Del Potro d. Cilic, 6-2 6-4
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.
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:
Nadal & Verdasco. I've never seen two players bring out both the absolute best and absolute worst in each other. It's like they're married.—
James LaRosa (@JamesLaRosa) May 10, 2012
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.
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.
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.