• Nadal, Fish aim for Japan Open semifinals

    10/7/11 2:36 AM | Ricky Dimon
    Nadal, Fish aim for Japan Open semifinals Rafael Nadal and Mardy Fish will be featured in quarterfinal action at the Japan Open on Friday. They are set for respective meetings with Santiago Giraldo and Bernard Tomic.

    (1) Rafael Nadal vs. Santiago Giraldo

    Nadal and Giraldo will be squaring off for the second time at the Japan Open and for the second time this season when they clash during quarterfinal action on Friday afternoon. Overall they have faced each other on three occasions and Nadal has prevailed every time. The second-ranked Spaniard won 6-3, 6-3 three years ago in Indian Wells, rolled 6-4, 6-4 last season in Tokyo, and dominated Giraldo 6-3, 6-1 this spring in Barcelona.

    Giraldo will have a better chance because he is back on hard courts for this one and he is in the midst of his best year on tour. The Spaniard is up to 53rd in the world and he owns a 28-23 record in 2011 following wins this week over Robin Haase and Dmitry Tursunov. Nadal has taken out Go Soeda and Milos Raonic to improve his record to 63-11. Count on the top seed scoring yet another straight-set victory over Giraldo.

    (4) Mardy Fish vs. Bernard Tomic

    Fish and Tomic will be going head-to-head for the second time in their careers when they battle for a semifinal spot on Friday. Their only previous encounter came in the opening round of Wimbledon in 2010, with Fish prevailing 6-3, 7-6(8), 6-2. Tomic, though, is a much different player one year later. The 19-year-old Australian owns 13 of his 18 lifetime ATP match wins in 2011 and he is up to No. 58 in the world. So far in Tokyo, Tomic has taken out Viktor Troicki and Tatsuma Ito.

    Fish, experiencing a major resurgence seemingly in the latter stages of his career, has been on fire over the past two seasons. The 29-year-old American is a legitimate World Tour Finals contender with a 41-18 record for the year that has him solidly in the Top 10 of the rankings at No. 8. Fish struggled past Ryan Harrison in his opener this week before crushing Ernests Gulbis 6-2, 6-4 on Wednesday. If the No. 4 seed serves well, he should finish Tomic in straight sets.

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Nice match so far between Fish and Tomic, now in first set tie break. I really like this Tomic boy, the way he plays, very smart point construction. Oh my, the last point of that tie break, so smart from Tomic. Tomic wins the first set 7-6. Fish has to work so hard to stay with Tomic.

luckystar , 10/7/11 6:11 AM

Finally a hard fought victory for Fish. He had to deal with two teenagers this week and had to go the distance to beat both of them.

Rafa not playing too well now, allowing Giraldo to push him around. He's not moving into the court but instead chooses to stay behind the baseline. Giraldo serving very well and Rafa has difficuty breaking serves, now he has to worry about holding his own serves!

luckystar , 10/7/11 8:21 AM


Are you watching the match? They are showing it on the tennis channel here in the states. I agree with your thoughts on this match with Giraldo. It went to a tiebreak and Rafa toughed it out to win the set.

Rafa has just broken Giraldo at love in his first game of the second set! Well done! Maybe Giraldo will be tired from that grueling first set. Rafa up 2-0!

Nativenewyorker , 10/7/11 9:07 AM

And Giraldo broke back! Rafa can't dictate play it seems and he has to work so hard to win points. It's only when he serves well in certain games that he can have easy holds. Giraldo is throwing everything at Rafa and he sure serves big and hit his forehand hard.

Rafa's slices going heywire this match and he missed a couple of important forehand shots. For one thing, his court positioning is a problem IMO, and he left his forehand corner wide open and allowed Giraldo to attack it a few times successfully. Also Rafa always seems to have at least a game in his match where he finds it difficult to hold serve these days and many times he gets broken.

luckystar , 10/7/11 9:25 AM

Sorry NNY, yes I'm obviously watching the match now.

luckystar , 10/7/11 9:28 AM

Also Rafa rarely hits his DTL forehand today, just once or twice and unsuccessfilly, and then he stops hitting that shot.

luckystar , 10/7/11 9:30 AM

Some stupid shot selection by Rafa, hitting the ball right back at Giraldo when there's an open court out there and then ends up losing the point! Brain snap by Rafa! He really has to work so hard in this match!

luckystar , 10/7/11 9:37 AM

Lacklustre performance from Nadal. Cant believe he's making such heavy weather of this match.

ed251137 , 10/7/11 9:42 AM

Rafa wins 76 63.

