• Nadal battles Gulbis for quarterfinal spot in Rome

    5/16/13 4:40 AM | Ricky Dimon
    Nadal battles Gulbis for quarterfinal spot in Rome Rafael Nadal will face familiar foe Ernests Gulbis in the Rome third round on Thursday. The winner will go up against either David Ferrer or Philipp Kohlschreiber in the quarterfinals.

    Rafael Nadal and Ernests Gulbis will be facing each other for the sixth time in their careers and for the second time this season when they do battle in round three of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia on Thursday afternoon.

    Nadal has won all five of their previous encounters, but only one has ended in straight sets. They squared off in the semifinals of this same Rome event in 2010, when Nadal prevailed 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. Their most recent meeting came two months ago at the Indian Wells Masters, where Gulbis powered his way to an early lead only to see his opponent storm back to win 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.

    Another blockbuster encounter could be in the cards because Gulbis has remained in outstanding form. The 46th-ranked Latvian is four for four in qualifying attempts this year after playing his way into the main draw on Sunday and he maintained his momentum with straight-set victories over Jarkko Nieminen and Viktor Troicki (the latter of which was a double-breadstick). Gulbis is now 19-6 at the ATP main-draw level in 2013.

    As the underdog learned in the desert, however, even a stellar performance sometimes is not enough to beat Nadal--especially not on clay. The fifth-ranked Spaniard lost to Novak Djokovic in the Monte-Carlo final, but he captured the Madrid title on Sunday and he hammered Fabio Fognini 6-1, 6-3 in his Rome opener on Wednesday. Nadal is 32-2 this season and 37-2 lifetime at this event.

    Gulbis has proven that he wields the talent to trouble Nadal and any other player on tour. If he plays like he did against Troicki, he could even get over the hump and finally get a win over the former world No. 1. On clay, though, such an outcome is simply too much to expect. Nadal in another entertaining three-setter is the pick.

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who you got?

RickyDimon , 5/16/13 4:52 AM

Rafa. Expect Gulbis not to go quietly.

rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 6:25 AM

Rafa for the win in three sets again. I agree that Gulbis will not go gentle into that good night!

Nativenewyorker , 5/16/13 6:40 AM

Expected to rain today in Rome, this could negate Gulbis' aggressive game as conditions may be heavy. Hope the tennis Gods are smiling on Rafa!

rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 6:52 AM


So you think that these conditions will help Rafa? Doesn't he also have trouble when it rains and the conditions are damp and soggy?

Do we even know if the match will be played due to the rain?

Nativenewyorker , 5/16/13 7:12 AM

#Vamos Rafa

nadline , 5/16/13 7:25 AM

Rafa in straights... 62, 64

antony , 5/16/13 7:40 AM

Rafa in 3

deuce , 5/16/13 7:57 AM

Nativenewyorker , 5/16/13 7:12 AM

Remember the Barcelona final which was also blighted by rain? Almagro (a big hitter like Gulbis) wanted to stop play because it was drizzling but Rafa wanted to continue play? The heavy conditions are not ideal for Rafa's game but they are even worse for big hitter because the ball hangs in the heavy air instead of zipping through for winners. All it means is that Rafa will have to revert to his grinding game instead of the more aggressive game he is now implementing......

rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 9:05 AM

rafaisthebest, 5/16/13 9:05 AM,

Thanks for answering my question. Also, the reference to the Barcelona final. Of course you are right about how the rain made Almagro want to stop playing at the time. Rafa wanted to continue. I guess it depends. At last year's RG it was dreadful for Rafa, however they did play in a heavy rain and the balls were wet and heavy. It didn't seem to affect Djoker's game, but Rafa had fits with the conditions.

I won't be able to stay up for this one, so I hope that whatever the weather Rafa will prevail.

Nativenewyorker , 5/16/13 9:11 AM

^^^Of course there is downside to Rafa's upside i.e. if there are actual rain delays and play is suspended mid-match. This disrupts Rafa's rhythm, and may help Gulbis....

The interesting thing about last year's FO final is that Novak is a grinder, not a big hitter like Almagro or Gulbis. As I mentioned, heavy conditions favour grinders, Rafa can grind but I doubt Gulbis can. Rafa got frustrated because he wanted to be aggressive, not get drawn into a grinding game with Novak which would have been to Novak's advantage.

rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 9:24 AM


That's what I hope won't happen - rain delays and play being suspended mid-match. I also hope that they can get this match in today. Rain can play havoc with the scheduling.

I think your take on what happened at last year's FO final is quite interesting. I wondered at the time how Novak was able to deal with the conditions so well. I get what you are saying. Rafa has to play his aggressive game against Novak in order to win.

