the horizon?

olerafa: Changeover split screen is hysterical … Both players place towel in lap, drink water, wipe face and tuck hair behind ears at same time!

A defensive backhand keeps Rafa in the point and an offensive one wins it for him: 15-40. Beautiful angled volley at full stretch and Rafa breaks for 3-1.

Hewitt tries to paint the line for a winner, but it’s out: 30-15. Another steady hold for Rafa. He’s up 4-1.

Rafa’s down 0-30 on his serve, but Hewitt does him a favor and nets a ball: 15-30. Hewitt slips and slides as he hits a ball wide: 30-30. I really didn’t need that shot of a twitching Hewitt ass superimposed over the court. Fierce forehand winner from Rafa: 40-30. Hewitt looked like someone kicked his puppy. Rafa nets a slice backhand drop shot attempt: deuce. Beautiful cross-court forehand winner from Hewitt and he has a break point. Hewitt nets a forehand and lets out a few choice words: deuce. Rafa works his way in and smashes a winner at the net: game point. Rafa holds for 5-2.

Rafa smiling and talking to someone – the chair? – on the changeover. He’s definitely much more relaxed than at the start of the match.

Rafa nets a second serve return: 15-0. Fierce forehand winner from Hewitt: 40-0. Can’t tell if Hewitt netted a shot or it went out – either way: 40-15. Ace and Hewitt holds.

Hewitt nets a backhand and then tosses his racket – not bashes it, tosses it up: 15-0. Another ball into the net and Hewitt talks to himself: 30-0. Another: 40-0. Longish rally ends with Rafa netting a forehand: 40-15. Game and first set to Rafa: 6-3. 43 minutes; 81% 1st serves; 72% pts won on 1st serves; 5 UFEs; 10 winners; 4/6 net approaches.

kefuoe: Hewitt is spending a lot of energy reacting to his errors.

Hewitt pulls Rafa into the net and passes him: 30-0. Rafa tries pulling Hewitt in and he replies with a winner: 40-0. Short ball from Hewitt and Rafa pounces: 40-15. The windy is getting worse. Hewitt into the net, stretches to get to Rafa’s passing shot and knocks off a winner. He holds to start set 2.

Fierce forehand from Rafa and Hewitt can’t back up to and get: 15-0. Another forehand winner: 30-15. Lather, rinse, repeat: 40-15. Hewitt’s shot is long and Rafa holds for 1-1.

Hewitt nets a backhand: 0-15. Rafa runs Hewitt until he gets an error: 30-40. Hewitt’s forehand is out and Rafa breaks for a 2-1 lead.

These have to be the most sour grapes in the history of sour grapes. *tries to unpucker face*

Hewitt’s shot is out: 15-15. Rafa nets a ball and talks to himself a bit: 15-30. Rafa’s forehand is out and Hewitt has double break point. Hewitt breaks; it’s 2-2 and NBC is actually showing live tennis.

Rafa’s forehand is way long: 40-15. Pushed deep, Hewitt nets a ball: 40-30. Beauty of a passing shot from Rafa: deuce. Ace: game point. Service winner. Hewitt holds for 3-2.

Smash winner: 15-0. Hewitt nets a ball: 30-0. Again: 40-0. Rafa holds at love: 3-3.

Hewitt scoops up a half-volley, and Rafa nets the reply: 15-0. Another netted ball from Rafa: 30-0. Ace: 40-0. Hewitt’s forehand is long: 40-15. Pulled wide, Rafa hits a beautiful forehand down the line winner: 40-30. Hewitt holds for 4-3.

Rafa runs, reaches, hits a winner and then somersaults in the clay: 15-0. Hewitt applauds.

Ataraxis00: What in the world? Was that a stop drop and roll winner?

Double fault. Hewitt’s volley attempt is wide: 30-15. Hewitt hits a shot out and then nets a ball. Rafa holds for 4-4.

Hewitt goes into the net, but Rafa’s shot is low and at his feet – he can do nothing with it: 0-15. Fierce forehand winner: 15-15. Rafa’s shot is long: 30-15. Rafa nets a ball: 40-15. Coming into the net, Hewitt nets a ball: 40-30. Hewitt sends a ball long: deuce. Hewitt’s ball goes long: break point. Service winner: deuce. Hewitt nets a ball: break point #2. Hewitt sends a ball long and is broken. Rafa can serve for set 2 next.

