The 2 best players from Spain, David Ferrer and Rafael Nadal (above).
Doug Adler had said it, and we all had to be thinking it, that if Nicolas Almagro was ever in position to pull the upset and grab a W against Nadal, then last night was the night. Almagro is very comfortable on the Acapulco clay, is a two time past champion, and of his 12 titles and 6 runner-ups, all have come on clay. Almagro has hardly looked better than this year, in which he made the quarters in Melbourne and has gotten his ranking all the way up to #9. And Nadal has hardly looked worse. We do not care that he is 12-1. He isn’t playing clean tennis, he’s laboring, and guys at least have a chance against him, and they can feel it. Almagro had his crack, with a break point/set point while up 5-4 in the 1st. Almagro has a greatly bolstered chance there last night if he gets up 1-0 in sets. Then again, the absolute gutless wimp that he is, he’d probably blow that, the way he blew that break point, the way he blew that 2 sets and a break lead over Ferrer in Melbourne, the way he usually blows all of his chances in non 500 level clay events. But the match was competitve, and really, if you are apologizing or excuse making for Rafa right now, as so many are, the bottom line is this: he is no longer unbeatable on clay. Novak Djokovic much be licking his chops thinking about that first RG title and the completion of the career slam, which we bet he can just about taste.
If Almagro is gutless then countryman David Ferrer is the opposite. Ferrer, who gutted out the win against Almagro, when he pulled that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide routine in the Melbourne quarters, did what he has to do sometimes to win. He hung in until the choke light turned on in Almagro’s cabin. Ferrer, an absolute beast of a competitor, played one of the worst matches of his career last May, in losing to Nadal in a meek 3 sets at Roland Garros, 6-2, 6-2, 6-1. It’s not often that a Ferrer makes a major semi, and to get bounced so unceremoniously was a big disappointment.
We don’t see how that wouldn’t be on Ferrer’s mind tonight. Like with Almagro last night, you have to wonder if Ferrer doesn’t beat Nadal in this spot, will he really ever? Ferrer trails the h2h 16-4 and has lost 12 out of the last 13 matchups in the rivalry. Tonight’s odds:
Abierto Mexicano Telcel (Alcapulco, Mexico) — Men’s Final
David Ferrer: + 165
Rafael Nadal: – 210
Though the matchup has been a nightmare for Ferrer of late, he does hold two important distinctions against Nadal. He has beaten him on clay, though not since 2004, and he is the only guy aside from Federer, Djokovic, and Murray to defeat Nadal twice in a major (2011 Aussie, 2007 USO).
We think Ferrer has a healthy shot here. Ferrer has made a living off of the South/Central American clay court swing in his career. He’s the defending champ and he is a flat out great early season player. We respect Ferrer’s game. For a guy 5’9, he absolutely gets everything out of his ability. For a grinder, we respect the way he does not cede his spot right on the baseline, rather than floating well beyond the court like Nadal. Much harder to hit the ball early, on the rise, like Ferrer does, than to do what Nadal does. And Nadal looks kind of gimpy. The 25 second rule is obviously bothering him, a strange timeout after set one last night has us wondering, and Nadal is out of shape, as evidenced by the amount he is sweating, which seems unnatural.
While the 2 are friends, we sense a serious distaste for Nadal’s routines with Ferrer, who is a fierce competitor. We know for a fact that Nadal’s pre-match routines, jogging around the court, and aligning the bottles, irk Ferrer. We also feel that Ferrer likes to play fast and Nadal slow, and that Ferrer doesn’t always think Nadal is playing up to the speed of the server in return games. These are some interesting side stories going into tonight’s match. As is also the line, which is notoriously low for Rafa on clay, which tells us that Vegas doesn’t believe in him very much right now.