Racquet Reaction

Monte Carlo: Nadal d. Kohlschreiber

Thursday, April 18, 2013 /by
AP Photo
AP Photo

A paraglider floated high above Court Central, evoking an image of the heights Philipp Kohlschreiber had to hit today in Monte Carlo. The 16th-seeded German took the court with a 1-8 lifetime record against Rafael Nadal and knew he’d have to peak to match the lofty levels of the eight-time Monte Carlo champion.

Kohlschreiber produced some soaring moments, but couldn’t match Nadal’s sustained elevation. Nadal broke twice in the opening set and won 20 of 23 points played on his serve in the second to cruise to his 44th consecutive Monte Carlo victory, a tidy, 6-2, 6-4 decision that spanned 80 minutes.

Kohlschreiber can use his bold one-handed backhand and topspin forehand to create angles, but matching the weight of Nadal’s shots was like trying to mute a scream with a murmur. The third-seeded Spaniard did not face a break point in the match and grew stronger on serve, winning three of his final five service games at love.

The 29-year-old Kohlschreiber tried to stretch the court working the wide angles, but Nadal made him pay for that tactic driving a backhand pass down the line for double-break point three games into the match. Kohlschreiber saved both, but scattered a forehand wide to give Nadal a third break chance. He broke for a 2-1 lead on an errant Kohlschreiber backhand.  

The fast footsteps emanating from Nadal’s side of the net can spook opponents. How do you gain ground on an opponent who can run down your attempt at a sharp angle and pound a punishing reply? See: Kohlschreiber tried to play too close to the lines in an effort to elude Nadal, but pushed a drop volley wide. Nadal then flattened a forehand winner down the line and used a biting serve down the middle to back up the break for 3-1.

Even when Kohlschreiber played over his opponent’s head, he met misery. A slick drop shot-lob combination sent Nadal retreating to the green back wall in pursuit. He retrieved it, then spun and lofted an even better lob over the outstretched Wilson racquet of Kolschreiber, who scattered a couple of errors in the aftermath. Nadal had the second break and a 5-2 lead. Shortly after, Nadal spun his first ace out wide to seal the first set in 37 minutes on the strength of 13 winners compared to four for Kohlschreiber, who tried to press the action moving forward but was repeatedly victimized by passes: He did not win any of his six trips to net in the set.

Darting left to defend a Nadal drive in the second set, Kolschreiber’s full-stretch backhand stab kissed the top of the tape and fluttered over the net. That bit of improvised ingenuity gave him a hard-fought hold and a 3-2 second-set lead. Deadlocked at 3-all, the pair played the longest rally of the match, but when Kohlschreiber tried to squeeze a forehand too close to the line, it strayed wide, handing Nadal break point. The demoralizing factor facing Nadal is meeting the requirement of putting in all the hard yards and driving deep successive shots only to see all your efforts vaporize in a single swing. The seven-time Roland Garros champion wasted no time in lashing a forehand down the line, breaking for 4-3.

Nadal won eight of his last nine points on serve, finishing with a forehand down the line. He will face 34th-ranked Grigor Dimitrov for a semifinal spot.

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