By Josh Barr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 8, 2009
In his spare hour Friday afternoon, Fernando González grabbed a quick shower, received treatment for the lingering tendinitis in his right knee and put on fresh clothes. Then, the 29-year-old Chilean headed back to the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center stadium court for his second match of the afternoon.
While most of the top players in town for the Legg Mason Tennis Classic eschew doubles, González looks forward to it.
"I like to play, first of all," González said after advancing to the singles semifinals but losing in the doubles quarterfinals. "I didn't play many matches in the past month. It's important [because] I'm trying to compete. For me, it's more fun if I go to a doubles match than if I go practice."
González had not played much singles or doubles this summer. After losing in the third round at Wimbledon in late June, González returned to Chile -- where it is winter -- and mostly stayed off the court, trying to rest his knee and allow the injury to heal.
But instead of taking things easy in his return to the court, González opted to participate in singles and doubles in his first visit to Washington since 2003. Six years ago he advanced to the Legg Mason final, beating then-No. 1 Andre Agassi in the semifinals before losing to Tim Henman in the championship. González also made his ATP Tour debut in Washington in 1999, advancing to the second round.
Of the other 15 seeded players in the singles tournament this week, only three played doubles, including González's playing partner, Tommy Robredo of Spain. Similarly, only five of the other 31 players in the doubles tournament were in the singles draw.
Seeded fourth in the 48-player singles field, González took the court just after noon and beat 10th-seeded Tommy Haas of Germany, 7-5, 6-4, in a match decided mostly from the baseline.
Then it was back to the locker room for a brief respite before he and Robredo -- the singles tournament's seventh seed who lost his opening match -- emerged to face the world's top-ranked doubles team of Canadian Daniel Nestor and Serbian Nenad Zimonjic. González wasn't concerned about his energy level, explaining that he usually eats light before matches and had some specially prepared drinks to stay hydrated.
"I always want to win both singles and doubles, but doubles is more relaxing," González said. "I normally play with guys who are my friends in the tour, so we usually have a good time out there. Most of the singles players see doubles as a form to get some match play and have some fun."
González was supposed to have additional time to prepare, but when fifth-seeded Robin Soderling withdrew from the singles tournament -- his quarterfinal was the next scheduled match in the stadium -- tournament officials were waiting on González to return to action and fill a cable television broadcast window.
The turnaround "is tough," said Tennis Channel analyst Justin Gimelstob, who won two Grand Slam mixed doubles titles during his playing career. "If you win [the first match], you're playing on that adrenaline high. But if you lost, you're playing with frustration and disappointment."
González and Robredo stayed close but were unable to convert any of their nine break points, leading to a 6-3, 6-4 loss.
Then it was time for more treatment, an interview session and additional treatment -- though González did not seem concerned about preparing for Saturday's singles semifinal against Juan Martín del Potro, the tournament's defending champion.
"Yesterday I finished at night and had to play at noon," González said. "Now I have the whole afternoon to rest and hopefully be much better tomorrow."