It’s amazing how quickly things change in tennis. Just a month the pro tennis circuit was nothing short of madness after three months of complete chaos and unpredictability. With the shift now to clay, however, the order is yet again restored. That means continued domination from Rafael Nadal, who just won his second successive event earlier today in Barcelona.
The big news for Nadal(and the tour for that matter) was that Rafa actually lost a set. After winning Monte Carlo unblemished, Nadal surrendered the second set today in the Barcelona final to good pal David Ferrer, who also should have taken a set from Rafa in Monte Carlo but gagged.
As if he wanted to send a reminder, Nadal didn’t take kindly to Ferrer’s theft by pummeling David in the third 6-1. Nadal has now own 20 of his 21 career clay finals and 103 of his last 104 matches on dirt. Ridiculous numbers, eh?
With the way the clay schedule works this year, Nadal and co. will have little time to rest with Rome starting up on Monday – at least he’ll get Wednesday start. And he’ll need it with Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and David Nalbandian recharged after a week of rest.
Following a poor start to the year Fed picked himself up off the mat in the second round in Monte Carlo against Ruben Ramirez-Hidalgo, overcoming a 5-1 third set deficit to the Spaniard to win and really catapult his confidence. Fed went on to beat Nalbandian and then Djokovic before succumbing to Nadal in the final in a match in which he had some chances.
Now I thin he he’ll get another shot at Rafa, and the confidence he gained in Monte Carlo will translate into another strong performance in Rome. While I slogged Fed early on the clay, I’m slowing coming around to him on this surface. As Guerry rightly pointed out, in the last four years only Rafa, Filippo Volandri and Richard Gasquet have beaten the Swiss. No one else has. And that’s damn impressive. So I like him to again get to the final again, beating Guillermo Canas (yes, you can make the argument if Fed can’t beat him on hard court how can he beat him on clay?), beat Paul-Henri and even beat Ferrer to get the semifinals.
Awaiting Fed in the final four I think will be Nalbandian, who actually has a very tough draw with potential pitfalls in Nicolas Almagro, Fernando Gonzalez and of course Djokovic in the quarterfinals. But Novak’s reportedly still feeling the effect of a bad throat, and the way he bailed out in Monte Carlo makes it hard for me to put any faith in the guy right now, not when he’s still talking illness. I’d pick Almagro as my No. 2 guy there.
In the bottom half is where we find some Americans (plural) – Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish and James Blake. I actually think Andy has a great draw with Simone Bolelli the only tough obstacle in his path to the last eight where Nikolay Davydenko might be waiting. If it does happen, the surface and all favors Davydenko, but right now I’ll take Roddick, who should be in prime form for an upset after all that Fish bachelor partying in Vegas – that’s good training. Denko did just beat Andy in Miami, but payback time now for Roddick who done well in Rome before (SF and QF) and who knows, maybe shades of Pete Sampras, a Rome winner way back when.
The last quarter is all Rafa’s. And I don’t see anyone getting close to a set from him in that section, and in fact I don’t think anyone gets a set off him the whole tournament, even Federer who I think will again face Rafa in the final only to get turned away again. Sound familiar? Welcome to clay season where history repeats itself, week after week, year after year.
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