Paris: Closing time

AP Photo/Francois Mori

Photo by AP Photo/Francois Mori

Stan Wawrinka defeated Rafa in the Paris Masters quarterfinals today by a score of 7-6(8), 7-6(7).

Rafa came out playing aggressively and broke Wawrinka in the first game. Wawrinka’s sluggish play continued until he ordered a changeover coffee – soon after that his play picked up and he broke while Rafa was serving for the set. Rafa held to force a tiebreak. And what a tight tiebreaker it was. After trading mini-breaks at the start, both held until it was 8-9 on Rafa’s serve. Rafa netted his forehand and the first set was Wawrinka’s.

Both men held serve in the second set until the 7th game when Rafa double faulted break point down. Serving for the match, Stan got a bit tight and Rafa happily took advantage to break back for 5-5. They went to a tiebreaker and Rafa went up 5-2. Then…a point that made no sense – Rafa hit one overhead smash right back and Wawrinka. He then hit a second one right into the net. He followed that with a so-so volley that Wawrinka handled with ease. He recovered to hit a beauty of a down the line winner to give himself set point on Wawrinka’s serve. He missed a forehand, but then had a set point on his own serve. A very long point ended with Rafa try to end it with short slice angled winner, but it went out: 6-6. Rafa won one more point, but Stan soon had a match point on Rafa’s serve. He hit a frustratingly lovely pass to take the tiebreaker, set and match.

Rafa felt so close to taking both sets. So close. Frustratingly close. It’s still weird seeing him when he’s unable to close the deal. Still, he’s playing so much better than where he was earlier this year. Progress is happening, we all just need some more patience.

Nadal Wawrinka
Statistics on Serve
Aces 2 11
Double Faults 2 1
1st Serve % 68% 60%
1st Serve Points Won 42/63 (67%) 44/54 (81%)
2nd Serve Points Won 18/29 (62%) 18/36 (50%)
Break Points Saved 3/5 (60%) 6/8 (75%)
Service Games Played 12 12
Statistics on Return
1st Return Points Won 10/54 (19%) 21/63 (33%)
Second Return Points Won 18/36 (50%) 11/29 (38%)
Break Points Won 2/8 (25%) 2/5 (40%)
Return Games Played 12 12
Statistics on Points
Total Service Points Won 60/92 (65%) 62/90 (69%)
Total Return Points Won 28/90 (31%) 32/92 (35%)
Total Points Won 88/182 (48%) 94/182 (52%)
Other Stats
Winners 22 37
Unforced errors 30 42
Net Approaches 12/21 (57%) 12/16 (75%)

25 Responses

  1. Very tough loss. :( But Rafa will regroup.

  2. So disappointed for Rafa. Given that he must be very tired after having played 8 matches in just 11 days and 5 of those were 3 intense setters, today loss is understandable. He’s been performing very well in the last 4 tourneys and now it’s time for R&R. Look forward to see him play great tennis again at YEC. Vamos Rafa!

  3. Dolores says:

    I can’t bear to watch his matches live anymore. Miri, thanks for the synopsis of the match. Now I can watch with colm albeit with disappointment. However, Rafa seems to be on the brink of playing Rafa tennis for real, especially considering how well he has fought the last two weeks.

  4. Aero says:

    He went further than I expected so this result doesn’t surprise me. Rafa still has some work to do to be able to beat Stan, Roger, Andy and Djokovic (when they are on their game). In a way I’m glad Stan beat him because I didn’t want to see him destroyed by Djokovic again (even though Djokovic isn’t playing great, Rafa doesn’t offer much of a challenge these days). Hopefully Stan can play this way tomorrow and beat Djokovic. This match went past 1 in the morning which pisses me off. It puts the last players at a serious disadvantage if playing the next day. I wonder if Rafa’s late last night match against Anderson didn’t affect his game.

    • Roxitova says:

      I think Rafa could already beat Murray, he beat Waw last time they played and this time he came very close–he had set points in both TBs, and really shanked key points, he was not generally outplayed–and Roger beat him indoors in Switzerland, which he would have at almost any point in their rivalry.
      It’s only Djok that is still truly out of reach.

  5. Rob says:

    Disappointing as rafa was indeed close but made errors at key times during the match. He certainly should have tried the coffee too as he seemed lacking in energy. He needed to raise his level as stan did but was pretty flat.

