Pasha Competes Well, Falls Short in First ATP Main Draw Singles Match

Pasha's serve topped out at 137 MPH

Pasha’s serve topped out at 137 MPH

One week ago, Nathan Pasha, a rising senior at the University of Georgia, was teaching tennis to youngsters at The John Beck Tennis Academy in Bogart, Georgia. He needed to make money to pay bills for his new off-campus house at UGA. However, a few days ago Pasha got a call from Atlanta tournament director Eddie Gonzalez, and he was offered a main draw wild card. Austin Smith was scheduled to get the WC, but he entered a futures event the same week and was forced to withdraw. Pasha couldn’t say no.

“I found out four days ago. I had been teaching for about two and half weeks, and that’s all I had been doing. So when I found out I tried to get back in shape, find some timing, and get ready as best I could in about three days,” Pasha said.

He had played a couple of futures events in June, including a run to the semifinals in Buffalo. But that combined with a long college tennis season had Pasha burnt out. He needed a break from tennis. Obviously playing an ATP event was good enough reason to interrupt that break.

Pasha played Slovakian Lukas Lacko tuesday, his first ever match against a top 100 player. Pasha has a similar build to frenchman Gael Monfils. He stands at 6’3, is lanky but strong, and his athleticism is incredible. His explosive movement is a sight for suffering American tennis fans’ eyes. In the first game of the match, Pasha hit the hardest serve of the tournament at that point. He blasted one down “T” at 136 M.P.H., and was averaging about 128 throughout the match.

Having only three days to prepare, it was clear that Pasha was a little off timing-wise, especially on the forehand side, where he has a very slight hitch in his backswing. He made quite a few errors off that side in the first set, as Lacko simply outclassed him from the baseline. The first set was over in 27 minutes, with Lacko taking it 6-2.

The second set started in similar fashion, with Lacko, who is a very pure ball striker, dominating nearly every exchange. But slowly Pasha started getting his foot into the match, extending rallies and mixing in the slice. His forehand is a plus shot when he gets it right, and at 4-3 in the second set, it started to click. He hit two inside-in winners to break Lacko, giving him a 5-3 lead, and let out a big yell of emotion. With the crowd behind him, he had a chance to serve out the set.

From there, things went downhill fast. He double-faulted four times to get broken straight back, and only won 2 of the final 18 points in the match, losing the second set 5-7. He admitted afterwards that nerves got the best of him.

“I’ve been playing tennis for 15 years. I have to make serves in that situation. It was all mental,” Pasha said. “I saw the finish line and I freaked out.”

Regardless, there is a lot of upside for Pasha, and he knows that a match like this can give him valuable experience for the future.

“I think in those situations I just need to slow down, take my time,” Pasha said. I’m sure Manny (Diaz) will talk to me about it and how I can learn from it.”

To play in your premier ATP World Tour singles match on only three days of preparation is extremely difficult, and a 6-2 7-5 scoreline is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. Pasha has one year left at Georgia, where he’ll look to lead a stacked Bulldogs lineup to their first national championship  since a John Isner lead squad in 2007.

He said that he’s going to keep teaching tennis for the rest of the summer, make as much money as he can, and then prepare for his senior season. His life is vastly different than everybody else in the main draw of Atlanta.

When asked what he would take away form the match, Pasha was candid.

“I’m not gonna freak out.”

Smyczek Opens Atlanta Campaign in Dominant Fashion

Smyczek serving in the second set.

Smyczek serving in the second set.

Tim Smyczek defeated fellow American Ryan Harrison 6-0 6-2 in the first round of the BB&T Atlanta Open tuesday, needing only 53 minutes to secure the victory.

Harrison, who looked OK in his doubles match yesterday, was clearly suffering from some sort of illness, as well as blisters on his left foot. Regardless, the Wisconsin native looked sharp from start to finish, breaking serve five times, while holding his serve with relative ease the entire match. Smyczek, a favorite among many readers of this site, spoke with The Tennis Nerds and other reporters after the match.

“It was pretty clear that he wasn’t moving his best. Usually he moves very well, so I knew something was up,” Smyczek said.

Playing an injured opponent can often times be very difficult mentally, but Smyczek stayed focused throughout.

“I went out there with a really clear game-plan, and frankly that didn’t change much with him not moving so well. I’m really happy with the way I focused and I think there’s a lot of positives to take from this match,” Smyczek said. “It’s not easy to beat anybody that scoreline at this level, even if he is hurt.”