Giraldo was impressive, but very happy for the win, no?

nadline , 10/7/11 9:55 AM

well people, you have to give some credit to Giraldo as well...he was playing some great tennis today...his game today reminds me of Davy when on fire and his deep shots...Rafa was serving well and playing well, but Giraldo just refused to surrender easily...I don't think Rafa was playing badly at all...It is great to see him in the semis...Next Fish...VAMOS RAFA!!!

natashao , 10/7/11 10:00 AM

This Giraldo is from South America, growing up on clay and that's why his point construction is so good, and he's making full use of his big weapons, his serves and his big forehand and most importantly, he steps inside the court and attack all the way, such aggressive play!

Looking at Rafa, his play today is the opposite of Giraldo's. He also mistime some forehands and he's basically not playing an aggressive hard court game. Where has his IW/Miami game gone? Staying behind the baseline most of the time and making live more difficult for himself. Giraldo plays well, something like the way he played against Ferrero at Rome last year where he blew Ferrero off the court literally.

I really feel that Rafa is coming off his peak (his peak being from 2008-2010), he was playing better from the clay season of 2008 to the clay season of 2009; and also during 2010. Even though he's still winning many matches now, he has to fight harder these days, especially off clay. His DTL forehand off, serve off, CC backhand off, ROS off, revert back to the defensive clay court position behind the baseline even on the hard courts and grass. There were times he finished off his opponents efficiently, like during FO & Wimbledon 2008, AO 2009, MC2010 and even USO 2010, no grinding out of matches. I hope he doesn't need to revert back to grinding out matches, even though I understand as great as Rafa (and Fed) is/are, they've bad days at the office too and have to engage in long matches and grind out wins.

luckystar , 10/7/11 10:12 AM

There were one or two points where Rafa could have gone for the kill and he didn't and ended up losing the point as luckystar says. I think Rafa thought he could wear Giraldo down but Giraldo was giving as good as he got and I think surprised Rafa on occasions. Giraldo served extremely well, so credit to him. It's amazing how Rafa brings out the best in players, they always seem to go up a gear when playing him.

This was good for Rafa before meeting Fish. Too easy a winning would probably not have brought out the fight in him although I think he's got the edge over Fish.

nadline , 10/7/11 10:14 AM

Sorry the last paragraph of my above post was referring to this season in general and not this match in particular. He's not playing too badly this match except that he's not being aggressive and take it to Giraldo and he allows Giraldo to hang around to play his best against Rafa. Contrast that to the match between Rafa and Dolgo at Miami, there Rafa never allowed Dolgo to play his game and ended up winning easily.

Rafa vs Fish should be interesting, and I agree with nadline that this match helps to bring out the fighting nature of Rafa. Rafa did problem solve a bit in today's match, S&V a bit and hit his big forehand out wide and followed in to the net for the kill, though most of the time he stayed behind the baseline.

luckystar , 10/7/11 10:24 AM

Rafa's serve stats for the match -

1st set

1st serve points in = 71%

1st serve points won = 88%

2nd serve points won = 80%

2nd set

1st serves in = 66%

1st serve points won = 65%

2nd serve points won = 58%

So Rafa was serving well, even with the dip in the second set. I agree with what lucky said about this match. I am not a psychic, but in that first serving game of Giraldo's in the first set, Rafa had his chances. It was 30-30 and Rafa had a wide open i/o forehand and hit it into the net. Then at 40-30 for Giraldo, Rafa had the exact same shot and hit it again into the net. That was when I had a feeling this would be a tough match. Rafa was missing forehands and backhands that he makes in his sleep. Maybe he needed match play to get his rhythm and timing going, but I worry that these grinding matches against lesser ranked players, will take too much out of him physically. Giraldo seemed to get the better court position to hit winners, while Rafa was hanging back too often.

