Nadal breezes past blurry-eyed Djokovic
Originally published on: 25/11/10 01:11
Rafael Nadal took another step towards the semi-finals of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals on Saturday with a 7-5 6-2 defeat of Novak Djokovic, who suffered problems with a contact lens that turned a compelling contest into a squarely one-sided affair.
Facing Nadal is a onerous task at the best of times, and while Djokovic provided the world No.1 stern opposition for the first 45 minutes of the contest the rogue lens, and resulting streaming eyes, ruined both Djokovic’s chances of victory and the match as a spectacle.
“I really feel sick talking about it, to be honest,” Djokovic said. “It has never happened to me before. From the five-all I could not play. I could not see a ball, especially the return. It was just terrible.”
Up until game eight of the first set, when the Serb ran from the court – much to Nadal’s annoyance – to deal with the problem, the match had lived up to its billing as the standout tie of the group stages, a welcome sight following Andy Murray’s tame capitulation to Roger Federer on Tuesday.
Djokovic started the brighter of the two, twice holding to love either side of Nadal’s first service game where he saw an early break point chance go begging. The pair traded breaks amid a string of sumptuous exchanges – there is arguably no finer meeting of ralliers in the game right now – before Djokovic’s vision became too pressing an issue.
The world No.3 held serve on his return to the court but, constantly wiping tears from his face between points, he went on to lose the next seven games in succession. The Serb stopped the rot with an ace to make it 4-1 in the second set and his eyesight, clearly hampered as he elected to swing freely in the hope of landing an early knockout blow in the rallies, slowly returned, but all too late.
“It was a very good match for me. I was very sorry for Novak for what happened with his eye, I hope he is okay,” said Nadal, who was a study in ruthlessness on Djokovic’s return, making just five of his 15 unforced errors after the sudden break. “It was my best match in this tournament. It was more distracting for him than me. I am in a good position.”
Djokovic criticised tournament officials for not giving him more time to solve his eye problem.
“I’m just really annoyed by the fact that something like this can affect the match. It did because my right eye got irritated and from the five-all I could not see a ball, especially the return. It was just terrible,” he said.
“I don’t want to find any excuses for my loss, but the fact of the matter is that I just could not play. I needed some time to make it right, but I didn’t have time. Everybody was hurrying me up, saying come to the court, play your match.”
The result, twinned with Tomas Berdych’s victory over Andy Roddick, leaves Group A wide open, with all four men still in the hunt for a semi-final spot on Friday, though with two wins Nadal is primed to take one of the two available spots.
In the doubles, Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic booked their spot in Saturday’s semis with a 7-6(5) 7-6(2) victory over Mahesh Bhupathi and Max Mirnyi.