By no means did our first and second seeds have easy matches, but in all honesty they should have done better. The Mutua Madrid Masters was lined up to be the second tournament in 9 months where all of the top five competed together, but Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer ended that very quickly.
For Djokovic, the cries of ‘Vamos’ from the Madrid locals were not enough. His Bulgarian opponent Grigor Dimitrov was able to gain control of rallies with a perfect hit down the line. But, as usual, the powerhouse of Djokovic’s forehand levelled things out, and Dimitrov (known by some as ‘Baby Federer’) was forced to clinch the set on a tie-break. In the second set we saw more of the same, and at one point the Bulgarian was leading 4-2. However, the world number one took a lengthy interval due to injury, and soon he was back on top form – his forehands taking the second to a tie-break as well. In this one we saw a few unforced errors from Dimitrov, and we saw that once had gone for the ball, he was slow to return to the centre of the court. Therefore, the slippery Serb won the tie-break 10-8, to set up a dramatic final set. In the final set, Djokovic still had the power, but couldn’t use it. On a multitude of occasions we saw easy points netted. Furthermore, power was what it was all about, as Djokovic lacked his usual creativity. Most rallies being cross-court with no drop shots or real talent from the number one. Dimitrov deserves credit for his wonderful forehand down-the-line, and he never gives up in a rally, even when all odds are against him. The Bulgarian won the set 6-3.
Dimitrov’s determination was something that really showed in his following match with Stanislas Wawrinka. Even though he lost the match, he played well. Below is the ATP’s ‘Hot Shot’.
Roger Federer was next to fall in his match with Kei Nishikori. The 23 year-old Japanese player has admitted himself that clay is his least favorits surface. However, in their post-match interview, it was clear that the 16th ranked player knew he would have to perform well on all surfaces if he was to become a permanent fixture. From his performance against Roger Federer though, it was clear he is on the rise. In the rankings, he finished 2010 in 98th, 2011 in 25, last year in 19th, and he is currently occupying 16th. He played well with his strange inside-out’ forehands, but they work, and Federer couldn’t return them. It was one of these that got Nishikori the crucial break in the first set, which lead to him winning it 6-4. However, in the second set, Nishikori played a lot of poor and unexplained errors, and although he fought back from two break points to level it at 1-1, it didn’t last long. After a Japanese error, Federer took his first break of the match, on his sixth break point. After that, the Swiss intelligently lured the 14th seed up to the net with a drop shot, before smashing back where he’d just come from. He also put a lot more energy into it, and was able to secure it 6-1 after a further 32 minutes. It was close to exhibition tennis. At this point, most people, including myself I admit, thought Fed was going to pull off a great comeback, but we were wrong. Roger started the final set well, but after ace after ace he fell apart. His serves fell off, as his first serve percentage from 70% in the first and 76% in the second fell to just 48%. Then the Japanese player began serving, and on numerous occasions he served and Federer didn’t get it back. This won him every point in one game, and there really isn’t anything special about his serving, he only got one ace in the match compared to the loser’s seven. Roger Federer began to show classic signs of the aging tennis player. The defending champion has been knocked out to give the 14th seed a place in the quarters. Highlights below. (Excuse the ads and Spanish commentary!)
But there’s another twist to the tale, as like Dimitrov, he lost in the following round. This development from today allowed the wildcar entry Pablo Andujar a place in the Mutua Madrid Open final four.
Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray both lost the opening set of their most recent matches as well. The Spaniard won 4-6,-7-6(3) 6-0. But he was 4-2 down at a point during the second set. In turning it around and winning seven straight games he knocked Spanish number one out, and earnt himself a place in the semis. It was even closer for Andy Murray though, as he survived a few match points showing his usual grit and determination to come back and win. The problem with him against Frenchman Giles Simon was I think pressure, as he failed to convert 15 of 18 break points – that’s 83%. Still, he won it 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(6) to gain a place in a quarter-final with Tomas Berdych – which is underway as I write this. If he wins he will play either Stanislas Wawrinka or Jo-Wilfred Tsonga in the semi.
Thanks for reading, and as usual, comments and improvements would be much appreciated! – Jacob Lee