Thanks for your thoughts. :)

Nativenewyorker , 5/16/13 9:35 AM

RT @SI_BTBaseline: "10am and raining in Rome. Forecast says it won't let up for a few hours. Expect delays today. #ibi13"

rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 10:50 AM

Rafa looks so much like Djokovic here. el-nadals-path-to-the-rome-masters-semifinals?utm_source=newsletter&ut m_medium=newsletter&utm_campaign=tennis

nadline , 5/16/13 11:50 AM

not true nadline, there aren't any screaming children

Shireling , 5/16/13 12:52 PM

I was implying that it's Rafa who is surrounded by 'kids' not Djokovic and Rafa is not announcing it from the roof tops.

nadline , 5/16/13 1:06 PM

Very less dulltards in rome compared to that filth last week.


KMA , 5/16/13 1:35 PM

go Rafa

goran , 5/16/13 3:52 PM

I can t see the match but I hope one of you guys honour the rest of us with a ball by ball!

Monalysa , 5/16/13 3:59 PM

Incredibly slow start from rafa. Odd...

willmw101 , 5/16/13 4:03 PM

French TV has just gone over to the match. You probably dont want to know this but Ernie has already broken Rafa's serve. :-(

ed251137 , 5/16/13 4:03 PM

Well this is going to be a long day!

Monalysa , 5/16/13 4:04 PM

rafa made at least 4 UE's off his forehand already. Very strange start from rafa. He's let gulbis in to this match.

willmw101 , 5/16/13 4:05 PM

Nadal is in some serious trouble out there!! Where is his grove? He is not on the board yet?!!!

Monalysa , 5/16/13 4:10 PM

The crowd are behind Gulbis baying for blood. The early stats are gruesome.

ed251137 , 5/16/13 4:10 PM

Gulbis is going to bagel Rafa?!!! WTF!!!!

Monalysa , 5/16/13 4:11 PM

Dig deep Rafa. You can do it.

ed251137 , 5/16/13 4:11 PM

Anybody else having deja vu?

ed251137 , 5/16/13 4:13 PM

What the hell is wrong with nadal. He's dropping every shot so short. Gulbis playing well but no where near good enough to disrupt rafa when he's playing well.

willmw101 , 5/16/13 4:13 PM

Rafa is not playing with 'colm'.

#Vamos Rafa

nadline , 5/16/13 4:14 PM

Hideous opening set from nadal. Great to see zero confidence after all his wins this season. What a joke.

willmw101 , 5/16/13 4:15 PM

If rafa carries on this level of play he deserves to lose love and love.

willmw101 , 5/16/13 4:16 PM

No, Gulbis is playing well, not much Rafa can do really.

rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 4:18 PM

This set is gone, Rafa just needs to remain calm, weather the storm and re-group for sets 2 and 3......

rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 4:20 PM

Rafa is probably having the same issues he was suffering from when playing against Ferrer. Maybe his knees. If he recovers by the second set, maybe he needs to get warmed up or something, he should win this.

holdserve , 5/16/13 4:21 PM

1-6, 7-5, 6-2

RickyDimon , 5/16/13 4:22 PM

At least you put up before any pending comeback this time though, no?

Gulbis at his best is Top 5 material. Annoying that he can't bring it from match to match.


Conspirator , 5/16/13 4:24 PM

Rafa seems to be moving well for me. I just think he has been outplayed so far. But that is not surprising, this is Gulbis, he has taken Rafa to 3 sets every dropping a set now is not too big a deal.

rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 4:24 PM

At least he's spared the ignominy of a bagel.

ed251137 , 5/16/13 4:25 PM

There's a bit of a wind shift.

ed251137 , 5/16/13 4:28 PM

How has uncle Toni not corrected how far behind the baseline nadal stands to receive serve. It's embarrassingly bad.

willmw101 , 5/16/13 4:28 PM

That's Rafa's default position.

holdserve , 5/16/13 4:31 PM

Strangely, I am not exercised about this.....????

rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 4:31 PM

It's not good enough when his backhand is this inconsistent. He's playing low percentage shots every time he returns off his backhand that deep.

willmw101 , 5/16/13 4:32 PM

Many have been asking that question for years wills. There is presumably a reason why but I'm blowed if I know the answer.

ed251137 , 5/16/13 4:33 PM

Rafa's average first serve speed way under what it usually is and what it was against fognini, strange.

willmw101 , 5/16/13 4:34 PM

Still not sliding into forehands consistently as well. Still mostly taking a strange little two step since he came back from injury.

willmw101 , 5/16/13 4:36 PM

Now the Umpire is on Rafa's case on time between points, not Rafa's day today......

rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 4:38 PM

This is a stat, very return that rafa has put in court has landed within an inch of the service box.... Awful, obviously gulbis is hitting winners from there.

willmw101 , 5/16/13 4:39 PM

He's making a pig's ear of returning the Gulbis serve.

