Djokovic Gets Another Shot to Derail Nadal on Clay
by Sean Randall | May 3rd, 2009, 10:10 am
  • 72 Comments

Can Novak Djokovic do the impossible, beat a healthy, motivated Rafael Nadal on clay? I don’t think so. But Novak will get his shot in just a few short minutes in the Rome Tennis Masters final.

Yesterday Djokovic put together a solid performance in ousting Roger Federer 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 in a match eerily similar to their Miami melee in March. Federer’s performance was far better this time around, but still patchy and Novak took advantage recovering from the brink of defeat to overcome the Swiss for a second time in two meeting. A year ago I don’t Novak could pull off such a comeback in that situation against a worthy foe.

Credit to Novak, he seems to settling into his own and getting his head and body right. But despite his improvement I still don’t think it’s going to be enough to beat Rafa today.

For all his decisive scorelines, in my mind Nadal actually still hasn’t reached his highest level this clay season, and that’s downright scary. But “A-“ game is still far better than just about anyone’s game out there and the numbers back it up.

After pounding on Fernando Gonazlez Saturday, Nadal has won 29 straight matches on the dirt (69 of 73 sets) and this year he’s won 34 of 35 sets. Since 2005, the Spaniard is 146-4 on the clay and 24-1 in clay finals. And when in Rome, Nadal’s a sparkling 21-1. That’s near perfection.

Head-to-head, Nadal leads Djokovic 12-4 and he’s 7-0 against Novak on clay. But Nadal’s lone set loss this year on clay was to Djokovic in that scintillating Monte Carlo final where the Serb really took it to Rafa. I think the outcome will again be the same in the end, I just hope the match lives up to the billing.


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72 Comments for Djokovic Gets Another Shot to Derail Nadal on Clay

Kimmi Says:

C,moooooooon !! Nole


Rsutherland Says:

So the Fans of the 2 – 4th tier players get on my case when I point out that Nadal is the only one who doesn’t ever scream, make excuses (wind, darkness etc), retire cause he’s hot or tired nor hurl/brake rackets. Granted he has some anal habits but he really does not nor never has done these childish things. Did I just imagine that Djokovic broke a rackets? Rather than attack the messenger, please prove me wrong.


Kimmi Says:

Jane, where are you ? Nole is making a match.


Kimmi Says:

Why Nole ! all that effort, he made 2 EU at important point, Nadal did not have to do anything. Anyway it was a good first set.


zola Says:

wow! Rafa won the first set in a tie-break! Good for Djoko for making it a match.
Rafa had way many unforced errors whe n serving for the set (twice), of course credit to the pressure by Djoko. Let’s see if Rafa makes some changes to play the second set better.

Rsutherland,
nice to see you. No Rafa does not make excuses. But players are different and the commentators even thought breaking the racquet was a sort of venting out frustration and might help Djoko and it in fact did.


guest Says:

who won the first set


zola Says:

The second set will be more difficult for Rafa because Djoko is not going away. Interesting final. Come on Rafa!


jane Says:

zola – More difficult for Rafa? He won the first set so he has the momentum, he’s the clay Terminator having only lost 4 matches on clay in the last, what, maybe 4 years… If the second set will be more difficult for anyone I’d think it’d be the guy who lost the first set and is clearly up against it. Nice to see Djoko given his all though :)


jane Says:

Duro – waiting for the revelation. :)


Yan Says:

What the score now? the piece of crap channelsurfing.net is no longer working for me. :(


jane Says:

Novak needs to work on his serve; he has to make it more of a weapon not a liability. It can be very good, but he needs it to be more consistently good. It’s much too inconsistent. He’s just been broken again, so there’s the final, I’d think. And against Federer yesterday, Novak put in WAY too many second serves. Hopefully his team will recognize that’s a shot that could use some polishing.


sar Says:

Still a chance but looking bleak now.


Kimmi Says:

Poor service game from Novak, and the “dropshotitis” continues. At least i enjoy the 1st set.


jane Says:

Ah well, that was a quick second set. Too bad, but a nice tournament for Djokovic and a fighting first set.

