Friday, January 11, 2008

Ferrer Gets Owned, Juan And Juan Fight To Win

When 7th seed Philipp Kohlschreiber, 4th seed Juan Carlos Ferrero and 3rd seed Juan Monaco all won their quarterfinal matches I thought, coolness, four seeds in the semifinals. But no, no coolness, as 1st seed David Ferrer was upset by Julien Benneteau in the evening session. Nobody saw this one coming, and the 64 60 scoreline is a bit shocking. Ferrer didn’t start off too badly, just the one break in the first set, no big. I assumed he’d come back strong in the second and teach Benneteau a lesson. But the only person taken to school was David Ferrer, as you can see by the score. The top seed, defending champion and world number 5 looked like none of the above as he hit more and more errors and Benneteau hit more and more winners. I like Ferrer a lot, so I’ll stick up for him and say that Benneteau played very well, having one of those days when everything went in. But it was a bad day at the office for the man who’s supposed to be the best returner in the game, and I hope this doesn’t hurt Ferrer’s confidence too much as he tries to repeat the stellar year he had in 2007.

Juan Carlos Ferrero overcame Nicolas Massu 46 63 64 in the match of the tournament so far. I’m not the best judge of how high the quality of the tennis was, but I can tell you that this was a great fight. Massu has been intense all week and looked like he really wanted this one, maybe even a bit more than Ferrero. But the Spaniard fired himself up after he lost the first set, and his passion was evident as he fought hard to come back and win the match. The two traded breaks in the third set before Juan Carlos broke Massu in the final game to seal the deal. They had a bit of a manly hug at the net afterwards, that got a cheer. Now the former French Open winner and US Open finalist (that’s proof he can do well on hard courts right there) will face Benneteau in the semis. How awesome would a Ferrer-Ferrero semifinal have been? Great fun to say aloud as well. Ferrer-Ferrero. Roll the rrrs. But never mind.

So that was the match of the tournament until the next one, when Juan Monaco narrowly scraped through against Michael Llodra 46 76(5) 76(5). I am so stoked that Monaco won that one. He had to get into the semi against Philipp Kohlschreiber to keep the tournament interesting. I don’t have anything against Llodra, I just didn’t particularly want to see him as my Heineken Open champion. But the recent Adelaide winner played phenomenally, he was acting like a French Pete Sampras. He consistently hit huge first serves, and on the occasions that he didn’t get an ace he would storm the net and put away the return with a big smash. The serve and volley is not dead. It was so effective I thought Monaco was done after the first set. I was ready to come home and write a post called “Who Does Michael Llodra Think He Is?” about how aging doubles specialists shouldn’t beat exciting young up and comers in important quarterfinal matches with dated techniques. I’ve calmed down a little since then, and now I applaud Llodra’s great start to the year and his inspiring use of serve and volley tennis. But boy am I happy Monaco won that third set tiebreak. At 5 games all in the third set Llodra missed a couple of first serves and Monaco broke him to love, but Llodra broke straight back to force the tiebreak. It was exciting stuff. The tiebreak was tense, staying with serve until Monaco hit a textbook forehand past the incoming Llodra on his first matchpoint. The Argentine pumped his fists a few times and shouted a bit, then went off to get ready for his doubles match with Luis Horna, which he also won. The kid’s got guts.

Philipp Kohlschreiber had an easier time with his quarterfinal, defeating fellow German Florian Mayer 63 64. Mayer hit more errors than he did in his wins over Sam Querrey and Juan Ignacio Chela, and Kohlschreiber got through without much hassle. Kohlschreiber behaved today, but he still carries himself like a bit of a villain. Not in real life of course, I’m sure he still sends his mother flowers on Mother’s Day. But there are some players, you know the ones, who, on the court, look like villains. Or heels, as they say in the wrestling world. Philipp Kohlschreiber is a natural heel.

So it’s Benneteau vs Ferrero and Monaco vs Kohlschreiber in the semifinals tomorrow. I’ll be pulling for the two Juans, that would be an awesome final. But there’s a Frenchman and a German who think it will only be an awesome final if they’re in it, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

Here’s a man love moment.

And here’s a better look at Juan Carlos Ferrero in his Lotto gear.

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