This is a tale of two very different QF matches —
Federer d. Del Potro 6-3 6-2
So this match was a bit of a blow-out.
I thought it would be competitive, given how closely DelPo played Fed in Dubai, and also on account of Fed being under-the-weather.
The 1st game of the match turned out to be crucial. They played a 12-minute game on Fed’s serve and DelPo had BP chances there. Then, the Hawk-Eye drama happened. On GP, Fed hit an ace that was called in, which DelPo challenged. Fed moved to the other side of the court, indicating that he thought his serve was out as well. However, a faulty internet connection meant Hawk-Eye was not available for the review.
Fed held serve and DelPo went on a lengthy tirade at umpire Mo.
DelPo takes his frustrations out on Hawk-Eye later in the match. He mimicked shooting a rifle at the screen.
Unfortunately, that was the turning point for the match (for DelPo), because he certainly let that moment get to him. During the changeover after the 3rd game, he told Mo something to the effect of “This changes everything, I can’t play now.” When Mo acknowledged his mistake in not overruling the original call, that only further irritated DelPo, who asked the question of why Mo hadn’t been quicker to admit his mistake.
I feel for DelPo here, as he was very unfortunate. It was the 1st game of the match, they were playing for 12 minutes, and the serve was indeed out. However, the fact that he placed so much importance on that moment, so early on in the match, also shows where his mental state is at against Fed. It was a bit distressing to see DelPo implode after that.
Sadly, the rest of the match was not too remarkable. Fed was not at his best but DelPo was far more error-prone. Fed charged ahead with the dropshots, his time-proven strategy against DelPo. He closed out the match comfortably at 6-2 in the 2nd.
DelPo was wearing heavy taping on his shoulder (as he was in Dubai) and his 1st serves weren’t too impressive. He still has Miami and Davis Cup to play, and then a 2-3 week break before defending Estoril. I think dropping one of the 3 commitments would be smart, given the exhaustion/listlessness he’s been showing of late.
- Delpo was careful not to attribute his loss to that Hawk-Eye incident in the 1st game. Still, most of the questions in his presser were about that incident. Ultimately, he made a sarcastic joke about IW not having enough money to have properly functioning Hawk-Eye on the courts. Oh snap! So we can assume DelPo won’t be getting a Christmas card from owner Larry Ellison. Ellison’s more a fan of the top 3 players anyhow.
- Fed mentioned in passing that he felt DelPo was having trouble with his shoulder, which makes the potential problem even more worrisome.
Nadal d. Nalbandian, 4-6 7-5 6-4
The level of the 2nd QF between Nalby and Rafa more than compensated for the somewhat lackuster FeDelPo match.
Nalby has been playing great tennis this week. What’s impressed me in his wins over Cilic, Tipsy and Tsonga was his fighting spirit and his ability to overcome a mid-match hurdle. He was striking the ball cleanly, while hitting through his BH and playing with assurance. Rafa played nervously in the 1st set and credit goes to Nalby for keeping him under pressure. On a beautiful dropshot and then FHDTL, Nalby broke to take the 1st set.
On his serve, it felt like Nalby had the match on his racquet — while Rafa found his zone and had many comfortable service holds, there were many instances where Nalby was pressuring Rafa into defending. In the 2nd and 3rd sets, Rafa’s ability to play the big points was the differentiating factor. Nalby was playing at a high level in this match, but he made a few bad choices that will linger in my mind for a long time — that too casual volley when serving to stay in the 2nd set, the DF that gave Rafa the 2nd set, and the ill-advised dropshot attempt when he had BPs to level the match at 5-5 in the 3rd.
After going down a double break, Nalby still put up a fight. Rafa, who’s had trouble closing out matches in IW, got broken serving for the match. Nalby had his chance to level the 3rd set, but that costly DS error erased his chances.
Overall, there are two ways to view this match. On one hand, Nalby gave an excellent account of himself and showed why he’s such an admired tennis player. His BH is among the best of his generation (even Rob Koenig agrees!) and his touch at the net was amazing to witness. On the other hand, WHY-NALBY-WHY. Why that DS on BP in the 3rd?
In his presser, Rafa admitted to being nervous but he ended up playing the big points better, as is his way. Credit to Rafa for that. Rafa’s now into the SF, where he will face Fed.
There was a tragi-hilarious moment at the end, when Rafa chased after Nalby, post-handshake, to ask if he was alright. Nalby and Rafa are long-time friends, so this was a good-hearted gesture on Rafa’s part. Still, in the circumstances (it was seconds after the end of the match), it was pretty awkward. No one wants to chat to their opponent right after losing a close match like that. Nalby had allegedly kicked over his chair after the match, so the sight of Rafa standing right behind him must have been super-discomfiting. Finally, Nalby gave a thumbs-up to Rafa, who took the signal and backed away.
Rafa, the brave soul who dares to pat Nalby’s shoulder.