ed251137 , 5/16/13 4:40 PM

Rafa will recalibrate his strategy for the second set if he hasn't already done it. I am not greatly bothered if Rafa loses this. I feel now it doesn't matter.
If he wins, he has grinding matches against Ferrer and Djokovic. Would that be the best thing for Rafa? Only Rafa knows.
If he loses, he can be rested and prepared for RG.

holdserve , 5/16/13 4:40 PM

It should be blindingly obvious that gulbis makes a lot of mistakes on balls that come fast through to his forehand due to his ridiculous swing preparation. So why is rafa playing slow shots only to gulbis' backhand?!

willmw101 , 5/16/13 4:41 PM

I guess that's one way of looking at. Making a positive out of a negative.

ed251137 , 5/16/13 4:43 PM

Rafa not happy with himself.......

rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 4:46 PM

I would hate to see Rafa lose this! But Holdserve, you kinda have a point! However, too me, Rafa needs to be showing some good sings here at this tourney that he is ready to fight for RG!!! If he loses here, dont know what one can take from it.

Monalysa , 5/16/13 4:46 PM

Rafa's mother has got her head bent down. She cant bear to watch.

Not sure I can either :-( Another service break coming up.

ed251137 , 5/16/13 4:47 PM

Well, at least he won't be served 2 bakery products............

rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 4:48 PM

Rafa's getting frustrated with his forehand.....

rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 4:51 PM

Pheew. He managed to salvage that game. Time to step it up Rafa.

ed251137 , 5/16/13 4:51 PM

Ernest is taking care of his service games so well!! He really came out to doubt!!!

Monalysa , 5/16/13 4:53 PM

Rafa couldn't return any worse if he tried, every single return is in the service box just waiting to be hit, in glad he won't get to play Djokovic when he's playing this badly

willmw101 , 5/16/13 4:55 PM

2nd set gonna be good

RickyDimon , 5/16/13 4:55 PM

First love game by Rafa.....


rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 4:56 PM

I was wrong. The crowd are getting behind Rafa now.

ed251137 , 5/16/13 4:56 PM

Greg Sharko (@SharkoTennis)
Posted at 16 May, 2013 12:14 PM on Twitter
"3rd time in 303 clay matches @RafaelNadal lost opening set 6-1. Others came back to win: 11 Davis Cup vs @delpotrojuan, 06 RG vs #Federer."


Conspirator , 5/16/13 4:57 PM

Can anyone give a synopsis of the problem Rafa had in set one?!

Monalysa , 5/16/13 4:58 PM

@Conspirator, didn't you get the memo? Tweets are not allowed on this site.


rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 4:59 PM

1st set synopsis: Rafa's problem was Gulbis. Gulbis was on fire, still is, evidently........

rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 5:01 PM

Yeah rafa is returning about as well as Mohammed lleyani.

willmw101 , 5/16/13 5:02 PM

Even if he can hang on to his own serve I cant see Rafa is going to break the Gulbis serve today.

ed251137 , 5/16/13 5:02 PM

I have never seen Gulbis this potent.....

rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 5:03 PM

Rafa will break, wait and see

Shireling , 5/16/13 5:03 PM

You guys are giving too much credit to gulbis. Nadal's return of serve is absurdly weak. And rafa's backhand is completely broken.

willmw101 , 5/16/13 5:04 PM

Relax Rafafans.. He is fine.. This Gulbis just played like Djoko.. He does not need to perform all time.. 5 titles of 7 tournaments is so amaziiiiiing..

tettylds , 5/16/13 5:05 PM

I remember Rafa playing with Karlovic and Ivo was holding serve so well with aces and Rafa was able to break and win the match so..................we'll see, no?

Monalysa , 5/16/13 5:05 PM

Oh look rafa actually played an offensive backhand from a defensive positon rather than slicing a sitting duck ball into gulbis' service box, what a revelation.

willmw101 , 5/16/13 5:07 PM

Rafa seems to be playing better!

Monalysa , 5/16/13 5:07 PM

willmw101, it is clear Rafa is having a bad day but you know what? I would rather he loses, if he is going to lose, to an inspired Gulbis than to Djokovic or Fed just before RG. You must admit Gulbis is keeping it together today............

rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 5:08 PM

No, losing a match to gulbis is worse than winning it. Should be fairly obvious.

willmw101 , 5/16/13 5:11 PM

I think Papa Nadal is resigned to returning home early this week......

rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 5:12 PM

Gulbis's serve is like Fort Knox today......

rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 5:14 PM

Terrible miss from gulbis, now come on rafa

willmw101 , 5/16/13 5:17 PM

Rafa is at least starting to get some looks at the Gulbis serve now! Vamos Rafa, we know you can!