The man most call “Smee” has had a tough 2014 season. After reaching a career high ranking of 73 late last fall, he has suffered from injuries as well as mixed results. After reaching the semifinals in Maui, Smyczek was having shoulder problems, and that set him back a couple weeks. The main roadblock was knee-surgery that took place two months ago.

“It was a long road back. I came back quickly, but it took a while for me to feel like I was moving like I’m used to. But now I’m really happy with the way I’m feeling physically on the court,” Smyczek said, adding that he went through a good training block with coach Billy Heiser just before Wimbledon.

Smyczek is most remembered for his five set thriller against Marcel Granollers at the 2013 US Open, where he was the last American man standing in the draw. He talked about his desire to return to those stages.

“That’s what we play for, especially as an American. It was an honor to play in front of a lot of fans who were behind me. So that’s what we’re shooting for, to get back to that stage,” Smyczek said.

(Five fans wearing “S-M-Y-!-!” t-shirts were especially passionate that night)

The American stands at about 5’9, but he has a forehand that can do serious damage, as well as a rock solid backhand that is very flat and skids through the court. Smyczek served exceptionally well tuesday, making 81% of his first serves. Don’t be fooled, just because he’s small doesn’t mean he can’t crank it up to about 130 mph. (Referred to as “Smee-Bombs”) If that continues, look for him to have a lot of success in this tournament. He mentioned that a win like this could springboard him to greater success.

He will face off against Australian Marinko Matosevic in the second round. Matosevic also dispatched his opponent, Victor Estrella-Burgos, by the same exact scoreline, 6-0 6-2.

The two have met twice at the challenger level, each player holding one win. They last met in 2012 in Sarasota, where Smyczek won a tight three setter, 7-6(6) in the third.

“I know his game well,” Smyczek added. “He’s a great player, very steady but he has weapons. It’ll be tough.”

Sock And Pospisil Maintain Focus on Singles Despite Doubles Success

Jack Sock and Vasek Pospisil shocked the tennis world with their dream title run at the All England Club, defeated the Bryan brothers in a great five set final. Nicknames for the Canadian-American pairing have been free-flowing since such as “PopSock” and “VaSocktemy.” They are now in position to qualify for the World Tour Finals in London, as long as they remain in the top 20 in the doubles race. They spoke with the media in Atlanta Tuesday about their experience at Wimbledon and ambitions for the rest of the season.

One of the funnier moments was when Sock and Pospisil changed sides so that Pospisil could sit on the duece side, and Sock on the Ad side, just as they play in doubles. Sock jokingly told the Canadian that “I’ve never looked at you from that side, it was weird.”

PopSocks performance at Wimbledon was certainly unexpected, and they were the first to admit their surprise.

“At the beginning of the tournament obviously we were playing very loose and pretty relaxed. We were having fun out there, and playing some good tennis. Once we got the quarters, semis, we knew we could do something special,” Sock said.

The pairing acknowledged that making the World Tour Finals was something they were excited about, but insisted that they were more focused on their singles performances for the rest of 2014.

“When both of our singles schedules match up we’ll play doubles together, but for now singles is still both of our number one priorities,” Pospisil said.

“It’s a side goal, but still a big goal for us, reaching the year end championships. Doubles is a lot of fun for me, it allows me to relax on the court,” Sock reiterated. Obviously I would like to do well in singles at the slams.”

Patrick McEnroe, general manager of player development for the USTA, echoed Sock’s comments. He said that the doubles success was great to see, but singles is still something that needs a lot of improvement, especially on the men’s side.

“We’re looking to get a lot better. You look at guys like Jack (Sock) and Ryan (Harrison), they’ve been out there a couple years, but they’re still quite young. They still have a lot of upside.”

Sock opens his campaign in Atlanta against Alejandro Gonzalez, while Pospisil will play the winner of Illya Marchenko and John Patrick Smith after receiving a first round bye.

The Most Intriguing Tennis Match That Nobody Saw

Jared Donaldson. Daniel Cox. To the average tennis fan, these two names have absolutely no significance whatsoever. In fact, unless you’re a consistent follower of the challenger tour, odds are you’ve never heard of them. They faced off in the round of 16 at the Binghamton challenger wednesday night, and there were, undoubtably, very few watching. Binghamton, a short drive from Ithaca College(I may or may not attend this great institution), is far from a tennis hotbed. Perhaps the most notable/recent sporting occurrence in the area was the Binghamton Mets(New York Mets AA Affiliate) appearing on ESPN’s “Not Top 10.” You get the picture. What unfolded on the sparsely attended center court was nothing short of fascinating.

