Andy Murray is playing excellent tennis in Madrid, Robby Ginepri and David Ferrer are not.

Robby Ginepri’s Long Strange Trip

What happened to Robby Ginepri’s career? Why has he dropped from a career high ranking of 14 to number 72?

The guy can serve, he can move, and he can hit the ball very hard. He was facing set point in the first set of his second round match in Madrid when he got into a long rally with his opponent, one Mr. Roger Federer. Ginepri got Federer on the run with a forehand down the line. He got him running a second time with a backhand down the line. A shot behind Federer, a shot to the opposite corner, one more down the line and Ginepri saved the set point.

When you go to enough post-match media sessions, you’ll hear the following question again and again: “What helps your confidence the most?” The most common answer doesn’t sound like it belongs on the dust jacket of a self-help book. You don’t create your own reality in tennis, your opponent tells you exactly what level your game is at.

It’s very simple: what helps confidence the most is winning.

On the way up that means a win over a big opponent. For Ginepri, beating then number seven Marat Safin to get to the quarterfinals at Indian Wells in 2003 was big. Following that up with a quarterfinal at Miami helped a lot too.

But the converse is also true. What hurts confidence the most is losing. The next year, Ginepri only reached the second and third round in Indian Wells and Miami and that started a dive in his ranking.

He managed to make it all the way back and he reached the semifinals of the U.S. Open in 2006 where he played a magical five round match with Andre Agassi. The next year he only reached the third round and his ranking has never recovered.

Because his ranking is so low, Ginepri had to go through qualifying to get into the main draw in Madrid. He went to all that trouble because he plays well here and because he wanted to defend his quarterfinal finish last year. The lower your ranking, the earlier you’ll face a big player. This time it was Federer.

Ginepri got to the first set tiebreaker where Federer raised his game and Ginepri did not. It was a good outing, though, Ginepri lost the match by one break of serve in the second set: 7-6(2), 6-4.

Once you slide down the rankings slope, it’s that much harder to climb back up again. When the rankings come out next week, Ginepri will be somewhere in the 90’s.

Andy’s Back

I love watching Andy Murray play tennis. It’s a bit like watching a circus performer.

Here he is loping after the ball and just when you think it’s impossible, he gets to the ball and hits a deep shot back over the net. I don’t know whether it’s his long arms and legs or a secret technique he’s developed, but he can hit the ball later than anyone else I’ve seen.

Maybe it’s because he doesn’t take the big windup and the big follow-through on his ground strokes. He directs the ball rather than smashing it. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t look fast enough to get to all those balls and he surprises us when he does.

In the second set of his second round match with Juan Ignacio Chela, Murray ran on a straight line from the net to the baseline to track down an overhead. Once he got there, he hit a flat-footed overhead with his back to the net and placed the ball smack on the sideline to win the point.

One point later he retrieved two balls deep in the deuce court then motored all the way to the other corner to hit a gorgeous passing shot down the line. The crowd was clapping and yelling as Chela was waiting to serve the next point. Murray lifted his racket in recognition of the crowd as he shyly dropped his head.

I sometimes forget that Murray is a good returner. He’s in the top ten in three of the four statistical categories for return of serve. The one thing he doesn’t do well is convert break points. It’s the same problem he has closing out matches. He doesn’t win the pressure points.

Murray had his usual hiccup closing the match out but he won it easily, 6-1, 6-3.

Did I say that I love watching this guy play?

David Ferrer on the Fast Stuff

I was right about David Ferrer. He’s the hottest player on the tour but I didn’t expect him to do well in Madrid because he’s not a good indoor player. Lefty Feliciano Lopez took Ferrer out in the second round, 7-6(3), 7-5.

Why doesn’t Ferrer play well indoors? If you go to’s Games Per Set Page, you’ll see that Madrid is ranked number 15.

Fifteen what you ask? The faster the court, the harder it is to break serve and therefore the more games will be played in each set. By that measure, Madrid is one of the top 15 fastest tennis courts on the tour.

That’s a problem for David Ferrer because it also means there’ll be more tiebreakers. He’s 11-10 in tiebreakers this year because he doesn’t have a big enough serve. Lopez, on the other hand, has a big serve and the match turned on his serving.

At the beginning of the match, Lopez couldn’t buy a serve and Ferrer was up a break. As soon as Lopez found his serve, he was able to win the first set tiebreaker and go on to win the second set.

It also helps that Lopez is a lefty. Ferrer was serving for the first set 5-3 when he came to the net and reflexively hit a volley to the ad corner which is the backhand side for most players. For Lopez, though, it was right in his wheelhouse and he hit a forehand passing shot and ended up breaking Ferrer.

This was a big loss for Ferrer. He’s ranked number six and he’s very close to clinching a spot in the final eight for the year end championships. He’s got two more weeks on the fast stuff. If he can’t win at least one or two matches he could be in trouble.

Whaddya think? Can Ferrer learn to live with the fast stuff and make it to the year end championships?

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