I have to admit to not enjoying any of this tournament. It's hard to write anything without sounding like I'm making excuses but it has to be said that conditions here were not exactly ideal for Rafa. What with extreme heat and humidity, late night matches and tennis balls he doesn't consider fit for purpose, it's a wonder he got as far as he did.
As I pointed out last week, this article on the ATP website showed he had concerns about the temperature even before he stepped on court for his first match.
He had to play some pretty tricky opponents. His first round, against Thomaz Bellucci, was tougher than the score of 6-4, 6-1 would suggest. He was then up against the man on whom Spanish hopes are resting for the future, Pablo Carreno Busta. This was a real battle but Rafa managed to get a straight sets win, 7-5, 6-3
It was the next match that did for him. In a masterpiece of scheduling, they decided to play all four quarter finals on the same court. Battles for the other three meant it was way past 1am before Rafa got on court. He was playing Pablo Cuevas for the first time. Not surprisingly for someone on a 17 match winning streak on clay, Cuevas snatched the first set. They had to battle through until past 3am until Rafa finally prevailed, 4-6, 7-5, 6-0. It was probably as well that Cuevas gave up in the third set or they might have still been playing when dawn came up. As it was, Rafa had to do the whole press conference thing afterwards so it would have been way past 4am before he could even think about getting some sleep.
Later that same day he had to get back out to play Fabio Fognini in the semi final. Fognini is well known for playing like two or three different people in the course of one match. He started looking like he didn't care but then woke up and started to play at his best just as Rafa was beginning to suffer from cramps. Playing well below his best, Rafa succumbed to a 6-1, 2-6, 5-7 defeat. As Jon Wertheim said on Twitter, "who among us goes to bed at 3:30 a.m. and is worth a damn the next day?"
Still, at least we were afforded one memorable moment during the tournament - Rafa changing his shorts on court at the start of the third set against Cuevas.
We hope things are better in Buenos Aires next week, Rafa