These two unheralded(and that’s putting it kindly) tennis players are very much the opposite of one another. Cox, a 23 year old from England, is generously measured by the ATP at 5’7, and had been battling predominately on the futures circuit for the last five or so years. He’s won 12 titles at professional tennis’ lowest tier, and because of that, his ranking has improved steadily to the low 200′s. He recently played in the biggest match of his career at Wimbledon, where he took a set off of world no. 37 Jeremy Chardy, before falling in 4 tight sets. Because his ranking has improved, he can now play challengers on a regular basis, and wednesday he was looking to reach his third challenger quarterfinal of 2014.

Jared Donaldson, in contrast,  is a 17 year old American, who is already 6’2, and still growing. Donaldson, who comes from a wealthy family, is one of a handful of young American juniors to have been touted at a future star. In February of 2013, he contemplated quitting tennis. After consulting with a sports psychologist, he decided against it. Donaldson was the runner up at the 2013 Kalamazoo nationals, and received a wildcard(speaking of wildcards….heh, read this) into the qualifying draw at the US Open, where he won two matches before falling in the third and final round. Obviously this created a lot of excitement, and rightfully so. The recent struggles that American male tennis players are having is something we hear just about every week, so I won’t babble on about that. Donaldson earned 16 ranking points in his first grand slam appearance, and with that came the opportunity to test the waters at the professional level. Over the last 10 months Jared has performed very well, and coming into wednesday’s encounter, he was on a 16 match winning streak, winning two futures titles and seeing his ranking reach a career high no. 343. He’s the number three ranked 17 year old, behind only Alexander Zverev and Borna Coric.

As I tuned into the stream, with the great Mike Cation on the call, I was vaguely interested. I’m on vacation at the beach, but figured I should watch Donaldson’s match and see how he’s progressed. Yes, I am a tennis nerd.

Cation was also looking forward to seeing how both would perform.

“I was thinking it was going to be one  of those matches where we see quite a few 10-15 stroke rallies. And frankly, I thought Cox was going to have the better end of it because I wasn’t sure if Donaldson could stay in the points long enough,” Cation said.

Early proceedings were dominated by the young American, who quickly jumped out to a 4-1 lead. A plus forehand and a vastly improved backhand were on a full display, with Donaldson hitting winners left and right. There wasn’t really much Cox could do, as Donaldson was dictating the vast majority of points. The two shots that really stood out for Jared were his powerful inside-out forehand, and a flat yet precise backhand down the line. He was hardly pushed on serve, and closed out the first set 6-2.

Cox is pretty much the definition of a grinder, or as he says, a “grafter”. He fights for every ball and tries to extend rallies. The longer it goes, the better for the Brit. Things were not going well for a set and a half, but slowly he was starting to get his foot in the door. At about this point the real drama of the match started to unfold. Donaldson was not happy with more than a few line calls, a fairly normal thing for a 17 year old tennis player. If you watch a junior or college tennis match you will see a lot of complaining and badgering between opponents, but it’s not something you see very often at the pro level, unless your last name is Fognini.

“At the beginning of the second set you could tell Donaldson was getting loose, and he was questioning every call. It did remind me of a juniors match,” Cation said. “You just don’t see that at this level very often. Dan Cox was frustrated because he didn’t have many openings to break and at a certain point he just said ‘stop questioning every call’.”

I watching on a my laptop, and a many of the calls did appear close, but it did seem like every time a ball was close to the line Donaldson was talking to the chair umpire.

For the next few games, the extra-curricular stuff remained relatively quiet, as Donaldson appeared to get Cox’s message. Jared had a few opportunities to break serve late in the second set, but could not convert. At 4-all, he went off the rails. The forehand that had been so effective suddenly couldn’t find the court. Cox broke and served out the set fairly easily. The rallies were starting to get longer, and Cox was now fully into the match, both physically and emotionally. He was the one who was pumping himself up.

The Brit broke to 2-1 in the third set, and then more drama ensued. As Cox served to consolidate the break, he started looking up and gesturing behind the court to Jared’s dad, Courtney Donaldson. Courtney had been clapping after his son was winning points, and that is also very normal. But Cox took exception, and yelled to the senior Donaldson that he shouldn’t be clapping after unforced errors. The one-sided banter ensued for the rest of that game, with Cox the only one engaging.