Monalysa , 5/16/13 5:18 PM

Rafa breaks on his 2nd break point of the match...............

rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 5:18 PM

huge meltdown

RickyDimon , 5/16/13 5:18 PM

You dont often see Rafa looking quite so grim faced. But OMG he's broken the Gulbis serve. Go Rafa, Go.

Now for Goodness sake serve out this set.

ed251137 , 5/16/13 5:18 PM

How is rafa missing those forehands

willmw101 , 5/16/13 5:19 PM

Great!! Rafa is porb not happy with himself but sometimes we know Rafa can have these type of games! Just serve it out, Rafa!!!!

Can you imagine what its like when every body who plays against you wants to beat you sooooooooooooooooo badly?!! Its a never ending constant pressure, so im sure sometimes psychologically it affects Rafa, and thus his game!

Monalysa , 5/16/13 5:22 PM

Can't even serve it out. Nadal can forget about the French open if he's playing this badly, missed two forehands in that game.

willmw101 , 5/16/13 5:23 PM


Monalysa , 5/16/13 5:23 PM

Gulbis breaks back, back on serve.........

rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 5:23 PM

nice bounce-back from Gulbis. with the help from net.

RickyDimon , 5/16/13 5:23 PM

I really dislike Gulbis' demeanour.

ed251137 , 5/16/13 5:25 PM

Of course nadal puts every return in to the service box. Inexcusable.

willmw101 , 5/16/13 5:29 PM

Im glad im not home watchhing this! Its only if Rafa wins the second set he will play with calm!

Monalysa , 5/16/13 5:31 PM

willmw, it has a little something to do with Gulbis' effective serving, no?

Most players wouldn't even be getting them back in play.


Conspirator , 5/16/13 5:31 PM

Looks like it's heading to a tie-break. With that serve of his, Gulbis holds the trump card :-((

Unless Rafa can work a miracle. Or Gulbis implodes.

ed251137 , 5/16/13 5:32 PM

3 SPs gone

RickyDimon , 5/16/13 5:32 PM

for info: Gulbis means Swan in Latvian, his father was a famous Latvian actor = Uldis Pucitis, and Pucitis means 'little owl', lol

Shireling , 5/16/13 5:32 PM

Of course gulbis is serving well but rafa's returning is still a complete joke today.

willmw101 , 5/16/13 5:34 PM

Conspirator , 5/16/13 5:31 PM


rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 5:34 PM

It's getting a bit old willmw.


Conspirator , 5/16/13 5:34 PM

I guess Rafa just wants to do it the hard way!

Monalysa , 5/16/13 5:35 PM

Rome (Fed) fans suck cheering the net cord winners.

Conspirator , 5/16/13 5:36 PM

RAfa plz break this time, break, break , break for goodness sakes!!!

Monalysa , 5/16/13 5:37 PM

He worked a miracle!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Go Rafa, Go

ed251137 , 5/16/13 5:38 PM



Conspirator , 5/16/13 5:38 PM

The Rickster is right!!!!!!!!!

Now let's see if Rafa got the complete memo and wins the 3rd................

rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 5:38 PM

Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monalysa , 5/16/13 5:39 PM

Now Rafa, play with calm but show your might!!! VAMOS!!!!

Monalysa , 5/16/13 5:43 PM

Is it Koenig commenting on Sky? He's getting on my nerves. He sounds like he wants to see Gulbis to win this. Going back to the Frenchies.

ed251137 , 5/16/13 5:45 PM

Of course, they ALL do!!!

Monalysa , 5/16/13 5:47 PM

no, Koenig is not

RickyDimon , 5/16/13 5:48 PM

Rafa needs a match like this to get into fine form for RG.
Be colm, Rafa!

holdserve , 5/16/13 5:49 PM

Ernie's gonna have a meltdown now. He had a big chance to do more in second set, and blew it.
Rafa for the win.

danica , 5/16/13 5:49 PM

Rafa has had 1 backhand winner all match, 1..............

rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 5:52 PM

Rafa playing pretty well tho right now

RickyDimon , 5/16/13 5:53 PM

are you around? should have asked you earlier... any space left behind your sofa? although now that it's gone to the third Rafa will probably made good on Rick's prediction.

chlorostoma , 5/16/13 5:54 PM

@ holdserve, you think?!!

Yeah, i agree!!!

@ happens against the top player so many a time!! Remember Tsonga last year at RG against Novak, and Roddick against Roger at Wimby?!!!

Its simply the mark of a great champion!!!! So, agree, Rafa for the win (if he can only hold his damn serve)!!!


Monalysa , 5/16/13 5:54 PM

I hear Kohly's retired so Ferru gets a walkover into the quarters......

rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 5:58 PM

I heard he has vertigo.

ed251137 , 5/16/13 6:00 PM


RickyDimon , 5/16/13 6:03 PM

Is Gulbis out of his mind???? He is way too much in the zone................

rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 6:05 PM

^^^^^ I like it.