I hope that people here are right and this was a good way for Rafa to get match ready. He will need to be sharp for Fish. Although Fish had trouble with Tomic, he was serving well and going to net, playing aggressive tennis, serving and volleying and looking good as he took control in that third set.

As lucky said, I did notice that Rafa was trying different things at times, like following up his wideout serve by moving forward into the net to hit an easy winner or the occasional serve and volley. However, there wasn't nearly enough of that.

I do think Rafa and Fish will be a good match.

Nativenewyorker , 10/7/11 10:47 AM

Sorry to hear that Rafa reverted back to his defensive mode against Giraldo. Giraldo can play some blistering tennis and is quite aggressive. I really do not understand why Rafa goes on the defensive the minute someone plays like that against him. Is it a question of confidence?

I really do not enjoy watching him when he is getting pushed around like that and not doing anything about it except for camping way behind the baseline. He has all the shots to be aggressive so I really do not understand why he does not use them more often.

Well, if he plays like that against Fish I can't see Rafa beating him.

Let's hope he has a good match tomorrow - Vamos Rafa and good luck.

schatz , 10/7/11 10:59 AM

I don't think Rafa was being pushed around. Giraldo did not have one break point against his serve in the first set and Rafa had several eveon though he was unable to capitalise on them. Rafa broke early in the 2nd, but sadly through his own fault by losing the first 2 points in his 2nd servis game he dropped his serve but he was able to break Giraldo again straight away to go on to win the match, even though the last game went to deuce

nadline , 10/7/11 11:05 AM

I must disagree with lucky that Rafa of today was the one grinding out the match...last year, when Rafa was on fire wining three GSs and won Japan Open, he also was unable to beat Giraldo convincingly...looking at the statistics, Rafa played much better match today than of what he was playing last year...his serve statistics is better than last year...he beat Giraldo 6:4 6:4 last year so how do you come to a conclusion that this match or any match of this year shows Rafa coming off his peak...overall, Giraldo tends to play good matches against Rafa as his playing style is similar to Davy's and we all know it is the game that does not suit Rafa...I think Rafa is doing well this year...all but Nole were beaten by Rafa so you can hardly say Rafa is in decline...and for Rafa to be tired, well, isn't that something that should be expected given the number of matches he played this year...he surpass Nole's number in that regard...and look where Nole is: stuck at home tired and possibly injured while Rafa is playing his guts at Japan Open...Rafa deserves to be praised for his top form and physical condition as well as his enthusiasm to fight hard and be so sucessful...


natashao , 10/7/11 11:14 AM

I have to say Giraldo was doing some nice point construction and making Rafa running all over the place. His intention was to move Rafa out wide at his backhand side and then Giraldo will hit his killer forehand DTL shots to Rafa's forehand corner. He won many points doing that. It's strange that many players are employing this tactic against Rafa, ie open out the court and hit to Rafa's forehand corner, and yet time and again Rafa failed to cover that position.

All Rafa needs to do is stop camping at his backhand corner and wait for any CC shots from his opponent, instead moves a bit closer to the centre of the baseline so that he's in a better place to cover both his forehand and backhand corner. Just see how well both Murray and Nole cover their positions at the baseline, this is something Rafa needs to learn to do. He's quick enough to run back and forth, just make it a habit to do so regularly. He did do that during the second set, perhaps he was sick of having to see the ball fly past before he could even run to his forehand corner to hit it.

luckystar , 10/7/11 11:22 AM

as Ricky wisely predicted, Rafa will beat Fish tomorrow!

natashao , 10/7/11 11:23 AM

natashao, I didn't say that Rafa grind out this match today. I said I hope he doesn't need to revert back to grinding out matches. Do note that this year, he has some difficulties closing out matches and sometimes not winning when he should win, eg his match against Verdasco at Cincy, and also his match against Dodig at Montreal.

luckystar , 10/7/11 11:29 AM

natashao, don't forget last year Rafa went to Bangkok before going to Tokyo, obviously he should be more tired then than now. He lost a bizarre match to GGL at Bangkok, but Rafa was saved at Tokyo last year by his big serves.

