What should not be so incredibly shocking (though still surprise) is that John Isner almost managed to beat Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros. After all, when you play a huge serve player like Isner or an Ivo Karlovic, you expect that the match might be all holds and have to go to tiebreaks. And in tiebreaks the big serves always have an advantage. What should be shocking is the way Isner did it. He beat Nadal from the baseline in a lot of points. Isner hit a lot of winners in addition to coming into net a lot and hitting a lot of volleys. It started there. Isner made Rafa worry about his net play a lot and managed to control some of the baseline rallies from there.
The thing that should scare Nadal fans from this match was the demeanor in which Rafa played it. He no longer played like the supremely confident Rafael Nadal that we are used to. It was visible in his eyes and face. Rafa, at some points in the match, was not absolutely sure he was going to win. That is something we haven't seen before, even when Federer was beating him in Wimbledon finals. He was trying to pump himself up after every point early in the fourth set and managed to ride that out to a win. Still, this match is worrisome. It was Rafa's first ever five-setter on clay. You have to think that losing four straight matches to Djokovic has rattled him in some way. On the other hand, we saw Rafa play five-setters early in Wimbledon last year (against Haase and Petzschner) and he still won the tournament. This should be a little worrisome, but is definitely not the end of the world.
Of the other top seeds, everyone looked solid. Djokovic and Murray dispatched their opponents with ease, though Murray had two short patches in the match where his game just seemed to leave him. Federer did not look dominant but still won without being troubled in straight sets. He was not the shotmaker on Monday, but instead played solid defense, forcing his opponent into errors and playing better on the big points. Robin Soderling had a little trouble with Ryan Harrison and still hasn't found his form that got him to the finals in the past two years, but he is still in the tournament and has time to improve.
Who Looked Good:
On the very first day of the French Open, a few players flexed their considerable clay court muscle. The first was David Ferrer. If you remember, we were very excited here about Ferrer this year. And through one round, at least, he has not disappointed. His movement and shotmaking were excellent and his serve was even a weapon, something that has been lacking from his game. Against Jarkko Nieminen, a veteran and solid clay court player, Ferrer did not allow a single deuce or break point opportunity on his serve. Ferrer looked dominant and we hope to see continued great form from him.
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