“I was not expecting anything like that. I would describe Dan as scrappy, but I’ve never seen him verbally engage in that manner during a match. It got ugly,” said Cation, who prefaced his comments by saying he thought that Courtney was not in the wrong.

I spoke to Courtney Donaldson after the match, and he described his perspective on the situation.

“I clapped for a point Jared won, and to be honest I don’t remember a mis-hit or a net chord in the point and I clapped and to be honest so did most of the other people.  It was a long point and I was happy to see Jared win the point and  he took offense.  But I left it at that.  As much as he was spouting off I just looked straight ahead and said nothing. I didn’t want to interject into the match. He was upset and in my opinion was for a lack of a better term un-professional but it is what is is he was in the middle of an intense match and lost his composure,” Donaldson said.

Who was right and who was wrong is really up to you. Brad Gilbert saw Cox on a regular basis from 2006-2008 while at the Lawn Tennis Association(LTA), and described Cox as somebody who was always “a feisty little guy on the court.”

To be honest, after Cox battled through a long service game to hold 3-1, I thought Donaldson would fold. He seemed to be on the edge, and after failing to break back he could have let it all go. But he fought hard, and made the rest of the match very exciting. He had chances to break in two more of Cox’s service games, but just couldn’t find a way to finish at the biggest moments. Cox closed the match out 6-4 in the third, and was very excited about his performance, giving a couple extended fist pumps. The post-match handshake was brief, but clean.

Tennis is a sport that can be intriguing at every level, from recreational to professional, and this match was a great example of that. A look at the scoreline and one would presume that it was just another tennis match, but it wasn’t. Every single point from about the second set on was tense, competitive, and fun. There was drama, high quality tennis, and a little comedy as well. What more could a fan ask for?

For Donaldson, his potential is overwhelming. He has all the tools to be a top player, and it might not be long before we see him at the big leagues. But we have to realize that he is a 17 year old, and he still has a lot of time to grow.

“The whole time I was saying to myself, ‘this is just part of the mental maturity that will certainly come for (Jared)’,” Cation added.

“Jared loves to compete, improve and play tennis. He enjoys the success but doesn’t let it affect his development,” father Courtney said.

As for Cox, he’s on to the quarterfinals, where a very winnable match against Darian King awaits. I hope the few of you who saw the match enjoyed it as much as I did

The Tennis Nerds as Credentialed Media–Heading East for US Open Series

This is something I’ve been waiting to share for months now. I wasn’t able to make it official because so many things had to happen in order to have this opportunity. But the wait is no longer, and I, Joey Hanf, managing editor and founder of tennisnerds.com, am extremely excited to announce that The Tennis Nerds has been approved to cover the BB&T Atlanta Open as credentialed media.

The opening tournament for the US Open Series, Atlanta is held from July 19-27th, and the 2014 field is the strongest it has had in years. Top Americans John Isner, Sam Querrey and company are joined by high flying Frenchman Gael Monfils and Richard Gasquet. Other notable players include Lleyton Hewitt, Kevin Anderson, and Radek Stepanek. Full player list here.

I have the great opportunity to cover the tournament for 5 days, from the 21-25th. I’ve been to professional tournaments before, but never as credentialed media. This allows me access into press conferences and the media room, which will be of great help in my quest to create the most interesting and compelling content for you, the reader. I’ll do my best to secure as many interviews as I can, and hopefully I’ll get the chance to talk to many young Americans.

Also, although I cannot 100% guarantee it, I am also planning on covering the Citi Open in Washington DC, a 500 event held the following week. A couple things need to be confirmed before I can make that official.

What does this mean? Well, first off, I’ll be updating this site daily, if not multiple times per day. I want to get as much work done as possible while still enjoying the tennis and the city. Second, I’m going to do my best as an amateur photographer to secure a great photo gallery for the site.

A lot of thanks are in order for making this trip happen. First off, Ricky Dimon of The Grandstand has been a huge help in the entire process, and none of this would be possible without him. I will also be writing for The Grandstand during my travels, and I often contribute to the site, so I highly suggest you guys check it out. Next, my parents, who are not only helping me pay for college(entering my junior year), but also supporting me in this trip across the country. I’ll be driving with my dad from California to Atlanta, and then I’ll be on my own up the East Coast before I settle it at my house in Ithaca, New York. I go to Ithaca College, and obvious shout-out is in order for the Bombers, and our amazing journalism program.