If Rafa played as aggressively as he did at Barcelona against Giraldo, he'll make life easier for himself. He dispatched Giraldo quite easily at Barcelona this year. Rafa's level is much higher than Giraldo's and if he did as he had done against Dolgo at Miami this year, ie never allow Giraldo to get into his game during the match, he'll dispatch Giraldo off earlier.

When I say Rafa may be off his peak, it means he may not be as good as during his peak, but that does not mean he's in decline, as he's obviously still hard to beat, even for Nole. Notice Nole has to play extremely well, almost to physical exhaustion in some matches, just to beat Rafa.

luckystar , 10/7/11 11:40 AM

lucky, you seem to forget that Rafa was injured at Wimby and that his foot injury took much longer to heal than what was was the main reason he was unable to practice as hard as he would have wanted and ended up losing his match against for Cincy, lack of match practice and fast surface that Rafa never liked were enough of the reason for him to lose...and also I just know Rafa did not want to risk further damage to his foot ahead of USO so he did not play at his highest level...I notice his serve has improved since USO as that was the only thing I thought Rafa was doing worse this year...and closing out the matches: well, it also has to do with his confidence which was seriously affected after all the loses to Nole...but I think he was pleased after the USO as he seemed to have found the way how to deal with will require more patience and more hard work as Nole is playing the best tennis of his life, but Rafa is getting there...By no means I would consider Rafa coming off his peak...I hope Rafa will prove me right...

natashao , 10/7/11 11:44 AM

I just have to jump in here to say that no one wants to be too hard on Rafa or criticize him unfairly. I know for me I just give my impressions of the match for those who were unable to see it and also to see what others think. We are all here to discuss and everyone's opinions should be respected.

We are Rafa fans and love him, so our comments are not made in anger or harshness. For myself, I am just speaking about my feelings watching the match. I don't like to see Rafa struggle and have to claw his way through matches like this. I do worry about his body. That's me. For all we know this match will have done him some good. I hope that is the case. However, there are concerns about some aspects of his game and it's only fair and honest to point them out.

I loved how he kept on fighting and thinking out there. I admire that about him very much. I would just like to see Rafa employ more of the aggressive tactics that have worked so well for him in the past.

Nativenewyorker , 10/7/11 11:49 AM

Well as a Rafa fan, I certainly wish to see him having many more good years ahead. As long as every part of his game clicks nicely at the same time, ie his forehand, whether it's DTL, CC,I/O, his backhand especially that flat CC one plus his DTL backhand, his serves and ROS, his slices, lobs, volleying skills and net plays, and I must emphasize this, his court positiining.

I feel that as long as he plays aggressively and moving more into the court, he can save more energy, in other words plays aggressively and not defensively. He'll cut down on the physical wear and tear on his body as he grows older, when he starts coming down from his physical peak.

luckystar , 10/7/11 12:07 PM

Nadline, Glad to hear that you think he was not pushed around by Giraldo. I did not see the match but got that impression from reading some of the posts on here.

We all love him and will continue to support him no matter what and I agree with you that Rafa seems to bring out the best in other players. Andy Murray is a good example of that.

schatz , 10/7/11 12:39 PM

I think the frustration stems from the fact that Rafa was expected to dispatch Giraldo easily so even though he played well, because he needed to win the first set in a tie-break and dropped his serve in the 2nd set, it appears that he struggled. Giraldo would not have been dispatched easily by anyone the way he served and hit the ball today, he was on and still Rafa prevailed.

I would say that Rafa could have atttacked more because there were occasions when he was just defending then Giraldo would hit a winner out of nowhere. Rafa is serving a lot better than he did in the summer and even at the USO so I'm pleased about that.

Lucky, in his book, Rafa says he nearly pulled out of Bangkok last year because he didn't particularly want to win that tournament and he wanted to have a holiday with his friends. He only went because he didn't want to let the Thais down, and his preparation was far from ideal with half holidaying and haf competing.

