Miami: One step closer
In a battle of new-school vs old-school tennis, Rafa played #25 Radek Stepanek in the early Miami evening. At first, Stepanek’s constant changes of pace were throwing Rafa and he was having some difficulty holding serve and was committing too many unforced errors. The backhand passing shot of beauty made its way into the match early though and Rafa seemed to settle. Grumpily, but he settled and broke twice in the first set. After holding in the first game of the second set, Rafa broke for a 2-0 lead. His play alternated between brilliant and weird errors, but the match itself was really no contest. He’s through: 6-2, 6-2.
As it happened blatherings:
Rafa serving to start the match. Nice serve: 15-0. Forehand shank from Rafa: 15-15. Second serve. Stepanek nets a ball: 30-15. Nice return: 30-30. Scrambling point that Rafa takes total control of with two nice forehands: 40-30. Rafa’s backhand slice goes well wide: deuce. Steps is giving Rafa weird balls to look at and I think it’s affecting him. Nice serve: game point. Another service winner and Rafa holds for 1-1.
Rafa mishits a service return: 15-0. A short slice pulls Steps into the net and then Rafa passes with a backhand down the line: 15-15. Steps pushes Rafa and takes time from him: 30-15. Nicely executed point from Steps: 40-15. Second serve. Rafa returns from within the baseline and Steps sends his next shot long: 40-30. Rafa mishits that return and Steps holds.
Longish rally ends when Steps tees off on a forehand and it goes well wide: 15-0. Second serve. Rafa’s shot is out: 15-15. Steps takes time away again and Rafa nets his backhand: 15-30. Ace down the middle: 30-30. Nice body serve draws an error: 40-30. Second serve. The net cord pops Rafa’s ball out: deuce. Stepanek angles Rafa off the court to get himself a break point. Second serve. Steps into the net and Rafa runs down the approach to hit a beautiful backhand passing shot down the line: deuce. Smash: game point. Nice serve out wide and Rafa holds for 2-1.
Rafa’s backhand is long: 30-0. Steps nets a forehand: 30-15. Rafa had his shot, misses, says words to his box: 40-15. Ace and a strong hold for Stepanek: 2-2.
Rafa nets a forehand down the line: 0-15. Serve out wide draws an error: 15-15. Rafa sends a forehand long: 15-30. Backhand error from Stepanek: 30-30. Ace down the middle: 40-30. Another great serve and Rafa holds.
Steps is doing his thang – mixing up pace and shots; Rafa’s not always dealing with it well. His service holds more difficult than Stepanek’s.
Beauty of a shot from Steps: 15-15. Beautiful backhand cross-court winner from Rafa: 15-30. Rafa working a rally until he miss-times a forehand: 30-30. Rafa hits deep and then follows that up with a forehand that lands in the midcourt which Stepanek nets: 30-40. Nice backhand pass attempt from Rafa, difficult volley from Steps, forehand passing winner from Rafa – he breaks for a 4-2 lead.
Second serve. Rafa nets a forehand: 0-15. Steps fails another challenge: 15-15. Second serve. Steps nets the return: 30-15. Again: 40-15. Rafa holds without going to deuce. He’s up 5-2.
Rafa pushes Steps to draw an error: 0-15. Double fault: 0-30. Forehand down the line passing shot winner: 0-40. Rafa breaks at love to take the first set 6-2.
43 minutes; 2 aces, 66% 1st serves in; 79% won on 1st serve; 40% on second; 2/2 on BPs; 8 winners; 11 UFEs; 1/2 at net.
Step’s volley is out: 15-0. Rafa in midcourt, Steps get the ball at his feet and Rafa’s pissed that he nets the volley: 30-15. Passing shot winner from Steps: 30-30. Rafa nets backhand: 30-40. Ace down the middle: deuce. (Well, it was out, but Steps doesn’t challenge.) Steps cross-court forehand is out: game point. Rafa holds for 1-0.
Rafa’s service return sails wide: 15-0. Return winner: 15-15. That one is out: 30-15. Steps shot is out: 30-30. Stunning backhand passing shot winner from Rafa: 30-40. Second serve. Steps double faults to give Rafa a break: 2-0.
Short angled ball from Steps that Rafa can’t get to: 15-15. Second serve. Rafa sends a forehand wide: 15-30. Nice serve out wide and he follows it into the net to knock off a winning volley: 30-30. Rafa works a point well to draw an error: 40-30. Rafa consolidates for a 3-0 lead.
Strong hold for Stepanek.
Rafa’s forehand is well wide: 15-15. Many challenges in this game. I got bored. Steps finally won one, though – replay the 30-15 point. Nice slice volley from Rafa: 40-15. Players all over the court – point ends with a winner from Steps: 40-30. With a fierce forehand and a fist pump, Rafa holds for 4-1.
15-15. How the hell did Rafa hit that running forehand passing shot winner??? HOW? 15-30. Steps nets a backhand: 15-40. Steps dealt well with that passing shot attempt: 30-40. Rafa’s backhand return goes out, he challenges, but it was out: deuce. Second serve and Rafa’s return goes into the stands: game point. Another return of serve sent well out and Steps holds for 2-4.
Rafa works a point, but sends a forehand well out: 0-15. Nice serve out wide gives Rafa control of a point: 15-15. A bug flies into Step’s mouth? 30-15. Second serve. Rafa spins a slice that throws Steps off: 40-15. Stepanek’s shot is called out, he challenges, but the call was right. Rafa holds for 5-2.
Steps nets a backhand: 0-15. 0-30. Steps sticks his racket out for a volley and the ball completely misses it: 0-40. Second serve. Rafa’s shot is out: 15-40. Rafa wins!