Here’s a little nick-nack on Rafa’s 1 and done of Dzumhur today. First of all, like we said in our little preview, Rafa is back, totally re-focused on another title with added importance, the eleventh hour, on the brink of Roland Garros and a shot at #17. Rafa does not fuck around, so this tourney should be his as he knows the significance and the consequence of losing here. Recall Rafa’s shaky confidence card that’s often nonexistent on clay. But I think we all know, including Rafa, that the field is coming.
But the nick-nack: he buried Dzumhur, no? Is Rafa just rampaging the field once again? Probably. But some recalled today on one of the Tennis Channel calls that Dzumhur has a win v the Spaniard (Miami 2016), which occurred when Rafa retired from the match. Apparently, the Bosnian celebrated as if he’d won the French Open.
Nadal does not forget such antics. This added dimension to his dominance no doubt adds to the prospects of playing the bull. Nadal thrives on this kind of intimidation and fear.
Don’t think that basket of Italian bakery goods earlier today wasn’t somehow related to that grudge. That’s how Nadal rolls, that’s his jam.
How does Shapovalov handle the Rafa rampage? Hopefully, with a slightly tempered game plan. He needs his attacking ground strokes, which will be somewhat different playing to a lefty, but he also needs to limit the gifts to a Nadal who will be looking to pounce early and often.
Shapo almost certainly will have to win from a set down. But he is the kind of player who could give Rafa some trouble given his ability to hit through the Spaniard. His desire to play these kinds of matches helps a lot too. Shapo’s play far exceeds his age. He wants this match-up, which is a huge compliment.
Another scoop on the match tomorrow is that someone saw Francisco Roig, one of Rafa’s coaches, scouting the Shapo/Haase match (meaning scouting Shapo). Brilliant.
I love the match-up. Could Rafa blank the Canadian, perhaps sympathetically only slap him around with a 3 and 3 clay clinic? Sure. But I’m more optimistically thinking we get a more mature game from Denis. No, I’m not calling for an upset, but the NextGen jam is an old-school groove and if you don’t feel it, beat it.
Next, Fognini can’t let us down now! Take care of the German and get your QF scowl ready to growl. A Foghat v Rafa QF could be good (and could be another monster win for the 1-seed seeking as much confidence as he can heading into Paris).
Who’s the other half of that top-half SF? Can Nishikori back-up his win today and out-wit the professional tennis of one Phillip Kholschreiber? I saw Kei feeling the strain in his three-setter today. I’m not saying he gifts Kholschreiber a w/o, but it wouldn’t surprise. If Kei can get to the QF, I’ll be the first to applaud the Japanese talent. I’m just not that confident in his ability to withstand these kinds of exchanges. That was a tough but solid win vs. Dimitrov. Keep it going, Kei.
Here’s my take-away from the Djokovic win today: not that impressed in terms of him making a really deep run here in Rome. He continues to look classic on one or several points, but very shaky on a few more. Some of his instincts look off, and couple that with his lack of strength, I just don’t see the kind of power and consistency needed to win as the draw strengthens. The Georgian today was mediocre and even Ramos-Vinolas is beatable for this version of Novak.
To be clear: we all (I) want Nole to seize his confident world-class form and butt-heads with Nadal in a vicious Rome SF. But this vulnerable Novak, I think, needs more time.
At the very least, watching him emote, get severely pissed at a miss here and there, is a promising sign. Hopefully the days of him losing and kissing his triumphant opponent on the cheek are behind us.
Actually, let’s slow our roll a bit: a Novak v Kei QF would be quite promising. Amen.
Down below, we have, first, the third quarter that needs a boob job. That’s just a mess in there (not a fan of boob jobs by the way). Cilic has to emerge. Bedene v Carreno Busta winner to face Paire? Although there are certain things I really like about that Frenchman’s game, we need Cilic to escape.
Lastly, we have a very decent little set-up in that final quarter with the likes of Del Potro v Goffin and Zverev v Edmund, which I highlighted a few posts ago; the Brit is rising (hopefully still). We know Zverev’s form and he probably gets through, but, like I said, beware the Brit.
More interesting for RG significance, imho, is the result of the other match. If Del Potro spanks Goffin (who may not be fully returned from his odd string-o-injury), this could at least bode well for a weekend in Rome, perhaps even more. Del Potro has the nasty to perhaps go deep in Paris. But at the very least, Zverev v Del Potro? Wowzer.
And, yes, if Goffin takes-out Juan Martin, I will gladly engulf crow.
Here we go!