By Brodie McPhee
Now the final major clay event before Roland Garros, Rome gave fans an oppurtunity to see their favourite players on a truly slow, traditional surface.
On the ATP side, the King returned to the throne as Rafael Nadal once again defeated Novak Djokovic in the final, 7-5, 6-3. Having been rained out on Sunday, the final did not get under way until noon local time on Monday. A critical point at 30-30, 4-5 in the first set was wrongly called out against Djokovic and quickly corrected. A point he likely would have won to gain a set point ended up going against him. The frustration mounted and Nadal sprang like a shark to blood, breaking Djokovic and then holding once again for the first set. Despite some trading of breaks early in the second, Nadal settled and took hold of the match to take the title.
Nadal won 12 sets and lost none, defeating Ferrer and Berdych en route to the final. Having already won titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona, Nadal becomes the favourite for Roland Garros once again, if only slightly ahead of number 1 Djokovic and Federer.
The WTA final saw plenty of drama as Maria Sharapova climbed back from a 4-6, 0-4 defecit to eventually take the title from the grasp of Li Na, winning 4-6, 6-4, 7-6. The epic affair was nearly spoiled as rain delayed the third set tiebreak, but was completed later on the Sunday to crown the champion.
This gives Sharapova her second clay title of the season and was her fourth final of 2012. With Petra Kvitova struggling to be fit, Sharapova’s devastating baseline play may set her as the favourite for Roland Garros along with Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams. Roland Garros remains the only major title to alude Sharapova over her career and will be hungrier than ever with a new found success on clay.
ATP Surprise of the Week – Andreas Seppi - Home field advantage is a term often tossed around in sports around the world, but rarely mentioned in tennis. This past week, the Italian crowds of Rome were clearly behind their man, clay journeyman Andreas Seppi. Seppi needed three sets in all three of his wins including massive upsets of Isner and Wawrinka. After dropping the first set in a tiebreak against Wawrinka, Seppi rode the wave of the crowd in a momentus win over three sets, all in tiebreaks. The Italian easily fell to Federer in the quarterfinals, but the run will remain an unforgettable effort in his career.
WTA Surprise of the Week – Angelique Kerber - Perhaps the surprise is not the semifinal result on the week, but the season. Kerber continues to be a mix of Wozniacki-like consistency, both in matches and week to week, and Kvitova-like lefty power. The German has now provern herself on all surfaces, and a combination of improving movement with devastating power and placement has earned her some massive results this season. A darkhorse that could make some serious noise at Roland Garros, she is one to spot on the draw.