Rafa’s ball goes out: 0-15. Nice forehand winner from Rafa: 30-15. Hewitt goes for a shot, but it’s out: 40-15. Massive gust of wind. Hewitt runs Rafa back and forth and wins the point: 40-30. Beautiful passing shot and Rafa takes set #2. 48 minutes; 75% first serves in; 78% of 1st serve points won; 9 UFEs; 13 winners; 4/6 net approaches.

NBC switches to the Ferrero/Ginepri match.

Hewitt nets a ball: 15-15. Rafa nets a service return: 30-15. Pushed wide and back, Rafa sends a shot out: 40-15. Rafa into the net and knocks off a winner: deuce. Beauty of a backhand down the line winner: break point. Hewitt sends a shot long and is broken. Rafa up 1-0 in the third.

Rafa’s shot is out: 0-15. Short ball from Hewitt that Rafa can barely track down, but nets the reply: 0-30. Beautiful forehand down the line winner from Rafa: 15-30. Rafa nets a forehand: 15-40. Time violation warning against Rafa. Hewitt nets a ball: 30-40. Hewitt nets a service return: deuce. Rafa miss hits a backhand: break point. Smart play from Hewitt and he knocks off a winner at the net to break back: 1-1.

Another running forehand winner from Rafa: 0-15. Hewitt pushes Rafa back and draws an error: 15-15. Hewitt holds for 2-1 in the third. Rafa looking grumpy.

Hewitt nets a ball: 30-15. Very tough rally with each player whacking the hell out of the ball ends when Hewitt nets a ball: 40-15. Rain coming down. NBC showing Ferrero/Ginepri and I have no working streams. 2-2

Are Rafa/Hewitt refusing to finish up this game until they know they are back on TV? Hewitt finally holds for 3-2. I lost track of how long that game was…but it was at least 12 minutes long (based on Tweet timelines).

Rafa holds: 3-3. Rafa breaks for a 4-3 lead in the 3rd.

Back on NBC and they are booting someone from the stands and there is much whistling. Hewitt goes for a forehand winner and it’s out: 30-0. Hewitt pushes Rafa back and draws an error: 40-15. Dear NBC announcers, if you’d read Rafa’s blog, you’d know he asked for the early slot yesterday. Rafa holds for 5-3.

Double match point for Rafa. Excellent down the line backhand winner from Hewitt: 30-40. Rafa’s shot is just long: deuce. Backhand winner stops Hewitt’s net approach: match point #3. Rafa breaks and wins the match: 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.

48 Responses

  1. loverafa4ever says:

    Awesome! Couldn’t see a much of the match, with the transmission rights issues. And no NBC. Wonder how well Rafa played, would like to take a look at the statistics, once they are up. Next round opponent is Belluci, the guy rafa played in the first round here at RG in 2008.

  2. rahul says:

    A decent match.. Rafa missed many passing shots and hit many baseliners out of line.. but the positive thing was he played quite aggresive and went for winners..

    Dropping serves 3 times is not a good thing.. I guess Rafa should still improve his game.. as it will get tougher and tougher. Thankfully hewitt didnt serve that well. else there might have been slight hickupps..
    All s well that ends well.. VAMOS

  3. chelez says:

    good match for rafa despite the service breaks. he broke back quickly. he hit lots of winners today while keeping the unforced errors to the usual level.
    my live stream was also erratic today. thanks to the number of people trying to watch the tournament. Good thing IBM Slam Tracker works fine for me.

  4. Nana says:

    Rafa had a tough workout. Hewitt was playing his heart out but it wasn’t enough. But Rafa also quite a few UFEs.

    My commies said it was a good thing cos’ he was trying to be more aggressive and that would just be good for his game in the long run.

    I wanted the match to end in straight sets so I could sleep, I’m glad Rafa answered my call.

    Vamos! On to the next!

  5. wendya says:

    Yep…it’s getting tougher! Glad Rafa came through today, but missed a lot of the match cus Eurosport decided to swap over to Nando/Kol’s match. This was a difficult match to judge because of the windy and wet conditions, but slightly worried about the amount of times Rafa seems to be getting broken lately. Hope he can lift his game from now on…he’ll need to!

    Did anyone hear Mats Wilander talking about Rafa losing some of his topspin which could be a disadvantage to his clay game? I’m just wondering what to think about that…hope he’s wrong!