Rafa continues to steamroll through the competition on clay; one sort of thinks – why not just give him the RG trophy now?!!

Congrats to him / his fans, yet again.


Rsutherland Says:

Zola -
I understand the eveyone is different.
However, part of the reason I like Nadal (jokes about the derriere aside) is because of his disposition. Also, because of his disposition, I get ticked when others pan him (steriod accusations, gamesmanship, etc) He just seems like a nice, shy, respectful kid who has not let his greatness go to his head. That is what is so special about him “No?”


Ezorra Says:

Sorry Jane, Duro, Kimmi and others…

Congrats Zola and other Nadal fans…

Now i want to go to sleep…


Kimmi Says:

The person who will beat nadal on clay is not Federer, not Nole either. Will be somebody else. Please “somebody else” its time to come and show yourself!


jane Says:

I just realized, this means Rafa has now surpassed Federer’s Masters Series titles. Wow. Kudos to him for that also!

ps. Thanks Ezorra, you’re a sweetie. Your man deserved the W, no doubt.


margot Says:

Novak was terrific for threequaters of the match and certainly showed how to play Rafa. Just hope Andy M was watching!


jane Says:

Kimmi – maybe it will be Murray? lol. He does have the style of game that could take Rafa out of his rhythm, but it’s next to impossible to sustain that, especially at the French. Who knows? But it is not happening this year, unless Rafa loses early at Madrid, if he plays there. And I can’t see it.


jane Says:

hey margot – nice to see you back. :)


Kimmi Says:

Jane: “I just realized, this means Rafa has now surpassed Federer’s Masters Series titles”

With the rate he is winning them, he is going to surpass Agassi very soon.


Ra Says:

Congratulations and condolences to all concerned. So this means a change of ranking, huh? Well, Nole did very well to keep the race with Murray as close as possible.


Kimmi Says:

ha ha ha !! They force Nole to do Rafa impression again.


jane Says:

Yeah, I thought he fought rather valiantly for his #3. But Murray had a better end to last year and a great start to this one, so he put himself up there. I expect, as I’ve mentioned before, the rankings, below Rafa that is, may slip and slide and rise and change hands a few more times before the end of the year. Depends a lot on who wins slams though – and performances at the slams.


Ra Says:

That was frightening for a moment there (Novak being implored to do the impersonation), but I thought it was handled very well.


topspin Says:

Right now the only one who can beat Nadal is Nadal, a healthy Nadal cannot be beat in Clay, but all it takes is one blister, knee/back pain and all bets are off.

Talking like this reminds me 3-4 years ago when Federer could not be beat, it’s really nice to see.


jane Says:

Exactly Ra – frightening. They tried to force Nole to do it last year and he said no.


margot Says:

Hi jane; I posted you on another thread, I’ve been in London for a week. Novak undoubtably is the second best clay court player at the mo. I expect gr8 things of Andy M next year!
Duro- Andy has much to improve on clay, wouldn’t you agree?


Kimmi Says:

As what jane said, 2, 3 & 4 might switch places a bit. But Murray did not do himself any favours by losing early in Rome. When they go to madrid on the 11th May Murray will be seed No.3 for the 1st time. Congratulation to Murray. 1st british to reach # 3.


Duro Says:

Congratulations to Nadal. Congratulations to his supporters. Greetings to Jane, Sar, Ra and other Nole’s fans. It was mission impossible still… Over and out from Duro, the poor astrologist.


zola Says:

Thanks Ezorra, Vamos Rafa! what a great win.

Yep, sorry to Djoko fans. he played great the first set and the first half of the second. he just got tired I think towards the end of the second. But definitely gave Rafa a hard time. After a difficult start to the year, I think he is cruising on clay behind Rafa. It is sad that he has to lose ranking. But I think he will amend it, because he is playing really well on clay.

Jane,
Looking at previous matches, Djoko sommehow became more aggressive in the second set. And he was here too , up to the break of his serve. I guess he got tired or maybe frustrated.


fed is afraid Says:

let’s hope it is nole and rafa in final at french and crybaby is no where in sight. that would be a great final.

