Written by Jay Jarrahi
The second clay Masters Series event of the season is over and the King of Clay, Rafael Nadal, continues to reign over the rest of the field. The Rome tournament proved successful for the home nation, but the same could not be said for the world number one who lost more than just a tennis match this week.
* Tired and tested – Rafael Nadal’s clay win streak now stands at 77 wins as the Spaniard picked up his 3rd Masters Series title of 2007. Nadal has obliterated all before him on clay this season in even more impressive fashion than he had done for the past two seasons, but in the semi-finals he was given the biggest test he has received in the past few weeks. For the first time during the Euro clay season, Nadal began to look jaded against Nikolay Davydenko and the Russian pushed Nadal to the limit in an energy sapping three and a half hour encounter. Nadal was able to brush aside Fernando Gonzalez in the final, and the question now remains whether Nadal will play in Hamburg having shown the first signs of fatigue this week in Rome.
* Parting ways – In losing his 3rd round match with Italian Filippo Volandri, Roger Federer produced arguably his worst display since becoming world number one. Federer looked devoid of confidence and never at any stage during the match did he allow Volandri to think about the magnitude of the victory he was about to obtain. There is much to consider for Federer if he is to provide the required level of play to challenge Nadal come the French Open. Whatever it is he plans to mull over and work on will be done without his part-time coach, Tony Roche. Both parties went their separate ways following Federer’s exit in Rome.
* Forza Italia! – The past week was a great success for the home nation and the partisan Italian crowd. Filippo Volandri made full use of his wildcard by reaching the last four. In the process he defeated three players ranked inside the world’s top thirteen in the form of Richard Gasquet, Roger Federer and Tomas Berdych. Volandri met his match in the semi-final against Fernando Gonzalez, who showed off a glimpse of his Australian Open form and won the match with relative ease. Aside from Volandri, Potito Starace also gave the home crowd something to shout about, knocking off Agustin Calleri and Juan Carlos Ferrero before succumbing to Davydenko in a tight three set battle.
* It was a good week for – Fernando Gonzalez gained some much needed confidence and momentum by reaching the final. Signs of Gonzalez coming back to life began against good friend and compatriot, Nicolas Massu. Down 4-2 in the 3rd set, Gonzalez came storming back to take the match and continued that level of play against Juan Ignacio Chela and Volandri in his quarter-final and semi-final respectively.
* It was a bad week for – Tomas Berdych, despite reaching the quarter-finals, let himself down with a feeble display against Volandri in the last eight. Berdych was unable to stem the momentum Volandri was riding from the home crowd and refused to adjust his tactics, continually looking for winners too early in rallies and never giving himself a chance to play his way into the match. Guillermo Cañas, having come through qualifying much was expected of the Argentine. However, a surprising loss in the second round to Gilles Simon meant that Cañas could not claim status as the number one ranked Argentine (which he would have done so by reaching the semi-finals). Marcos Baghdatis, leading Novak Djokovic 5-1 in the 2nd set and seemingly on his way to taking the match into a decider. It was not to be though as he went on to lose six straight games, thus losing the match 6-2 7-5.