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Having reached the final in Monte Carlo (losing to Rafael Nadal) and winning Barcelona (defeating Robin Soderling), Fernando Verdasco has had a busy April
So how does he feel after his three-set, three-and-a-half hour epic over Novak Djokovic, from which emerged victorious 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-4?
“Of course I feel tired!” he grinned, exhaustedly. “ I played many matches but I’m also very happy because I am in the semi-finals again tomorrow. I don’t know how I will feel but I hope good. I think if you have to look at something today, then it was my mentality, how I was taking the match up in the important points like that tie-break in the first set and also how I felt the match in the last game because he didn’t give me an easy time and so if I need to look at something then, it is the way I controlled the situation.”
Much has been made of Verdasco working with on Darren Cahill via the adidas player development programme, but the world No.9 played down the link. “He’s just been trying to give me advice and tried to make me a better player. I haven’t been with him since Miami. Darren is supporting me and he’s coming to Madrid to teach me and make me a better player but nothing else. Everybody around me is helping in some parts of the game. Of course Darren was helping me in Indian Wells and Miami and also a little bit in Australia and he’s trying to make me a better player tactically and with many specific things.”
Djokovic meanwhile was pragmatic, despite obvious frustration at having come so close to yet another semi-final here in Rome. “I’m very disappointed to lose the match. I was very close to victory and I know that this match could have gone either way – only a couple of points decided the winner. But he won because he played well and he deserved to win. When you play someone like Verdasco or Nadal, these guys get a lot of balls back so you can’t really rely too much on your serve. It is very important on the surface to have a good serve because it makes you feel confident but I think it’s really important to be patient and physically fit because at this level and against these players who are in the top 10 in the world, there’s very little difference between who becomes the winner.”
Despite being world No.2 at the moment, the Serb’s form so far this year has come up slightly short compared with previous seasons, on paper at least. “It depends how you look at it,” said Djokovic. “I didn’t do well in the States where I usually do very well and now I lost the quarterfinals here but these are all very good results so far and it’s just the start of the season. I want to practice, work hard and you can’t have every year the best year in a career – except if you are Nadal or Federer! I’ve had real problems with allergies for the past two months and this has been really troubling but everything else is in order and I’m happy with the way I played, so definitely the French Open is the place where I want to get a good result.”