It was in Australia a couple of years ago that I thought "this is it" with Fernando Verdasco.
He had re-launched himself, re-imaged himself, re-built his body and was looking to be a real threat to the very top guys, to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. At that tournament he took Nadal right to the brink in the semi-finals, in one of the best matches in recent years.
But nothing happened really after that to substantiate that thought; nothing up until his run to two finals in the last few weeks on the clay.
In Monte Carlo, I was beginning to think maybe this has been a delayed reaction; it could be the real deal this time. And then he got slaughtered by Nadal in the final and I'm more or less back to where I was before.
To me Verdasco is six, seven, eight in the world and that's his place. Until he can prove he can beat the big guys in the big matches, not just winning tournaments but winning them by beating the big guys, then that's where he's going to stay.
I find him exhilarating to watch; he's a terrific shot-maker and has a great strength about him. But something mentally goes wrong and he seems to make too many wrong choices against the very best players. It's become a habit and it's unlikely he can get out of it.
I really would like to see him win a Slam somewhere along the line and it's not beyond the realms of possibility. He either needs to start making the right choices at the right time or get lucky with the draw. He wins titles at the moment when he gets a little lucky and doesn't have to face the really big players.
Robin Soderling on the other hand has moved himself up a level since his breakthrough into the top 10.
Magnus Norman, who is coaching him now, has really helped. There wasn't a lot of logic in what he was doing before and Norman has helped eradicate the mistakes he makes and he's been much more focused.
He's got a huge game; the Soderling forehand is immense. It was the upset of the year last year when he beat Rafa. But can he put wins like that together back-to-back-to-back?
I don't think so but it wasn't a fluke what he did at the French Open last year. He could easily beat the big names but I'm just not sure he can keep putting it together.
What was impressive last year was that he backed that win over Nadal up well for a bit, although then he wasn't really there in the final. It's that keeping the consistency up at a very high performance.
It's the same with both these players. Not much would surprise me except them winning the French Open
The other thing at the weekend was the Fed Cup and for the second straight year it will be an Italy v United States final, with Italy reaching their fourth final in five years.
I think some nationalities thrive on that team concept. There's something about the Latin temperament that it really adds another 15 or 20 per cent to their game.
The Italians seem to all get on very well; they are all in Stuttgart watching each other play. They seem to be very supportive of each other and I imagine that what they've achieved in the Fed Cup really has given some added value.
If you have a super-star among the team it can hinder that supportive atmosphere. It's unlikely that they'll be watching your matches, you'll just be going to watch them, and you can find yourself in awe of them not just on the team but whilst practicing as well.
I think an important cog in the wheel is that the Italians are a lot more equal in terms of their level. That's not to say they aren't good players, they are. Flavia Pennetta, in particular, is a fantastic player but they are quite level in their ability.
I don't think they've under-achieved on the singles stage; in fact I think they've done very well and made the best of their ability. They are just players who will always sit on the outskirts of the top 10.
- Rafael Nadal
- Fernando Verdasco
- Roger Federer