Rome Open

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.

Serena Williams rises to the semis and Venus Williams falls at the hands of Sharapova

By Lisa-Marie Burrows

Internazionali BNL D’Italia, Rome – It was a mixed day of results for the Williams sisters in Rome. Serena Williams needed to play only four games before her opponent and home crowd favourite, Flavia Pennetta retired to due a right wrist injury and Venus Williams’ magnificent run came to an end today againstMaria Sharapova in straight sets 4-6, 3-6.

Serena Williams was on court barely more than half an hour today on Campo Centrale in front of an excited, largely Italian crowd when their excitement was silenced due to the injury of home country favourite Flavia Pennetta.

World No.21 Pennetta experienced difficulties from the start of the match and was broken immediately by the power ball game of Serena Williams and that there was little she could do about it. Pennetta requested assistance from the trainer and received medical time out to receive treatment to her wrist which was strapped up for support. The Italian star tried to soldier on so as not to disappoint the crowd, but unfortunately after suffering another break of serve, Pennetta was forced to retire. It was sad for the crowd, disappointing for Williams to win in this manner, but even more concerning for Flavia Pennetta who will be hoping for a quick recovery before Roland Garros commences.

Next up for Serena Williams, she will face No.8 seed Li Na after she defeated14th seed Cibulkova in her quarter finals match.

“Li Na is the defending French Open champion and she is a really good test to play against because she is such a good all-around player. She is just so fit.”

Unfortunately for Serena’s big sister, Venus Williams there was no such luck as she was ousted in the quarter finals against her rival Maria Sharapova. Both players had met on six previous occasions and their head to head was tied at 3-3 until today.

It was always going to be a stern test for Venus Williams in her 7th quarter final appearance in Rome during eight visits and a good challenge of her form at present against the world No.2 Maria Sharapova.

Williams was the eldest lady left in the draw today and she certainly was not moving around the court as such! Wearing a new outfit today compared to early in the week, Williams tried her best to keep up with the power, pace and retrieval skills of Maria Sharapova, but it was to no avail, the current world No.63 could not sustain momentum for long enough and despite putting up a good fight, she was knocked out of the tournament in two straight sets.

On the bright side for the wildcard Venus Williams, she will now jump up the rankings to a projected No.52 after her run into the quarter finals in Rome.

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.

David Ferrer through to the semi finals of the Rome Open.

By Lisa-Marie Burrows

Internazionali BNL D’Italia, Rome – World No.6 David Ferrer progressed through to the semi finals after his third straight sets win this week against Andy Murray’s conqueror, Richard Gasquet 7-6 (4), 6-3.

David Ferrer was runner up here against compatriot Rafael Nadal in 2010 and has been extremely successful with his run on clay this season, so it was no doubt that the resilient Spaniard had the goods to pull out a straight sets win today against a tricky opponent who was into his second quarter final in as many weeks.

Ferrer had the first edge at the start of the match as he broke the 16th seed’s service in the fifth game only to be broken back shortly after. Richard Gasquet always proves to be a tricky customer and caused Andy Murray several problems yesterday and it looked like he was wiling to serve up a bit of the same today.

The first set was taken to a tiebreak and saw David Ferrer regain his composure and retrieve seemingly impossible balls, particularly from his backhand to seal the all-important first set 7-4.

The second set saw the steely Spaniard tighten up his game and expose the weaker movement of Gasquet in comparison to yesterday; as he barely lost any points on his own serve. The sole break towards the end of the match was sufficient for Ferrer as he recorded his fourth straight sets win in a row against Gasquet to progress to the semi finals for another all-Spanish mouthwatering encounter after his second round defeat over Fernando Verdasco, but this time he will square off against Spanish No.1 Rafael Nadal.

David Ferrer acknowledged in his press conference that it was a difficult match against Richard Gasquet and was pleased to progress through to the semi finals of the tournament once again:

“It was a tough match and I am happy getting into the semi finals. It is a Masters 1000 match and it was close and good – it was consistent all the time and the difference was only in some points. When I won the first set it was easier and I saw he was more tired than me.”

Against Rafael Nadal tomorrow Ferrer has described the semi final encounter as ‘tough’ and he knows that he is going to have to play his ‘best game.’

“In Barcelona [against Nadal] I played good but every match is different and I will have to play similar to get a good result. Tomorrow in any case is different.”

Will Ferrer be the second Spaniard in as many weeks to pull off a shock win against Nadal on his beloved clay? We can’t wait to watch!

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.

Andy Murray vows to train hard in preparation for Roland Garros

By Lisa-Marie Burrows

Internazionali BNL D’Italia, Rome – A withdrawn looking Andy Murray attended a press conference yesterday after his 7-6 (1), 3-6, 2-6 defeat at the hands of Richard Gasquet. His eyes were downcast, shoulders slouched and head lowered as he mumbled into the microphone. In front of us was a man who was clearly lacking in confidence, bewildered with the outcome of the game and uncomfortable as he twitched awkwardly in his chair whilst occasionally flexing his back, but how much did it hamper his performance?

