ATP Masters

Rafael Nadal through to his 31st Masters 1000 final at the Rome Open

By Lisa-Marie Burrows

Internazionali BNL D’Italia, Rome – Out on Campo Centrale this afternoon the crowd were treated to a battle between the Spanish No.1 and the Spanish No.2 under the late afternoon sun, which started as an exciting spectacle but unfortunately for David Ferrer was not sustained against Rafael Nadal. The King of Clay has kept his run of straight victories going this week after knocking out his friend and compatriot 7-6 (6), 6-0 during the semi finals.

Surprisingly for the crowd and Rafael Nadal it was David Ferrer who opened up the match on fire and was the dominating aggressor from the onset. Ferrer was seeing the ball early, firing it deep and caused an uncomfortable start for last year’s finalist. His solid first serves were making it difficult for Nadal to participate in any lengthy rallies and with dogged determination he forced Nadal to have to save five break points.

During the fourth game of the set, Ferrer was the first Spaniard to break his opponents serve after applying pressure on Nadal’s second service game with some riveting blows and fantastic retrieval of some seemingly impossible shots. The joy was short-lived for Ferrer as Nadal stepped us his game and became more aggressive on short balls and turned defensive play into offensive, futile shots until he got back the break he so desperately needed. Maybe thoughts were reminiscent in his head of what had happened during the week before in Madrid against another compatriot, Fernando Verdasco which kick started his comeback?

The set remained on par and closely fought with both players having opportunities to surpass the other and the set was there was for the taking. The tiebreak loomed and the two best Spanish players went toe to toe throughout for 14 points with Nadal unleashing his formidable crosscourt forehand armory and after an equally balanced set from both players, Ferrer eventually succumbed to the power of the world No.2 and Nadal edged it out 8-6.

The second set did not open up as planned for Ferrer, as he lost his momentum and his intensity began to diminish, whilst for Nadal, it was business as usual and with an array of well-angled shots and great depth on the ball during the rallies Ferrer could do nothing but look in awe as the shots sailed past him.
Ferrer looked continually despondent and like a hunter seeks its prey, Nadal continued to hunt for the ball and keep his prey cornered. Before David Ferrer knew what was happening, the hardworking determined Spaniard was 0-5 down and staring at a possible bagel in the second set – and that is precisely what happened.

David Ferrer could not find the solution to beating Rafael Nadal on the dirt of Rome and lost his third match against his compatriot at this tournament:

“The first set it was close and then when I lost the first game and my serve it was more difficult to do wins and he played better.”

A semi final is a good result for Ferrer after an impressive clay court season and as always the world No.5 tried to fight and play his game of tennis when he was allowed.

David Ferrer is always a delightful person to interview despite his palpable disappointment and he is never rude or impolite to the media and tries his best to answer (and understand!) questions in his broken English. It is a shame for the talented Spanish No.2 that he is playing in an era of some of the greatest players of all time with Djokovic, Nadal and Federer often the people culpable for his exits and losses in finals. In any other generation, he may have won a Slam as his shot making is incredible, his athleticism is astounding and he possesses the imperative ability to turn from a defensive to offensive position in a matter of minutes. Nadal may be the most discussed and successful player in Spain, but credit should be offered to David Ferrer just as frequently because as a sportsman and representative of tennis, his presence and contribution is just as valuable. He is a real credit to the sport.

Nadal also reflected on the quality of Ferrer’s game, particularly at the start of the match:

“The first set was unbelievable how David set the match with amazing rhythm and aggressive and long. His movements were unbelievably good and so I did the possible best…”

Rafael Nadal has now set up a mouthwatering encounter against world No.1 and defending champion Novak Djokovic and no doubt the Spaniard will be keen to secure another win against the Serbian before Roland Garros commences:

“The important thing for me is to win the title and not against Djokovic or Roger, for me the important thing is to win Rome and I say that from my heart.”

Rafael Nadal Fast Facts:
• Rafael Nadal is one of three players to rank at No.1 in the history of the ATP World Tour Rankings who have all reached the semi finals in Rome.
• He along with Federer, Ferrer and Djokovic have won 11 titles between them so far this year.
• Nadal has won this tournament in 5 out of 7 appearances in Rome.
• His four straight set wins this week have improved his lifetime record here to 35-2.
• After his win today, he has now recorded a 15-4 head to head record against David Ferrer and beaten him 12 times in a row on clay – 10 out of 12 wins in straight sets.
• Nadal is 3-0 against Ferrer in Rome.
• Nadal is through to his 70th career ATP World Tour level final and his 31st ATP World Tour Masters final.