Finally, I owe most of this to all of you who read and comment on my articles, and interact with me on twitter.(If you don’t follow me yet, you should) Without the awesome support from my readers none of this would be possible. It’s always been a goal of mine to cover a tournament as media, but it makes it even more special that I’ll be doing so for my own website.

So, with this exciting news, I pose a challenge for you guys. What are interested in reading? Who do you want to hear from? I will do my best to cover as much as I can, and would love if you guys could comment any suggestions for content.

Roger Federer’s New Racquet: How it Affects Every Aspect of his Game

fedracquet

Roger Federer has been competing with his new 98 square inch Wilson Racquet for about five full months now, and the results have been nothing short of outstanding for the 32 year old. But rarely do we see or hear an explanation on how the racquet is helping. Well, I’m here to break down how the racquet is impacting each and every part of Federer’s game. It’s almost all positive, but there are some things that Federer has had to adjust in his game to adapt to the racquet. Let’s get into it.

Serve–For the most part, the larger racquet head size and lighter frame has allowed Federer to put a few more MPH on his serve. However, it’s not that big of a difference. He peaks around 205 kilometers per hour(127 MPH), and that’s about the same as when he was using the old racquet. This biggest thing is that Federer is getting a consistent increase in pace AND spin. The spin here is the key. He’s now hitting kick serves as first serves, and they’re extremely effective. His wide serve is also getting excellent width with the added spin.

His second serve was starting to get eaten at up in 2013. What used be one of the best second serves in the game was not getting punished when he played good, attacking players.(See matches against Nishikori, Berdych, Stakhovsky, Robredo) The new frame is getting just a little bit more kick, and it’s made a difference. In 2013, Federer won 55% of his second serve points, and in 2014, he’s winning 57% of those points. While that may seem like a minimal gain, it actually is huge. When he’s consistently defending his second serve, Federer is very tough to beat.

Return–This is probably the toughest aspect to analyze. Federer’s return has always been the weakest part of his game, even though it’s really not that weak at all. He’s winning the same amount of first serve return points as he did in 2013, 33%. He’s doing slightly better on second serve returns though, where he’s gone from 53 to 55% points won. He is able to attack second serves more effectively because he can generate more pace with the larger frame.

What we see is that Federer is about the same on first serve returns on his forehand side, but slightly better than before on the backhand side. He’s mishitting fewer, and putting more in play. That allows for him to get into points and really get the most out of the racquet–at the baseline.

Forehand– It’s interesting, because Federer is one of only a handful of players in the top 100 to still use an eastern forehand. Everybody talks about how the racquet is giving Federer more power and spin, but nobody really goes further than that. Players with eastern forehands, such as Roberto Bautista Agut and Radek Stepanek, often hit very flat strokes, and rarely ramp up the spin. But Federer is an exception. He uses so much wrist just before contact that if he wants to hit spin, he can. Watch below.

So with the new larger frame, he has more margin for error during that wrist action, therefore limiting the number of balls he mishits. He’ll still shank an occasional forehand, but far less than when played with the 90 square inch frame. He is hitting the ball with more power and spin, but that’s predominately because the sweet-spot on the racquet is larger, and he has more margin for error.

It also doesn’t hurt that he can generate more racquet head speed with the lighter frame.

Backhand–This is where we really start to to see a difference. In 2013, Federer was shanking balls left and right. He was leaving the ball short and making numerous unforced errors off of his weaker wing. The new frame has added a couple dimensions that have really helped Federer. First, he’s able to hit over his backhand WAY more than he used, especially when he’s on the run. The larger head size is allowing Federer to get more easy pace, and therefore he feels more comfortable driving through the ball, even when he’s in defensive positions.

This video is a great example of that.

The slice is getting more spin and bite than before, and he hasn’t lost any control in the process. One concern when Federer switched was that with more power at his expense he would lose some of the precision that his game is based around. Well, that concern is gone. In fact, he is able to be just as precise if not more accurate, due to the consistent increased spin rate he is putting on the ball.

Volley– This was my biggest concern when Federer switched. Bringing in Stefan Edberg, everybody talked about Federer’s increasing desire to get to the net. Often times larger and lighter frames lack the stability and feel needed to excel at the net. But it turns out that Federer’s volleys have IMPROVED with the new racquet. He’s getting a little more stick on the standard volley, and a ton of slice and bite on the low volley.

And don’t worry, his drop volley’s look just as good as they used.

Here’s a video of some of Federer’s best points of 2014 thus far.

