May 17, 2009

Oh for Two!

I'm not the best at picking winners, which is why I usually stay away from the horsetrack, the roulette table, and any sort of gambling venue in general. (Except for poker -- I love the poker.)

But I thought my predictions for the winners at the Mutua Madrilena Open in Madrid were a fairly safe bet -- on my week-old Twitter page (thanks to all my followers!) I not-so-brazenly declared on Friday that hometown favorite Rafael Nadal would claim the men's crown while surging starlet Carolina Wozniacki would take the women's title.

And I was fairly on track.

Rafa had only lost one set in the tournament to Novak Djokovic in the semis, stringing together a 33-match win streak on red clay. His opponent in the finals, nemesis Roger Federer, had lost his last five matches against the current #1 and hadn't beaten him on the surface since 2007. He'd gone almost seven months without winning a title, while Rafa had won the last three tournaments he'd played.

Of course Nadal would take home another.

On the women's side, my forecast was a little more up in the air. Dinara Safina was playing in her third final since taking the #1 spot from Serena Williams and was going for her second trophy this year. She was easily the favorite over the Danish teen who, earlier this week, climbed into the top ten for the first time in her career.

Even still I went with the underdog.

But somehow things got all messed up and I lost on both counts.

Federer looked stronger than he had in months, out-acing Rafael six-to-one and keeping his second serve percentage well above his opponent's. In less than ninety minutes he earned the right to hold up a silver plate for the first time since October. Safina was similarly impressive, not dropping serve once in the two sets of their first-ever meeting. Caroline was weaker on serve and return, and unfortunately couldn't quite keep up with the more-experienced champ.

Now I don't know if today's results make a big difference in the overall standings -- I still think it's clear Nadal's going to win his fifth French Open in a couple weeks and maybe Safina will finally bring home her first slam. But some stellar performances in Madrid will certainly make the action much more interesting.

Will I go out on a limb to make my predictions now? I told you I'm not a betting girl.

But my money's still on Rafa and, just for the heck of it, let's say Jelena Jankovic -- she lost here in the quarters but did win her only title of the year on the Marbella clay.

Be sure to check back to see if I'm right!

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