Thursday, August 2, 2007

Is Rafa Ready for his Hardcourt Closeup?

The pattern the last two years has become predictable: Rafael Nadal blasts through the clay season like a hurricane, raises eyebrows with astonishingly good play on grass and scores his ticket to the final 8 in Shanghai before the middle of the summer. That's the good part. Then comes the North American letdown, as Nadal has posted only moderately impressive results on the late-summer hardcourts (other than snagging the title in Montreal from Agassi two years ago). While he managed to win Stuttgart on clay with a tweaked knee two weeks ago, the hint of an injury does not bode well. The upside, perhaps, will be if he can draw on the success of winning Indian Wells' hardcourt Masters Series event last spring. Rafa's swaggering game seems tailor-made to fire up the rowdy fans at Arthur Ashe. Here's hoping he finds a way to best last year's Quarterfinal result.

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