Rome 2010 Men’s Final Preview

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The semi finals of the 2010 Rome Internazionali BNL d’Italia men’s singles event provided a big turn around match a huge 2 hour and 47 minute 3 set battle. The 2010 Rome Men’s Singles final will be played today on Campo Centrale at 4pm local time in Rome between defending champion Rafael Nadal and the man who has won more matches this year than any other player, David Ferrer.

The 1st semi final was an all Spanish encounter between No.6 seed Fernando Verdasco and No.13 seed David Ferrer which saw the favourite race out to a 5-1 lead in the 1st set. Verdasco looked confident and was aided by the fact that his older opponent seemed very nervous. The 28 year old Ferrer was missing a large number of 1st serves, making frequent unforced errors from his favourite shot, his forehand and having great difficulty in returning Verdasco’s heavily spun 2nd serves.

Verdasco did not feel he was playing well even when he was up 5-1, in the post match interview he said, “Against a player like David, yes, I was at 5-1 but I was making some mistakes and I wasn’t playing a good game. After, he became solid and started moving the ball around the court and it was very hard for me and I was missing a lot of balls.”

In a big turn around that seemed unlikely given Ferrer’s level of play, the 1.75m former World No.4 reeled off 8 games in a row to take the 1st 7-5 and lead 2-0 in the 2nd set. The 2007 US Open semi finalist turned the match around by cutting out almost all of his unforced errors, regaining the feel for his forehand and working out how to return Verdasco’s heavily spun serves. Verdasco on the other hand panicked once he failed to serve out the 1st set, which resulted in a substantial increase in his unforced error tally.

Verdasco mostly went for heavily spun serves instead of using his point ending power serve, because the spin serves worked so well for him initially. Verdasco battled with fatigue, which from the way he ran around the court, looked more like mental fatigue and in an effort to keep up with Ferrer’s increased level of play, really pressed for winners by hitting too close to the lines and before opening up the court. Ferrer took the 2nd set 6-3 to win in 90 minutes taking him into his 1st Masters 1000 final.

Pictured above is 21 year old Latvian Ernests Gulbis about to fire his racquet to the ball with his point ending forehand drive. Gulbis took Nadal to 4 all in the final set before Nadal triumphed and once he won 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 he showed how much the win meant to him after the intense semi final. Nadal said afterwards, “I was happy because I’m in the final of one of the most important tournament in the world and winning a very hard match.”

When asked about his on court reaction after the victory Nadal said, ” I stayed focused from the first set. It wasn’t easy to play against Ernests because he plays so aggressive, and the thing is that I put too much pressure on myself with the serve and so I started to play more defensively and stayed a good two or three metres behind the baseline. This is dangerous against a player like him who can pack a lot of power in the ball and you are in his hands. That is what happened for a long time during the match and I’m going to have to be much better tomorrow if I want to win.”

The 1.9m Gulbis hit over 50 clean winners against Nadal on clay which is an indication of the type of firepower he possesses with his forehand, his serve and his ability to finish some points at the net. The match was on rising star’s racquet as he dictated a high percentage of the points. Nadal benefited from the fact that Gulbis has not yet learned how to utilise his forehand weapon in a consistent manner. Whilst he hit numerous shots that were too good for Nadal he also made far too many unforced errors through incorrect shot selections. If Gulbis can hone this aspect of his game he will be very successful for a number of years to come.

After the match Gulbis gave his account of what happened, “I started bad and in the first set I was a little nervous against him. In the second set I got into the game and I was playing much better. I got my backhand working, my forehand and my serve too, and I think he was pretty frightened to play on my forehand because I was pushing the ball quite hard and I was also dictating the pace.” Gulbis will have a career high ranking on Monday and this semi final was his best result of his career.

Nadal will be the overwhelming favourite to win his 5th Rome final and tie Andre Agassi with a record total of 17 Masters 1000 titles. Nadal does not feel his form was good enough in the semi final to win, however Ferrer is very clear about what he needs to do in the final. Ferrer said, “Nadal is the best player on clay, so I’ll try and do my best and I will need to play very aggressively against him.” It will be interesting to see how Ferrer executes his concept of playing very aggressively.

Nadal has won their past 6 matches in a row and leads 10-3 overall. The pair will be playing for a 3rd time this year in Masters 1000 events. In Monte-Carlo Nadal won 6-2 6-3. To reverse that result Ferrer needs to push Nadal deep behind the baseline, then keep him on the defensive by controlling the points in order to create opportunities to finish off points in a variety of ways, including with his forehand, drop shots and forays to the net.

Ferrer pronounced Fuh-rare, in his best result in a Grand Slam, made the 2007 US Open semi finals where he defeated Nadal in round of 16. 2007 was Ferrer’s his best year and concluded with him qualifying for the end of year championships for the 1st and only time. In the round robin matches against the Top 8 players in the world he defeated: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Richard Gasquet and Andy Roddick before taking Roger Federer to the final deciding set in the final before being defeated.

Ferrer has won 8 ATP World Tour singles titles and will be playing his 17th singles final. Ferrer leads the ATP Tour in 2010 with the most singles wins and is 29-8 whereas Nadal is in 4th place on the tour with a 25-4 record this year.

Ferrer snapped Verdasco’s streak of 3 wins in a row against him…Ferrer is playing at, or better than he ever has, so given the last time he was consistently playing at this level he beat Nadal both times that they played, today, will be Ferrer’s best chance to cause a major upset. Prediction: Ferrer.

Stay tuned to this tennis website for further information about Rome. For more details click-> Rome 2010: Apr 24 – May 8.

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