  6. mallorcanchamp says:

    Wawrinka was slightly better and won by slight margins. None of them played spectacular, but the winner played better the big points.

    Rafa finally found his physical toll after so many tight 3-set matches in the last 2 weeks. It was in the stretch from 3-1 (2nd set, just after the break) until the game when he broke back (5-5). At this point he found some adrenaline to push himself to the tie break, but still fell short. I thought he was finished at 3-1, but he really got back in to the match by playing the cat and mouse game (looking for placement, moving the opponent side to side and forcing him to implode and make stupid errors, a la clay court) which to me is also a improvement (a dimension that was missing in his game not too much ago).

    During that stretch Rafa was not moving very well anymore, nor getting powerful winners, so it was unrealistic to expect a comeback today and also would have been a very negative outcome for the challenge he would have faced tomorrow. Match was really lost on the 1st set tie break (also considering how late already was after this TB)

    As I’ve been saying in some of my long posts of this week, Rafa is going to need a much improved serve or he will pay the price of playing many 3-set matches. You can play 3 setters, but you need to win much more 2-3 shot points or you’re condemining yourself in the long term.

    Improving his serve is a two-edged sword, because we know that back problems could resurge from forcing this aspect. He has to find balance in placement, power, effects, variety/unpredictability and every other piece of the serve “puzzle”.

    After this tough loss, we still have to look at the bigger picture. I remarked after the Basel final that I expected just two matches for Rafa on Paris, get some rest and prepare for a bigger goal which is playing against the best in London. Well, we got a positive outcome, getting three, great fighting in the clutch and better feelings on court.

    Let’s see how the WTF groups reveal.

  7. sia says:

    Just got to see the match (thanks TennisTV) .
    OMG that game for 4-2 in the first set was excruciating … broken balls and all!!!
    Then Stan with his coffee break … so rude not to get one for Rafa too ;) I know … Rafa doesn’t drink coffee … but he could have used one. :D
    Rafa didn’t look so great during the whole match … maybe just tired, but did he complain about it being too hot at one point?
    He had so many many chances to win this match he just had no juice left. Rest up Rafa. See you in London.

  8. Roxitova says:

    Rafa is more clutch than he was earlier in the season, but still not at maximum clutch, which is where he has to beat to beat Stan or Fed or Djok.
    He shanked an easy FH for set point in the 1rst set TB, and blew a 5/2 lead with a shanked overhead in the 2nd set TB.
    I point this out not as criticism, but to illustrate that Rafa was very close to winning both sets, yet crumbled on key points.
    He was not generally outplayed.
    He was clutch against And., and Stan requires an extra gear.
    Still, he’s getting better and better, and has had a very good end of season. Normally this time of year, and indoors, is not great for Rafa anyway.

  9. emir says:

    It might not sound nice but he clearly sold this match to Stan not to face Djokovic.

    • HAHAHAHA! That’s really funny. It’s something I might wish for him but Rafa does not think like you and me. He lives to measure himself against the best.

    • SammyT says:

      No, he clearly didn’t.

    • JayDee50 says:

      OMG You really come up with some good’uns sometimes. Firstly, throwing a match is illegal. Secondly, Rafa has no problem facing Djokovic or anyone else. His competitive nature drives him to want to compete with the best and measure his own level by theirs. Thirdly, facing tough players is all part of being a professional athlete. Do you think he wanted to face Rosol twice in a row? Probably not but he had no choice but to get on with it, as with other dangerous opponents throughout his entire career. Get real.

      • Tina says:

        On the contrary, emir, I believe Rafa would have wanted so much to be able to play against Novak again. Especially since Rafa has been playing better and better, got more matches under his belt, been much more competitive, and most importantly- enjoys himself on court again.
        That´s when Rafa is most dangerous, and as he has said, the enjoyment was gone, when he struggled to come back. Now it´s back, which is wonderful to watch as a Rafa fan, I think. But he can´t win them all, and I agree with some saying, he looked a bit tired out there. No wonder, crazy late hour tennis, and he has indeed played a lot of matches lately.
        I can only be happy with Rafa´s play, he´s back, he´s competitive, and 2 tiebreaks in this late night match proves that. VAMOS

  10. JayDee50 says:

    Great title Miri, given that it was indeed “closing time” by the time this match started. My title for it might have been “The One That Got Away”. Tight, tight match, only a couple of points either way could have provided a very different scenario. I’m thinking that with the lateness of the hour, coupled with all the tennis Rafa’s played recently including several tight 3-setters, probably worked against Rafa and in Stan’s favour.