 

Reflections from Roland Garros: Day 1

The French Open is back, and so are we! It’s been a long layoff for The Tennis Nerds. I had a lot on  my plate over the last few months, including school, college tennis, and figuring out plans for the future. But I have some exciting news that I’ll be sharing very soon, but first, let’s begin our daily series from the French Open, where I reflect on anything and everything that I found interesting from the action of that day.

Roger’s Racquet is STILL Blacked Out– Okay, this isn’t exactly breaking news, but it still baffles me that Roger Federer, the most recognizable and marketable tennis player on earth, has a tennis racquet with no design on it. Wilson has had something like 6 months to design and name the new weapon that has treated the Swiss star so well this season, but they are still painting the frame all black, and simply stenciling the Wilson “W”. Think about how much money they could make if they offered Federer’s frame to the public? People would go crazy over that thing. Even Federer’s old racquet, the Pro Staff 90, which should not be used by anybody other than a professional, sells off the charts. Go to your local tennis club, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

The 5 Set Warrior: Mikhail Youzhny– It seems like every time I look at the live scores of one of Youzhny’s matches, it goes the distance. Seriously, the guy plays 5 set matches ALL THE TIME. Check out his ITF Tennis page, and see for yourself how often he plays these types of drama filled matches. Today, he went down two sets to none on the youngster Pablo Carreno Busta. He only won 4 games through the first two sets. And that’s when the comeback began. As he was clawing his way back, the crowd started to really embrace the unpredictable Russian. He won 3-6 1-6 6-3 6-4 6-0, and finished with his classic Soldier Salute. I still believe it’s the best celebration in tennis. Also a word for Radek Stepanek, who himself came back from 2 sets down to defeat Facundo Arguello on Sunday.

It’s Not The French Open Without Scheduling Controversy– When it was announced that 8-time and defending champion Rafael Nadal was to begin his 2014 campaign on Suzanne Lenglen, there was a lot of questioning of the decision from fellow players such as John Isner, to the outrage of media members and fans on social media. It’s very interesting to me, because the French Open is different than any other major when it comes to scheduling. Because they don’t play under the lights, only 4 matches(2 men’s, 2 women’s) are scheduled  per day on the big show courts. Tournament organizers decided that Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka would serve as better options than the 14 time grand slam champ. At any other slam, Nadal would have been an automatic for Center Court.

But when I thought about their reasoning, it sort of makes sense to me. Roland Garros, more than any other slam, aims please their fans. The Paris crowd has never really loved Rafa. Sure, they have a ton of respect for him, but his style of play is not the type that the French really love. They appreciate a little flair, and almost anybody who speaks their language. Roger Federer is treated as one of their own during his fortnight in Paris. Even Novak Djokovic, who over the years has become pretty fluent in the French language, is now getting serious support from the Parisians. So think about it. Do you think the French Crowd would rather watch Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic? The last two times the two met at Roland Garros, it was Djokovic who had the crowd slightly behind him, especially last year. Now, Nadal or Wawrinka? The French love Stan. He has the one handed backhand, throws in the dropshot, and is fluent in French. While it’s probably not right that an 8 time champion isn’t put on Center court, it does make sense if you think about from the tournament organizers eyes.

Speaking of the French Crowd– They show their players more support than probably any other country, except for maybe the Fanatics of Australia. Alize Lim held in first service game, and the Paris faithful was already rocking. They were incredible for Tsonga, and I can only imagine how loud they’ll be for their favorite player; Gael Monfils.

Sidenote– How awesome would it be if Monfils made a deep run into the tournament this year? I, for one, am completely behind that notion.

The Clay is Playing Slow, like Really Slow– It’s wet, it’s cloudy, and it’s slow. The red clay is already the slowest of the four surfaces, but when it’s cold and rainy, it is nearly impossible to hit through the court. I really noticed this in Federer and Lacko’s match on Chatrier. The show courts are tended the best, and for that reason they are also usually the slowest. Combine that with the moist conditions, and you get the idea. They say the weather is supposed to be just as bad if not worse for at least the next 5 days, and it will be interesting to see how it affects the tournament. Nadal actually likes the hot, fast, high bouncing conditions much more than the slow clumpy stuff that will be out there this week. However he should roll through his first few matches.

That’s it for day 1, but I’ll be back tomorrow! Also, if you missed it, here are my analysis and picks for some of Monday’s best matches: http://wp.me/p2TliK-2tL