Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Payback time?

Here's my thoughts on what can only be called the match-up of the tournament so far. I want to get a post up before it kicks off, so in case it goes like I'm expecting, I can look super-smart! : ) :

Rafael Nadal (2) vs. James Blake (9): Now THIS will be a match to see! The two just came off a great battle in Indian Wells, with Nadal picking up his first win against Blake after going 0-3 against him in their careers.

Technically speaking, from a tennis standpoint, Blake should be able to beat Nadal pretty much any time they get on a fast surface, particularly hard courts. But Nadal is a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer and definitely won't go down without a fight, especially to someone who's had half the career he's had. Enough of the preludes: Here's how it will go down!

I'm going with Blake on this one, but he has to do it quickly. He can't get into a third set with Nadal, because then it gets down to intangibles, where Blake definitely takes a backseat. I think that even though he lost to Nadal last time they played, it was more a matter of him letting Nadal off the hook, something he's done a lot of times in his career against other players. Nadal's topspin doesn't hurt Blake on either side because Blake's as strong a player as there is out there. His flat shots cut through Nadal's spin and Nadal doesn't get to yank him around the court as much as he does other players.

Nadal should be confident going in: Going by the rankings and career stats, he should see himself as the favorite. But it's all about matching up game against game, and his just doesn't go up against Blake's as well as it does others. So my scoreline on this match, 7-6, 6-2 for Blake. If it goes three, that should favor Nadal, but honestly I don't think it'll go that far.

(Photos: Getty Images)