Check it out here, but below is an excerpt: http://www.tennisgrandstand.com/archives/author/romi/
FERNANDO VERDASCO: PRESS CONFERENCE & MATCH
In a match the lasted just over two and a half hours, Fernando Verdasco battled back to beat Michael Berrer in the second round of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic. The final score was 4-6, 7-5, 7-6(6). Berrer held two match points at 5-2 in the 2nd set but couldn’t close it. Verdasco unexpectedly kicked into fifth gear and won the next five games forcing a third set. It wasn’t pretty tennis and both had trouble returning each other’s first serve, but the crowd was exhilarated by the score.
In the first set, as explosive as his forehand was, Verdasco otherwise seemed tired and drained out of energy. But according to his press conference afterward he “woke up at 12:30pm today” and felt well-rested before the match. I then brought up whether a concert he attended of friend Alejandro Sanz the night before affected his play today. He stated that he “left at 10:30pm. By Spanish standards, that’s early!” I’ll admit I smiled, but for two reasons. One, he was charming and funny in the way he said it. Two, I had already checked the timestamp on his twitter and it didn’t quite support it. At midnight, he tweeted “Having dinner!” and just over an hour later came “Good night everybody!” It’s possible that the time may not have accurately tracked his current location on twitter, or perhaps he had just lost track of time and didn’t want to blame his less-than-stellar play on a late night out. In all fairness, the good eleven hours of sleep he did get should be sufficient recovery. Tennis players have a very unique schedule with matches and practices both early in and late into the day. Plus, it’s summer and he should be able to enjoy his time freely. I guess tennis players need to have some fun outside the courts too!
As the match progressed into the 3rd set, I found my head shaking again and again in doubt. Verdasco’s toss was horribly off. He would throw it too far behind him, let it drop and try again. It’s ok if this happened a couple of times. But no, this occurred at least a dozen times that I counted. I started imagining his future: the press and fans defining his entire game simply by his bad toss. The kind of bad dream that Ana Ivanovic had been in for a while where the more she tried, the further away she got from her serving goals. I cringed at the thought and tried to dispel it. But each time he threw a ball too far behind him again, I would find a few more faces in the crowd cringing with me. “I need Verdasco at the top of the rankings, we ALL need Verdasco.”
Thankfully, as errant as his toss was he still managed to serve decent. When asked about his toss in the press conference, he replied he had no problems really. He said that several times the wind picked up on-court and he stopped the ball instead of serving it. He also claimed that the “people moving” in the crowd disrupted his concentration when he tossed it a few times and he let it go as well. This was a surprising answer. Actually one I had never thought of or heard of before. Every match has ‘people moving’ around. They are the ones who pay to watch the players play. It seems a bit out of the ordinary to cite that as a reason for the horribly-constructed toss. But then again, I should take his word for it instead of speculating that he is having problems. He did mention that he was having a hard time seeing the ball in the third set because it was getting quite dark and he hadn’t played a night match in the humidity in a while. It was actually his first time in Washington, D.C. and I won’t shy away from the fact that it has been quite muggy lately.
Verdasco was then asked “Why decide to play D.C. this year, and not before?” I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the reasoning behind his scheduling. When he had played Davis Cup in France last month, he hurt his ankle slightly and even played Bastad still injured. The following week, he then had to pull out of Gstaad with a microtear in his hamstring. He looked into the schedule, wanting to play a 500-level tournament this month to make up for those missed points, and decided to come to D.C. for the first time as a wildcard. Sometimes I sit and wonder how players decide which tournaments to play and when to take vacation, so this was an enlightening inside look as to how it’s done on the tour from one player’s perspective. I respect his and all player’s match schedules as most tennis fans do. The ATP calendar really is a grueling and long one and a few weeks missed can bump you down in the rankings significantly, especially if it’s injury related. Just take note of Juan Martin del Potro whose last match was at the Australian Open in January and who, just this week, picked up a racquet after more than six months of being away from tennis because of a wrist injury that needed surgery. I can’t stop wondering whether he’ll ever be able to play at 100% capacity as before. I’m hopeful, as are many, but only time will tell. And it’s time that gets more and more precious for these players. No wonder Verdasco tries to enter as many tournaments in a year as his body can handle.
One last interesting thing of note from the press conference was regarding the relative non-existence of other Spaniards in the Legg Mason field. Among the Spaniards he referred to, one mention caught my attention in particular. And that is the story behind Feliciano Lopez actually wanting to come and play in D.C. this year as well. What happened and why didn’t he? Well, as Verdasco put it, “Feli” had asked the ATP to sign him up for Legg Mason and quite frankly they “forgot” to. I’m not sure how this works, but Verdasco seemed disappointed as the two are great friends on and off the court. Feli has played in years past and it seemed fitting for the two friends to enjoy the tournament together. We missed out on what could have been another venerated doubles team .
All in all, as nerve-wrecking as his match was for a spectator to watch, he was calm and collected in his press conference afterward. He seems to have the attitude that “nothing is wrong” on-court and everything can be handled. That’s an admirable mindset to have when you’re hitting well and winning. However, it can be a tricky position when your game begins to falter. His misplaced toss and weaker-than-usual return game and footwork could be a sign of troubles to come. It might have just been a bad day at the office, but it’s something to be vigilant of in the future. Keeping an eye on his injuries and possibly cutting back on his full schedule could alleviate this rollercoaster of stellar performance followed by a mediocre one. We want to see his best tennis but, more importantly, we want him healthy.
Verdasco has something else to be proud of and that is his fan support. On his first day of practice when he first arrived, there were two dozen people watching him. The day following his first match, he became a star. A pleasant guy off-the-court, he loves interacting with fans and enjoys their words of support. His forehand and court presence are as immense as they are exhilarating. Next time you have a chance to see Verdasco live, don’t pass up the opportunity!