Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Separating Nadal from the boys

You can debate the hows and whys, but you can't deny the conclusion. Rafa Nadal is unbeatable right now. He's laying down breadsticks, and it's the quarterfinals! Today's victim was Nicolas Almagro. (It's funny watching these guys play Nadal at the French. Nadal starts a little slow, and his opponents win the first game and you can see the hope in their eyes. They blink, and the set's over. They blink again, and they're shaking hands). After Hamburg, where Nadal had a heckuva match with Djokovic, and then Federer, it seemed as though Nadal could be a touch vulnerable. Is he?
His semifinal opponent is set, and it is Djokovic. (I have to say this: Hey, Novak! I normally don't address these sorts of issues, but would you please purchase a bottle of hair gel? Every time I watch you play, before I can even ponder how solid your game is, I have to get past that ... eraserhead 'do. This is how I know you don't have a girlfriend. Who would let you walk around like that? Have you considered a closer shave? Seriously, dude.) Djokovic's last three rounds have had a little too much drama, especially considering the opponents: Matthieu, Odesnic and Gulbis (who actually has got game and will probably go very far at the U.S. Open this year). He's not looking even as strong as he did in Hamburg, and he runs a real risk of getting embarrassed by Nadal. I even hate to add this, (because I'm sure he's past this stage in his career) but if it gets too bad, Djokovic could decide his "fingernail blister" is too severe to continue. Grand Slam champs don't pull up lame claiming stomach aches, Novak. Oh, unless your name is Justine Henin. Anyway, my Ouija board says Nadal, and quickly.
Some people, though, are not yet semifinalists at the French, although they have high hopes. Roger Federer takes on Fernando Gonzalez tomorrow morning in the quarters. The good news is really good: Roger's beaten Gonzo 10 straight times. The bad: Gonzo tagged Fed at last year's Master's Cup. It's surprising to see Gonzalez this far in a Slam again, but really, I don't see him beating Federer again. A word of advice: Book the flight home now, Fernando, not later. Procrastination can cost you another hundred bucks for a ticket. Plus, now you have to pay for bags.
Next up will be Gael Monfils and David Ferrer. Man, it's nice to see Monfils finally doing something at a Slam. I thought he looked to be melting down for a minute there against Jurgen Melzer in the third round, but he sealed the deal, and followed that up with a win over the resurgent (?) Ivan Ljubicic. However, though, he's coming up next against Ferrer. That would be the same guy who hung two bagels on Fabrice Santoro. (I got your slice, Ferrer must have thought. I got it right here.) Of course, he follows that up with a couple of thriller 5-setters against Lleyton Hewitt and Radek "Chick Magnet" Stephanek. He could come into this match a bit tired, which would be a big opportunity for Monfils. Of course, since Ferrer employs the old "kitchen sink" playing style, he might not be expending too much energy. This is a tough one to call, but since you insist, I'm going to go with Ferrer in four. Happy now?

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