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Nadal Knees

After his first round win over Alun Jones, Rafael Nadal thanked his medical staff including one Dr. Parra. Dr. Parra is Pier Francesco Parra, an Italian surgeon who treats professional tennis players for muscle and connective tissue problems using laser technology. This is how he describes his technique:

It’s like doing arthroscopic surgery, but without cutting the skin. And it takes 23 seconds.

I seriously doubt it’s like arthroscopic surgery because a laser is not going to correct an anatomical problem. It could help tendonitis, which Nadal has in both knees. Tendonitis causes scar tissue to form and ultrasound is often used to heat the tissue so that the fibers can be realigned using frictional massage. A laser could do the same thing I suppose.

Whatever the hell Parra does, it worked for Nadal. Nadal was positively hopping around the court in his second round match against Janko Tipsarevic tonight at the US Open. Tipsarevic wore a matching piece of tape around a knee for his very own patella tendonitis. Maybe he visited Mr. Parra too. If he didn’t, he should have.

Tipsarevic, who has a quote from Dostoevsky tattooed on his left arm and a design inspired by German philosopher Schopenhauer tattooed on his back, called for a trainer early in the third set after losing the first two sets. He must have needed a rest because he could have recited Crime and Punishment in the time it took him to describe a rib problem to the trainer.

It didn’t help. Tipsarevic struggled on for a few more games then retired. Here we were wondering whether Nadal could make it through the next round and it was his opponent who gave out.

Novak Djokovic also got a gift today. After struggling to a brilliant 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 5-7, 7-5, 7-6(2), victory over Radek Stepanek – is this kid golden in the big events or what? – he no longer has to worry about facing Lleyton Hewitt. Austin Calleri got rid of him in four sets.

This is an extremely surprising result. Calleri had won five hard court matches all year and Hewitt has been on a roll. I picked Djokovic over Hewitt if they met because they’re headed in opposite directions, but I’d never have guessed Hewitt would go out this early.

James Blake Takes the Fifth

James Blake will always tell you that he doesn’t set goals. His only goal is to get better. I’ve always considered this a bit of a cop-out as if setting a goal might put too much pressure on him. What’s your problem guy, can’t deal with the pressure?

Truthfully, no, he doesn’t deal with pressure all that well but he just got better at it. Last night he won his first ever five set match after losing the first nine of his career by beating the annoying Fabrice Santoro.

Whenever you change a bad habit you’ve had for a long time, it’s a huge struggle and this was no exception.

Santoro is annoying but he’s no novelty act. After losing the first set, he won the second set with a fantastic shot. He hit a towering lob and Blake let it bounce before hitting a hard overhead. Santoro not only got to the overhead but he hit a ball that dipped just over the net and landed at Blake’s feet. Blake put it into the net and they were even at one set all.

In the fourth set, Blake had break point to get back on serve. Santoro hit a slice approach and Blake blasted the ball once, twice, and then a third time before Santoro finally put up a lob volley. Santoro lost the point but managed to get another break to win the set and now Blake had no choice. He had to win a fifth set or go home yet again.

Santoro made it as difficult as possible. He started to cramp and he got quick massages from the trainer twice on changeovers. Serving at 2-3, he sat down in the middle of the game and got a third massage during a medical timeout.

Somehow he’d managed to completely subvert the rules by getting three treatments for the same ailment with only one medical timeout and by this time, Blake was a bit of a mess. Luckily Santoro’s cramps got worse. After fighting off three break points to get to 5-4, Blake broke Santoro and the long wait was finally over.

And what did Blake do? He got to the net and gave Santoro this little speech:

…It’s incredible that you’re still playing this way. You do it every single Slam. You’ve been doing it for so long, and that you can still fight this hard. You’re a credit to the game.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why Blake will be an ambassador or leader of some sort in his tennis afterlife and I’ll be still be here sniping about some player’s dirty tricks.


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Read more US Open coverage here:
The Death of Gonzo and Gasquet Pulls Out
Is the US Open Faster Than Wimbledon?
Early Rounds at the Us Open

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