15 Master Shields at 22-unbelievable!!


jane Says:

zola, congrats for Rafa’s win. I guess I didn’t think it would happen this time, because in Monte Carlo, when Djoko was aggressive in the second set, he lost the first one more easily . This time I think he was frustrated as he knew how important it was to win the first. Oh well. Onward and upward!


zola Says:

Rsutherland,
***I get ticked when others pan him (steriod accusations, gamesmanship, etc) He just seems like a nice, shy, respectful kid who has not let his greatness go to his head. That is what is so special about him “No?”***

If you notice “who” they are coming from, you won’t be surprised and will learn to ignore these baseless accusations. Just enjoy the great tennis Rafa is playing and the joy and excitement he brings to the sport. We have learned at least from the Great Federer that these times may not repeat themselves. So why waste it on some even acknowledging some idiotic and hateful comments?


jane Says:

Duro – you’re not poor! Keep in touch. Smiles for you :)


zola Says:

Ra
**That was frightening for a moment there (Novak being implored to do the impersonation), but I thought it was handled very well.
***

Djoko handled it really well and I don’t understand why they try to force him to do something he is so reluctant to do? Another plus for Djoko from me.


osazone4real Says:

there is something interesting that i find that players dont do; havent they realised that nadal usually starts matches slowly and always elects to recieve,why dont they put pressure on him and elect to recieve when they start the match i think it would be easier to break him then?


fed is afraid Says:

federer could always be beat. rafa was beating him from the very beginning.


osazone4real Says:

just wondering what does joko or what sounds like “joko” mean in italian,the umpire always says it after a player wins a game


sar Says:

Stole a set off him in MC and forced a tie break here. He is 2nd clayer now. He is inching forward.


jane Says:

osazone4real, Duro smartly informed me of this the other day – “giaoco” (spelling?) means “game” in Italian. Apparently one of the umpires this event was having fun rhyming it with Djoko whenever Djoko won a game.


zola Says:

Thanks Jane,

Now whoever said Djoko has no heart, has to take note. He proved himself above everyone else on clay against RAfa, twice! and who knows what will happen in MAdrid and RG.

I think he is the biggest threat to Rafa on clay right now. If he could maintain that level of play of the first set, the match could have been much more difficult for Rafa. He knows what he has to do and what to improve and I think he is right on it with a new fitness coach and trying to come to the net more often.

It is also great for Rafa, because now he has a new challenge he has to work for and improve against.


zola Says:

osazone4real

***there is something interesting that i find that players dont do; havent they realised that nadal usually starts matches slowly and always elects to recieve,why dont they put pressure on him and elect to recieve when they start the match i think it would be easier to break him then?***

I think some players do. like Murray . But the advantage is that if they can hold, they are already ahead and they need only one break to take the set.

Another obvious thing is Rafa’s service pattern. He always serves to the backhand and in crunch times to the forehand and many miss it.


Kimmi Says:

“there is something interesting that i find that players dont do; havent they realised that nadal usually starts matches slowly and always elects to recieve,why dont they put pressure on him and elect to recieve when they start the match i think it would be easier to break him then?”

If Nadal opponents win the toss, they could try that I guess. Federer tried that once in MC last year i think and did not work very well for him..he was broken straight away. Nole could probably try that tactic, I guess it is not in their nature. These are aggressive players who like to start ahead. If it you hold your serve until the crunch times in a set, its always advantage to start serving first.


osazone4real Says:

Jane,thanks for the info i was reall y confused during one of Djokos matches.

Zola,I agree with you but i think nadal plays with gradual increasing intensity,thats why he train 1 hrs+ b4 a match and he is usually jittery when he starts a match,which of course annoys me


osazone4real Says:

zola,yes that serving to the forehand @ crunch time djoko missed it today too


jane Says:

zola, thanks for the nice comments about Djoko’s heart; I think he’s shown it also. He needs to continue to work on fitness, so he’s on the right track there and I agree with you, but as I said during the match, the other thing that let him down a bit here was his serve. He needs to work on that shot.


osazone4real Says:

Does anybody play the atp bracket I just started with rome I got 140 points(2046 of 14517):-),terrible score


zola Says:

Kimmi,
we posted at the same time!

