What's going on, Jarkko?
Posted 05-11-2006 at 12:36 PM by el güero
Nieminen lost to Stepanek in Rome, a match everyone thought he should and would win easily. Sure, Radek is a tough fella but Jarkko had beaten him twice before, the other one indoors. Clay should've played straight to Nieminen's strenghts.
What is this? Is Jarkko starting to lose his great momentum, built up since USO 2005? Last week's awful loss in Munich against Vliegen could be dismissed as flu and overall tiredness, but he seemed to have fully recovered, beating Grosjean (surprisingly) easily in 1st round of Rome. Is Jarkko now becoming too reflexive about his own position in top 20, thinking too much about winning titles and challenging the big guys? Has he returned to the old Jarkko when being the favorite meant too much pressure on him? Or is this a question of Jarkko not performing well in TMS? Not counting Indian Wells '06, Nieminen has never reached 4th round in a TMS tournament.
Who knows, only time will tell. But there's no need to panic. Most probably this is not a case of anything of the above, just a bad day in the office. Maybe Jarkko took it too lightly, remembering the last time he beat Radek 6-1 6-1 in Munich. But when Radek is serving well, you can't break him anytime you like, and that means you need to be very focused on your own service games. So it's a most untypical clay court match what comes to the mental approach -- you have to be sharp from the beginning, or else Stepanek races away. Unfortunately, Jarkko wasn't awake out there and let Radek catch him off-guard.
Two big clay court tournaments still to come. Nieminen gets a long awaited rest now, will hit the courts of Hamburg hungry, blood-thirsty and ready to show his skills against a top player. I'd love him to play either Nalbandian, Nadal, Federer or Gaudio before the French.