Written by Jay Jarrahi
The clay court Masters Series events for this season can be put to bed as attention for the majority of top contenders turns to the Mecca of clay court tennis; Roland Garros beginning on May 27. World number one, Roger Federer, got his hands on the first Masters Series title of his 2007 season. In doing so, Federer ended Rafael Nadal’s extraordinary clay court win streak. Here’s a look at the week gone by…
Confidence restored? – Having parted ways with his coach and clearly lacking in confidence, Hamburg was always going to be an important tournament for Federer. Not least to regain some form and belief heading into the French Open. Hamburg has been a happy hunting ground for Federer in the past and it proved to be so yet again. Whether Federer can be entirely pleased with his performances during the majority of the week is debateable. What isn’t in question is that a long awaited victory over Nadal on clay is a significant victory for Federer and his French Open aspirations. The difference between a 0-6 and 1-5 head to head on clay is minimal in number, but vital in terms of psychology. Federer achieved a victory he had not yet managed in his illustrious career and a result that will most likely have to be repeated in a few weeks time if he wants to claim his first French Open title. Nadal was not the only Spaniard Federer defeated, he also put paid to Juan Carlos Ferrero, David Ferrer and Carlos Moya. As well as a first round win over Argentine Juan Monaco. Ferrero and Moya have seen better days, but are former French Open champions. However, the win that means most for Federer came in the final against the current French Open champion. Time will tell how significant this victory proves to be…
The King is dead? – No. Rafael Nadal’s 81 match clay court win streak is finally at an end. In the week where Nadal gained a measure of revenge over the last player to beat him on clay, Igor Andreev, the French Open champion fell one match short of winning all three clay Masters Series events in the same season. Was it the right decision to play in Hamburg? It was debated before Hamburg, during Hamburg and inevitably will be post Hamburg. Regardless of the rights and wrongs, Nadal did play, and did lose his streak but certainly not his aura. It takes more than one defeat to put paid to almost three years of clay court dominance and Nadal will arrive at the French Open as the rightful favourite. Whereas the win for Federer was important, the same significance cannot be attributed to the loss for Nadal. No player likes to lose but every player (even Federer and Nadal) does at some point and Nadal would have been well aware this day would come sooner or later. How he reacts to defeat will be an interesting development. The chances are he will react by claiming his third French Open title.
A good week for a pair of former number ones – Having lost in the first round of both Monte Carlo and Rome, not much was expected of Carlos Moya. A winner at Roland Garros in 1998, Moya defeated three of the world’s top 12; Tomas Berdych, James Blake and Novak Djokovic. Moya came from behind against Berdych and Blake and recovered well against Djokovic having failed to serve out the match initially. He then went on to test Federer in the last four but fell in a deciding set. If not much was expected of Moya, then even less was expected of Lleyton Hewitt. The fiery Aussie returned to action in Rome after a two month layoff and promptly lost in the opening round. It wouldn’t have been pleasing for Hewitt to see the draw he was faced with in Hamburg. Hewitt played the roll of underdog very well and defeated Agustin Calleri, Juan Ignacio Chela, Nikolay Davydenko and Nicolas Almagro on his way to the semi-finals. As if that wasn’t enough, Hewitt pushed Nadal to 7-5 in the 3rd and almost pulled off a major shock. Hewitt may not have ended Nadal’s streak but he can certainly claim to have softened up the Spaniard a touch for Federer in the final.
Last year’s news – It was a dreadful tournament for the last four from 2006. Defending champion, Tommy Robredo, lost out in his first and only action of the tournament against Nicolas Almagro. Robredo’s semi final victim from last year, Mario Ancic, could not even play in the tournament. Ancic has been suffering from glandular fever since late February and is only just beginning to take steps in what he hopes to be a return to action once the grass court season is underway. Last year’s finalist, Radek Stepanek, couldn’t advance beyond the first round, suffering at the hands of Arnaud Clement. Jose Acasuso was the best of a bad bunch, reaching the third round before being comprehensively outplayed by Robredo’s conqueror, Almagro.
Written by Jay Jarrahi