Things That Go Bump in the Night
Rafa made smooth and uncomplicated progress into the 3rd round of Indian Wells last night with a quick, straightforward win over old man Steps.
Rafa made bumpy and somewhat highly complicated progress into the 3rd round of Indian Wells last night with a lurching, tense, gritty win over old man Steps.
As I’m sure many already have intuited, there’s a fairly simple explanation for Rafa’s struggles. Observe:
As I said on Friday, and I quote!: “as long as the court, and Rafa’s back, are orange, everything should be okay.”
The court was not orange. Rafa’s back was not orange (granted, his chest was orange, although more of the cantaloupian variety rather than the tangeloian shade he’s been sporting at practice.) Thusly, #everythingwasnotokay
And yet! Rafa won. It was by a slim margin. It was after getting crushed in the first set. It was after going up a break in the decisive set and–like he did against Andujar in Rio; like he did against Dolgopolov in Rio–promptly handing it back. It was after teetering–like he did against Andujar in Rio (although mercifully, he did not face actual MPs in this one); like he did against Dolgopolov in Rio (although that was slightly less desperate in that Rafa theoretically would have had the third set to sort things out, had he lost the 2nd set TB following his failed attempt to serve out the match at 5-4)–on the brink of “big trouble” (i.e. 2-3, 0-40 in the 3rd; 6-5, 15-30 in the 3rd). But! that’s tennis. That’s Rafa. That’s Rafa Tennis.
Looking at the stats, the first numbers that jump out, for the wrong reasons, are, of course, the DFs (8) and the second serve points won (39%). (For comparison, Rafa’s lifetime second serve points won is 55%–i.e. fourth best in the history of the stat-keeping, and second only to Agassi (56%) among players who have played 500 ATP matches or more (the other two who technically precede Rafa are Alberto Berasategui and Patrick McEnroe)). As Rafa explained in his presser, he’s still working toward feeling totally comfortable and confident on the serve following his back injury, and he hopes that this match is an important step in that direction.
Point of the match:
Rafa being casual.
BNP Paribas Open (@BNPPARIBASOPEN) March 09, 2014
Next up for Rafa is Dolgopolov, who Rafa just played, and beat, in the Rio final. Obviously Rafa will be looking to play, and serve, a bit better than he did yesterday, and if that doesn’t work, he might consider putting his shirt on backwards and/or “accidentally spilling” a can of tangelo paint on the court. #justasuggestion