OK, I better go. Hugs to all Djoko fans. He played great and you have everything to be proud of him. Things will just get better for him, because it seems all the hard times about the racquet, etc. is over and he is playing much better now.
Hugs to my fellow Rafa fans here too.

Cia o for now.


Kimmi Says:

Zola: “I think he [Nole] is the biggest threat to Rafa on clay right now. If he could maintain that level of play of the first set, the match could have been much more difficult for Rafa.”

It is a very big ‘IF’. Nole has been seen time and again, fails to maintain that level throughout the match. He has been close, yes.. but he has also been very far. And Nadal is getting better and better everytime they play. When Rafa keep beating you over and over, he eventually crush that confidence in you..good example federer. Federer always speaks positive about beating Rafa but to be honest I don’t think he can.

As I mentioned before, the person to beat Rafa will be completely somebody else, don’t know who but hope this person shows themselves soon before Rafanatics take over the whole world.


osazone4real Says:

Jane also I think Djoko should be a little more patient, and sparingly use the drop shot.
Also at times he should let go of that first set and not expend all his energy and also the big disappointment of not winning after such amomentous effort can be disheartening.
But anyways you should be proud of him,because he is giving my boy a run for his money which makes tennis all the more exciting


zola Says:

osazone4real Says:
**Does anybody play the atp bracket I just started with rome I got 140 points(2046 of 14517):-),terrible score***

that’s a very good score. I played it and guess what my ranking is: 10038!


zola Says:

kimmi,

***As I mentioned before, the person to beat Rafa will be completely somebody else, don’t know who but hope this person shows themselves soon before Rafanatics take over the whole world.***
lol! I think they already have! but they are harmless.

OK, bye for now!


osazone4real Says:

also something he does again that is wrong is applauding shots,lifting his hands to heaven,showing signs of frustation it shows to the oppostion that i am breaking you down,he should stop it,breaking rackets once in a while to release the tension thats ok,but the above is sign of lack of mental toughness


jane Says:

osazone4real – very good points; I hope Djoko is reading. lol. You’re right: lose the dropshotitis and stay positive and focused.

Kimmi – maybe, and again, this is a big maybe, Djoko’s fitness coach will help him to be able to maintain that stamina/level. He just started with this new trainer after Monte Carlo, so the results wouldn’t show yet; we’ll see in a while how it works out.

Anyhow, I’ve got a book to finish and a child to play with.

Cheers all!


Kimmi Says:

Even if Djoker did not beat Nadal today, overall he is done very well these last few weeks and it good to see. He is now the 2nd best on clay and that is great achievement. I am sure will see a lot of him in the crunch times of many tournaments to come.


Skorocel Says:

Good effort by Djoker, but to be honest, if your opponent (despite having 14 claycourt matches in his feet within just 3 weeks) still runs like a rabbit in that final, then there really isn’t that much you can do, or is it? On to Madrid and FO!


Skorocel Says:

“Stole a set off him in MC and forced a tie break here. He is 2nd clayer now. He is inching forward.”

Amazing what you need to “accomplish” to become the 2nd best player on clay nowadays, isn’t it? :-)


Kimmi Says:

Skorocel; Thats how scary Nadal is. It show how far the rest of the pack are. As what jane said, they might as well give him RG trophy.


Al Says:

I play the tournamaent draw I am 12002, Rome really messed me up.
Nadal played an amazing match. He definitely deserved it. Congrats Rafa fans–he is amazing–and only 22.
I feel bad that Nole is going to lose his No. 3 ranking but I am quite sure he will not be No. 4 for long. He should feel real good about his game, and feel good going into the FO. Hopefully he will be fit to go 5.
I have a question if Nole is seeded No. 4 at FO does that mean he will face Nadal in the semis, if he makes it, and not the Final.


