People have been quick to put a period on Rafael Nadal’s dominance on the dirt. But not so fast. Nadal proved again that’s he’s still the undeniable King of Clay after a 7-5, 7-5 victory today over Roger Federer in the Monte Carlo final.
Forget his knee bandages and the injury talk, it’s Nadal’s time of year, it’s his surface. And the way he straight-setted the field in Monte Carlo, I’d say he’s well on his way to again replicating his past clay performances.
Until somebody actually gives Nadal a thorough ass-kicking on the clay it’s going to be hard to bet against him on the dirt this year, or any year really.
Nadal has now won a ridiculous 97 of his last 98 clay matches, with the lone loss coming to Federer last year in Hamburg, a tournament I don’t think Nadal should have even played back then and probably will not play this year assuming he wins in Barcelona and Rome.
No real shame for Federer in losing Nadal. I though he played a some good tennis, I liked the aggressive strategy and the net play but the Swiss’s inconsistency caught up to him in the end. Federer was up a break 4-3 in the first set, and up two breaks at 4-0 in the second, but with each lead came an unusual flurry of errors.
Nadal played some patchy tennis as well, but managed to hang in in the second set and take advantage of those Federer mistakes/gag.
In all, Federer may be disappointed with blowing both leads, but overall he has to be very pleased and encouraged by his performance this week. He should now have his confidence and some of his aura back which is pretty remarkable considering that I think a lot of us – I know I did – had the shovel and dirt ready to bury the Fed when he was down 5-1 in the second round to Hidalgo. But to Fed’s credit he dug deep, rebounded to win that match and then played the best tennis he’s played in a very long time with victories over David Nalbandian and Novak Djokovic.
Under new coach Jose Higueras, Fed’s also added a better slice to his game, a more effective drop shot and seems to be a little more aggressive on his service returns, and that all can only help his cause.
I had said earlier that Federer wouldn’t be a major factor in the clay season, but I’ll take those words back. From what I saw in the last three matches if he can maintain that level he’s going to remain a force again going forward. I just wasn’t convinced we’d see that level anytime soon.
That said, I do think we’ll continue to see some RHH-like lapses, but at least he’s playing good tennis overall again.
And after an incredibly unpredictable first three months to the season, looks like we have some semblance of order restored in men’s tennis with Federer and Nadal claming their first titles of the year in consecutive weeks.
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