Theoretically, Pablo Andujar should be munching on bagels and breadsticks in the Bakery of Rafael Nadal. But nope. Rafa’s round 2 match, although a lot less dramatic than his round 1 match, was anything BUT straightforward.
It’s kinda puzzling to see Rafa Nadal failing to consolidate a break – on clay, in Paris – but it’s downright Twilight Zone to see him failing to consolidate a break THRICE. But to see him down 5-1, 40-0 in the third set was complete Twilight Zone in Alternate Reality as the tennis world again erupts into a flurry of disbelief: Rafa Nadal, what the FUCK are you doing?
Let’s give Pablo Andujar some credit. He played well, very well in fact, to hang with Rafa and keep him constantly challenged in the first two sets. The fact that he was up 5-1, 40-0 in the third set was not completely of Rafa’s own undoing – and even if Rafa was about three zillion kinds of crap in the third set, there was no denying Andujar’s spectacular shots at opportune times helped him with the commanding score-line in his favour.
Most tennis players would have lost the set when facing three set points, double-break down. Not Rafa Nadal. But of course, on the flip side – one can argue that most tennis players would have WON the set with three set points and insurance breaks in his pocket. Most tennis players would have taken at least ONE of the EIGHT set points offered. Unfortunately, not Pablo Andujar.
Andujar choked – there was no other way to put it – when he had three set points, his forehand was landing everywhere BUT inside the court. And I woulda think with that break, Rafa would go on to hold easily and force Andujar to try and serve for the set again. Nope, think again. The games that followed were utterly weird as both Rafa and Andujar seemed to try their hardest NOT to win the set, which sort of went like this:
Rafa: *hits a double fault* Hey, Pabby, I know I just broke you, but here are four – count them, FOUR – set points! I am so nice, no?
Andujar: Awww Rafa, that is SO VERY nice, but I couldn’t possibly! *hits a crap forehand*
Rafa: Okay. Then I break you again, no?
Andujar: Oh, if you must.
Rafa: Many sorries, no? Here, have another set point!
Andujar: Hmmm…not shiny enough. You can have it instead.
Rafa: *shrugs* Okay.
Andujar: My legacy: Guy Who Wasted Eight Set Points Against Nadal! Yee hah!
It eventually went into tie-break, which was kind of yo-yo. They traded mini-breaks before a couple of bad errors by Andujar gave Rafa a 5-1 lead – but Andujar clawed back to 5-4 only to play the most horrendous drop-shot at the net to give Rafa match point.
Gee Rafa, whatever happened to “a little less drama, please”?
Honestly, it’s just unusual to see this Rafa – a Rafa that is less than 100% confident of his game, a Rafa who shank forehands, a Rafa who couldn’t land a first serve, and a Rafa who, at times, just look completely lost out there (against both Isner and Andujar). It’s disconcerting to see him struggling so early on in RG, as shades of Federer at Wimbledon last year flash through my mind. I don’t quite know what to think yet, but I do know I should never ever count out Rafa in Paris. Struggling or not, I somehow still think he’ll find a way to bulldoze his way into the final.
But time will tell.
The rest of the day played out as such:
1) Rafa avoided any significant drama, but not so for Jurgen Melzer. Following the footsteps of fellow semi-finalist Big Berd, Melzer found himself unceremoniously dumped from the tournament by unheralded Berd compatriot Lukas Losol. Melzer was serving for the match in the 4th set, and curiously just lost it. He began smashing racquets in the 5th, but couldn’t hang on for the win, and POOF! Murray’s quarter is as pretty as Djokovic’s right now.
2) Speaking of MAndy – he was as exciting as a wet smelly sock in his own match against Simone Bolelli. But y’know, it’s Simone Bolelli. Served for TWO sets, led by breaks a few times, but ultimately succumbed to Mandy’s teeth and his inability to take a set. So Mandy is through in straights despite smelly-sock play, while Bolelli and Andujar should get together to get drunk and soak their heads.
3) Bobby Sod was in no mood to lose anymore sets this round, outplaying Albert Ramos in straight sets, THANK YOU, SOD.
4) My sentimental favourite Nikolay Davydenko’s Playstation batteries went flat against Croatian qualifier Antonio Veic, losing in 5 sets. I have been hoping for Kolya to upgrade his Playstation but that just doesn’t seem to be happening. Veic will play Rafa in the 3rd round, squashing my hopes of a Kolya/Rafa meeting.
5) Hairbandwagon, meanwhile, is still rolling after Dolgopolov’s neat dispatch of Andreas Haider-Maurer in straight sets. Dolgo most unusually hit more winners than unforced errors, including a ridonk drop-shot off Haider-Maurer’s second serve that WORKED. This is what happens when his crazy works for him. Anyway, he’ll need ALL his winners in his bag of tricks to overcome Satan Bert Minion Viktor Troicki, who was clinical in dispatching Tobias Kamke.
6) The other half of the Ponytails, X-Man Malisse, however, fell against Fernando Verdasco in four sets – in what must be a relieving win for the dude.
7) Mardy Fish is the last American man standing after Samurai Sam bite the dust against Papa Ljubs; Marcos Bagman (l. Leonardo Mayer), Kevin Anderson (l. Juan Ignacio Chela) and Florian Mayer (l. “I Took Federer to Five on Grass” Falla) are among the seeds to crumble on Day 5.
There was no lack of drama on the ladies’ side either. First off, Mama Kim shockingly lost to little known Dutchwoman Arantxa Rux – after serving for the match and holding match-point in the second set. She noticeably had ankle issues but denied that her loss was due to that. She put it down to lack of matches and lack of confidence when she lost the match points. Props to Rux for holding her head together to pull off the upset – a rare feat among the ladies, that’s for sure.
Shrieky Sharapova came within a whisker of joining Kim on the next flight out, losing first set and was down a break to French wildcard, 17-year-old Caroline Garcia. Garcia was imperious in the first set, leaving Shrieky looking almost befuddled as she ran way with the set 6-4. Even MAndy tweeted with an unusual touch of mild enthusiasm:
The girl sharapova is playing is going to be number one in the world one day caroline garcia, what a player u heard it here first.
But as Garcia’s serve began to crumble as the occasion loomed upon her. She hit double-faults to hand Shrieky a break when she was up 4-1, allowing Shrieky to regain her momentum and ran off with the next 11 games, dishing out a bagel in the third.
Even so, girl’s got game, development and loads of time on her side. I hate to agree with Toothface – but she may be a great force to be reckoned with.
Other than that, it was fairly uneventful for the women:
1) Li Na came up against some resistance from Silvia Soler-Espinosa, but still managed to prevail in straight sets, but the other girl on Lenglen, Victoria Azarenka, pummelled Pauline Parmentier into oblivion, only allowing her one game.
2) Jarka Gajdosova survives in straight sets to advance – Aussie men’s tennis may be looking shabby but the girls are still flyin’ the Aussie flag!
3) In the match of Ana Ivanovic’s first-round Slam conquerors, Ekaterina Makarova defeated Johanna Larsson in straight sets.
4) All the seeds survived except Alexandra Dulgheru, who lost to countrywoman Sorana Cirstea.
That’s the wrap for Day 5. Am seriously honestly hoping for a DRAMA-FREE Day 6 – especially where Roger is concerned. Ferd, please stay locked in the toilet and do not come out…forever.
Stay glued to your screens to cheer for the Swiss Pants, y’all!
P.S. photos from daylife.com