27 January, 2006

Baghdatis v Federer!

I would lay money that this is the match of the year for us spectators.

Baghdatis reminds me so much of Agassi it is not even funny. Great returner. Precise baseline stroker. Willing to take that risky down the line shot. Mostly, though, he is just SOOOO light-hearted out there in the best possible way. I have never been a big Agassi fan, but I always loved the way that he was so happy playing the game.

Baghadatis has "happy" going on!

Every time Baghdatis wins a match he looks up to his small but mighty Cypriot cheering section, and smiles a huge smile that asks, "How did this happen to me?! How did I get so lucky?"

Of course luck had nothing to do with him falling 2 sets behind Nalbandian, one of the game's outstanding "grinders", and winning the next 3 sets. You cannot win the last 3 sets of a match by luck. He took Nalbandian out of his game, and punished him for letting it happen. With 3 points left in the match, they were rain delayed and Nalbandian had 15 minutes to pull his head together and come out swinging. Nuh-uh. Baghdatis lost one point, and smashed him.

The kid is hot, and Federer is skilled. It will be passion versus form. My money is on form, but it ought to be a beautiful thing to watch.

Federer in 4 with at least one tiebreak - won by Federer. 6-4, 4-6, 7-6, 6-4.

The Ladies' side.

I hope Mauresmo finally breaks through. She deserves it. It ain't gonna happen, though.

Justine has not impressed me yet with her sportsmanship. She is playing beautiful tennis, and I love to watch her hit that backhand, but I cannot get past the cheating. Of course, in her match against Sharapova she didn't come to net. She just outhit her. It was pretty boring, but it very effective.

I doubt Mauresmo will beat Justine - highly. The knock on Mauresmo is that she chokes, and she does. She choked in two of her early matches in this slam, but they were inferior opponents so she survived. Justine will keep that steady pressure on Mauresmo, and eventually she will cave. I predict straight sets and no tiebreaks. 6-3, 6-3.


codepoke said...


I could not feel sorrier for Mauresmo. That is devastating. To fight so hard for a chance to slay her demons, only to have them hang on until the next time.

I cannot confidently hold this against Henin-Hardenne, but I cannot help but see this as poor sportsmanship again.

codepoke said...

As to the match itself.

They interviewed Henin-Hardenne's coach, and he spilled the game-plan. Hit softly to Mauresmo's forehand, spin it, and let her break down her own forehand. Let her destroy her own confidence.

In the 9 games of this match, I counted 4 times that Henin-Hardenne spun the ball to Mauresmo's forehand. Of those 4 spins, Mauresmo missed 3.

The plan was working!

Instead of executing, though, Henin-Hardenne tried to overpower a rope-a-doper. It didn't work for Foreman, and it didn't work for Henin-Hardenne. The net effect of her execution was to feed into Mauresmo's game plan.

Mauresmo came onto the court hitting 80%. She was nervous about being nervous, so she hit safe, steady, blue-collar ball. I know that strategy, because it is mine. I play just like that. She never hit for the lines until no other choice made sense.

They played a total of 62 points. In 62 points, Mauresmo hit 11 errors and 5 winners for 16 decisive points. Henin-Hardenne hit 20 and 4, so 40 of 62 points were decisive (and 22 were forced errors).

Nothing could have been better for Mauresmo's nerves than playing an opponent kind enough to keep hitting flat, hard topspins into her wheelhouse. Henin-Hardenne lost because Mauresmo executed a strategy tailored to beat a risk-taker. Henin-Hardenne failed to execute. Hardenne eventually resorted to trying to duel it out backhand-a-backhand, and simply failed. She was not able to crack Mauresmo's backhand.

Henin-Hardenne deserved to lose, but decided to retire. I hope Mauresmo gains some confidence from her own performance, and roars back again.

codepoke said...

If you didn't see the interviews after the match (and I'm sure you didn't) you cannot imagine how very, very small Justine Henin-Hardenne made herself.

Yeah. She is a weasel in a tennis skirt.

codepoke said...

Federer figured him out. Down 0-2 in the second set, he did 2 things that no one else had done. 1) He decided to try to break down Baghdatis's forehand, and 2) he quit leaving the down-the-line open.

Yes, Federer became more aggressive, but that was only after he finally began to force the forehand errors.

I had figured Baghdatis to hang around for the whole match, and of course I was wrong about that. But, by the time Baghdatis began cramping, Federer was already firmly in control of the game.