Madrid: Wonky Bottom Half of Draw

Del Potro d. Cilic, 6-2 6-4

Photo: AP Photo

Hard-hitting groundies.  Level 10 crankiness from both sides.  Remonstrating and arguing with chair ump Fergus Murphy.    This match was entertaining.

DelPo-Cilic matches involve plays from the baseline.  One difference is that DelPo plays with more margin and he’s generally better on serve and the BH wing (although DelPo’s not an A+ student on serve, he’s been improving his %).  Cilic was serving at lower than 40% in the 1st set and that quickly worked to his disadvantage.

Credit to Cilic though for trying different tactics.  He made what felt like a thousand dropshots, which always caught DelPo off-balance.

The second reason this match was entertaining was the drama.  At Indian Wells, Cilic was unhappy with the time DelPo took to challenge, while DelPo was unhappy because the umpire couldn’t see the ball in the sunlight.  This led to an exchange where Cilic was talking to the ump, who was busily trying to answer DelPo’s own complaints.

In the Madrid match, DelPo’s unease on the blue clay manifested itself.  Cilic found big 1st serves to save SPs and hold.  DelPo smacked the ball angrily in the direction of somewhere.  This was the first sign that he was not necessarily walking on clouds.

After taking the 1st set 6-2, DelPo then had a chance to break in the 2nd set, when he fought his way from 40-0 to deuce.  Cilic hit an unreturnable winner, at which point DelPo took another mighty post-point swing at the ball.  Someone on Twitter described it as an “Anger Pirouette” and they are right.

DelPo was then distracted by a net call that he thought he heard.  He remonstrated with the ump, and smacked the net with his racquet.  The crankiness was slowly rising.

Later, they played a point where DelPo hit a defensive lob and stood there waiting to see where Cilic would go.  Cilic apparently felt that DelPo had conceded the point.  I’ve watched the replay and I don’t think Cilic had a case—chair ump Fergus Murphy told Cilic that he’d been watching DelPo closely too, to make sure he wasn’t “conceding” the point.  However, this non-incident heightened Cilic’s own grumpiness.

There was a lot of angry guttural screaming from Cilic, who finally relented and smashed his racquet on the court, shortly after losing his serve in the 2nd set.

Cilic with his broken racquet (Photo: Getty Images)

Unlike DelPo’s previous match, he had no trouble closing out the match this time.  The short match highlights clip that followed was hilarious — they showed maybe 2 points in total — the rest was a compilation of DelPo looking like he wanted to punch someone, Cilic roaring into the existential void, both players doing their rendition of the “Anger Pirouette,” and then arguing with the ump.  Both DelPo and Cilic are so quiet and pleasant in person, so the tension in their matches is a nice contrast.

DelPo’s now into the QF, where he faces Dolgo (who defeated Tsonga).  DelPo defeated Dolgo earlier this year in Dubai, and Dolgo is making his way back from a brief injury layoff.  However, Dolgo’s slices and pace-changing will be a very troublesome factor for DelPo—DelPo needs to channel his grumpiness into positive winning energy, or angry winning energy (I think a 50-50 split between positivity and anger would be great).


Verdasco d. Nadal, 6-3 3-6 7-5

In other news, last year’s finalist Rafa was upset by fellow Spaniard Fer Verdasco in R3.  I only caught snippets of this match, but it proved to be an encounter reminiscent of their Cincinnati meeting last year.  Apart from the epic AO SF they played in 2009, the Rafa-Fer match-up is generally a wild up-and-down affair that induces cringing and facepalms.

James LaRosa describes it best:

Rafa was up a double break in the 3rd set, which makes it more astounding that 1) He would lose after having that advantage and 2) Fer would keep his head long enough to win the match.

Photo: Getty Images

I’m not sure this result “means” much in the full scheme of things.  Rafa has clearly been very unhappy with the playing conditions in Madrid — even without the blue clay, Madrid is well-known for its controversial playing conditions.  The extra time Rafa now has to prepare for Rome will likely mean that Rafa will be back “at home” on the red clay.