Lisa-Marie Burrows covered the Mutua Madrid Open last week and is currently in Rome covering the all of the action from the Masters. Catch her as a regular contributor for TennisBloggers.com and on Twitter: @TennisNewsViews.

Mondays With Bob Greene: I think that Justine’s comeback is good news for women’s tennis

STARS

Albert Montanes won the BCR Open Romania, beating Juan Monaco 7-6 (2) 7-6 (6) in Bucharest, Romania

Gael Monfils beat Philipp Kohlschreiber 7-6 (1) 3-6 6-2 to win the Open de Moselle in Metz, France

Kimiko Date Krumm beat Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-3 6-3 to win the Hansol Korea Open in Seoul, Korea

Shahar Peer won the Tashkent Open, defeating Akgul Amanmuradova 6-3 6-4 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Arantxa Parra-Santonja beat Alexandra Dulgheru 6-4 6-3 to win the Open GDF Suez de Bretagne in Saint Malo, France

Thomas Enqvist beat Michael Chang 6-4 7-6 (5) to win the Trophee Jean-Luc Lagardere in Paris, France

Jim Courier beat Pete Sampras 2-6 6-4 10-8 (match tiebreak) to win the Breezeplay Championships in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

SAYING

“A flame I thought was extinguished forever suddenly lit up again.” – Justine Henin, announcing her return to tennis one year after she retired while being ranked number one in the world.

“Justine is that rare athlete who decided to step away from the game at the height of her powers and no doubt she will be a force to be reckoned with.” – Stacey Allaster, WTA Tour CEO, on Justin Henin ending her retirement.

“The match reminded me again that in tennis you really don’t know how anything will turn out before you actually play.” – Kimiko Date Krumm, at 38 years, 11 months, 30 days becoming the second oldest player in the Open Era to win a singles title on the WTA Tour.

“When I was on court, I didn’t feel like she was 38. She won five matches in a row this week, four in three sets, more than two and a half hours, and today she was running like it was the first day.” – Anabel Medina Garrigues, after losing to Kimiko Date Krumm in the final of the Hansol Korea Open.

“For a long time people spoke about my lost finals. But now the curse is over.” – Gael Monfils, who ended a four-year title drought with his victory at the Open de Moselle.

“I think that Justine’s comeback is good news for women’s tennis but even better news for Belgium in general. … For tennis it is brilliant that she’s back.” – Kim Clijsters, on the return of Justine Henin.

“When I saw the draw I thought I could beat her. But you never know what she’s going to bring.” – Lucie Safarova, after beating former world number one Ana Ivanovic in a first-round match in Tokyo.

“I’m a little bit disappointed, but sports is like this. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.” – Juan Monaco, after losing the BCR Open Romania to Albert Montanes.

“We’ve played our first two tournaments together in the last two weeks and won them both. It’s a great feeling.” – Tatiana Poutchek, who teamed with Olga Govortsova to win the doubles in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, a week after winning in Guangzhou, China.

“It was a fabulous and glorious end, but he got a bad call late in the fifth set. He didn’t argue it.” – Jack Kramer’s son Bob, talking at his father’s memorial service.

SHE’S BACK

After watching fellow Belgian countrywoman Kim Clijsters win the US Open, another former number one player, Justine Henin, has decided to end her retirement. “The past 15 months I have been able to recharge my physical batteries, mental batteries (and) emotional batteries,” Henin said. Winner of four French Opens, two US Opens and the Australian Open, Henin said she plans to return to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour in January in Australia. Henin was 25 years old when she retired in May 2008, saying she no longer had passion for tennis. She now says the passion is back. She will begin her comeback by playing exhibition tournaments in Dubai and Belgium in November and December. “Justine is one of the great champions in the history of women’s tennis and we, along with millions of her fans around the globe, are thrilled with her announcement today,” WTA Tour chief Stacey Allaster said in a statement.

STILL SORE

Rafael Nadal has pulled out of the Thailand Open because of an acute rupture of an abdominal muscle. Nadal admitted the injury contributed to his US Open semifinal loss to eventual champion Juan Martin del Potro. The Spaniard is expected to be sidelined for two to three weeks. Nadal will remain in Spain to receive treatment for the injury.