“It was a long match and I had a sore back towards the end, but I was expecting that coming to the tournament and I didn’t take a break but training and playing a lot – the muscles are more tired and fatigued.

Andy Murray did not want to go into detail as to where and how he sustained the injury or how severely it impedes his matches, but he has experienced the injury since December and with the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open coming up, the Scot has little time to recover and treat the niggling he is inflicted with.

Ultimately this may have knocked his confidence before the start of the second Grand Slam of the year at Roland Garros as his preparation has not gone to plan as per previous years. He withdrew from Madrid last week and did not play on the infamous blue clay and this week has participated in only two matches against Nalbandian and Gasquet:

“To be honest when you lose matches your confidence drops and when you win your confidence grows and that is the possibility…”

Right now, Andy Murray is considering flying to Paris immediately to get some extra practice on the clay courts and train hard (back allowing) for the next nine days. He hopes to work hard at the gym, get into shape and adapt to the conditions of the courts with his coach Ivan Lendl who will be with him for 5 or 6 days in preparation.

Murray was philosophical about his injury and tried to find the positive side to the treatment he will need to undertake, believing that sometimes pains and injuries can get better when a player plays with them and his 2 hours and 40-minute match was certainly a good test for him.

For Andy Murray, no Cup Final visits for him this weekend as he will be in Paris recuperating and training – a positive decision in preparation for the French Open. Hopefully he will feel better soon!

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.

Djokovic survives Mónaco scare at the Rome Open.

By Lisa-Marie Burrows

Internazionali BNL D’Italia, Rome – World No.1 Novak Djokovic found himself embroiled in another battle on a packed Campo Centrale today against tricky Argentine Juan Mónaco and had to fight back from a set and a break down to close out the match and progress to the quarter finals with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.

It was a gladiatorial effort from Novak Djokovic on court today as he was thoroughly challenged from the onset by Mónaco. It was the recovering Argentine who dealt the first blow and broke the slow-starting Serbian’s service game. The top seed made more unforced errors than usual and Mónaco was often causing him to make more errors as he pulled him from each side of the court and kept him on the stretch.

Juan Mónaco, fondly known as Pico, was forced to hold his nerve and serve out the first set. His service game was aggressive, forceful and he mixed up the rallies well, including a brave, deadly drop shot, which worked beautifully, but could have gone disastrously wrong before securing the first set 6-4.

Mónaco opened up the second set just as strong and was painting the lines beautifully with every shot and kept the world No.1 on the move and on his back foot. The usually flexible Djokovic was stretched too far and could do nothing more than watch as the Argentine turned from defensive to offensive during the rallies and led by a set and 2-1 in the second.

As both players sat contemplating the events of what had happened during the change of ends, Mónaco’s feet were pumping furiously with momentum whilst Djokovic sat still and staring into space, gathering his thoughts and reflecting on what had happened. He knew he had to pull something special out of the bag and maybe thoughts of his defeat at the hands of compatriot Janko Tipsarevic began to ring through his head? Who knows, but whatever it was, it worked.

The world No.15 stepped back out onto the red dirt to consolidate his break and failed to do so convincingly. Mónaco struck a few unforced errors and could do nothing other than shout ‘Ay, ay, ay!” as his backhand sailed into the net.

Within minutes, it was evident that the tables had turned and suddenly the more arduous rallies swung in favour of the Serb and he broke on two more occasions to take the second set 6-2.

The third set displayed more laborious rallies which were grueling on the body and demanding of the mind, but both players held their nerve and their competitive play reached its pinnacle. Djokovic’s level continued to rise and Mónaco could do little to put a dent in his armory towards the end and with an “Ay, buena!” at the thunderous forehand unleashed during the 7th game, the world No.1 got the break he was so desperate to seek before closing it out 6-3.

For Juan Mónaco it will be a difficult loss after being a set and a break up, but no doubt he will be pleased with his performance after he came back from a serious ankle injury which he sustained during the Monte Carlo Masters a month ago. He has won two clay court titles this year and there were doubts as to whether he would return from injury the same way after his great form before the injury, but he stepped out onto the courts this week believing he can win and should be filled with confidence about his performance before Roland Garros.

During the press conference with Novak Djokovic I asked him how concerned he felt when he was a set and break down and how he maintained his winning mentality. He told me:

“Mentality is what is needed and especially when you are playing against a player who prefers this surface and has already won two tournaments on clay this year and he plays with confidence so when I stepped onto the court today he took his chances and then I got into the rhythm and started to play better than in the beginning of the match.”

For Djokovic, the world No.1 believes that staying positive despite the results or problems you face is the key to winning any matches:

“If you think positive then you will have a positive outcome and I have enough experience to know what to do and I used it today.”

Djokovic admitted how he respects his tennis ‘rivals’ Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer for their result and good work they have done for tennis:

“First of all I respect them as tennis rivals and good examples of champions and they have done a lot for many generations . I am not thinking about popularity, I am here to enjoy what I do and win as many matches as I can and if I can be an example to kids and up and coming talent, especially with my Foundation to let kids realize their dreams…”

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.

