Rules are made to be broken
I’ll probably come across as a complete curmudgeon for focussing on the negatives after such an enjoyable match, but Rafael Nadal’s four set victory over Tomas Berdych once again proved what a joke basic rule enforcement in tennis has become.
Both players regularly took over 40 seconds between points yet neither received a single warning.
I’m not in favour of a shot clock as players should be allowed some discretion after a brutal 30 shot rally after four hours on court but it really damages the spectacle when both players are operating at such a snail’s pace.
The match also featured one of the most flagrant examples of illegal coaching you’re ever likely to see when Toni Nadal leapt to his feet with the match poised at 2-2 and deuce in the third set and apparently urged his nephew to step forward in the court to return the serve.
Rafa obliged, hit his first convincing return in an age and went on to secure a vital break. Toni’s intervention arguably changed the course of the match. It’s cheating, plain and simple, and it’s rampant.
Given that it was caught on camera, Nadal will probably receive a fine but a couple of thousand dollars is hardly a deterrent when the spoils of victory are so high.
Just as disturbing was the reaction, or lack thereof, from the Eurosport commentary team and in media reports from the match. It was remarked upon but there was little in the way of real criticism, as if it’s become an accepted part of the game.
Pat Cash wrote recently about abuse of the medical time out rule. It’s just one of many. It’s time to start enforcing the rules of the game or scrap them altogether.
Berdych’s volley folly
Berdych is normally one of the better volleyers in sport but he had a bit of a horror show against Nadal.
Most notably he squandered a glorious chance for a two sets to love lead when he a pushed one into the tramlines at set point in the second set tiebreak.
It wasn’t a sitter by any means but would have been food and drink for a natural net player and was the type of chance you need to convert to get the better of a player like Nadal at this level.
Despite so many botched efforts, his stats at the net were impressive overall, which just goes to show that it’s a good tactic against Nadal once you’re prepared to accept that you will be regularly burned by miracle running passes.
It will be fascinating to see if Roger Federer is finally able to throw off the shackles in a slam match and attack the net with the regularity that the Czech did.
Nadal injury speculation is undoubtedly the most tedious debate in modern tennis. Seriously, it’s as excruciating as it is interminable.
If you’re capable of shots like this then there’s not a whole lot wrong with your movement:
Del Potro still lacks belief
There was more evidence in his straight set defeat to Roger Federer that Juan Martin Del Potro still doesn’t believe in his ability to beat the very best once again.
Early in the second set there were a few signs that the tide was turning in his favour until serving at 1-2 in he threw in what was surely one of the most ridiculous games ever played by a top player.
It included playing an out ball, leaving an in ball, a double fault and a drop shot that screamed “I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing out here.” He was finally broken by a Federer backhand winner and that was that.
Tennis is all about match-ups
Bookmakers make Roger Federer a pretty heavy favourite to beat Rafael Nadal in their semi-final encounter but I have no idea why.
The Spaniard leads the head to head at slams 7-2 and is still the worst possible match up for the Swiss world number three.
Nadal will still pummel the Federer backhand on the Rod Laver Arena’s slow, high bouncing surface and the weight of the head to head will still weigh on Federer at key moments.
I hope I’m proven wrong and Federer can at least make Nadal bring his best to beat him (which has rarely been the case in the past) but it looks like another ugly, anti-climactic and routine Nadal win to me.