Google Down the Line!: Masters of Madrid

Monday, May 9, 2011

Masters of Madrid

"My lips on this phallus? Seriously?"

Sometimes I wonder what it must feel like to step onto a tennis court, stare across the net and feel a sense of completeness. Like I know I can handle whatever my opponent throws at me be it a rifled serve, scorching groundies or the patience of a saint; that at my core I know my best is better than theirs or, at the very least, believe it is for that game, set or match.

Rafael Nadal owns this kind of rare belief. He steps in between the lines and knows that even if he can't pummel his way through an opponent, his will and desire can trump all. He's the ultimate competitor and has the ability to win a match in the locker room, as they say. But a strange thing has happened this year: The world's top baller finally has met his match in Novak Djokovic.

Although he was riding a 31-0 record heading into the Madrid final and had beaten Rafa the last two times, Nole was still considered the underdog. It was clay, not his favored hard court, and the Serb had never won a match against Rafa on the surface the lefty has dominated for years. Plus, it was being played in Rafa's backyard and home field advantage can never be counted out. But Nole has been doing the unthinkable all season long and this was no different upsetting Rafa 7-5, 6-4 to claim his sixth title and remain unbeaten in 32 matches this year. Yeah, we can talk crosscourt backhands (Nole's was LETHAL) and big serving on key points but what it all came down to, as it has in their recent matches, was belief. Nole stayed with Rafa in those long, brutal rallies where the Spaniard's champion mentality normally gains a foothold and waited for the right opportunity to go on the full attack. Even when he lost the two break advantage in the first set he never wavered or flinched.

In a tennis match you only need to be better than one other person. And when that person is Rafa and you're playing on clay and win, you know you're doing something special. Now onto Rome where Nole can grab the top ranking if he wins the title. Good grief.

"Good for you, Nole, but I ain't giving lip service to this thing."

Petra Kvitova strikes an intriguing figure. When she smiles she reveals a mouth full of metal [SELF REVELATORY ALERT: I, too, had chosen to wear those things in my early twenties. And went dateless. But I really love my teeth now...] and struts around the court with a Lindsay Davenport-esque posture and gait. I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise, then, that the girl can smack a bitch up. No, I'm not talking about Vika who she defeated 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 to win Madrid. I'm talking about the ball, the poor felty thing that she strikes so beautifully with such ease. Like Linds, her timing is impeccable causing the ball to leap off her racket with lethal precision and pace.

Vika, as hard as she hits the ball, was mostly forced into the role of retriever - not a winning game play for the Belarusian. In fact it's not a path to success for Kvits, either, which is why her Plan A of first-strike tennis in the final worked so well. Here's the flip side, though: When Plan A hits the skids we've seen some f-ugly losses from the newly-minted Top Tenner. Consistency has yet to befriend Kvits as it has with Vika recently which is why the Czech remains a work in progress. But if she gets on a HAWT streak for, say, seven straight matches over a fortnight it wouldn't surprise either.

[Photo(s): Getty Images] 

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  1. Know what's kinda crazy, Rich, that you touched on if Kvitova gets on a streak over a fortnight? I consider her more of a French favorite than Wozniacki, the number-one player in the world.

  2. Yeah, I'm not feeling so great about Wozzi's chances to win based on the fact she can't get past Jules. I mean, the German has been playing well but Woz should certainly have won one of those matches as the No. 1. She's at the mercy of a big hitting baller every time on she hits the clay and any number of big hitters on a streak could take her out.

    As for Kvits, it's a shit shoot. She's amazeballs one tourney and embarrassingly bad in the next. But ballers like her can get HAWT for seven matches and win Slams. I don't think she's a flash in the pan by any means but she's still got some maturing to do in her game.

    I like Vika's chances even though she lost. This may sound funny but I thought she lost well. Like, Vika 1.0 didn't rear her f-ugly head as she was headed for defeat. At one point she wanted to throw her racquet in disgust but she held back. It'll serve her well as we get closer to RG. She's found the right mix for her game, I think, between aggression and defense. Vika should always look to be in control but now when she's not she has more patience and variety of shot.

    That being said it's such a huge opportunity for the lady ballers. The wild card, of course, is Kimmie. What kind of form will she be in when she gets back? I'm def intrigued!


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