    • JC says:

      I used to be a big fan of Wilander’s, but since he stopped playing tennis and became Eurosport’s resident “expert”, my enthusiasm has cooled. First of all, Rafa’s clay game just secured him three Masters 1000 titles in a row, losing only two sets in the process. That’s hardly a sign of a weakened game. Second, if he was judging by today’s match, he should have factored in the heavy, wet court conditions, which make the balls bounce lower. Third, Rafa won in straight sets against a former no. 1 and a great fighter and he was never really in trouble. Finally, there was the windy, of course.
      All in all, I think we can relax and let Rafa take care of his business. Rafa said himself, that he never makes changes just for the sake of change. So I’m sure the new strings are a calculated move, which will serve it’s purpose well. Actually, I’ve heard other commentators say, that the new strings generate more topspin… who knows? I just seems a little unintelligent for Wilander to make comments like that, when all the facts point to the contrary.

      • wendya says:

        I don’t think he was particularly talking about today’s match. He seemed to be saying that Rafa might have made the changes to combat players like Soderling who hit through Rafa, and whilst this tactic would work well against players like him, and also be an advantage on the hard courts, hitting flatter shots, closer to the line would make it easier for others, such as Federer, to play against him. But you’re right, Rafa’s results seem to contradict this theory…let’s hope they continue to do so.

        • rafaManiac says:

          If Rafa wants to play with a different tactic that helps him against Soderling, why wouldn’t he do that just against Soderling? :D

          And it is not like you shouldn’t hit flat on a clay court isn’t it? When there is a ball to put away it is better to take time away from your opponent by hitting flat. The lead-up to the point can be strewn with top-spin.

    • Fay says:

      Yes I heard Mats saying that, (I am not a fan of Mats as a commentator), he said that due to his string change which helps him hit longer he also loses some of his spin which is making his clay game less effective, (monte-carlo looked fine to me), I am not entirely sure if his theory is correct although time will tell, but he is speaking from his own experience, because like Rafa he excelled on clay and when he adapted his game to other surfaces like Rafa has he lost some of his skill on the clay! and that it is a compromise that Rafa alike will have to live with too. I hope he is wrong too about the spin, but some of it does have some logic to it.

      • wendya says:

        Thanks Fay, that is a clearer explanation of what MW said. Judging by how well Soderling played again today, Rafa might well have to put this theory to the test :) It would certainly serve Fed right if the Sod took him out in the quarters, especially after Fed thanked him for beating Rafa last year! Oops…looking too far ahead again!

        • miri says:

          I’m not usually one to say that rooting for outcome A because it’s better for player B is a good thing…but…Federer is a much better match up for Rafa than Soderling, so I’ll be happy if Fed beats Soderling.

  6. sia says:

    Well so many interesting matches on at the same time. Luckily TSN just stayed with Rafa and I watched and listened to others on net and RG radio (crazy tennis freak). Sad that Ferrer AND Ferrero went out :( , but Fernando made it through.
    Rafa and Leyton’s match was a long’un (others played 5 sets in the same time), but the tennis was solid if not full of fireworks.

    • sharon says:

      Yes, it was good TSN stayed with Rafa but I got a kick out of the commentators. They were so biased for Leyton it was crazy! It didn’t really bother me as they were Australian and they’re huge fans of Hewitt, and we get plenty of bias for Rafa most of the time, but it sure gave a slant to the telecast that we don’t usually hear. :)

  7. miri says:

    Before anyone panics about UFEs: the windy was horrendous. I was surprised at how many balls were landing in given how gusty things were.

    • k says:

      …and there was clay attack due to windy..

    • jba says:

      miri, i think there’s something wrong with the stats you put up. it says that rafa had 76 aces and lleyton had 56…

    • Fay says:

      No panic, I watched the match replay in full, and thought Rafa was more aggressive and energetic which is probably why there were more errors, his game has changed from his previous game of heavy topspin shots with little margin for error and that has to be a positive sign, all in all I think he played alot better today considering the poor conditions.

  8. loverafa4ever says:

    The statistics posted looks good but little unreal. The number aces doesn’t look right.

  9. Jose says:

    Nothin to worry about rafa’s top spin…as he is using babolat’s new type strings which gives more spin ….just need some time to adjust ….thats all…

    Next up….4th rnd(shivers :(

  10. miri says:

    Major fu-bar on the stats. The format is different from slams and my script doesn’t work. Give me a bit to fix them.