He had already confirmed his No 1 ranking and did not need the points so he was relaxed about it. I hope the Thais don't read that.

nadline , 10/7/11 12:52 PM


I didn't say that Rafa was pushed around by Giraldo. All I can do is give my honest feelings about the match. Giraldo played great, but it is a concern to see Rafa playing defensively and letting him get the better court positioning. I provided Rafa's serving stats, so all can see that they are very good.

Rafa and Uncle Toni came out with a more aggressive hard court game in the beginning of 2010. It paid off in big dividends that year. All I hope for is that Rafa can play more aggressive tennis, shorten the rallies at times and not make it quite so easy for these guys to get the advantage on him.

I think the comments were very supportive of Rafa. We want the best for him, the best for his health and to see him win. There was mention made of aggressive tactics that Rafa tried in the match, so maybe he was testing some of these things and trying them out.

We will know more when he faces Fish.

Nativenewyorker , 10/7/11 1:01 PM


I too would like to see Rafa playing more aggresively so that the rallies can be shorter.

Your comments are valid and make sense and I agree totally - I did not mean to imply that it was you who said he was being pushed around. It was just a general feeling that I got from some of the posts. They were my words.

So, please don't take offence as this was not my intention.

Enjoy the Rafa v Fish match. I hope he will win quickly and easily.

schatz , 10/7/11 1:51 PM

I was the one who said that Rafa was being pushed around. Yes he was being pushed around especially during the first few games of the first set. As I said, Giraldo played aggressively, with his serves and forehand and stepping inside the court to attack as much as possible. Rafa was being pushed back and had to do lots of defending and running around. Rafa served well, though not the big serves, but he can't break Giraldo's serves despite all the chances and therefore had to win the first set in the tie break. He played better in the second set and tried some other tactics and as I said, he did move more to the centre of the baseline to try to stop Giraldo from hitting winners at his forehand corner.

Fish plays with more varieties and can also serve well so Rafa has to step it up if he wants to win.

luckystar , 10/7/11 2:13 PM

Reading some of Rafa's comments after the match he also acknowledges that he
played to defensively. He also said that he was quite tense especially in the 1st set and we all know that when Rafa's tense he tends to retreat behind the baseline. Here's the quotes:

"It was a tough first set. I thought I could play more relaxed in the second set. At 3-0 you can play more relaxed and aggressive for the rest of the match. But I let him back in and then it was hard to be calm [at the end of the match]."

"I played too short today - two or three, sometimes four metres behind the baseline. That's something I need to improve tomorrow. I have to be more aggressive with my forehand. If I don't it's impossible for me to be in the final."

Odi , 10/7/11 2:59 PM

Rafa always says is the same old story over and over again...

natashao , 10/7/11 3:06 PM

i thought Nadal was decent

Giraldo was impressive

RickyDimon , 10/7/11 3:52 PM

Rafa always says I played too short, I played defensive, I should play more inside the court, I have to be more aggressive after a match, so why doesn't he change all that the next time. When he plays attacking tennis he is sublime but he says his natural game is defensive so he probably doesn't feel too at home attacking even though it's so effective.

He needs a clip round the ear.

nadline , 10/7/11 4:23 PM

Yes, Ricky I thought Rafa was decent too. Giraldo would have troubled anyone today with the way he played, especially his serve.

nadline , 10/7/11 4:41 PM

"When he plays attacking tennis he is sublime..."

When federer hits his backhand like he did in the WTF final last year he is also sublime.
Easier said than done.

bleck , 10/7/11 4:43 PM

Putting him in that dreadful mauve and sludge grey outfit cant be helping him. How could anyone feel confident wearing that awful colour combination.

ed251137 , 10/7/11 4:58 PM

are you saying that pink is why he lost the 2009 French Open?

