My thoughts on Rafa’s loss to Fernando
Mostly what I can say about this match is it was weird. My observation was that Fernando’s strategy was to hit behind Rafa whenever he could, Rafa’s to pound Fer’s backhand and wait for him to make mistakes. In the first set, Verdasco’s plan was working perfectly, mostly because Rafa was not even attempting to change direction. I have only seen Rafa move (or rather not move) like that once and that was the Australian Open match against David Ferrer when he had that pulled leg muscle. I have heard anything about an injury except that Rafa said his hip was bothering him from all the pushing. I assume that was just muscle fatigue and not something that he couldn’t overcome. In the meantime, Rafa’s strategy was not working at all since hitting everything to the same place results in not forcing your opponent to move around the court. Another issue I observed was that Rafa was tentative in pulling the trigger for a winner when he had the advantage in the point. Time and again I was left waiting for him to smash the ball by Nando, and time and time, he just hit it back to his backhand. I can only think that was because he was not confident in his footwork. Consequently, Verdasco wins first set 6-3.
In the second set and early in the third, Rafa abandoned the game-plan of just hitting to the backhand and mixed it up a bit. He realized that he was not going to win without moving so he started to do that. It was not the wonderful sliding all over the court that you see on the real clay courts though. More like a hard-court moving. With his strategy not so effective anymore, Fer started making more errors, especially double faults. He was clearly frustrated, even demonstrating how slick the court was by pantomiming cross country skiing. At this point, I felt bad for him. I didn’t want to see him melt down in front of his home crowd. I wanted to see a well-played match with Rafa coming out the winner. I don’t know what I was thinking because Rafa’s only game plan was for Fer to lose the match.
I really can’t even begin to explain how Rafa blew the 2 break lead in the third set. Of course, everybody knows it started with the missed smash into the net. I attribute that again to no confidence in the footwork and also some complicated shadows as at that point only ¼ of the court was getting sun, the deuce court on Rafa’s side. So ball coming out of shade into sun…, complicated but Rafa doesn’t miss smashes. When he lost the first “serving for the match” game, I wasn’t concerned because I didn’t think that Fer had it in him to win the match. But I was wrong. With that break and a convincing service hold (not a common site in this match for either player), Verdasco found the confidence to win. Rafa didn’t know what to do. And that was the match.
I promise to send more and pictures at some point, but need to run off to watch Delpo and Dolgo. Now I will be rooting for Daveeed (how many e’s in that?) and Marc! and Marcel to win. Hope they don’t play at the same time today!