This time I was able to watch and I was happy enough with what I saw, even though my stream is poor quality. Roger broke in the opening game and was looking good early on. I was almost surprised having heard that his backhand was poor in previous round, because he hit quite a few backhand down the line winners in the first set. It looked like smooth sailing, but at 5-4 when serving for the first set Roger got broken. Tursunov was playing well and it became clear that it won’t be just a routine win for Roger. The first set would be decided by a tie break where Tursunov choked twice to hand it to Roger. Once with a double fault and once with a regulation forehand I think. And I think on both occasions he was a break up. Then at the start of the second set Roger got broken at 1-1 after a surprisingly good passing shot from Tursunov.
That was surprising, but Roger hit back in the best way possible as he broke right back to love. The second set would be decided in a tie break as well and again Tursunov faltered with a double fault. In the end I wasn’t exactly impressed with Roger but again he got the job done which is the important thing. His serve basically saved him as it has done so often. With a high first serve percentage of 68% he kept enough pressure on Tursunov for the Russian to crack in the tie breaks. With the two tie break wins he improves his overall tie break record for 2014 to 3-4. The other stat that is important is again the break point conversions which is again over 50%. Also the winners outnumbered the unforced errors by 33-23, so overall very good stats for Roger. And as you can see his backhand was also much improved.
So like I told you the first match was adjustment and we would be able to tell more from the second match. It has to be said that his level has dropped since Dubai, and I attribute that to the court speed. There is no doubt in my mind about it. It is what it is and we just have to accept it, but the good news is Nadal lost to Dolgopolov so at least Roger won’t have to deal with high bouncing moon balls to his backhand. Roger said in his presser that the courts was actually playing quite fast because of the dry air, but that the ball also bounces high. He also said that he is fully adjusted to his new racquet and that it gives him extra power. So good to know that was a successful change for him. It was needed. I switched on the Nadal/Dolgopolov match when they were about to start the third set tie break.
By then Dolgopolov had already served for the match in the third set and choked, so it looked like Nadal would make yet another great escape. But it wouldn’t be third time lucky for him. He was even a break up in the breaker but couldn’t take advantage, and when Dolgopolov served for the match in the tie break he hit an ace that was challenged by Nadal and it turned out to be out by a millimeter. Very tense stuff, but thank God Dolgopolov held his nerve and won that point to send Nadal packing. Remember I told you I would be able to draw a better conclusion about Fedal after Indian Wells? Well I can now say with a lot more certainty that Nadal will probably slump again this year after the loss to Stan in Melbourne. I can also say that Roger will very likely keep peaking. This is the rhythm things have always followed and we are clearly going there again after Nadal’s loss to Dolgopolov.
Nadal still has not defended a title off clay and I won’t be surprised if he can’t do it this year either. I’m not even sure he will win the French this year. He has never won it 5 times in a row and I think the loss to Stan in Melbourne scarred him deeply. This may just be the year Nadal goes without a slam for the first time in 10 years. As for Stan he is really on fire of late. Today again he destroyed Seppi 6-0, 6-2. It was pure devastation. If he keeps this up then he may just beat Roger for only the second time in 15 meetings. But first Roger has to get by Haas and Stan by Anderson. I’m pretty sure both of them will win but of course you never know. I just think Roger has the mental edge over Haas and the same goes for Stan over Anderson. Anderson may give Stan a bit more opposition than Seppi did though since he actually has a some weapons.
The big news is of course that Nadal lost, which means that Roger’s chances to win the event already improves. I think it gives him a little emotional boost every time Nadal loses in a tournament they both play. Roger will sense his chance to make the final here and possibly win another title, but this will be a lot harder than Dubai. Murray also won but only after dropping the first set against Vesely in one of the worst men’s matches I’ve seen in some time. I think Stan is Roger’s main problem here on his road to the final but like I said Haas is not a walk over. Roger also won his doubles match with Stan against Raonic and Gulbis in two tie breaks and they will now face Paes/Stepanek who will be tough. Today the interesting matches for me will be Gulbis vs Dimitrov and Thiem vs Benneteau.
There are two new stars with exciting games on the horizon…