STAYING HOME

Citing exhaustion, Roger Federer withdrew from the Japan Open and Shanghai ATP Masters. “This will allow me a chance to give my body a chance to rest, rehabilitate and recover from a physically challenging year,” Federer said in a statement. The Swiss star reached the final of all four Grand Slam tournaments this year, winning the French Open for the first time and breaking Pete Sampras’ record by capturing his 15th major title at Wimbledon. He also earned two points in Switzerland’s 3-2 Davis Cup victory over Italy in September.

STAYING THE COURSE

The retirements of Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin were just like taking weekends off if you compare them to Kimiko Date Krumm. Once ranked as high as fourth in the world, Date Krumm was retired for 12 years before returning to the tennis tour. After eight consecutive first-round losses, Date Krumm won not only a match but a Sony Ericsson WTA Tour tournament when she defeated Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-3 6-3 in the final of the Korea Open in Seoul. It was her first WTA Tour title since 1996 and, at age 38 years, 11 months and 30 days, the Japanese veteran becomes the second oldest player to win a Tour singles title, behind Billie Jean King. Date Krumm enjoyed success on the ITF women’s circuit before rejoining the WTA Tour. “For the past year I didn’t know if I could compete well on the Tour, but now it looks OK,” Date Krumm said.

SRICHAPHAN RETURNS

Paradorn Srichaphan never retired, he just stopped playing because of injuries. Now, the former ninth-ranked player will play doubles at the Thailand Open this week, his first action since March 2007. “I wanted to come back by using the Thailand Open as my tournament,” said the best player ever to come out of Thailand. “I’m not fit enough for the singles.” Srichaphan, who has won five career titles, underwent surgery on his wrist in Los Angeles in 2007 and again in Bangkok, Thailand, earlier this year. He and countryman Danai Udomchoke received a wild card entry into the Thailand Open.

SAD SENDOFF

Several hundred spectators paid tribute to Hall of Famer Jack Kramer as he was remembered at a memorial service at the Los Angeles Tennis Center. Kramer died on September 12 after a battle with cancer. The 88-year-old is survived by five children and eight grandchildren. US Open tournament director Jim Curley, calling Kramer a pioneer, said: “Every one of us who makes our living in professional tennis owes a debt of gratitude to Jack” Hall of Famer Pam Shriver and Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times served as hosts of the ceremony.

SWITZERLAND-SPAIN TIE

They’ve met in the finals of the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon. Now, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer could battle in the opening round of the 2010 Davis Cup. Spain and Switzerland could face each other in the first round of World Group play next year. The world’s top two players have never faced each other in Davis Cup action since neither played when the two nations met in a first-round tie in 2007, Spain winning 3-2. “I truly enjoy playing for my country but I’ll also have to see where I have my priorities for next season,” Federer said. “Of course, there are the Grand Slams, but there is also number one, which is a bit of a dilemma. Like in the other years, I will see after the Australian Open how I feel and if I play the first round.”

SET FOR HOPMAN

Teen-ager Melanie Oudin and big John Isner both made big splashes at the US Open where they recorded huge upsets. Now they’ll team up to lead the United States challenge at the 2010 Hopman Cup. Oudin is ranked 43rd in the world after her US Open run to the quarterfinals where she upset top 10 player Elena Dementieva and former world number one Maria Sharapova. The 6-foot-9 (2.06 m) Isner used his big serve to upset fellow American Andy Roddick before losing to Roger Federer in the fourth round. Others confirmed for the Hopman Cup, which runs from January 2-9, include Australians Lleyton Hewitt and Samantha Stosur, and Russians Igor Andreev and Dementieva.

STAYING HOME

Serena Williams won’t be playing in Tokyo this week because of injuries. The Australian and Wimbledon champion pulled out of the Pan Pacific Open with problems with her knee and toe. She has not played a singles match since her rant at a lineswoman in her semifinal loss to Kim Clijsters at the US Open. Serena will be the only member of the women’s top 10, including her older sister Venus, not competing in the USD $2 million event.

SPARKLING PLAY

The British duo of Colin Fleming and Ken Skupski finally have a title to go along with the scalps of top doubles teams they have collected. “This is our first (direct) acceptance at ATP World Tour level,” Skupski said, then noted that in the previous three ATP events they’re played they have beaten American twins Bob and Mike Bryan as well as the Brazilian duo of Marcelo Melo and Andre Sa. “So we always knew that we were capable of beating top guys,” he said. At Metz, France, Fleming and Skupski upset the top-seeded team of Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra 2-6 6-4 10-5 (match tiebreak) to win the Open de Moselle. En route to the final, they also knocked off the third-seeded team of Christopher Kas and Rogier Wassen.