    It wasn’t a “blown off the court” loss, it was very tight and either player could have emerged with the victory.

  11. marileena says:

    I have truly enjoyed watching Rafa play this past month from Beijing and Shanghai to Basel and now Paris… I have witnessed an undying determination and will to play… I have seen him claw his way back from 0-40 to win many a game… Semi finals…finals… Semi’s … Finals…quarters…. He never lost in the first round like Federer has, twice out of 4 matches… Steady improvement is the name of the game and the more he plays the likes of a Djokovic, Murray, Federer and Wawrinka…the better off he is… This match in Paris, Rafa had opportunities to send Stan home and he blew it… Losing an overhead smash that could have put him at 6-2 in a tie break is what you need when playing a guy like Waw…. The tie break slipped away from Rafa and so did the match… It was so close, but Rafa could not shut the door… There is no question, there has been steady,improvement … It’s so obvious… And for him to reach the top of the mountain again, he needs to stay focused and keep improving his game . We all love our boy Rafa and because we do, we live and breathe with every hit of the ball….
    Rest up… See you in London!!!!

  12. Krishna says:

    I saw the match and dont think he was playing well. In fact both players were not. Most of Rafa shots were short and middle of the court. He was playing a very defensive game. There was just no venom. The only plus I see is that he has started to be clutch again and does not give up easily or shank his shots. Just a small consolation I feel….

  13. poh123 says:

    Hello. It was a devastating match to watch and one could tell how upset Rafa was. I think it was mental –all mental. It is Stan knowing that he can beat him now, and Rafa attempting to not succumb to self doubt. At the beginning of the year, I thought it was all over for Rafa, but he is truly coming back. If he can get through this loss, because it was a tough one, he will win again and get a couple of more Grand Slams. It’s the stuff movies are made of. When he achieves this, I will enjoy hearing the commentators and pundits who speak of him in such a condescending manner. It bothers me so much. Rafa is coming back and oh what a celebration it will be.

  14. Cowboyal says:

    That hurt.

    That really really hurt.

    This was a match he should have won. Had great chances in both sets and failed to take them.

    I really thought he had got over this mental block and was well on the way back to his best.

    This is a major set back.

    That hurt……….

    • JayDee50 says:

      We’re all hurting, including Rafa himself no doubt, but the culmination of many matches played coupled with late night scheduling on top of travelling from Basel to Paris, add in media and sponsor commitments plus 3 hours of practice daily, it all adds up to a tired body and mind. I believe he is on the way back to his best but hey, he is human after all and is allowed to falter sometimes.

  15. Sentinel says:

    That should have been won. There are three problems as far as I can tell. 1) the psychological problem of closing out from winning positions. No way should a tie break be list at 5-2 with two mini breaks 2) the serving is still ineffective and there are far too many long battles just to hold serve. No other top player struggles on serve to this degree. 3) Rafa still hits too short. Too many routine ground shots land in mid court in, on, or just outside the service box. That wont do. Why isn’t this addressed by his team?

    • Rob says:

      Unfortunately his serve has never been as good as that of other top five players except when he won his first US Open; both his serve and return deteriorates when he is not on top form hence the balls dropping short. His returns have been much better most of his career than for the majority of this year, and that and the deterioration in his passing has put him at a disadvantage this year. He would have passed Fognini at the net many times during their meetings this year if he was playing at his normal level. This and the errors and mistakes of judgement as when he lost to tsonga have been big problems. He made a real hash of his service against tsonga in the first set in shanghai. He is getting better on average but cannot seem to shake off this inconsistent form. His loss to Stan is a bit like his loss to Dolgopolov at Queens.

  16. kate says:

    I saw this tweet last night. I think it is a very valid point well made. I hope this works….

    I’m looking forward to what Rafa brings us going forward. He has shown heart, grit and determination over the last few months. I’ll never count him down and out…ever. :)

    • Rob says:

      Yes. He has shown great perseverance and the ability to overcome problems before. We all know the beast is still there, he just needs to find the way to unleash the monster. Then everyone will need to watch out!

    • poh123 says:

      This does help. Thank you.