How do you get vertigo on a tennis court?

ed251137 , 5/16/13 6:07 PM

Monalysa, I know. Tsonga had 4 match points in that match and managed to lose it!

Rafa breaks!

danica , 5/16/13 6:10 PM

Yep!! Plz hold serve, Rafa!!!! I dont like those early breaks you know, too much pressure to hold serve!

Monalysa , 5/16/13 6:13 PM

Gulbis is covering the court like I have never seen him do before..............

rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 6:13 PM

Back on serve!

danica , 5/16/13 6:15 PM

Gulbis breaks straight back.............

rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 6:15 PM

as long as Nadal wins one of the next two games, he's fine.

Gulbis will crack once Nadal gets to 5.

RickyDimon , 5/16/13 6:16 PM

See what I mean?!!

Monalysa , 5/16/13 6:16 PM

Please everybody remember only a few weeks ago we expected Rafa to take months to to get back to his old winning ways. He is allowed a dip from time to time.

ed251137 , 5/16/13 6:19 PM

I have lost all confidence in Rafa's service games......

rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 6:20 PM

Yeah, but its frustating when you see him struggle to hold serve like that!! Wow!!!!

Monalysa , 5/16/13 6:21 PM

You'd better be right Ricky. Your forecast is about to be put to the test.

ed251137 , 5/16/13 6:24 PM

Now is the time for Gulbis to show whether he is mentally tougher than before.

danica , 5/16/13 6:25 PM

Must applaud Gulbis's new found resilience....

rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 6:26 PM

To Ricky:

Have I told you lately I love you!!!!!

ed251137 , 5/16/13 6:32 PM


willmw101 , 5/16/13 6:33 PM

GSM Rafael Nadal.

Gulbis had gazzillion aces, gazzillion winners....................and lost.

rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 6:33 PM

Congrats to both of them - Rafa for the win and Ernie for the great game! It wouldn't be undeserved if he won. Great job Rafa! Great match.

danica , 5/16/13 6:34 PM


RickyDimon , 5/16/13 6:34 PM

I'm impressed Dimon. With Rafa too!


Conspirator , 5/16/13 6:34 PM

Ricky, you have soooooooooooooooooooo redeemed yourself.

#Vamos Dear Rafa!

nadline , 5/16/13 6:35 PM

aha ha ha ha, Rafa has survived for another match tomorrow.


Raindrops , 5/16/13 6:36 PM

59 winners from Ernie. Against Rafa, that's a jaw dropping statistic.

ed251137 , 5/16/13 6:37 PM

Stop thanking ricky. He is the kind of guy who would rather be wrong than see Nadal win. Looks like he is getting the praise whilst suffering for the outcome...

childishgambino , 5/16/13 6:37 PM

Rafa has to raise his level A LOT to be ready for the matcha against ferrer. Rome is playing like a grass court this year, really skidding low off the court.

willmw101 , 5/16/13 6:38 PM

Well played Rafa. That was an excellent win.
Don't particularly like Gulbis but boy, when he's on he's exciting to watch. Reminds me of Safin with all that rangy power.

deuce , 5/16/13 6:41 PM

Gulbis has no business being outside the top 10. Respect! If Gulbis can play like this and lose then the stars are not aligned for him in tennis, maybe take up golf or acting.

Rafa is more than amazing, he put his fans through hell, but he is worth it.

#Houdini eat your heart out

nadline , 5/16/13 6:41 PM

Stop thanking ricky. He is the kind of guy who would rather be wrong than see Nadal win. Looks like he is getting the praise whilst suffering for the outcome...
childishgambino, 5/16/13 6:37 PM

You couldn't be more wrong.

nadline , 5/16/13 6:43 PM

Ricky, with this correct call alone, all your other wrong predictions are forgiven........

Am very, very impressed with Ernie. He just needs to work a little bit more on his temperament and he will be problem in Slams. He has worked on his, he is the one to watch, together with Jerzy......

Vamos Rafa!

rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 6:44 PM

Rome fans really suck. As a Rafan, not fun seeing the crowd against him like that. Rafa quieted them in the end but he deserved a better response for showing his spirit to win.

Good stuff from Gulbis though. However, mental strength of a great champion (and lack of it in the end from Gulbis) was the difference. I guess Ricky saw that.


Conspirator , 5/16/13 6:45 PM

Gulbis is the real deal folks, not Baby Fed or any of those imposters.................

rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 6:46 PM

Nadal in 3 was never in doubt.


