[caption id=”attachment_16877” align=”alignright” width=”150” caption=”Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images”]
No, that’s not the score from tonight. That’s Rafa’s top serve speed. Where you been hiding that?
Rafa started his quest for his missing piece of slam hardware by playing #93 Teimuraz Gabashvili – a self-described slightly crazy Russian who can get streaky hot when given the chance and hits the ball hard and flat. He has the kind of game that’s written about in the tennis manual chapter on “how to beat Rafa on fast hard courts”, but could he do it consistently enough? Not quite. He played consistently well, but Rafa was just a notch better. Rafa’s through to the second round: 7-6(4), 7-6(4), 6-3.
As it happened blatherings:
Sleek outfit, sleek new hairdo, let’s hope we have some sleek tennis to go with it.
Gabashvilli starts us off by serving. Nice long rally ends with a forehand winner from Rafa: 15-15. Nice combo from Gaba: 30-15. Toni showing off the Quelys in the stands. Gaba nets a shot: 40-30. Excellent serve and Gabashvilli holds for 1-0.
Fantastic forehand winner from Gabashvilli from the back of the court: 0-15. I missed a few points and it’s 15-30. That? Was a sexy mo-fo of an ace: 30-30. Gabashvilli pullsRafa into the net and passes behind him: 30-40. Second serve into the body: deuce. Nice serve/backhand combo and Rafa holds for 1-1.
Rafa standing way back to return serve: 15-0. Nice depth from Rafa and Gabashvilli sends a ball long: 15-15. Gabashvilli pops a winner from mid-court: 30-15. Rafa’s forehand return is out: 40-15. Rafa lines up a forehand, but nets it and Gabashvilli holds for 2-1.
Second serve. Nice angle from Gabashvilli and Rafa can’t do anything with it: 0-15. Rafa into the net, nice volley and Gabashvilli can’t quite get the ball over the net: 15-15. Ace: 30-15. Rafa works Gabashvilli ‘s forehand until he draws an error: 40-15. Nice solid hold for Rafa: 2-2.
Beauty of a forehand winner from Gabashvilli: 30-0. Excellent defense from Gabashvilli at the net and Rafa muffs a backhand: 40-0. Rafa nets a ball and Gabashvilli holds.
How long until I give up and just start typing Gaba?
131MPH serve? and lost the point: 0-15. Double fault: 0-30. Nice serve and Gaba’s reply is out: 15-30. Again: 30-30. Nice forehand winner: 40-30. Again an out return and Rafa holds for 3-3.
Rally ends with error from Gabashvilli. Deep forehand from Rafa draws an error: 0-30. Excellent serve out wide followed by a shot to the other direction and then the next back to the start: 15-30. Rafa muffs a forehand: 30-30. Rafa runs around to hit a deep forehand return and Gabashvilli can’t do anything with it: 30-40. Second serve. Gabashvilli’s shot is called out, the chair overrules and Rafa seems to agree with the overrule – replay it. Gabashvilli paints a line with an overhead: deuce. Service winner: game point. Ace and Gabashvilli holds for 4-3. This is pretty much how I remember the match going with them in Miami - hope the result is similar.
Rafa’s got a shoe off. He’s cutting some padding and tape from the bottom of his foot.
Nice serve: 15-0. Another serve out wide and Gabashvilli can’t do anything with it: 30-0. Gabashvilli pulls Rafa into the net, kind of stops playing because he doesn’t think his ball is going to go over and can’t quite do anything with the reply: 40-0. Rafa’s backhand goes well wide: 40-15. Service winner and nice hold for Rafa: 4-4.
The bright patch of hot lime right at Rafa’s neck is…doing things to me.
Gabashvilli’s shot is long: 0-15. Excellent angled backhand from Gabashvilli: 15-15. Nice forehand winner: 30-15. This time his forehand goes wide: 30-30. Ace: 40-30. Gabashvilli holds for 5-4.
Amazing (impossible) passing shot from well wide for Rafa: 15-0. Aggressive forehand from Rafa: 30-0. Service winner: 40-0. Another and Rafa holds at love for 5-5.
Gabashvilli sends a ball long: 0-15. Nice dropper from Gabashvilli: 15-15. JMac sticking up for Rafa and his love of NYC after Fowler spouted that Rafa’s not fancy enough for NY crap. Rafa nets an easy forehand return: 30-30. Fierce forehand from Gabashvilli: 40-30. He holds for 6-5.
