composure

Murray Gets Wimbledon Revenge on Nadal

Andy Murray enjoyed a little post-Wimbledon revenge on Saturday at the Rogers Cup in Toronto as he handled world number one Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-4 to advance to the finals.

Murray played as crisp tennis as I’ve seen from him since the Australian Open in January and appeared composed and prepared from the very opening game.

After a quick three games to start the match, the rallies began to lengthen and both players brought some of their best tennis for the Toronto crowd to enjoy.

Though the crowd was slightly more pro-Nadal, they cheered Murray as well and seemed to pull for either player when they faced a break point.

At 3-3 in the opening set, Nadal had two break point opportunities at 15-40, but Murray would bail himself out with timely serving to hold for 4-3.

Murray used that energy to break the Spaniard in the very next game and then held easily to close out the first set 6-3.

The fact that Nadal was down by a set did not seem to phase him nor the crowd. It is not exactly a rarity to watch him fight from behind and still manage to emerge victorious.

Murray apparently did not get the memo that he was supposed to hand over that second set, as he broke early to go up 2-1.

Nadal would use his lethal forehand to rip a winner to get back on serve and tie things up a bit later at three games apiece.

With Murray serving later at 3-4, he double faulted to hand Nadal a chance at 15-40. Again he would maintain his composure and use his serve to get back into the game and even the score at 4-4. I was most impressed with how Murray never seemed to lose his cool during the match, even when it appeared that the momentum was about to shift in Nadal’s favour.

As a few very light rain drops began to fall at 4-4, Nadal inexplicably played some loose points and gave Murray a 0-40 score to work with. The Scot would seize the moment and with a Nadal backhand into the net he jumped ahead with the break to 5-4. He would win all four points in the next game to take the match and get one step closer to defending his Rogers Cup title.

By virtue of advancing to the finals, Murray will hold on to his world No. 4 ranking. A loss would have allowed Sweden’s Robin Soderling to overtake him in that position.

Murray will face the winner of tonight’s match between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. The winning player will then hold the number two ranking in the world.

Check back later for a full report on the outcome of this world class match-up.

THE LEGACY OF RAFAEL NADAL: THE FRIDAY FIVE

Making History – We’ll agree to disagree on the bigger picture of tennis player Rafael Nadal and his career, but I’m more than happy to join the masses who consider him not only one of the greatest talents to have played the game, but the undisputable king of clay.  This was certainly apparent in Nadal’s road to victory this past weekend. Absorbing bludgeoning blow after bludgeoning blow from Ernests Gulbis in the semis, Nadal hung in there with the big hitting Latvian and eventually found a way to grind out a tough three set win.  He then held his composure during a rain-delayed first set against countryman David Ferrer in the final before going on to win the second set and claim his fifth title in Rome.  The title also marked Nadal’s 17th Masters 1000 win, which ties him with Andre Agassi for most Masters 1000 wins, and all before the age of 24.  Undoubtedly the Spaniard will add to this already impressive total, further adding to his legacy in the annals of the game.

Chalk One Up – It took approximately four months, but after coming tantalizingly close earlier in the season, Justine Henin has chalked up her first tournament victory since making her return to competitive tennis.  The win came on her beloved clay, the surface on which she has traditionally enjoyed the most success.  Despite her stumble in the second set, Henin’s three set win over the in-form Sam Stosur was impressive.  Now that she has gotten over that mini-hurdle, it will be interesting to see if she starts swinging a little more freely going into the second major of the year.

Last Resort – After missing several weeks and undergoing multiple treatments, Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro has announced that he ran out of options and underwent surgery this past Tuesday to fix his wrist.  It is impossible for Del Potro to name a return date at this stage in the game and has just stated that he will be out for “a long period” (reports indicate anywhere from three to six months). I’m sure I’m not alone and really feeling for Del Potro. He was knocking on the door throughout the majority of 2009 before finally breaking through in a big way at the US Open. It’s a tragedy that this injury comes so close on the heels of his success, but based on his comments, it sounds like he will only come back stronger.

Poor Timing – Earlier this week, Lleyton Hewitt wasn’t shy about his expressing his opinion regarding the timing of Australia’s upcoming inter-zonal tie against Japan this weekend. Coming just a week after the Rome Masters and days before the Madrid Masters, the timing could not have been worse.  Undoubtedly Hewitt would have preferred to spend more time prepping for Madrid, particularly given his lack of match play in 2010, but without the former world No. 1, Australia, historically one of the most dominant nations in Davis Cup play, may not even reach the World Group Playoffs in September. I’ll grant you that the inter-zonal matches are not the same draw as those in the World Group, but this was just one more glaring example of why the ITF needs to do something to restructure the Davis Cup format as it relates to the ATP World Tour calendar.

Latest in Technology – To-date, the hawk-eye technology has been the latest development used to enhance the game of tennis for the players and the fans. Later this month, the Madrid Masters will take things one step farther by airing the men’s and women’s singles finals in 3D. The matches will air in theatres in the cities of Madrid, Barcelona and Malaga.  It will be interesting to hear fans’ responses to viewing matches in this format, and who knows?  It may just become the next latest craze to hit the tennis world.