Rafael Nadal in a major clay court final? No way! Can’t be, can it?
Of course it can, and of course I’m joking. For Nadal it was business as usual today on the clay as the current World No. 1 and King of Clay fought off Andy Murray 6-2, 7-6 to reach the finals at the Rolex Tennis Masters Monte Carlo.
In Sunday’s final, Rafa will face the improving Novak Djokovic, who thumped the “other” Swiss Stan Wawrinka 4-6, 6-1, 6-3.
Neither result was terrible surprising. I caught the end of Novak’s match and he looked to be playing pretty well against a decent opponent in Wawrinka who I think is one of the most underrated claycourters in the game. Stan scored the upset of the tournament beating Roger Federer in the third round.
Novak’s beaten on consecutive days Fernando Verdasco and now Stan both in three sets, and let’s hope the third-seeded Serb’s physical issues won’t factor in tomorrow’s final against Rafa, because to beat the Spaniard you absolutely have to be in peak form.
Murray’s been in peak form of late but it just wasn’t nearly enough against Nadal. Despite the addition of Alex Corretja. I thought Murray was still far too passive against Nadal early in the match. Murray’s “cat and mouse” game translates much better on a hard court than on clay, especially so against someone like Rafa.
Andy has the kill-shot power and the serve to trouble the clay elite – he did have a good win against the returning Nikolay Davydenko Friday – but it really comes down to if the Scot chooses to use it. To beat Nadal he has to be more aggressive and he did change gears late in the match forcing Nadal to dig out a well-played tiebreak.
In all though I think Murray’s looking quite promising this clay season and he’ll learn a lot from today’s loss. He’s put down a solid foundation to build off of for the French Open.
Since we’re talking clay, no surprise Rafa’s also looking quite good. For the first 90 minutes against Murray Rafa looked like the clay God that he is, but then we saw another lapse when he failed to serve out the match. As we saw against Andy Roddick at Indian Wells or even Juan Martin Del Potro, Rafa couldn’t slam the door shut like we are use to seeing from him. So for me, some of those issues we saw during the hardcourt season are still present.
Again, I said Rafa would be in for a bumpier ride during this clay season and in saying that I think Novak has a real shot to get a set Sunday. But it’s a very tall order. Nadal has now won 30 straight sets, 26 straight matches at Monte Carlo. Plus, the guy’s been virtually unbeatable in championship matches.
It should be a good final and a good start to the clay season.
Also, Roger Federer wasn’t the only top guy exchanging wedding vows this past week. Congratulations go out to Andy Roddick and Brooklyn Decker who were married Friday evening in Austin, Texas. The couple tied the knot in front of a small gathering of family and friends including Andre Agassi and wife Steffi, James Blake, Mardy Fish, Justin Gimelstob and Sir Elton John.
Roddick and Decker will honeymoon in Costa Rica. I wonder if he’ll bring his racquets?
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