Guillermo Coria was down 2-4 in the first set of his quarterfinal match against Rafael Nadal on the fourth deuce of a game he had to have. He’d played two three set matches in a row, finished late last night, and now he needed a point off the tireless Nadal.

Coria hit a softie second serve and Nadal ran outside the court for a forehand return. Coria then ran Nadal all the way to the opposite side of the court and tried to hit behind him on his next shot. He followed that with a shot down the line and Nadal had to slide over and hit a one-handed backhand. Coria came in and hit an approach that Nadal had to lunge for. Coria covered it easily and hit a drop volley to the point farthest from Nadal’s last position. [blockquote]By the time Nadal got to the ball, and he did, he was in a virtual split gliding across the “Monte Carlo” graphic in the red dirt closer to the ballboy than the service line. Coria put the ball back to the far corner, again, and by the time Nadal got to it, all he could do was put up a relatively short overhead. Coria couldn’t put the overhead away and Nadal tried to hit it down the line past Coria but didn’t succeed. Coria hit a backhand volley well within Nadal’s range and Nadal hit a passing shot. The ball floated just above Coria’s backhand shoulder and Coria volleyed it hard down the line and out of Nadal’s reach. Finally.

Coria was still standing at the net as he put his racket up to his shoulder, aimed at Nadal, and took an imaginary shot.

Nadal got a break point in the game then Coria watched helplessly as a Nadal backhand tipped the net and dropped onto the other side. End of game, Nadal was now up 5-2.

After losing the first set, 6-2, then losing his serve on the first game of the second set, Coria walked to his seat and held onto the side of his seat. “I was concerned because I was trembling. I felt nauseous, ” he said after the match. A doctor took his blood pressure and Coria went back on the court. On the first point, Nadal hit a ball to the middle of the court. Coria slipped while going for it and the ball almost hit him in the head. Afterwards, he closed his eyes and shook his head as if to wake himself up. It was sheer exhaustion and he never recovered. Nadal won the match 6-2, 6-1.

You can see why Coria will play all of the tournaments leading up to the French Open. His serve is a mess and he’s not in match shape. One of those problems is easy to fix.

Coria was not the only one having physical problems today.

Fernando Gonzalez, a good clay court player, was Ivan Ljubicic’s opponent in the quarters. Luby doesn’t do clay so well. Last year, a big year for him, his best result on clay was a third round appearance if you don’t count his title at Zagreb, Croatia. And it doesn’t count because it was a Challenger tournament. He was in the top ten! What were they doing letting him into that tournament? In 2006, the tournament became a regular ATP event with a carpet surface. All the better for Ljubicic’s game.

Ljubicic had been up 4-1 in the first set but Gonzalez had battled back and was serving to even the match at 4-5 when Ljubicic limped off the court in mid-game. He had planted his left foot to move to the right and strained the bottom of this foot.

He took an anti-inflammatory but it wasn’t enough. He lost the first set and won his first game in the second set but that would be the last game he’d win.

Gonzalez almost returned the favor at 4-1 in the second set when he went into a slide then a stumble and smashed straight into a sideline barrier. His racket flew up in the air and hit a ball boy on the head as Gonzalez’s thighs slammed into the barrier. Both of them recovered and Gonzalez won the match, 7-5, 6-1.

By the way, if I search the draw for “USA, ” I get zero results. Where are Roddick and Blake? Isn’t each of the nine Masters Series events a mandatory tournament?

Roger Federer beat David Ferrer and Gaston Gaudio beat Tommy Robredo by the identical lopsided score, 6-1, 6-3, so why bother talking about it? Why not just skip ahead to another Federer-Nadal final. Isn’t that what we want?

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be happy to see Federer-Nadal version five. A rivalry is a good thing and I’m excited to see if Federer has found a solution to Nadal. But I’m happy Fed Cup – jeez, can’t I get away from that name? – has arrived so I can talk about someone other than you-know-who and Nadal for a change.

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