Saturday, April 20, 2013

The finals are set for Monte Carlo

I'm sure everyone is shocked to be having a Nadal-Djokovic Monte Carlo final (note major sarcasm!).  Before the tournament started my attitude was almost like "why even watch - we already know who is going to win."  However, along the with the most gorgeous view in tennis, there have also been some tantalizing matches, along with some drama to make things interesting.

Djokovic began his trip to the final very slowly, dropping the first set in his second and third matches.  There was much speculation on how his ankle was really healing (leftover from his impressive win in Davis Cup after twisting it in the first set).  Was it the injury causing the problem, or was he just having a hard adjustment to clay?  In each of those matches, however, once he got through the error prone first set he was able to pull away and win easily.  Eight time champion Nadal, on the other hand, began strong in his first couple matches, only to be really pushed in his quarterfinal against Grigor Dimitrov, dropping his first set in Monte Carlo in many years.  And very surprisingly in his semifinal against Tsonga, after a 6-3 first set he was up 5-1 in the second, looking like an incredibly routine win, when Tsonga mounted a comeback, breaking the King of Clay two times as he served for the match, saving match points along the way.  However, the luck ended there, with Nadal taking it in straight sets in a tiebreak.  I have to admit I was quite surprised, however, to see Rafa twice broken in what looked to be a routine win.

Some other noteworthy matches through the week were the Wawrinka-Murray match, where Murray only managed to win three games!  Looks like some work is needed with Mr. Lendl.  Jarko Niemenen played some impressive matches, showing some of his best tennis at 31 years old.  In his quarterfinal match against Del Potro there were some incredible points played with amazing defense against what looked like sure winners.  After two incredibly physical matches in a row, however (he also won a three-setter against Raonic in impressive fashion) he didn't have much left against Djokovic.  He will definitely be one to watch in the upcoming clay season, however.

As for the drama, how about the match between Gulbis and Monaco where Gulbis had already been warned about his behavior so many times that when he decided to slam his racquet against the umpire's chair on his way past he was penalized not just a point but in an entire game.  Get a hold of yourself Ernie!!  And what about the story that Matosevic, while playing Rafael Nadal, decided to see what would happen if he kicked over Rafa's water bottles on his way past?  In spite of Nadal's compulsive behavior to carefully arrange his bottles just so on each changeover, he was able to just laugh it off while looking to his box.  What would the tennis world be without a little drama?

So who is the favorite in the final?  Hard to say that Nadal isn't, having won it eight times in a row, but I don't want to write off the world #1, who totally had Rafa's number in the 2011 season, beating him a couple times even on the clay.  I won't hide the fact that I would love to see Djokovic begin to challenge him once again, with Rafa having won three title already since his comeback, but I'm not holding my breath.

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