The first day of Olympic tennis competition was, without a doubt, full of emotions, surprises, frights, on both sides. What was assuredly the last time we saw David Nalbandian on an Olympic court, the early demises of Tomas Berdych, Li Na, and Sam Stosur, the epic win of David Ferrer and Feliciano López in doubles, the great match of Alejandro Falla, there was a lot for everyone, and this, only in Day 1!
In fact, there was so much that it will be impossible to go through everything, which is why this will be a return on only some of the events of the day, in two parts nonetheless.
The first winner of the men’s draw
There were two men’s matches at the start of the day, at 11h30 local. They both finished a few minutes apart, but it’s the one opposing Colombia’s Santiago Giraldo to U.S.A.’s Ryan Harrison that was the first to end, to my great surprise.
The surprise wasn’t much the identity of the winner more than the quickness of the win, and the fact that it did not, as I had first thought when I saw the draw, go to three sets.
For Santiago Giraldo won, 7-5 6-3, and became the first winner of the men’s draw in the 2012 Olympic Games.
As I mentioned, Giraldo’s win doesn’t surprise me much, as since he got back into the top 50, he’s been playing with a lot of confidence, while despite some good overall results, Harrison has been a little more patchy of late, not aligning the good performances consistently enough.
Fittingly enough, the match ended with Giraldo breaking on a double fault from Harrison, who smashed his racquet in frustration. Something the young Louisiana native should really learn a little more to control. To be fair, he did progress a lot on that matter this year. However, denting a Wimbledon court in frustration should be avoided in the future.
In the second round, Giraldo will face the biggest surprise of the men’s singles today, Steve Darcis of Belgium.
Tomas Berdych trips, in all possible ways
Since the beginning of the grass season, in fact, since his tight four-set loss to Juan Martín del Potro at the French Open, Tomas Berdych has not been playing at the level the 2010 Wimbledon finalist had us used to. In fact, he played more like the player he was so often before the middle of 2010 (and several times afterwards): inconsistent, streaky, clumsy.
He was, of course, outplayed in more ways than one by Ernests Gulbis in Wimbledon a few weeks ago. It was the same today when he faced Steve Darcis. However, this time, he did not lose in straight tiebreak sets; had it not been for the Belgian’s inability to serve out the match the first time, the loss would have been more crushing than the 6-4 6-4 of the end result in favour of Darcis.
Fair enough, Steve Darcis played a really, very good match. Serving quite well, but also playing very aggressive tennis and taking every chance he could to pass or drop shot his opponent from all angles (and what drop shots!), the Belgian deserved to leave the court with the “W”, there is no doubt about it.
However, it is the lack of will and response of Berdych, at times, that was rather unworthy of a top 10 player. Often, we would see him let a very reachable shot from his opponent pass by for a winner, not even attempting to go and get it, or playing very passive tennis, unlike what we have seen of him in the last couple of years.
Was the slippery Centre Court at fault for it? After all, the Czech tripped and slipped many times during the match. Perhaps. Nevertheless, these conditions were there for both players and Darcis as well ended up tripping several times during the match. The lack of adjustment (of will to adjust?) from Berdych, in my opinion, cost him the match.
A very disappointing end to a very disappointing grass season for the World no 7, but a great and well-deserved win for World no 75 Darcis, who will face Santiago Giraldo in round 2, the winner to possibly face 11th seed Nicolás Almagro.
Alejandro Falla scares Roger Federer… again
Many considered me delusional for being wary of Colombian lefty Alejandro Falla when seeing he was to be Roger Federer’s first opponent of the Olympics. After all, didn’t he nearly defeat him in the very first round of Wimbledon, two years ago? Furthermore, Falla came into the tournament just three spots below his career best ranking, reached not even two weeks ago, brimming with confidence.
Of course, the Swiss also came back to London with another record in the books, back at number 1 since he won Wimbledon for a seventh time, passing Pete Sampras’s 286 weeks at the top of the ATP, and determined to put his hands on this elusive singles gold medal.
Still, I was cautious as far as Falla was concerned, no matter how much I was laughed at. How right was I!
Indeed, Roger Federer came out all guns blazing, breaking just in time to serve out the first set and taking a break lead very early in the second set.
At the end of this second set, however, two things happened: Alejandro Falla raised the level of his game, which was really good since the beginning of the match, although not enough for the confident Federer who faced him; and Roger Federer purely and simply choked the set, which he ended up losing, 5-7, having wasted three match points (on errors on his part) when he was up 5-3.
The Swiss broke to start the decisive set, but again, Falla hadn’t said his last word and broke almost right afterwards, tying the set at 2-2 and taking a 3-2 advantage on his serve, only to lose the next four games, and the match. Given three more match points on Falla’s serve, Federer did not let his chance escape, this time, and took the second of that game, his fourth of the match, to get away with a close call of 6-3 5-7 6-3.
A match Alejandro Falla could nonetheless be very proud of, as he really played well.
Roger Federer’s quest for a gold medal won’t be any easier in the second round, as he will face another player who nearly took him out of Wimbledon, this time Julien Benneteau, who also was 2-0 up no later than a few weeks ago against the Swiss maestro. Benneteau defeated Mikhail Youzhny 7-5 6-3.
To be continued…