Rome – round 1st + 2nd

Back on red clay! Just like a week before without best American players of the previous decade: Mardy Fish, Andy Roddick and James Blake (the latter could enter only the qualifying rounds), but with Andy Murray and Juan Monaco, the players who skipped the experimental tournament in Madrid. So the field in Rome was a bit stronger on Sunday than last week in the Spanish capital. Monaco came back successfully after a very painful injury he suffered at Monte Carlo. The Argentine won his first two round easily, thus seemingly the break in activity won’t affect him like similar injury four years ago when he had been also knocking on the the Top 10, but lost self-confidence after spraining his ankle.
Murray celebrated 25th birthday with a cake after winning the most interesting second round match featured plenty of long rallies with acute angles and perfectly placed drop-shots. The Brit needed 2 hours 37 minutes to overcome David Nalbandian 6-1 4-6 7-5, surviving a 1:3* deficit in the final set. “I was a little bit fortunate at the end but I went for it so,” said Murray, who won the 11th game with the net-cord help and saved a break point in the following game when his backhand clipped the sideline. “Some say you make your own luck.” Nalbandian – very solid player in tight matches throughout his career – lately loses tight matches with high frequency. It has been his sixth tight loss of the season (the third one in which he led 5:4* in the deciding set only to lose the next three games).
Shifting from blue clay to red clay? No problem for Juan Martin del Potro, Tomas Berdych and Roger Federer. Each of these three players participated in five matches in Madrid, went to Rome to adjust quickly advancing to the third round with convincing victories, however, Del Potro still tries to get into the Top 8 which would facilitate him tasks by omitting first rounds in ‘Masters 1000’ on clay. In the first round in Rome he had a tricky opponent in the opener – Mikael Llodra [58], Del Potro won 7-5 3-6 6-4 saving a set point in the 1st set with a service winner. Del Potro and John Isner are the two players the most often involved in tight sets this season. Isner in the 1st round barely avoided a loss to Philipp Kohlschreiber [24]. The tall American was being outplayed badly through almost two sets by ‘Kohli’, but delivered a couple big serves at 3:5 (40-all) and the outlook of the match changed completely since then. Kohlschreiber was broken in the following game not having faced a break point before, and began to lose interest whilst Isner rediscovered his booming serves and forehands to notch a 2-6 7-6 6-2 victory. No doubts that the German has a Top 20 potential but his inconsistency obstructs his climbing in the ATP ranking. He triumphed in Munich but the following two weeks lost first round matches in Spain and Italy, at least one solid result in those tournaments would introduce him to the Top 20. Isner was ousted in his another match by Andreas Seppi [30] – the best local player, one out of five Italians who entered the tournament. Seppi needed 10 break points in the final set to get his only break (2-6 7-6 7-5) in 2 hours 50 minutes. He will probably reach the highest position in career next Monday at the age of 28. 
Juan Carlos Ferrero [47] has finally won first tournament matches in 2012. The former champion of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia (2001) obtained two straight sets wins over higher ranked opponents, Kevin Anderson and Gael Monfils. During a 7-5 6-3 over the Frenchman, Ferrero came back from a 1:4* deficit in the 1st set. Monfils once again displayed an ultra defensive mood. With this attitude there’s no chance he will catch the level of the Ferrer-Berdych-Tsonga-Del Potro quartet.

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