Weekend Round-up: Pour La Patrie.
1. While we’re due for a Spanish final over in Monte Carlo, Barcelona was overtaken by the Italians this weekend. Congratulations are in order to Franny. She needed only 59 minutes to wrap up two breadsticks for Roberta Vinci and bring home her third WTA career title.
2. A good word also for my compatriot Sam Stosur, who’s through to the Charleston final after defeating Dani Hantuchova in straight sets. For an Aussie, Stosur’s deceivingly good on clay. Not many players would want to be on the receiving end of her serve and forehands on this dirt.
Stosur will be facing Vera Zvonareva, who overcame a manically pro-Oudin crowd, followed by a freak Wozniacki injury to reach the final.
Aww, I hope it’s “just” a sprain ankle.
3. It is so Nole these days to follow up his best match in recent months against Nalbandian with one of his worst, as he lamented a 62 63 loss to Nando.
I wish I could say that Fernando Verdasco came out and played a brilliant match, sending forehands whizzing down the line past Djoko before turning around to his camp roaring “TALK TO THE HAND YO!” Or something that effect.
But he didn’t.
Errors gave way to more errors. Nole struggled with his serve, and when he did manage to send down a decent first serve, he seemed so surprised by the accomplishment that he could barely keep the ball in court for a few shots in a row. Nando did the one thing well to seal the win and make his first Masters (pseudo or otherwise) final: not choke.
But having lost the last 9 out 9 matches against Rafa, let there be no illusions or hopeless dreams. Go Rafa! Bring home the title baby.
4. A win today will put Rafa ahead of five-time winner Anthony Wilding and level with Reggie Doherty, who won from 1897-1904. No player has won the same ATP Masters Series 1000 title six times since the new tour was formed in 1990.
So that Rafa kid, he’s really something on clay, huh?
A teeny history lesson: The two men with whom Rafa shares his little piece of Monte Carlo history – Doherty and Wilding – were all past Wimbledon winners.
For Wilding, his last win in Monte Carlo marked a bittersweet turning point in his life. A little over a year after his Monte Carlo victory, he volunteered for army and was killed in the trenches in Flanders. On the marble tablets of past winners lining the corridor behind Prince Albert’s Royal Box at the tournament, next to the name Anthony Wilding, it reads: “Mort pour la Patrie.”
Unlike Wilding, Rafa (hopefully) won’t ever be asked to die for the defence of his homeland. Yet in a way, Monte Carlo is his spiritual homeland. No matter how many injuries plagued him over the past year, no matter how well or badly he played during the early hard court season, Monte Carlo is the one place Rafa can come back to at the start of every clay season and turn the tables.
From now on, we’re on his soil, and he’ll defend it, not with his life, but with his body.