Safin vs. Nalbandian in Madrid final
Who do you think will win?
IMO, it all depends on Marat Safin really. If he can maintain his focus and channel his energy positively as he has been doing all week (and of course score big with that serve!) I see him the winner very comfortably.
On the other hand, Nalbandian is the type of player that will keep coming back at him with his exquisite counter-punching skills. If he can get into Marat's head like he did at RG it might go the other way. However this being indoor-hard it might not be so easy.
Here is what I think are the important factors for both players coming into the match:
* Will need to get in a high percentage of first serves. On a quick indoor court that is one of his main assets. Even the great Andre had problems returning some of those howitzers
* Has to stay focused and not let things such as bad line calls get in the way. Early in the 1st set today v Agassi he thought he had served an ace at 40-0 but it was called a let and he didnt hear it. He lost his focus being dragged back to duece but eventually closed the game out. He cannot afford to have those lapses against David!
* Has to be patient and choose the right moment to attack. Against Nalbandian its a whole new ball-game. Against Agassi he was quite content in soaking up the power that Andre gave him to hit back with even more power. Against David he won't have that luxury- he will have to generate the power and he must choose his moments wisely. This is IMO one of his main weaknesses, going for too much at the wrong time in a rally.
* Mix it up with net play. David is a rythm player, if he gets into a groove trading groundies with his opponents, more often than not he comes out on top. Safin has to keep him guessing, not to let him slip into his comfort zone.
* Keep returning as well as he has been against both Dent and Ljubicic and work his way into the rally. His counterpunching skills will enable him to soak up a lot of what Marat might throw at him. So if he can get back a lot of returns and make Marat work hard in the baseline rallies, he just might be able to wear him down.
* Mix his pace- hit hard when he needs to, but make good use of the court. Throw in angled shots with high amounts of topspin, or low slice to keep the ball low. This is what Agassi failed to do and it cost him the match. While Agassi hit it hard and deep, he was hitting it into Marat's comfort zone more often than not. Marat eats those hard deep groundies for breakfast. This is why David will need to vary the spins and angles. That is the play that frustrates Marat the most, as players like Santoro and Federer will attest to. When being forced to move bi-laterally (i.e., forwards/backwards and sideways in one motion) Marat is not as good as when he moves uni-laterally and sometimes can be made to look quite clumsy.
* Go into the net- if as an extra to the above mentioned he can also throw in some volleys, it will be a big plus. He has been doing it relatively consistently all week and it has paid him good dividents.
Summary: If both players do the above mentioned it will be a thrilling contest, but because of the surface I would have to give Marat the edge. If he can consistently do the above-mentioned things, I can definitely see him overpowering Nalbandian bearing in mind the speed of the court.
Last edited by RonE; 10-23-2004 at 04:36 PM.