Gabashvilli nets a ball: 15-0. Service winner: 30-0. Ace: 40-0. Rafa nets a forehand: 40-15. Gabashvilli’s shot is long and we are going to a tie-break.
Gabashvilli into the net and nets the ball: 1-0 – mini-break for Rafa. Beautiful forehand winner from Rafa: 2-0. Rafa hits a backhand out and we are back on serve. Gabashvilli sends a ball long, mini-break back to Rafa for a 3-1 lead. Rafa nets a forehand and it’s 3-2. Two fierce forehands, into the net and then a drop volley that Gabashvilli can’t do anything with: 4-2. Gabashvilli nets the ball: 5-2. Rafa taking approximately 45 minutes to serve.
Kalliopeia: okay rafa, when I’m even thinking “GET ON WITH IT” you’re going too slow
5-3. Gabashvilli into the net and knocks off a nice winner: 5-4. Wide serve and then a forehand down the line: 6-4. First set to Rafa: 7-6 (4). 63 minutes; 73% first serves in; 10 UFEs; 9 Winners; 3 aces.
This is a good test for Rafa - Gaba playing the kind of game that’s in the tennis manual on “how to beat Rafa on fast hard courts”
30-30 when they come back to the match. Excellent point with both players hitting out, but Rafa passes Gabashvilli with a great shot: 40-30. Gabashvilli angles a serve return, Rafa returns the favor but his shot is just out: deuce. Body serve and Gabashvilli can’t get around it: game point. Service winner and Rafa holds to start set 2.
Gabashvilli nets a ball: 0-15. Kalliopeia and I are trying to make sense out of something and it’s 30-15. Gabashvilli into the net and knocks off a winner: 40-15. Gabashvilli nets a backhand: 40-30. Two fierce forehands from Rafa: deuce. Rafa can’t get the service return in: game point. Gabashvilli’s shot is long: deuce. Aggressive play from Rafa – deep shots and into the net: break point. Gabashvilli into the net: deuce. Rafa sends a shot long and is a bit testy with himself: game point. Rafa sends another shot out: 1-1.
Gabashvilli sends a service return long: 30-0. Ace – 130MPH? 40-0. Rafa holds at love.
Nice winner from Gabashvilli: 15-0. Gabashvilli nets a forehand: 15-15. Rafa sends a shot long: 30-15. Rafa nets a backhand: 40-15. Gabashvilli holds for 2-2.
sapphireswell: They’re giving away free ice cream in the stands… What about Rafa? He should get some too :P
Another 130MPH ace? Nice hold for Rafa: 3-2.
Bad short shot from Gabashvilli and Rafa runs in and knocks off a winner: 0-15. Another short ball from Gabashvilli and Rafa pounces: 15-30. Gabashvilli’s turn into the net and a pretty volley from him: 30-30. Gabashvilli runs Rafa back and forth: 40-30. Gabashvilli holds for 3-3.
Nice serve: 15-0. Rafa into the net for a beautiful backhand volley: 30-0. Gabashvilli sends a ball just out: 40-0. Nice deep shot from Gabashvilli that Rafa can’t quite handle: 40-15. Good return from Gabashvilli and Rafa’s reply is out: 40-30. Rafa holds for 4-3.
Gabashvilli sends a ball out: 0-15. Ace: 15-15. Rafa nets a backhand: 30-15. Excellent backhand winner from Gabashvilli: 40-15. Ace and Gabashvilli holds for 4-4.
Ataraxis00: There’s a match in progress and the men are up in the booth playing with their balls. Literally.
Tense looking double fault from Rafa: 0-15. Aggressive point and he’s into the net: 15-15. Beauty of a forehand down the line draws an error: 30-15. Gabashvilli into the net and draws an error – barely: 30-30. Service winner (and a Vamos!): 40-30. Deuce. Ace! Game point. Rafa holds for 5-4.
Nice serve and into the net to knock off the defensive return from Rafa: 15-0. Fierce forehand winner from Gabashvilli: 30-0. Rafa sends a shot long: 40-0. Again and Gabashvilli holds for 5-5.
Gabashvilli’s service return is long: 15-0. Another out shot: 30-0. Rafa’s turn to send a forehand long: 30-15. A deep shot from Rafa draws an error: 40-15. Comfy hold for Rafa: 6-5.
