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In six previous meetings against Rafael Nadal , Mardy Fish  had won just two sets. Nevertheless, this time Nadal wasn’t an overwhelming favorite due to problems with right-hand fingers and tiredness after a marathon with Verdasco a day before. Fish knew it as he said on Thursday: “If you want to play someone like Rafa, you hope that he plays a match that’s four hours long before you play him. I mean, that’s as physical as it gets. It’s hot out there, so I’m sure he’ll be pretty tired.” And indeed, Nadal was tired #, Fish was playing intelligently (a lot of balls on Nadal’s backhand – worse than usually in regard of swollen fingers), serving well (12 aces) and recorded his first win over former No. 1 in 1 hour 39 minutes. There was a moment in the 2nd set when Nadal had his chance to break back but made a forehand error on Fish’s second serve at 3:4 (40-30). Fish – unbroken so far in the tournament – now meets Andy Murray , who notched third straight sets victory, he needed four minutes less than Fish to knock out Gilles Simon  6-3, 6-3.
Tomas Berdych  in impressive style (didn’t face a break point) ousted the two-time defending champion Roger Federer 6-2, 7-6 ## – it is Berdych’s third win over the Swiss  in the last four meetings. The Czech broke a streak of five consecutive defeats in ‘Masters 1000’ quarter-finals. Berdych said: “I was really working on [my serve] after Wimbledon. When I had few weeks off, I was really practising hard, and especially this was the one main thing that I was really like trying to work on more than the other things.”
Gael Monfils  drew conclusions of the last three devastating defeats to Novak Djokovic  in the last twelve months. The Frenchman in my opinion played one of the best and most mature matches in his career, his second serve was faster than ever, was attacking the net often with many successful volleys and didn’t allow Djokovic to shift himself to a deep defense, playing straightforward ground-strokes. It was a hight quality tennis, especially in the 2nd set; Monfils after breaking the Serb twice in the 1st set, came back from a break down in the 2nd after very long game and led 4:3 being two games away from famous victory. Unfortunately for him, couldn’t stand the cosmic pace (at the beginning of the 3rd set looked like a man before fainting…) and the rock-solid D’Joke as usual was able to lie low the assault of an opponent to get five games in a row, which established a safe 2:0 advantage in the deciding set. The Serb prevailed 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 in 2 hours 33 minutes creating a new record of the most consecutive victories in ‘Masters 1000’ tournaments – 30. His another big triumph might be an extremely tough task because all other three players left in the event, won first three rounds easily, albeit Fish like Djokovic has played eight matches in the last two weeks, so physical tiredness may catch him as well…
# Nadal’s four longest 3-set wins and their aftermath the following day:
Rome, 2007: N.Davydenko 7-6, 6-7, 6-4 (3 hours, 39 minutes) -> F.Gonzalez 6-2, 6-2
Chennai, 2008: C.Moya 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 (3 hours, 54 minutes) -> M.Youzhny 0-6, 1-6
Madrid, 2009: N.Djokovic 3-6, 7-6, 7-6 (4 hours, 11 minutes) -> R.Federer 4-6, 4-6
Cincinnati, 2011: F.Verdasco 7-6, 6-7, 7-6 (3 hours, 38 minutes) -> M.Fish 3-6, 4-6
## Four longest winning streaks in Cincinnati:
17 – Mats Wilander (1983-85)
14 – Michael Chang (1993-95)
11 – Roger Federer (2009-11)
10 – Andre Agassi (1995-96)
Two years ago, Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco made the longest match at the Australian Open, this time the left-handed Spaniards created the longest match in the history of the Cincinnati tournament, 7-6, 6-7, 7-6 in 3 hours 38 minutes in a sunny, mid-80s F (30-degree C) afternoon. Poor Verdasco, who’d lost to Nadal all previous encounters, could win both losing sets of their third round clash. He led 5:3 in the 1st tie-break and was two points away from winning the match five times in the final tie-break trailing 1:5 before! Nando prior to the tie-break had also a break up in the middle of the set, unfortunately he has one of the worst final set tie-break records (5-14), and made easy forehand mistakes every time being two points away, simply couldn’t deal with the pressure mentally. Nadal was far from his best tennis, he burned the tips of his two fingers on his right hand when he touched a hot plate at a restaurant. It’s his third all-tie-break match #, extends H2H with Verdasco to 12-0 (13-0 counting a Challenger match). “You enjoy always a good match,” the defeated Spaniard said. “But when you lose in this way, of course it’s not easy to lose. You have it so close. Tennis is like that.”
