Rafael Nadal gets smooched, advances

I didn’t say it was from a woman! How scary would it be to see some rambunctious fan storming at you, knowing what’s previously happened to Monica Seles? Still, once Nadal sensed the fan’s innocent yet homoerotic intentions, the talented Spaniard welcomed him with open arms. I heard these guys on the radio the other day — I forget which program — comparing Rafael Nadal to Alex Rodriguez, saying each is the most hated player in their respective sport. Are you kidding me? What’s not to like about Nadal? I think fans just don’t want to accept that, when 100 percent, he can beat Roger Federer on any surface.

He’s played well thus far, recently defeating Fernando Gonzalez after two days of rain postponed the match.

“I can’t tell you, because I don’t have the answer,” Gonzalez said when asked to explain his quick disintegration.

Though Nadal’s sore abdominals are still a concern, he certainly wasn’t overtaxed in this match, as he headed into what could be a very long weekend.

A match that had been a taut, well-played affair got postponed Thursday night with Nadal leading 3-2 in the second-set tiebreaker. They had to wait out an entire day of rain before coming back to the court to resume under overcast skies and temperatures in the 60s.

Final numbers: 59 unforced errors for Gonzalez to 13 for Nadal; Nadal won 31 of the 43 points played after the restart. The whole affair took 34 minutes to wrap up.

As of right now, the men’s semifinals are scheduled to take place on Sunday. Roger Federer will take on Novak Djokavic and Juan Martin del Potro will try his luck against Nadal. That is, of course, if the rain doesn’t push everything back to next year.

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Will James Blake ever win a Grand Slam?

A recent Deuce Magazine article takes a close look at the career of James Blake. He’s been America’s second-ranked male tennis player for the past seven years. However, he’s yet to win a Grand Slam. In the piece, Andre Agassi and Rafael Nadal critique Blake’s game, as well as offer insight as to why he hasn’t taken it to the next level.

James BlakeWhat’s always been tricky in that department is Blake’s playing style. Blake’s A-game is a sizzling set of big forehands, aggressive returns, extraordinary movement and enough shotmaking for tons of highlight reels. Few players in the past 20 years have better personified the notion of a dangerous player. Watch Blake versus the likes of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and you’ll see a man extremely capable of going toe-to-toe with giants. As Nadal said earlier this year after earning his first win over Blake in four tries at the ATP Masters Series event in Indian Wells, “He’s a very difficult player for me to play against… very aggressive player all the time.”

Though Blake is pleased with the consistency of his play in 2008 – he’s maintained a Top 10 ranking all year – there have also been some beguiling losses, including a five-setter in the second round of Wimbledon versus Rainer Schuettler and defeats in finals to first-time winners Kei Nishikori and Marcel Granollers. “This year’s been a little strange,” says Blake. “I’ve had some ups and downs.”

It’s astonishing that Blake used to dominate Nadal a few years back. He also beat Federer in Beijing before a heart-breaking loss to Fernando Gonzalez, which would have at least guaranteed him a bronze medal. At 29 years-old, Blake’s years are numbered on the ATP Tour. Hopefully both he and Andy Roddick will be prepared for the Australian Open in January. As another year goes by without a dominant male American player, one begins to wonder if legends such as Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, and Pete Sampras were just Europeans with really good Yankee accents.

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