Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Czeching Out Mr Safarova and the Worm

Having mulled a little on this in the ensuing day, I think I might have changed my position slightly on Rafael Nadal. I still think it won't be great for him if he loses, but I think the likelihood of him losing is not as great as I thought it was. I did some reading and apparently he was having a bit of a back problem in London which is not bothering him now. This remarkably quick recovery from an injury nonwithstanding, I think Rafa might be in better shape than I thought he was. It wasn't like it was total schleps he was losing to at the World Tour Finals, after all - and not just any random members of the top ten, either. These were three guys that have given him significant trouble in the past, and to whom he had lost this year.

So not so much of a biggie as I had maybe thought. But still... Rafa is not in form. Ain't no one gonna deny that. Shmafa should be enough to put some pain on Berdych, but the Worm could be a whole other matter...

Let's talk about the Czechs for a minute, because, let's face it, they're the underdogs. Even if one or both of them can pull surprise wins out over Nadal or Verdasco or whomever else the Spaniards decide to throw into the ring, they are missing one very important thing - depth. They have Stepanek and Berdych and... watch that tumbleweed roll by.

So how do they play this? Stepanek and Berdych will obviously play both singles rubbers - unless there's a dead rubber involved. There's pretty much no way around this - they have no chance otherwise. Even if Nadal and Verdasco sit out a rubber or two, the Spaniards have Ferrer and Lopez available to throw into the ring. I'm assuming Ferrer is in there to act as some kind of spare singles player - I'm guessing Verdasco and Lopez will take the court in doubles. I'm kind of surprised Juan Carlos Ferrero didn't get a go instead of Ferrer - I think he's been more impressive lately - but Ferrer is no slouch either. And neither is Lopez, for that matter. The Spaniards have got four perfectly effective singles players here.

The Czechs have got Stepanek, Berdych, Jan Hajek and Lukas Dlouhy. Hajek is the one man ever to have beaten Nadal in a singles rubber in the Davis Cup... yeah, somehow I can't see that happening again. And Dlouhy isn't exactly a worldbeater either. He and Hajek are - I hate to say it - padding.

When the Czechs played Croatia, they won the opening two singles rubbers and then took a gamble and played Berdych and Stepanek in the doubles. It paid off, and they took an unassailable 3-0 lead. Will they do that here? This is the match I'm interested in - the doubles. If they win it, it's a valuable point, yes - but somehow I don't think they're going to win both opening singles rubbers, which would mean the tie was live into the final day, which would mean both Berdych and Stepanek would be absolutely fatigued out of their brains. So do they then cede the doubles by playing Hajek and Dlouhy? And what if they gamble on Berdych and Stepanek in the doubles and then they lose? They're really screwed then.

Exciting as it must be to be in the Davis Cup final, I would not like to be in Stepanek or Berdych's shoes right now. There's so much pressure. But then they're not expected to win, so maybe they can swing freely. I don't know. We're just going to have to wait and see, I suppose.

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