RickyDimon , 5/16/13 6:46 PM

Standing room only behind the sofa today......;)

deuce , 5/16/13 6:47 PM

I thought Gulbis held himself together to the end, Rafa just found a way.

nadline , 5/16/13 6:48 PM

It will be interesting to see how Gulbis reacts having played his best tennis but still not able to get the bettter of Rafa who was not at his best today by quite a long way. I wonder if it will dent that larger than life self-confidence.

ed251137 , 5/16/13 6:50 PM

Gulbis has no right to be in the Top 10 without the mental strength to perform consistently. Tennis (as with all sports) is 50% between the ears.

I hope he gets there (not against Rafa though) as he has rare talent and is fun to watch.


Conspirator , 5/16/13 6:51 PM

For Rafa, this is a sign that he is regaining his old swagger. If you can hit that many winners as Ernie did and still lose, you know you just walked into a wall, an immovable object.....

Next, Ferru!

rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 6:54 PM

huh, I feel 10 years older after this match..:) Great tennis from Gulbis.. I am amazed the way he played...Great defense Rafa and fabulous key points...Oh, Gosh, I just love the Spaniard so much for his determination, for his energy, for his belief...he sure is one of a kind!

Vamos Rafa!

natashao , 5/16/13 6:57 PM

wow.gulbis almost pulled off a Dimitrov!
Credit to Rafa for hanging in there. Where does he find the motivation to slug it out after all these years. He has just won Madrid, hardly has anything to prove on clay and still he refuses to lose to a red hot opponent.
This will to win is certainly other worldly. Particularly with the kind of talent on display in tennis, its mindboggling how the rogers,noles and the rafas keep churning out the results that they are churning out.
And whats with Gulbis causing so much trouble to Rafa. What is his record versus Roger and Nole??

vmk1 , 5/16/13 7:19 PM

Today was a reminder of what made me fall love with Rafa as a player on his 19th birthday at RG. I've lost count of how many times I have watched him battle his way to the win through sheer guts and determination. It never ceases to thrill and amaze.
Agree with you Natasho - one ages dramatically in the space of a few hours.

ed251137 , 5/16/13 7:23 PM

^^^ Gulbis admitted he likes Rafa's high bouncing ball compare to that flat balls of Roger and Nole :-)

Raindrops , 5/16/13 7:24 PM

I tell you, Rafa...........indeed one of a kind!

If Rafa ends up losing this tourny at least these matches will get him match tough in readiness for the battles at RG!!!

Cant understand how Rafa can do this wek in week out, im tired and older just following him!!!

One match at a time, Rafa, VAMOS!!!!

Monalysa , 5/16/13 7:27 PM

as a die hard rafan i tell you rafa just won by chance!!! and of course his fighting sprit!!

rafaelo , 5/16/13 7:30 PM

^^^ Also guess Rafa's ball had a hard time bouncing as high since the moisture on the courts meant the ball kept low :D

vmk1 , 5/16/13 7:31 PM

IMO, Gulbi plays tennis in a much similar way to Nole's...he was Nole's hitting partner and his backhand is not as good but still VERY his style of play is like Novak's and it does not suit Rafa...and today he served extremely well! however, the most important part is that Gulbis always plays Rafa with great motivation which enables him to play the best he can hitting winners all over the place. I noticed that Rafa today had to paint the lines to win the points?it was a really good match afterall!

Vamos Rafa!

natashao , 5/16/13 7:34 PM

I suffer with terrible itchy feet with nerves when watching Rafa in a tight spot and I have to take anti-histamine for it. I have to take it anyway for my hay fever.

#Vamos Rafa

nadline , 5/16/13 7:37 PM

vmk1 , 5/16/13 7:19 PM

Rafa/Gulbis: 6-0
Roger/Gulbis: 2-1
Nole/Gulbis: 4-1
Muzza/Gulbis: 5-0

So, for all his toils, Gulbis has yet to beat Rafa. Same applies to Muzza, he has beaten both Fed and Nole. So much for liking Rafa's game......

This is what I find interesting, a lot of these young players say they like playing Rafa because they feel they have a chance against him as opposed to say, Fed. And yet, most of them have never won a match against Rafa and they have won a match or so against Fed!

It will be the same next time, Gulbis will play out of his mind, and lose.

rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 7:40 PM

@ natasho
I think the exact opposite way! Gulbis just played like Soderling! those big flat forehands werr just like sod's!! and that was working for almost 2 sets! horrifying!

rafaelo , 5/16/13 7:46 PM

Thanks man, RITB!! But the stat was that Rafa has had it tough against Gulbis every time, whether he is playing well or now. Rafa was playing some of the best tennis in 2008 and 2010 but had to stretch against Gulbi. In IW, the toughest match he had that week was against Ernie.
He never even seems to have the mental meltdown that he is renowned for.
I certainly would like Gulbie to be as far away from Rafa as possible in every draw that they are together in.

vmk1 , 5/16/13 7:47 PM

@rafaelo, I disagree. Rafa did not win by chance, he won by design. Rafa never lost his composure. If yo noticed, he was turning the screws up a notch at the same time Gulbis's level was dropping. We are talking fine margins here, but that explains why Rafa never lost his composure, and why it is difficult to beat him in a best of 5. All he had to do was wait for a Gulbis mistake at a critical juncture in the match and pounce. That critical juncture came in the last game, on the Gulbis serve. Here is the telling stat off Rafa's last return game: 6 out of 8 serves returned. Rafa had Gulbis on the rack and Gulbis duly cracked..........

