Thursday, June 26, 2008

Swan Lake

Apparently 'Gulbis' means 'swan' in Latvian. I don't think he looks anything like a swan, nor is his game especially swanlike, but I thought it was amusing anyway.
Swanlike or not, win or lose, I was very impressed with the way young Ernests played. A while ago, I gave him a couple of years before he became really good. I'm revising that now to a year. Of all the young players I've ever discussed on this blog, I have to say that he is the one with the most promise. If he is not top ten, or at least top twenty within a year, I will eat an item of my own clothing.
All he needs is a tiny bit more mental stability. He's a little bit like Robin Haase in that sometimes he panics on the forehand side and goes for too much, though he does it far less often than Haase does. The first set, where he beat Nadal 7-5, was impeccable. He has a high-risk, red line game, an all or nothing, winner or error style. All he has to do is tighten up just a tiny bit. Just a few more winners than errors, and Rafa could easily have lost that third set, and then I think the match could have had a whole different complexion.
There's not much of Gulbis - he's 6'3" but only 76kg, which really isn't that much - but hot damn, that kid is strong. He's this tall, gawky nineteen year old, and yet he's hitting the ball like Roddick. I have never, ever seen anyone beat Nadal so consistently with sheer pace. It was insane. And he was hitting the lines a LOT, especially in that first set. He serves out of a tree. And - again, especially in the first set - he was allowing Rafa no rhythm. Consistently, he was pinning him three, four, five metres behind the baseline, just by the heaviness of his groundstrokes.
He's an out and out baseliner, yet what I really liked was that he was willing to come to the net. He's not the best volleyer, but he's not bad, and he can definitely improve easily with a little more experience and maturity. He served and volleyed a few times, which I really liked. And he had some excellent clutch-serving - that is, being down in a service game, and coming up with the big first serve ace or unreturnable to get himself out of it.
To be honest, I don't know if we've seen a talent this big since the rise of Richard 'Baby Fed' Gasquet. And I think this kid might be better than Richou, to tell the truth. Already, he seems to have better mental stability than Richou. After Nadal won the second set, it would have been easy for Gulbis to fall off in the third, but he didn't - and if a couple more of those errors had been winners, then he could have easily taken a two sets to one lead. And then I don't know if I would have fancied Rafa's chances in getting out of it.
Rafa didn't play his best, but I think a lot of that might be because Gulbis didn't let him. Rafa likes to dig in, extend the point, and often he wins points through his opponents making a mistake (though he does have his fair share of winners as well.) Especially in the first set, Gulbis was shortening the points - coming in to the net, which was just awesome. Even though he lost, I was mightily, mightily impressed with Ernests Gulbis. He will be seeded here next year, mark my words.
Not so with Andy Roddick. Nalbandian, Davydenko, Djokovic and now Roddick. The Federer quarter and the Nadal quarter both have the top two seeds intact, but the Djokovic and Davydenko quarters are now virtually empty. Janko Tipsarevic is a great player, sure, but I didn't think he was going to take out Roddick - not on grass. Maybe the loss of Djokovic, which made him the hope of Serbia, gave him some heart. Who knows? But whatever happened, that quarter, like the Djokovic quarter, is now wide, WIDE open.
Baghdatis was my pick for semi finalist in that second quarter. In the third quarter, I'm going to to tip Dmitry Tursunov, providing he keeps his head in the game. He's always been consistent at Wimbledon - two third rounds, two fourth rounds, I think - and it's sort of his turn to go deeper. I think I previously picked Mathieu, but Tursunov has a better grass game in my opinion. Cilic is another outside possibility. And who knows? Maybe Arnaud 'le cle' Clement can make a splash. It's an open quarter. It's anyone's game.
This has been a seriously weird second round. In the women's game too - bye bye MaSha! Alla Kudryavtseva played brilliantly, but Sharapova played DREADFULLY. Seriously, she was awful. Cringeworthy. Yuri'll be a-scolding her, mark my words. With Sharapova gone, there is a HUGE chance for Dinara Safina. Hell, there was a huge chance for her when Sharapova was still there. Wouldn't it be nice if Safin and Safina could both reach the semis? I'd like it!
Third round action tonight. Here's cheering for Federer and Safin!
Wimbledon Results - Day #4

Rafael Nadal def. Ernests Gulbis, 5-7 6-2 7-6 (7-2) 6-3
Janko Tipsarevic def. Andy Roddick, 6-7 (5-7) 7-5 6-4 7-6 (7-4)
Andy Murray def. Xavier Malisse, 6-4 6-2 6-2
Dmitry Tursunov def. Chris Eaton, 7-6 (7-2) 6-2 6-4
Richard Gasquet def. Sebastien Grosjean, 6-2 6-2 retired
Mikhail Youzhny def. Stefano Galvani, 4-6 6-4 6-3 3-6 6-3
Rainer Schuettler def. James Blake, 6-2 6-7 (8-10) 4-6 6-4 6-4
Nicolas Kiefer def. Martin Vassallo Arguello, 6-0 6-3 6-1
Tommy Haas def. Tommy Robredo, 6-4 6-4 6-3
Marin Cilic def. Jarkko Nieminen, 6-4 3-6 6-3 6-7 (6-8) 7-5
Jurgen Melzer def. Jesse Levine, 4-6 6-2 3-6 6-4 6-1
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez def. Nicolas Almagro, 6-3 3-6 5-7 6-1 6-2
Arnaud Clement def. Benjamin Becker, 7-6 (9-7) 7-6 (7-3)
Paul-Henri Mathieu def. Jeremy Chardy, 6-3 7-5 7-6 (7-1)
Radek Stepanek def. Viktor Troicki, 6-7 (1-7) 6-7 (3-7) 6-3 6-1 6-2
Gilles Simon def. Agustin Calleri, 5-7 6-2 6-3 6-4
Women's Draw
Alla Kudryavtseva def. Maria Sharapova, 6-2 6-4
Venus Williams def. Anne Keothavong, 7-5 6-2
Dinara Safina def. Hsieh Su-wei, 6-3 6-2
Jelena Jankovic def. Carla Suarez Navarro, 6-1 6-3
Gisela Dulko def. Lindsay Davenport, walkover
Alisa Kleybanova def. Daniela Hantuchova, 6-3 4-6 6-1
Shahar Peer def. Emilie Loit, 6-3 6-4
Victoria Azarenka def. Sorana Cirstea,6-1 6-3
Nadia Petrova def. Mara Santangelo, 6-4 7-5
Marina Erakovic def. Julia Goerges, 6-2 7-6 (7-5)
Elena Dementieva def. Timea Bacsinszky, 4-6 6-3 6-3
Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez def. Sania Mirza, 6-0 4-6 9-7
Ai Sugiyama def. Flavia Pennetta, 7-6 (7-5) 2-6 6-2
Caroline Wozniacki def. Aleksandara Wozniak, 6-1 6-1
Shuai Peng def. Sybille Bammer, 7-6 (9-7) 4-6 6-3
Tamarine Tanasugarn def. Vera Zvonareva, 7-6 (12-10) 4-6 6-3

1 comment:

Tennis Talk, Anyone? said...

Hey Jodi. Gulbis was just hitting so big! I really was thinking that he could have had a chance, but then I figured Rafa's experience would come through, because I really wasn't THAT impressed with his grass-court game. -- Van