    • chelez says:

      haha. i was just about to comment on it. got the shock of my life when i refreshed and noticed the number of aces ^^

  11. An says:

    Last year i watched this match live in the stadium with my team-mates!:) Now i watched it partly on the tv screen, partly on the computer. Dutch television and Eurosport where broadcasting cycling so i had to switch to French television and they kept showing long interviews with old men, having long commercial breaks and switching to other courts in between so i regulary had to turn to the computer wich broadcasting was more then a point late….
    But hey, at least i got to see the whole thing :)

    If any off you have problems with finding reasonably good streams ( without the virusus ) i can give you the stream from dutch television here, hope it works….

    It was a tricky match, difficult circumstances with the windy and the rain (that made the balls more heavy i gues). Lleyton was playing very good, verry much realy sharp and hard hitten balls from Rafa kept coming back so Rafa had to take some risks now and then wich draw some errors, also the windy will have been a factor in that!
    All in all i like what i saw… Decent win!

    I hope my not seeing the match in the stadium this year, breaks the pattern from last year breaks the pattern from last year;) Must be enough change, No?

    • Ch F says:

      I had the same problem with live streams. I didn’t get to see much of the game, but I watched a few games and thought the conditions were terrible. I thought Hewitt played well and Rafa was a bit passive at times but then again I can’t be sure of anything given the horrible wind.
      I think Rafa is a lot calmer under pressure now and so am I. I very rarely, if ever, see that look of…despair I used to see when he first came back after his injury.

  12. robert says:

    Not only the wind was a hindrance, also the clay and the balls were wet and heavy, so not responding well to spin, threfore those missed passing shots.

    Hewitt had good strategy of hitting hard & flat to Rafa’s backhand side, but that was also the reason why he dumped many into the net or long.

    It was a good, hard, no-nonsense tussle, just what was needed at this point into the tournament.

    The postmatch on-court interview with Cedric Pioline (former French ATP pro) was a true lovefest for Rafa: warm applause after Rafa’s abundant praise for Hewitt – “former No. 1, great player, whom I always watched on TV when I was younger”, then cheers when he thanked the crowd who “always made me welcome here, and I have many happy memories in this tournament” and then Cedric milking it with “the crowd loves you here, Rafa”.

    I missed the reason why that jerk on the stands in a red baseball cap (RF?) was booed by the crowd and then evicted when Rafa broke and prepared to serve for the match (I believe he yelled something derogatory to Rafa). This is another small sign that RG organizers and French tennis establishment are frantically trying to mend fences after years of media, commentators, experts & crowd haterade for Rafa borne from their overwhelming elitist love for Federer.

    • snowyc says:

      Thanks for the info! :) The French crowd are a formidable force and things can get rather unsavoury with this lot sometimes, especially when a French player is involved — just ask poor Fognini. Think Rafa regained quite a bit more respect winning the 3 masters 1000 clay events (& beating rf) coming in here, although one can only hope the support continues when things get tougher.

  13. rahul says:

    Also good to hear crowd cheer for Rafa. It was the best supporting crowd till now for Rafa

  14. EJL says:

    Rafa did his job again. was a bit cheesed off when both times he was broken back easily..but hope he would be more cautious shortly afterwards. enjoyed much the moment when Hewitt showed his admiration for Rafa hitting the line while completely having lost his balance and falling down. really heart-stopping moment.hope this gets in all footages of this match

    • snowyc says:

      I think we’ve all been a bit spoilt after Monte Carlo, to be upset with Rafa not holding serve all the time. ;) What is more important is that he is able to break right back and what is most positive compared to the earlier part of the year is how his colm has returned on the big points more often than not. He can definitely still improve — I don’t think he is in tip top condition mentally just yet — but he is going in the right direction from the way he just played Lleyton. Really like what i see :)

  15. Sofia says:

    I’m loving these 1st serve percentages from Rafa these days. (:

  16. snowyc says:

    Was able to watch full match on tv & what great tennis from both men in spite of the wind & rain! Lleyton was playing as well as I’ve seen him play for some time (hitting back unbelievable balls & swearing to his racket like an abusive husband when failing to do so) but Rafa is definitely improving with each match. I thought he played great – very aggressive, unleashing a crazy number (for Rafa) of beautiful winners. The way Lleyton played today, if Rafa didn’t play well, the score would not be what it was. The level of tennis is very high & as long as he stays fit, I think he’ll keep rolling :)

  17. Stf says:

    I watched the match and I thought Rafa did a great job. Again, he played very well against a player that’s a lot like him. Hewitt is known to be a fighter and he has tremendous defensive skills. He would return some shots that would normally be winners, I’m pretty sure that might’ve frustrated Rafa at some point.

