Bad Scene

Cincinnati Masters, Third Round

(2) Nadal d. Verdasco, 7/6 6/7 7/6

(10) Simon d. (5) Ferrer, 6/4 6/7 6/4

The pressing issue in Cincinnati today was crap tennis, which is a bad issue for a Masters 1000 event to have. Blunt disappointment seemed to blanket each court in the (allegedly) stifling heat. As an Australian, you may colour me unimpressed by the temperature, but about the deflation there can be no dispute. Every third round match took place today, and few of them provided much interest beyond revealing whether both men would prove inept, or only one.

Four Spaniards were in action, and all played so poorly that all four deserved to lose. Sadly, that proved unlikely as two of them were facing each other, and so one was compelled to win. As ever, that one was Rafael Nadal, who has now stretched his domination over Fernando Verdasco to 12 matches without a loss. There’s surely bad blood there. Verdasco’s tepid handshake at the end said it all, or what little the hopelessly poor match hadn’t already said for itself. That it said it at such length – something like three and a half hours – will inevitably lend the encounter some cachet. It seems axiomatic that if a tennis match is to be horrendously dull, it might as well go on for as long as possible. Think of Nadal and Djokovic in Madrid a couple of years ago, when they played out the longest best of three match in history. It certainly felt like it at the time.

David Ferrer and Gilles Simon set about inspiring a similar sensation a short time later. Simon had a golden chance to end the match in straight sets, but, up match point, he crucially thought better of it. Then he thought better of it another four times. It went the distance. Nadal and Verdasco produced an even 100 unforced errors between them, whilst Ferrer and Simon topped that by some considerable margin, quite a feat considering both their games are based around hitting the ball in at any cost.

For a wonder, of the three Spaniards who lost today, Nicolas Almagro conducted himself with the most on-court reserve – both Ferrer and Verdasco dropped their bundles repeatedly – although he was admittedly the farthest from winning. Perhaps his heart wasn’t in it. His opponent, Tomas Berdych, remained merely solid, which today that was more than enough to guarantee a win. Given the prevailing vibe, Monfils v Kohlschreiber thus had Carnival of Suck written all over it, so it was surprising when the Frenchman proved similarly unflappable, and watched on with idle curiosity as the German fell in a heap. The match was not necessarily more enjoyable as a result, but it was over quicker. It’s odd how these things change, almost as though there’s a roster in place. Two rounds ago Kohlschreiber stood by while Roddick disintegrated. Meanwhile, in the quarterfinal Monfils will face Djokovic, which is unfailingly his cue to go haywire.

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