• Nadal meets Stepanek in Miami third round

    3/25/12 5:15 AM | Cheryl Murray
    Nadal meets Stepanek in Miami third round World No. 2 Rafael Nadal will take on Czech veteran Radek Stepanek as the Miami Masters marches on.

    Spaniard Rafael Nadal will try to secure his sixth win over Radek Stepanek in six meetings. The two men have met 5 other times between 2004 and 2011, with Nadal coming out on top each time.

    Nadal looked in excellent form against Santiago Giraldo in the second round, but Stepanek’s near-extinct brand of serve-and-volley tennis often makes him a tricky opponent, particularly on the low-bouncing courts at the Sony Ericsson Open.

    The Spaniard is certainly in better form than Stepanek. He advanced to the semifinals in Indian Wells, where he went out to eventual winner Roger Federer. But Stepanek has rarely lost to the world No. 2 in straight sets.

    Prediction – Nadal to advance in 3.

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Vamos & good luck our Rafa - hoping for a solid straight sets win against a tricky opponent.

schatz , 3/25/12 10:03 AM

Well at least we will see this match. This should give us a better idea of where Rafa's game is at now.

If Rafa can win in straight sets, then we will know that he is getting into better form. I am anxious to see Rafa on the court in Miami.

Good luck, Rafa!

Nativenewyorker , 3/25/12 10:06 AM

2004 ATP Masters Series Miami
FL, U.S.A. Hard R32 Nadal, Rafael d Federer, Roger
6-3, 6-3 Stats

Just a bit of trivia - this was Rafa's first win against Federer I think. Interesting that it was in Miami since people seem to think that Rafa cannot play well there :-)

He has also reached the final 3 times, so it would be really great if he could finally get to bite that Miami trophy.

schatz , 3/25/12 10:19 AM

Vamos Rafa!

nadline , 3/25/12 10:41 AM

Until Queens last year, the last time Rafa had played Radek was in 2005, quite a long time since. Radek too a set off him at Queens, but I never base any analysis on Rafa's performance at Queens because I don't believe he ever puts his heart an soul into it as he is usually demob happy from RG, and mainly plays there just to get the feel of grass under his feet.

He always looks like he only wants to spend 2 or 3 days there before going home to recharge his batteries before Wimbledon.

nadline , 3/25/12 10:59 AM

"Low bouncing" LOL. Rafa in straight sets.

conquistador , 3/25/12 3:32 PM

This is the point I was making the other day about fast and slow courts, that there are usually contradicting assessments of whether the courts are fast or slow. Here in Miami, there are also contradicting assessments of whether the courts are high or low bouncing. mani4Tennis thinks the courts are high bouncing and Cheryl thinks they are low bouncing.

OTOH i was surprised by the bounce of surface many players are almost jumping to hit forehands
mani4Tennis , 3/25/12 12:14 PM

3/25/12 5:15 AM | Cheryl Murray
"Nadal looked in excellent form against Santiago Giraldo in the second round, but Stepanek?s near-extinct brand of serve-and-volley tennis often makes him a tricky opponent, particularly on the low-bouncing courts at the Sony Ericsson Open."

nadline , 3/25/12 5:50 PM

Even when Stepanek was younger he played a mediocre serve and volley game.Nadal will force him to rally and win easily.

stratocast51 , 3/25/12 7:21 PM

Feli/Marc have just lost to Nando/Merrero. Marc must be missing his usual doubles partner.

nadline , 3/25/12 7:59 PM

Rafa is not going to be on for another 2 hours, probably.

nadline , 3/25/12 10:49 PM

What is going on with the schedule? I came here to check on when Rafa will play. I thought he was going to play after a WTA match that was scheduled to start at 12:00 noon my time, which would be 3:00 pm eastern time.

Were there some long matches? I haven't had a chance to watch much yet. Now I am home and will be glued to the tennis channel.