Photo: Getty Images

Sidenote: Rafa’s loss means DelPo has a higher chance of going far in Madrid.  The winner of DelPo-Dolgo faces the winner of Berdy-Fer in the SF.  I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but in terms of caliber of opponents, DelPo’s path to the Madrid final is on the same level as the 250-draws he’s successfully navigated this year.  This is a great time for DelPo to capitalize on a good chance here.


About mariposaxprs

I play favorites with Juan Martin Del Potro, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, David Ferrer, Feliciano Lopez, Gilles Simon and the long line of mercurial talent that drives me to despair in front of the screen at odd hours during the week.
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4 Responses to Madrid: Wonky Bottom Half of Draw

  1. Iram says:

    honestly, delpo would have gone far either way whether Rafa is there or not. Rafa is so “bleeping” abt this court for so long! Now he’s going to boycott it next year or until they change it back. Dunno if this is bad sportsmanship. (To some degree it is). Fed had a VERY tough time with Milos first round. He wasn’t comfortable with the surface either…but you don’t hear Roger complaining about it. The point is Roger found a way to win on the blue stuff. And all great athletes will give it their all (case in point Fer today) when they want to win.

    0-12 H2H Ferru- Fed tomorrow. 🙂 I dunno what to say. I love both and will be happy for either.

    🙂 take care. looking forward to ur semifinal post

    • mariposaxprs says:

      Madrid this year is such a roller-coaster. I guess Rafa’s criticisms drew the most attention b/c it’s a home tournament. To be fair, Fed also said after his close win over Raonic, that the reason he chose to serve & volley so much was b/c the baseline conditions on the court were uneven. I think quite a few other players said similar things, but Fed did well to change his tennis tactics and pull off the win.

      I agree, I think it was poor form for Rafa to announce that he wouldn’t play next year. It’s one thing for him to think it & then quietly pull Madrid off his schedule, but to announce that right after he lost the match — it conveys a confusing message. He’s giving credit to his opponent while also taking away the credit by essentially saying that the tournament is too ridiculous for him…what does that make of the players left in the draw? Madrid’s altitude and the pace of the clay have always been problematic for Rafa—I think the change to blue clay pushed him over the edge a little bit, in terms of his press comments. I look forward to seeing a happier Rafa in Rome 🙂

      If Fer can break a losing streak to Rafa, then Ferru has even more chances to break his losing streak against Fed!! I insist 🙂 I hope it ends up being a close match–I’d be happy with whoever won too!!!

      • Candy says:

        tbh, I’m a bit annoyed by the players who complains about it that heavily everyday. I understand players need to make some complaints, esp. when the surface is dangerous! But, I mean, why didn’t they complain that heavily about the Monte Carlo’s surface which has holes everywhere and some players got injuried because of it?

        AND also it seems the problem is the surface itself, not the colour. But it seems they blame ALL the problems on the “blue” while the “blue” has nothing to do with those problems?! I understand players don’t like the fact that ATP can make decisions themselves. But it’s also terrible that a few TOP players have all the power to threaten anything and force ATP to change something they don’t like.

        Also, some players said the court is unplayable or whatever. So what are the other players doing then? They take away all the credits from the players who adapt it well and play good tennis.

        • mariposaxprs says:

          Exactly, I think there’s a clear difference between raising a legitimate complaint about the court surface and quickly dismissing the content of your argument by going for dramatic statements. Though I am a definite fan of Rafa, I can’t understand why he said the things he did during his pressers. It’s even more puzzling to me, because Rafa is usually the player who’s most willing to adapt to changing external factors. Given how opposed he was to the blue clay before, I have a feeling that maybe his mindset wasn’t as open as it could have been before Madrid started.

          It’s a difficult argument, b/c there are changes to the court that need to be made. But this week, I have more admiration for the players who took the attitude that, “This court isn’t perfect, but we have to do what we can to adapt”—Ferru is probably the clearest example of such a player—he hit so many more winners than usual in the tournament.

          Overall, a tournament that ends with 4 of the top 10 seeds in the SFs and a Fed-Berdy final can’t be as horrible as some people make it out to be.

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