So, give Rafa credit guys, his reading of the game mid-match and the adjustments he makes ........mind-boggling. I do not understand people who whine about Rafa and on-court coaching, Rafa does not need it, he is a coach himself on court.........


rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 7:55 PM

@vmk1, yes Gulbis always stretches Rafa but Rafa is always stretched by tall guys with good serves and flat quick shots. Gulbis is not the only one in that respect. At the end of the day what matters is how Rafa deals with them, he reels them in, and then let's them hang themselves. Juts go back and look at Gulbis's winners numbers compared to Rafa's, did he lose, you ask yourself? One mistake, at the critical juncture and he was done for.

Tennis is a mixture of boxing and chess..................patience is the hallmark of both disciplines............

rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 8:05 PM

I know rafa knows tennis :D ;)
but I think every one of us rafans agree that these kind of wins are not satisfactory ;)
we like to see rafa kills the opponent!

rafaelo , 5/16/13 8:08 PM

RITB, and ballet dancing for some, no?


Conspirator , 5/16/13 8:11 PM

rafaelo, that's why we like to watch Rafa play Fed!


Conspirator , 5/16/13 8:12 PM

@rafaelo, but that is Rafa! He always puts his fans through the ringer......

Personally, I found this win very, very enjoyable because it showcased Rafa's mental fortitude. Any other player would have folded after being broken at 4-2 in the final set, not Rafa.

Rafa is back.

rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 8:19 PM

true, RITB. BTW you certainly are very active these days. See a post of yours in almost every thread. Your absence on this site coincided with Rafa's absence it seems ;) Hope you are true about Rafa winning the tourney after this scare. Even Ferrer the small seems to give Rafa these days. Vamoss for tomorrow

vmk1 , 5/16/13 8:22 PM

but the bad thing is that these matches show that there are certain strategies to hurt our rafa! and opponent with more accurate shots can make a win out of these strategies!! like djoker and sod! and it's not doing any good to rafa's confidence! :|

rafaelo , 5/16/13 8:26 PM

true, RITB. BTW you certainly are very active these days. See a post of yours in almost every thread. Your absence on this site coincided with Rafa's absence it seems ;) Hope you are true about Rafa winning the tourney after this scare. Even Ferrer the small seems to give Rafa the fits these days. Vamoss for tomorrow

vmk1 , 5/16/13 8:28 PM

True vmk1, shows I am a Rafan, not an anti other players. You are very perceptive! When Rafa's not playing what's the point of posting?

@rafaelo, don't worry, our Rafa knows. I don't know how far he is still from Nole's game, we shall see soon enough hopefully on Saturday, but Rafa will solve all these "problems", have faith........

rafaisthebest , 5/16/13 8:39 PM

Some argue that Rafa needs a new coach, what say you folks?

Monalysa , 5/16/13 8:43 PM

Conspirator, 5/16/13 6:51 PM
Conspirator, 5/16/13 6:45 PM

I loved these two posts! I agree that the difference is Rafa's ferocious mental strength and will to win. Gulbis just doesn't have it between the ears. That's how Rafa got this win. However, I was reminded once more just how talented Gulbis is and how he has wasted that talent by not being willing to put in the long hours and hard work to be able to play well consistently.

When I got up and checked the score, I had to rub my eyes and look again because I couldn't believe that Gulbis won the first set 6-1! I inadvertently deleted my recording and only got to see the last half hour of the match. I am going to check out the replay later on the tennis channel.

Reading everyone's comments it appears that Rafa's smarts, ability to make adjustments mid-match and also his superior mental toughness made the difference today. Gulbis is always a tough one for Rafa. That's why I had trouble falling asleep last night. I just knew this was going to be another nightmare.

Now Rafa gets to face Ferrer who had a walkover. It won't get any easier from here on out. I just hope that getting this win will give Rafa good feelings. He just has a way of winning matches when he should lose.