In the other very long match, Gilles Simon  battled past David Ferrer 6-4, 6-7, 6-4 in 3 hours 8 minutes, despite wasting five match points in the 2nd set. Simon led 3:1* in the final set, but ‘Pics’ broke back to lead 4:3. The Spaniard for the second time in career has lost match winning a match point-down set, previosuly it happened after identical scoreline (!) seven years ago to Todd Martin in Barcelona. It’s also interesting that Simon has won all three matches this week losing a tie-break set. He is the only quarter-finalist outside the Top 10 – it’s a contrary to the last week’s Montreal where Novak Djokovic made the quarter-finals as the only Top 5 player.
# Nadal’s all-tie-break matches:
2008, Chennai-SF: C.Moya 6-7(3), 7-6(8), 7-6(1) – 4 m.p.
2008, Queens Club-QF: I.Karlovic 6-7(5), 7-6(5), 7-6(4)
2011, Cincinnati-3R: F.Verdasco 7-6(5), 6-7(4), 7-6(9)
This season delivered some good results from players born in the 90s, unfortunately the youngsters are too weak to consider them as a serious threat in the next 2-3 years in my opinion. In the Cincinnati second round, I watched two of them, Grigor Dimitrov  and Ryan Harrison . The first one in extremely lucky circumstances (ridiculous net-cord) won the 1st set against David Ferrer, who was playing first tournament match on American hard-courts this Summer. Dimitrov tanked the 2nd, but showed good tennis in the 3rd set, even saved a triple match point in the 12th game with offensive attitude, but experienced “Pics” prevailed 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 winning the next two points. The Bulgarian annoys a bit trying to copy each Federer’s stroke, I have to admit he is talented, but I grasp a lack of fire in his mentality, which might be an obstacle in the future.
Harrison has nice volley and great 2nd serve (tremendous kick), but he doesn’t know which tactics should be implemented in the right moments. I think he should shed weight (3-4 kilograms) and put accent on the more offensive game plan; during a 6-2, 6-3 win, Novak Djokovic exploited mercilessly Harrison’s weaker backhand side. Djokovic comparing the North American ‘Masters’ tournaments said: “It’s totally different conditions from Montreal, so you got to get used to that… it’s much faster here. Ball flies through the air faster, so it’s really hard to control.” At the moment I can’t freeze out a possibility of another Djokovic-Fish final. Mardy Fish impressed me a lot trashing 6-0, 6-2 Nikolay Davydenko . Of course the Russian declines this season, but losing only two games against him arouses respect. As I mentioned last week, Fish has improved his forehand, but looking profoundly into his game we can pick out very solid returns (great depth) and intelligent baseline game, both factors are connected with anticipation, Fish is experienced, fitter and it allows him to read the game very well.
Also the fellow American – Alex Bogomolov, Jr.  – plays tennis of his life, albeit on a different level. Yesterday he stunned Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3, 6-4, holding every service game. Now he faces Andy Murray, who came back on the right track after a hiccup in Montreal – the same with Rafael Nadal. I’m looking forward for his potential quarterfinal clash with Fish.
Earlier this year I mentioned that Philipp Kohlschreiber and Robin Soderling made the 2nd pair among active players to notch three matches against each other with a final set tie-break. Michael Llodra  and Mikhail Youzhny  joined them today… They played also a deciding tie-break set last week at the Canadian Open, both first round meetings won the Frenchman, however, Youzhny had his chances on both occasions – last week was two points away at 6:5* (30 all), today he had two mini-match points at 4:4 in the 3rd set (one saved by Llodra with a second serve ace!), in the tie-break led 2:0.
# Three matches between Llodra and Youzhny decided in the 3rd set tie-break:
2006, Davis Cup: Youzhny 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(3)
2011, Montreal, 1R: Llodra 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4)
2011, Cincinnati, 1R: Llodra 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(4)
Their current record in the 3rd set TB: Llodra 9-12; Youzhny 17-16
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The 24-year-old Kazakh  has finally won an ATP match beating Stanislas Wawrinka 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 (there was 4:4 in the 2nd set). Thanks to this win, Golubev will avoid overcoming Vincent Spadea‘s shameful record obtained in years 1999-00 – … Continue reading