Nadal wins dazzling slugfest over Ferrer
You wouldn’t want to have been a tennis ball getting clobbered about court in this high velocity encounter Tuesday that sent Rafael Nadal through to the quarterfinals of the Sony Ericsson Open.
Ouch! The balls used for this match that saw Nadal emerge as a 7-6, 6-4 winner over David Ferrer will go back into their cans for re-sale battered and bruised. Is it possible to hit a ball harder with a tennis racket? Probably not. A large, often stunned, but always noisy crowd basking in the Miami sunshine gasped time and again as 15-, 16-, 20-stroke rallies sent the ball flashing back and forth across the net at speeds that defied the eye.
It’s talent and timing that allows players of this caliber to produce such amazing tennis, of course, but it is also the Big Banger strings which have transformed the game over the past decade. They take so much spin that baseliners like Nadal and Ferrer can take mighty swings at the ball, safe in the knowledge that, if their timing is right, it will stay in court.
There was one instance in the second set when the pro-Nadal crowd let out sighs of dismay as a huge, lofted forehand seemed to be sailing long. But Rafa had imparted so much spin on his shot that it dipped at the last moment and landed smack on the baseline.
Slugfests between these two Spaniards are nothing new. They were meeting for the 12th time and now Nadal has won nine of their encounters. But the muscular, 17th-ranked Ferrer is rarely easy to beat. In fact, for a typical clay-courter, he has a remarkable record on hard courts, having reached the semifinals here in successive years (2005-06) and the U.S. Open semifinal the following year when he beat Nadal in four sets in the Round of 16.
Today, the first set could have gone either way, and for much of it Nadal was just hanging in there, trying to make sure that he could get on the end of Ferrer’s raking drives. Another huge rally developed on set point at 6-5 in the breaker, which Rafa eventually won by forcing his opponent to put a forehand wide.
After that Nadal always looked the likely winner and showed his class by ending one of the most superlative rallies you will ever see by suddenly moving forward into his backhand and undercutting a high-bouncing ball, turning it into a winning drop shot with sweet precision. The place went nuts.
Mardy Fish had a sad day. His suffered a leg spasm out on the Grandstand Court and, and after a long period of courtside treatment, he was unable to continue, defaulting to Mikhail Youzhny of Russia after the first set.
“A little bit of bad luck, obviously,” said Fish, who has been feeling great recently as a result of a strict diet. “I lost the feeling in my leg for a couple of minutes,” he explained. “Then I got it back at the changeover. Just excruciating pain. I mean, I was doubled over. I could hardly breathe. I thought maybe in two games I would get it back. But it never loosened up. Just tightened up so much I could hardly walk.”
Meanwhile, Mardy’s pal Andy Roddick was extricating himself from a 1-4, 0-40 situation against the German Benjamin Becker (no relation to Boris). Roddick managed to come through to win 7-6, 6-3 by improving his first service ratio and staying positive.
“He came out aggressive and ready to play from the first ball,” said Roddick. “I was maybe looking to work my way into the match a little bit more than he afforded me. But then my serve slowly started inching its way up. At 0-30 it’s nice to be able to make some first serves.”
Roddick, who will now meet Spain’s Nicolas Almagro, will be playing an exhibition doubles with Jim Courier here on Friday night to raise money for the Chilean earthquake fund. Roddick played down his willingness to help good causes but he is never slow to step up when he feels something needs to be done.
“Even if things go great and I’m in the final here, I’ll still play because it’s necessary and what needs to be done. It’s above what we do. It’s bigger than a tennis match.”