Nativenewyorker , 5/16/13 8:45 PM

OMG!!! Just watched the end on youtube. What a reaction!! HE was pumped alright!! This guy sure loves digging out of tough situations

vmk1 , 5/16/13 8:56 PM

rafaelo, 5/16/13 8:26 PM

Hang about. You talk as if Soderling could beat Rafa regularly. Their H2H is/was 6:2. Both those losses came in 2009 which was an injury ridden year for Rafa. Nole on the other hand, from the outset, has always been able to hang with Rafa - although less so on clay until relatively recently.

ed251137 , 5/16/13 9:05 PM

^^^ I am just saying that the way soderling was playing was a pattern to hurt rafa! and that's a fact! I am not saying anything bad!

rafaelo , 5/16/13 9:16 PM

This one raises its head from time to time. I wasn't aware it was being mooted at this moment in time although I did see mention that he has had some input from someone else - I forget the name.

My take is if something aint broke don't fix it. So far U.Toni has successfully steered Rafa through his tennis whole tennis career and to me it is inconceivable that Rafa would contemplate anybody else as his full time coach.

ed251137 , 5/16/13 9:19 PM

I was answering Monalysa in my 9:19pm comment. I meant to add that having more than one coach seems to cause friction and in the case of both Andy and Nole ended up being detrimental.

ed251137 , 5/16/13 9:27 PM

thank you everyone for your comments, as I didn't have a chance to watch this game

ritb: love your boxing + chess analogy, so true....

has it not always been this way over the years? some players are hard for Rafa to play against, at least in some matches, but so often he manages adjust, hang in and usually prevail.

ricky read it right: rafa was not injured, maybe had a not best day but mostly gulbis was playing so well etc and therefore NID. wish we could be that confident :)

chlorostoma , 5/16/13 9:32 PM

Rafa was also clearly putting his newly learnt Poker skills into practice. He had us all guessing (including Ernie) what cards he was holding.

ed251137 , 5/16/13 9:45 PM

you mentioned something you had mentioned years ago, falling in love with Rafa's tennis at his first RG the day he was turning 19. Same here (we wrote about this before). I was switching channels and chanced upon his semi-final with the Fed on that Saturday. Within the first half hour I had become a Rafa fan. (Had stopped watching tennis for a number of years so was not aware or Roger, who I also discovered that day.) Rafa's passion and fight is what did it.

chlorostoma , 5/16/13 9:47 PM

Nadal has to be the champ who less people believe in despite proving them wrong time and time again.
I can already hear future comments saying how bad a player Nadal was (in a future where Nadal is already retired)from people who probably got their buttocks whipped by him.

Shireling , 5/16/13 10:17 PM

Ricky was amazing with his certitude regarding the result. I wish that I could be that calm when Rafa is in one of those matches. I don't know how Rafa does it! Somehow he keeps it together and finds a way to win. From the little I saw of the last part of the match, it looked like Gulbis was playing out of his skin. But Gulbis doesn't have the mental toughness to back up his great shots. That is what is missing with him.

This is really Rafa at his best. Clawing out a win while his opponent plays outstanding tennis. He just finds a way. One of a kind.

Nativenewyorker , 5/16/13 10:21 PM

indeed, winning a match like this is a far greater measure of a tennis player (who plays alone on court) than winning on a day when you are comfortably better than the other player. you need many wins of both kinds to reach win as often and consistently as Rafa Fed and Novak do.

chlorostoma , 5/16/13 10:48 PM

Rafa has also said, on more than one occasion, that you can learn more from losing a match than when you win.

Gulbis take note.

ed251137 , 5/16/13 11:02 PM

i was in a meeting at lunch today where in the middle of discussion not related to tennis someone quoted Billie Jean King as having said:
losing a match is not failure, it is research

it is perhaps fair to say that Nadal is one of the few players that deeply takes this to heart (/ puts it in practice).

chlorostoma , 5/16/13 11:41 PM

and he (and surely Billie Jean King did too) takes that also re more or less everything he attemps on court against a given player on a given day... if it does not work for a while he goes on to try to work out within the match what he can adjust

Do you think Billie Jean King would ever come close to calling Nadal's matches dull :-) ?

chlorostoma , 5/16/13 11:44 PM

The following gives an insight into Uncle Toni's philosophy which has been drilled into Rafa.

ed251137 , 5/17/13 12:24 AM


I remember reading about the training methods that Uncle Toni used to toughen up Rafa when he was younger. He wanted to make it hard so that Rafa would learn how to deal with difficult conditions. I think that Uncle Toni did a lot to create that mental toughness that is such an integral part of Rafa and which has been crucial in his success. I think that's how he wins matches like the one with Gulbis. He learned at a young age to handle bad conditions and adversity.

Uncle Toni comes in for some criticism at times, but I think that he has a wonderful understanding of the psychology of the sport of tennis. He instilled in Rafa a philosophy and approach that has served him well in his career.


Billie Jean King would never call Rafa's matches dull! Neither would any of the other tennis legends, both male and female. They have a great appreciation for what Rafa brings to the sport. I love the quote from Billie Jean King! She was my idol growing up.

Nativenewyorker , 5/17/13 7:02 AM

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