RickyDimon , 10/7/11 5:01 PM

Oh ed. lol! Is it really all down to awful colour combinations..;)

deuce , 10/7/11 5:01 PM

Rafa looks good in almost any colour, purple looks good on him, just like last year's WTF.

luckystar , 10/7/11 5:34 PM

I agree with lucky...Rafa just looks good wearing any color...but I must admit I get some awkward feeling whenever he wears pink because it always reminds me of that unfortunate FO match with Sod which I try so hard to erase from my memory...

natashao , 10/7/11 5:43 PM

Well for sure it was not his lucky colour Ricky. You'll notice he hasn't worn that tone of pink since.

deuce: I wonder if there is a correlation between the colour of his outfit and his results. He seems to do well when he wears lime green! I have a strong suspicion that Nike have a surplus of the mauve/grey combination and made him wear it in the hope of shifting the surplus stock. :-D

ed251137 , 10/7/11 5:45 PM

Actually, I quite like the purple. They are running of new colours for him to wear because I think they have been through the lot. He looks good in any colour as lucky says and the same colours don't look anything on other players. Some players still wear sleeveless shirts but no one even notices that they do.

ed, I don't know if you saw the match but Rafa played well the trouble is, so did Giraldo.

nadline , 10/7/11 5:45 PM

c'mon..I like him in purple...I will buy this kind of shirt as soon as it hits the stores...:)

natashao , 10/7/11 5:53 PM

I don't think losing at RG had anything to do with the colour he was wearing. In his book he says he would have pulled out of RG that year if he wasn't the defending champion because he'd found out about his parents by then and his knees were in no fit state to play. I think he would have lost, whatever colour he had on. Sadly for Roger, Rafa didn't make it to the final to give him the satisfaction of beating Rafa at RG.

nadline , 10/7/11 6:05 PM

"When he plays attacking tennis he is sublime..."

When federer hits his backhand like he did in the WTF final last year he is also sublime.
Easier said than done.

bleck , 10/7/11 4:43 PM

bleck, Roger's bh may be sublime, but he wasn't playing Rafa today and all I was trying to say was that Rafa always says he should have played more aggressive so why doesn't he do it all the time because when he does he is hard to beat.

nadline , 10/7/11 6:08 PM

Nadline @ 4.23,

My sentiments exactly.

schatz , 10/7/11 7:24 PM

nadline and natasho: Now I'm worried about you. He is not wearing purple: it's mauve - the shade of mauve worn by OAPs to go to bingo. That is not the image I have of you: you'll be telling me next that you both have blue rinsed, tightly permed hair. lol.

ed251137 , 10/7/11 7:45 PM

ed,re Nike's surplus stock, lol! However, I do agree the colours are a bit sludgy. Meanwhile, if Johan ever steps down, I think you should step forward...;)

deuce , 10/7/11 8:06 PM

Girls: perhaps I was being a tad harsh. I was judging the colour by what I could see on my computer screen but I've just seen some images of today's gear and I have to admit it falls more in the violet spectrum!

Nadline: I did watch the match and my overall impression was that Rafa was a bit flat. Maybe calling his performance lacklustre was too harsh but I was still surprised that he was struggling some of the time even allowing for the fact that Giraldo was playing at a very high level.

ed251137 , 10/7/11 8:38 PM

ed, Rafa wasn't that flat. Giraldo did not have a single break point in the first set, Rafa had a few even though he failed to take them. If Rafa had broken just once in the first set and taken the match 64 63, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

Giraldo played extremely well, let's give credit where credit is due.

nadline , 10/7/11 9:09 PM


Thanks for your kind comments. No offense taken! I watched my recording of the match today. What I noticed is that Rafa was hitting his cc backhand from two feet behind the baseline in that first set. And surprise! Giraldo was able to blast forehand winner down the line off that shot. I also noticed that Rafa changed his tactics in the second set. He played aggressively and moved into the court and that's how he got the early break. Then he was broken back, but came back and broke Giraldo again. I noticed that he started hitting his backhand at the baseline and even inside the baseline. His court positioning overall was much better. That shows me that he was thinking and strategizing.

His post match comments are simply the truth. He won't be able to play two feet behind the baseline against Fish. I am sure he knows that. It was nice to see him playing more aggressive in that second set. It paid off. Giraldo did play well, no doubt about that. He went for his shots and hit some amazing winners. All credit ti him and also to Rafa for hanging in there and getting the win in straight sets.

And for the record, I think Rafa looks great in purple and just about any color!

Nativenewyorker , 10/7/11 11:28 PM

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