Gabashvilli’s shot is long: 15-15. Now that’s a backhand! 15-30. Everyone in the Nadal box snacking. Fierce forehand down the line, into the net and knocks off a volley winner: 15-40. Second serve. Fluffy service return and Gabashvilli hits a winner: 30-40. Second serve. Gabashvilli controls the point and comes into the net to finish it off: deuce. Second serve. Rafa nets the return: game point. Gabashvilli holds.
Nadal box? Still munching.
Aggressive play by Rafa; Gabashvilli almost tracks down the dropper, but just can’t do anything with it: 1-0. Totally miss hit backhand from Rafa: 1-1. Rafa’s forehand is long: 1-2. Gabashvilli’s shot is long: 2-2. Gabashvilli’s already won more games than in their prior 2 meetings combined. Gabashvilli’s serve return is out: 3-2. Gabashvilli’s forehand is out – mini-break to Rafa: 4-2. Fierce forehand winner from Gabashvilli: 4-3. Rafa hits a short, floating slice, Gabashvilli steps in and…nets the forehand: 5-3. Gabashvilli barely gets a serve back over the net, Rafa runs in and fwaps a forehand winner at the net: 6-3. Service winner from Gabashvilli: 6-4. Gabashvilli nets a forehand and Rafa takes the second set: 7-6(4)
15-15. Ace: 30-15. Rafa miss hits a moon ball forehand that some how drops in; Gabashvilli doesn’t do much with it and point to Rafa: 30-30. Backhand just barely out: 40-30. Nice winner from Gabashvilli and he holds for 1-0.
Fowler, I love you and all, but stop with the NY hasn’t embraced Rafa stuff.
Gabashvilli nets a serve return: 30-0. Ace: 40-0. Rafa holds: 1-1.
That V keeps saying, “just nestle here.”
Fierce winner from Rafa: 15-15. Wow. I take that back. That was a fierce winner from Gabashvilli: 30-15. Gabashvilli ‘s forehand is long: 30-30. Rafa nets a serve return: 40-30. Nice drop shot from Gabashvilli and he holds for 2-1.
Ace: 15-0. Rafa nets a forehand: 15-15. Rafa into the net and Gabashvilli smokes a passing shot: 15-30. Second serve. Gabashvilli muffs the reply: 30-30. Second serve. Gabashvilli tries to smoke the return, but it’s out: 40-30. Flat and fast forehand winner from Gabashvilli: deuce. Ace: game point. Service winner and Rafa holds.
Gabashvilli’s shot is out: 15-15. Nice point and Gabashvilli into the net to knock off a winner: 30-15. Gabashvilli nets a ball: 30-30. Gabashvilli sends a ball well long: 30-40. Defensive chipped service return from Rafa and Gabashvilli pops a winner: deuce. Rafa nets a backhand: game point. Double fault: deuce. Fierce winner from Gabashvilli: game point. Error from Rafa and Gabashvilli holds for 3-2.
The net cord pops Rafa’s backhand up and then lets it land back into the court: 15-0. Forehand winner: 30-0. From deep in the court, Gabashvilli hits a cross court forehand winner: 40-15. Rafa’s backhand is long: 40-30. Gabashvilli’s backhand is well out and Rafa holds for 3-3.
Forehand winner from Gabashvilli: 15-0. Decent passing shot from Gabashvilli, but Rafa changes directions and pops a volley winner: 15-15. Good return and Gabashvilli misses the volley: 15-30. Gabashvilli nets a ball: 15-40. Aggressive play, Rafa pushes Gabashvilli off the court and then total blows the backhand: 30-40. Gabashvilli pushes Rafa deep and wide and Rafa can’t get the ball back over the net: deuce. Gabashvilli nets a ball: break point. Second serve. Gabashvilli nets a ball and Rafa finally wins a break point. He’s up 4-3.
Gabashvilli miss hits a second serve return: 15-0. Gabashvilli nets a service return: 30-0. Chair over-rules an ace call and Rafa challenges…they wait and wait, but can’t get the challenge on the screen. They review in the booth and the call is out. Gabashvilli runs into the net and misses his shot: 40-0. Rafa attempts to tee-off on a backhand and it goes into the net: 40-15. Rafa holds.
Rafa pushes Gabashvilli back until he draws an error: 0-15. Double fault: 0-30. Backhand winner from Rafa: 0-40. Gabashvilli’s shot is long and Rafa breaks to win in straights.