SUCCESS FINALLY

When Jim Courier beat Pete Sampras for the first time since the opening round of the 1997 Italian Open, it gave him the title of the $150,000 Breezeplay Championships at The Palisades Country Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA. It was Courier’s ninth career title on the Outback Champions Series, the global circuit for champion tennis players age 30 and over. Courier clinched the title when Sampras double-faulted on match point. “I was serving right into the sun on that one and it hurt a little bit,” Sampras said. During their ATP Tour careers, Sampras beat Courier 16 times in their 20 meetings, including the Wimbledon final in 1993.

SURPRISE TREAT

Andre Agassi, making his Outback Champions Series debut, and Mikael Pernfors will clash in the opening round of the 2009 Cancer Treatment Centers of America Tennis Championships to be held October 8-11 in Surprise, Arizona, USA. Agassi will be the eighth former world number one to compete in the Outback Champions Series, a global tennis circuit for champion players age 30 and over. Others competing this year include Mark Philippoussis, Wayne Ferreira, Jim Courier, Todd Martin, Aaron Krickstein and Jimmy Arias. Other former number one players who have competed on the Outback Champions Series include Pete Sampras, Courier, Pat Rafter, Stefan Edberg, Mats Wilander, Thomas Muster and John McEnroe.

STOPPING

Sergio Roitman says he will retire from professional tennis at the conclusion of the Copa Petrobas, an ATP World Tour Challenger tournament in Buenos Aires, Argentina. A native of Buenos Aires, Roitman announced his decision at the draw ceremony. “It is a strange moment for me, but the time has come for me to leave professional tennis,” said Roitman. “Physically, I cannot compete at the highest level anymore. I think this is the best place to retire, at a tournament that has given me a lot of pleasure and surrounded by people that have helped me and whom I love very much.” Currently ranked 124th in the world, the 30-year-old Roitman reached a career-high 62 in singles in October 2007. During his 14-year-old career he won two ATP World Tour doubles titles, and achieved high highest doubles ranking of 45th in the world in September 2008.

SERBIAN JAIL

Jelena Dokic’s father has had his 15-month prison sentence confirmed by a Serbian court. The retrial for Damir Dokic was held because the Australian ambassador to Serbia, Clair Birgin, did not testify in person during the original hearing in June. This time she was again represented by a lawyer. In June, Dokic was found guilty of “endangering the security” of Ambassador Birgin as well as unlawful possession of weapons, including a hand grenade. Dokic was arrested after reportedly saying he would blow up Birgin’s car if she didn’t stop negative articles about him from being published in Australia. Now 26 years old, Jelena Dokic was born in the former Yugoslavia and migrated with her family to Australia as a child and represented her adopted country at the 2000 Olympics. She renounced her Australian ties in 2001 and moved back to Serbia, only to return to Australia in 2006.

SERENA SPONSOR

Serena Williams is featured in a lighthearted campaign for Tampax. The Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble Co. said Williams will take on Tampax’s “Mother Nature” character in new magazine print advertising. Company officials said Williams represents the energy, independence and strength of women they want to celebrate. The campaign was in the works before Williams was fined $10,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct during the US Open when she harangued a lineswoman. P&G spokesman David Bernens said: “Clearly she admitted she made a mistake. She apologized. We support her apology.”

SENIOR SPONSOR

The Masters Tennis at Royal Albert Hall in London has a new sponsor. AEGON will become the title sponsor of the senior event that has featured an array of Wimbledon champions, including Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and Pete Sampras. The tournament will be known as the AEGON Masters Tennis as the life assurance and pensions company’s involvement in the sport in Great Britain continues to grow. The new sponsorship means AEGON is involved in British tennis at every level, from grass roots development to the hugely popular senior event. Among those expected to compete this year will be Wimbledon champions Goran Ivanisevic and Stefan Edberg, along with two-time Wimbledon finalist Patrick Rafter.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Bucharest: Frantisek Cermak and Michal Mertinak beat Johan Brunstrom and Jean-Julien Rojer 6-2 6-4

Metz: Colin Fleming and Ken Skupski beat Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra 2-6 6-4 10-5 (match tiebreak)

Seoul: Chan Yung-Jan and Abigail Spears beat Carly Gullickson and Nicole Kriz 6-3 6-4

Tashkent: Olga Govortsova and Tatiana Poutchek beat Vitalia Diatchenko and Ekaterina Dzehalevich 6-2 6-7 (1) 10-8 (match tiebreak)

Saint Malo: Timea Bacsinszky and Tathiana Garbin beat Andreja Klepac and Aurelie Vedy 6-3 retired