    I was impressed by the number of winners Rafa produced. And the unforced errors weren’t that many if you think about the rallies and the horrible conditions. Seriously, the wind was insane. Also, Hewitt kept the ball into play and made few errors when it mattered, so that probably made Rafa more aggressive. Even with that, 21 unforced for two and a half hours of play is not bad at all. Hewitt was a very good test and Rafa did very well. He needs these matches.

    About being broken too many times, it happens. The point is that he doesn’t give up and that he tries to break back. A few months back, he would’ve never come back from being broken. Let’s not be greedy. He won, I’m happy.

  18. patzin says:

    It looked like tough conditions and Rafa commented in the presser how it negatively affected his ‘normal’ game, with top spin etc, which left him working harder than usual perhaps. He performed well, was mostly focused, and won in straight sets in unfavorable conditions. Good job Rafa.

  19. anyone4tennis says:

    I was really rattled by the commentators who referred to Rafa as the type of player who “strangles his oppenents” whereas on the other hand Fed has “sublime talent”. I felt ready to strangle the commentators! Talk about pro Fed! Good job Rafa in the conditions and Hewitt gave Rafa a run for his money. All in all a decent win, on to the 4th round!

  20. rafaManiac says:

    Yeah heavy conditions – courts are slower but bounce less. Hewitt flat hit did not give Rafa the height he liked, nor could Rafa give height to the ball that Hewitt would dislike.

    Hewitt’s backhand to Rafa’s forehand was especially effective – short angled and very low.

    Anyways he came through and gave a cool interview after that. And seems like the crowd really like him too. He has defended all the points that he has had. Now it is ascension! :D

  21. Atch2 says:

    If Rafa wanted a match that tested him, he got it. Lleyton’s also a rally maniac but tried to mis it up at the net and threw his all at Rafa. I enjoyed their fight bec neither Rafa or Lleyton wanted to give in, but I think Rafa overcame it well. And so what if Rafa was broken, bec he broke back and won it in 3sets.

    Did anyone see at 3-3 in the 3rd set and Rafa went to change his rackets when it was really gusty and Rafa’s big water bottle with a tiny amount of water fell over, and Rafa stopped to put it exactly in the same place? Couldn’t help but grin.

    And when the weather is bad I am comforted by the thoughts of IW 09 when Rafa beat Murray playing in a tornado-like conditions and Uncle Toni having taught Rafa to play on bad courts in bad conditions.

    I got Wally Masur and Mark Woodford as the commentators and although they are nice guys, with good technical analysis and as Aussies themselves I didn’t think they were biased towards Lleyton, I miss Robbie and Jason for their giggling-teenage-boys-moments and humour.

    Miri the televised coverage of tennis in the US sounds really over complicated and confusing.

    • miri says:

      Very. For example, I doubt we’ll be getting the end of Henin/Sharapova live today. I think that’s owned by NBC and their coverage won’t start until 6 hours from now…

    • Nana says:

      Hmmm, interesting cos’ I think we get the Aussie commentators here too. And yes to missing Robbie and Jason, who just adore Rafa and are funnier.

  22. kefuoe says:

    For an interesting view of the match, check out the RG website’s “Turning Point” analysis. You can find it under the Scores tab (use the pull down menu on the right to go to Saturday May 29)). Basically, it shows that Hewitt played a pretty steady match up until the third set, and Nadal steadily improved throughout the match.

  23. Fay says:

    Thanks for the link and Kefoue for bring this to our attention, this is great to see and I also noticed that toward the 3rd set that Rafa was reading Leytons game plan alot better… all in all was a great match.

  24. rubik says:

    An interesting statistic in the Sunday’s diary posted tonight on the ATP site:

    “Stat Of The Day: Four-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal will look to record his 200th match win on clay when he faces Thomaz Bellucci in the third match on Court Philippe Chatrier Monday. He is currently in 40th place on the list of all-time Open Era clay court wins with a 199-16 record. Guillermo Vilas leads the list with a 631-159 mark.”