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Roger leaves town as #2; Vika Busted by Serena; Rome Mini-Preview

Roger def. Berdych

May 13, 2012 | 09:27 PM

Fed v Berdych (Re-cap)

A fast start by the Czech kept Roger off balance, and he was unable to recover from an early break in his first service game. Roger's best effort on return games was to reach 30 all once, in spite of a 1st serve percentage which never reached 50% for Berdych (and ended at 42% in the set) while Roger pounded in 71%. The Czech didn't make an unforced error in the entire set, and moved comfortably on the blue stuff, hitting winning cross court forehands on the dead run, attacking and counter-punching with success. Outside of his serves, Roger wasn't successful hurting Berdych often enough from the baseline.

In the 2nd set Tomas played a poor service game at 0-1 and Roger went up 3-0 without elevating his game, but Berdych then resumed causing problems for the Swiss in rallies that went past a quick exchange. Rog fought off challenges on his service game at 4-2 to go up 5-2, but had a chance to close out the set when he served at 5-3 and earned a first set point at 40-30. A beautiful long point by both players ensued, with Fed reaching the net and being forced into error by brilliant defense. Two more strong points by Berdych with a winning forehand sealed the break. Rog steadied himself at 5-5 and held with more strong serving, and at 5-6 scored with two up-the-line BH winners to go up 15-40. A nervous 2nd serve in the net gave Rog the set 7-5.

The 3rd set began with Berdych still forcing Rog to save his service games, first from 15-40, and then twice from 0-30:

- A Berdych BH return up-the-line at 30-40 barely missed and kept Rog from starting in a hole; a couple of FH winners later, Rog was safe at 1-0

- Rog played some perfect tennis to make it close on Berdych's serve,

- At 30-40 at 1-1, Rog saved the break with another service winner, followed by a swinging volley/overhead combo and a 2nd service winner to get him to 2-1.

- Berdych held without as much difficulty, and on Rog's serve it was service winners and aggressive play which got him out of trouble the third time

At 3-3, Rog finally held without such a fight, and got to a 40-0 lead on Berdych's serve. Tomas, who was finally finding the range with more first serves, erased the deficit with 3 straight aces. Oddly, he then lost the game with two straight double faults.

Next, it was Roger's turn to give back, prolonging a contest which only the nervous wished to see end soon. After 31 games, the two men were tied and had won an identical number of total points, with identical winning percentages on serve and return games. Like rivals, these two men can bring out the best in each other. But end it did, with Fed winning on his 4th match point after Tomas had again come back from 0-40 on his serve.

Final result: Fed wins 3-6, 7-5, 7-5.

It may have been the first Madrid final without Rafa, and it may have been a different brand of tennis that won on the blue clay, but for all the belly-aching of the stars about the risk of slipping, nothing but a ranking was hurt: #2 became #3. By winning today Roger passed Rafa in The Race to London this year by a few points and is now within a few hundred points of Joker, a fact of which Rog said he was unaware of as recently as yesterday.

By focusing on re-capturing the #1 ranking in men's tennis, Federer seems to have been able to forget about his competition with career rival Rafa for #2. Maybe this was a good thing - it's working for him so far.

Other Men's Rankings Changes after Madrid

- Del Potro moved up to the #9 ranking, ahead of Americans Fish (#10) and Isner (#11).

- Ferrer moved into 4th place in The Race ahead of Murray

ROME Preview (Men)

- RAFA will face Raonic if the Canadian can beat Mayer; he has Berdych in his quarter, Ferrer/Murray in his half

- JOKER will see Tomic in his first match if the Aussie beats a qualifier; he has Del Potro/Tsonga in his quarter, Fed/Tipsarevic in his half


Vika Busted by Serena

Madrid offered Serena's dream conditions on clay, perhaps. With a fast surface and Miami level heat of 90 degrees for the final, add in the high altitude, the only thing that went wrong for Serena was her wardrobe, which delayed the start with a melt-down/malfunction. Maybe she'd been practicing on sand on South Beach, because the slippery blue clay didn't slow her down on her way to only her 6th clay career title (her first since beating her sister in the Roland Garros final in 2002).

Serving at only 50% in the 1st set, Serena none-the-less won 4 quick games with her pace before Vika could find the court with a serve or a return. After holding at 0-4, Vika earned her only break chance in the set but failed to close and dropped her serve with costly errors to lose the set 1-6, compiling 4 double faults and 6 errors with 2 winners to Serena's 4 aces and 7 winners, including beautiful down-the-line BH's and a running FH winner.

The 2nd set started almost as badly for Vika as she went down 0-3, bashing her racquet into the blue clay as she sensed the 2nd break coming. While she solidified her tennis to hold serve to 1-3 and went up 30-0 on Serena's serve courtesy of errors, a couple of aces returned the balance to Serena. Vika's first winner of the set (3rd in the match to Serena's 20 thus far) got hr back to deuce, but that was as far as she got. A love service hold at 1-4 kept the match alive, but at 4-2 Serena returned the favor, finishing an easy game with her 14th ace.

The final ended with a punctuation mark fitting the match and the blue clay: a 2nd serve ace that took a wild bounce over Vika's head to capture another love game and the title.

For Serena, this win moved her up to #6 from 9 in the rankings. Too bad for her sake that clay didn't change colors 10 years ago.

For Vika, this loss, 6-1, 6-3, was little worse than her final loss to Maria in her last clay event (6-1, 6-4). But having reached the final and said she'd had a good tournament, odds are she won't be able to add her soprano to the chorus of defeated big stars shrieking about the blue clay.

In ROME, Vika will see Serena again sooner than she'd like (in her half; Serena only needs to knock off Wozniacki again on the way). A win there might restore the #1's confidence, even if it didn't allow comparisons of blue to red or begin another winning streak. Serena may have something to say about that.


Madrid ATP, WTA 5.13.12

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