SITES TO SURF

Bangkok: www.thailandopen.org

Kuala Lumpur: www.malasianopentennis.com/

Athens: www.vogueathensopen.com

Beijing: www.chinaopen.cn/

Tokyo: http://rakutenopen.rakuten.co.jp/en/index.html

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$947,750 Proton Malaysia Open, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, hard

$608,500 PTT Thailand Open, Bangkok, Thailand, hard

WTA

$2,000,000 Toray Pan Pacific Open, Tokyo, Japan, hard

$100,000 Vogue Athens Open, Athens, Greece, hard

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$3,337,000 China Open, Beijing, China, hard

$1,226,500 Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships, Tokyo, Japan, hard

WTA

$4,500,000 China Open, Beijing, China, hard

$100,000 Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships, Tokyo, Japan, hard

SENIORS

$150,000 Cancer Treatment Centers of America Tennis Championships, Surprise, Arizona, USA

Random Ramblings…Aussie Open dates, Wimbledon, Vegas, etc.

Imagine that the tennis world was focused not on Indian Wells and Key Biscayne but on the Australian Open at this time of year. Is this a novel concept? Not really. This was the case during this time frame in 1971 when the Australian Open was played at White City in Sydney, Australia. As documented in the upcoming book On This Day In Tennis History, it was on March 15, 1971 when Ken Rosewall and Margaret Court both won Australian Open singles titles during this uniquely scheduled major. Many people would love to have the tennis schedule altered so the players have more of an off season – and a February/March staging of the Australian Open would be a great way for that to happen – but Tennis Australia officials are too wed to the Australia Day holiday season and the end of the Australian summer season to move the tournament dates to later in the year. It could be worse, however, as the Australian Open used to be held during the Christmas holidays.

During a recent visit to London, I stopped by the All England Club and saw the place in full preparation for the 2008 Championships. Cranes stand next to Centre Court as the retractable roof continues to be installed and ready for the 2009 tournament. It appears a small stadium/bleacher section will be constructed on court No. 13 – in place of the rows of bleachers under the awning. At the Wimbledon Museum, I watched the highlights of the 1973 “strike year” men’s final when Czech Jan Kodes beat the Soviet Union’s Alex Metreveli. In lieu of allegations and controversy of betting in tennis and the allegations of involvement of the Russian mob, it was amusing to hear the commentator’s voice on the highlight tape, in previewing the final, say that “the betting is on Kodes.”

It’s a tough situation for The Tennis Channel Open in Las Vegas to go head-to-head with Dubai Tennis Championships on the ATP calendar. No doubt that the appearance fees were aplenty in the Middle Eastern oil and finance capital as most of the top 10 played in the event, while The Tennis Channel Open got the leftovers. Why not make Dubai a larger co-ed event (as it is now, the women play the week before in Dubai) and then move The Tennis Channel Open to a different date? The tennis calendar could have three back-to-back-to-back “mega co-ed” events in Dubai, Indian Wells and Key Biscayne. The Tennis Channel Open could then move to later in the year (and warmer weather in Vegas or another location). The United States sure could use another clay court event (how about another event before or after the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships?).

Speaking of The Tennis Channel Open, how can you not love Sam Querrey? The 20-year-old American won his first ATP singles title in Vegas and seemed as laid back and relaxed as any player I have ever seen. He told The Tennis Channel’s Corina Morariu that he planned to prepare for his semifinal against Guillermo Canas by going “indoor skydiving” but he lost in place in line and the wait would have been too long….Fernando Gonzalez, Julien Benneteau and Lleyton Hewitt all had some great racquet smashing episodes at The Tennis Channel Open. TC commentator Jimmy Arias had a funny line during Hewitt’s smash of his Yonex frame; “You have to give Yonex a little credit there…it took two tries to break the racquet.”

Best investment for tennis fans – the $69.95 for a year subscription to the ATP Masters Series TV broadband coverage on ATPTennis.com. Why channel surf for Fox Sports Net during Indian Wells/Key Biscayne or stress whether you are going to get The Tennis Channel Open for most of the other offered events like Monte Carlo, Rome, Hamburg, etc.? The service offers near wall-to-wall coverage of all the top matches and if your computer has a high quality screen, it’s just like TV. Speaking of the Masters Series TV coverage, Jason Goodall, one of their fine commentary team members, spoke of talking to Igor Andreev in Dubai and asking him whether he would rather be No. 1 in the world or win a Grand Slam. Goodall reported that the Russian responded, “Neither…an Olympic Gold Medal.”