Wozniacki, Radwanska, Bartoli out of the Rome Open

By Lisa-Marie Burrows

Internazionali BNL D’Italia, Rome – It was all about the women’s matches out on the red courts of Rome today. There were some exciting line-ups, fantastic rallies and staggering losses. Many of the matches were scheduled around the same time, so with a lot of running, camera ready and comfy shoes here are some of the exciting matches I was able to catch today.

Agnieszka Radwanska versus Petra Cetkovska:
Cetkovska defeated Radwanska 6-4, 4-6, 6-1.

This was the first featured match up in the Super Tennis Stadium and indeed the match was super. World No.28 Petra Cetkovska recorded yet another victory against world No.3 Agnieszka Radwanska to improve her head-to-head 4-0. Radawanska was certainly not playing in the same form that I witnessed last week in Madrid where she reached the semi-finals. Cetkovska made her debut here this year, as she has never played in this tournament before and after today’s performance, she looked quite at home and withstood the fight back from the Pole.

Flavia Pennetta versus Sloane Stephens:
Pennetta defeated Sloane Stephens 6-2, 6-3.

The home crowd favourite Flavia Pennetta opened up play in the Pietrangeli stadium surrounded by huge Roman statues in front of a packed audience, where she has made her appearance for the tenth time at the tournament. The world No.21 delighted her supporters with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over the qualifier Sloane Stephens. The two players had played against each other on one other occasion which Pennetta won back in 2010. The young 19 year old had no answers today against the power of Pennetta and with the impartial crowd heavily cheering on their girl, Pennetta comfortably progressed into the next round.

Samantha Stosur versus Sara Errani:
Stosur defeated Errani 6-3, 7-5

Samantha Stosur and Sara Errani have met on four previous occasions, all in favour of Stosur, but today the 25 year old Italian stood tall against the world No.5 and pushed her to the brink during the second set. In their last meeting in Dubai Stosur lost only one game against her but today, with the crowd becoming heavily involved Stosur went down a break and was almost staring at going into a third set. Eventually the aggressive play of Stosur withstood and after breaking back to level up the second set, she broke again in the eleventh game before serving it out.

Caroline Wozniacki versus Anabel Medina Garrigues:
Medina Garrigues defeated 6-4, 4-0 (retired).

Former world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki stepped out onto the small Court 2 against Spaniard Medina Garrigues not feeling well from the onset. She went down a break early in the first set and the trainer was called onto court. Wozniacki continued battling through most of the rallies in the first set and managed to come back from 1-4 down before eventually losing 6-4. Once again at the start of the second set, Wozniacki was broken on two further occasions and due to upper respiratory problems, she was forced to retire.

In other news, 7th seed Marion Bartoli was another seed knocked out in straight sets 3-6, 1-6 against world No.29 Julia Goerges and Sorana Cirstea defeated Sofia Arvidsson of Sweden by exactly the same scoreline 6-3, 6-1.

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.

Sharapova discusses her wedding, traits and Italian words after victory at the Rome Open

By Lisa-Marie Burrows

Internazionali BNL d’Italia, Rome – Maria Sharapova survived a stern test on Campo Centrale as she faced Christina McHale to open up play in Rome and eventually came up trumps with a 7-5, 7-5 victory.

The match was closer than the score line intended but Sharapova was pleased with her early challenge and has adjusted well from the high altitude, blue clay courts of Madrid to Rome.

“It was really about adjusting and I made too many unforced errors in the first part. I tried to hit too many winners, so I was fortunate to get back into the second set. I look forward to improving for the next match too.”

Sharapova relishes playing on the courts of Rome and joked about the 40 steps with a huff and a puff that she needed to climb to access the press room, but revealed that her favourite court is Pietrangeli as it has all of the statues around the edge as she feels it is ‘true to the city.’

During the press conference, Sharapova was asked some revealing questions about her life outside of tennis and her personality and offered thoughts on what she thought were positive and negative traits about herself:

“Well, I am extremely stubborn and in a way it’s good because I am very involved in things and I suppose that I am always in control – but sometimes this is a weakness as I think I should really back off.”

On a positive note, Sharapova managed to find some positive traits and feels that her humbleness is important as ‘a lot of small things’ in her life make her feel passionate:

“I have always been good at finding the positive side of this [her career] and this is what has made me the player I am and the person that I am today. I don’t take no for an answer and I keep going and fighting for what I believe is right.”

Maria Sharapova has no problem ordering food here in Italy as she can speak a few words of Italian thanks to her fiancé who always tells her how to say words and pronounce them properly. She reeled off a list of words such as dove fai, cosa fai and cosa mangiamo (in a very convincing accent may I add – not that I would know, but it sounded good!)

As soon as her fiancé was mentioned, Sharapova was asked about her wedding and if it will be a lavish or intimate affair and with a big smile on her face, she said:

“I think it will be an intimate wedding but we know so many people. Anyway I haven’t sent out the invitations yet…”

We shall all be waiting for our invite Maria!

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.