Nativenewyorker , 3/25/12 11:20 PM

Rafa was scheduled to play after two WTA matches. Venus/ Wozniack went to 3 sets including a final set tiebreak and Ivanovic has just taken the 1st set against Hanchukova, so maybe in an hour's time, Rafa will be on.

nadline , 3/25/12 11:31 PM

Rafa will win in two easy sets.

netcord , 3/26/12 12:14 AM

I am not happy with Rafa's game today. I was hoping for some changes in his game (Serve, Backhand, Serve Return) after Feb, but honestly I haven't seen any improvements yet. I might be wrong. I want Rafa to get back to #1 Ranking before Wimby.

gr8nadal , 3/26/12 2:04 AM

What a shot. Vamossssss Rafa.

gr8nadal , 3/26/12 2:13 AM

gr8nadal, I'm surprised that you are not happy with Rafa's game today, I think he looks imperious. Radek is not an easy bloke to put away, 62 62.

Vamos Rafa!

nadline , 3/26/12 2:26 AM

Hi Nadline, I was not happy with the way Rafa played at the beginning of the match. Later on in the match, I thought he played superbly. Vamosssss Rafa

gr8nadal , 3/26/12 2:30 AM

Rafa was getting into the match early on and did struggle in the first few service games. But the important thing is that he held serve, because he is going for that big serve down the "t" and hitting it. I clocked one at 125 mph and another at 126 mph, both for aces. He seems to be using that bigger serve only when he needs it in close service games. I thought his serve was very good.

Stepanek is a guy with the kind of game to give Rafa trouble. In the beginning he was moving into the court and hitting the ball early and it took Rafa a few games to kind of get it going. But he took Stepanek apart after that. He was dictating the points for the second half of that first set and it continued into the second set.

Considering that cheryl predicted it would be a three setter, because Stepanek has taken a set off Rafa at times in the past, this scoreline is quite impressive.

Now we know that the win against Giraldo was no fluke. Rafa is in much better form than at I/W. This was a good test for him and he passed with flying colors.

Rafa can be a slow starter and that accounts for the match being competitive for the first half of the first set. But after that it was all Rafa.

Now he has Nishikori, who is playing much better than he was when he met Rafa in the second round last year at Miami. This will be another good test for Rafa.

Seeing some of those passing shots, banana shots with the forehand, is a good sign! Some good dtl backhands and even some cc wicked angled fast backhands. Rafa is starting to connect with his backhand and that is good news.

Anyone who wasn't happy watching this, must have seen a different match. Rafa is only going to get better in each match he plays. The serve is definitely better, the backhand is much improved and so is the ROS.

Of course, Rafa isn't in his best form but he doesn't need to be. He got the win and dominated a guy who has given him trouble. That's a good thing!

Well done, Rafa!

Nativenewyorker , 3/26/12 2:58 AM

Thanks NNY. I respect your analysis. I for sure know that you have much more tennins knowledge than I have. All that I want is Rafa to win 3 GS, and 4 to 5 Masters and Olympics this year. I am a very big fan of Rafa.

gr8nadal , 3/26/12 3:19 AM

can anyone tell me the reason why Rafa prefers to stand way behind baseline these days while returning the serve? I thought that was one of the reason why he struggled in 2011

gr8nadal , 3/26/12 4:33 AM

Rafa always starts slow. He looks a bit nervous out there, what's with all the fidgetting, touching the hair, the nose, wiping away the sweat with his wristbands?

Still, despite all his nerves, he's able to produce those clutch serving to save break points. And, what breathtaking passing shots from him today, so many of them! He has done enough to win comfortably in the end, despite some wobbling at the beginning. Well done Rafa!

luckystar , 3/26/12 4:40 AM

gr8nadal ....3 slams, Olympics Gold , 5 Masters for Rafa in 2012 ? Whats left for others then? :-) I sure woul be super thrilled if Rafa wins that much..but realistically speaking its a very tall ask and next to impossible in this field today .

sanju , 3/26/12 5:51 AM

sanju, what man has done, man can do. Djokovic did it last year, apart from the olympics, so how impossible is it?

nadline , 3/26/12 9:04 AM

nadline, I like your optimism. If Rafa can achieve that I'll be extremely happy, though I hope they come without any injury to Rafa. One thing I wish to see Rafa achieves this year, and that is, to limit his losses to below 10 this season. I hope he chooses his tournaments wisely, preferably skips Madrid and Canada, focus on the slams, Olympics and then the YE championships.

luckystar , 3/26/12 9:32 AM

Current ATP-rankings

1. Djokovic 12 500 pts
2. Murray 8 750 pts
3. Federer 8 670 pts
4. Ferrer 6 970 pts
5. Nadal 6 385 pts

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