Voicemale1 Says:

The real scary thing is that Nadal has shown improvement throughout his clay events this year. He won Barcelona playing worse than today, and won Monte Carlo playing below even both of those standards. Imaging coming into Monte Carlo and winning there at your 80-85% level, moving up to 90% in Barcelona and around 95% now. His serving is what’s improved the most through these three weeks, back up over 70% in Rome (it was less than 60% in Monaco) and if it keeps getting better it’s just hard to see anyone out there who can take 3 Sets from him at The French when he plays like that. The Mens Draw at Roland Garros can hope the weather plays a part, maybe crunching Nadal’s schedule like it was at Wimbledon 2007, where he had to play a match for 6 straight days, including two Five setters. And even then, well, whether that hurts him remains to be seen.

Djokovic played very well. His Semi Final match to Federer here should bolster his confidence many fold, given the courageous grit he showed to pull that one out. But he ended up falling to the tactic Nadal uses on clay for just about everyone. The First Set took almost 50 grueling minutes to play. Despite breaking twice to get there, Djokovic had no answer to Nadal stepping up a little to run away with the Tie Break 7-2. So by the time the middle of the second set was reached, Djokovic started making errors that were going wider or longer. His legs were going. And as the legs go, you shots also go concurrently. Thats’ the thing. It’s not just the extreme spin, but anyone who’s seen Nadal play live knows (and can hear) just how hard he can hit the ball. If you have to deal with shots weighted like that when your legs are wobbly, then it’s no wonder Nadal grinds everyone down. He can keep blasting his Forehand Topspin Superballs for hours at the same intensity and into the same corners. And that he can drive through his backhand almost as well these days all adds up to make a two hour match against him feel physically like it was a four hour match. At some point, surrender becomes self preservation.


Kimmi Says:

Al: “I have a question if Nole is seeded No. 4 at FO does that mean he will face Nadal in the semis, if he makes it, and not the Final”

Only 1 & 2 seed are placed on the opposite side of the draw. 2 & 3 and the rest are picked at rondom thereafter. So, both Murray and Novak could still be playing in Nadal’s half of the draw when future draws are made.

Only # 2 seed is guarantee the opposite side to # 1 seed.

This year almost all major tounaments had 1 & 4 on the same half except IW where 1 & 3 was together (remember the final here was Murray and nadal).


Al Says:

Thanks Kimmi, I was just wondering. I thought there was a specific order. Hopefully Nole is on the opposite side of the draw. That would be messed up if both Nole and Murray are on Nadal side of the draw. That would be a blessing for Roger.


Sean Randall Says:

Al, the #3 and #4 players will be on opposite sides of the draw just as #1 and #2 are. So Nole and Murray cannot be on the same half with Nadal unless one of them drops to five.


Kimmi Says:

Al; Nole and Murray can never be on the same draw either.

# 1 & 2 are placed on opposite side of the draw.
The rest are drawn in groups ie
3 & 4 drawn on opposite side then 5 – 8, 9 -12, 13-16 etc

You can check in the ATP rule book, they explain in detail the whole procedure.

http://www.atpworldtour.com/tennis/en/common/TrackIt.asp?file=/en/players/ATP_Rulebook.pdf


zola Says:

AI and osazone4real,
if you want we can make a group on ATP and follow each others picks. let me know.


Kimmi Says:

Al, sorry for confusion on my earlier post were I wrote,

“So, both Murray and Novak could still be playing in Nadal’s half of the draw when future draws are made.”

Ihis is what I should have said “Either Murray or Novak could still be playing in Nadal’s half of the draw when future draws are made.”

Sean, thanks for clarification, Hope its now clear…


Al Says:

Thanks for the clarification.

Zola making a group ATP would be fine with me.


Giner Says:

This page gobbled up a few big posts of mine. No error message, nothing. Page refreshed and my messages weren’t posted, and I lost the text. I’m annoyed now, and I can’t be bothered redoing it all, so I guess you’ll have to do without my well-thought out meanderings. ^_^

Lesson learned: Don’t use Internet Explorer ever again. Ever. Microsoft has jumped a major shark 3 times in the last few years (IE7, Win Vista, and Office 2k7).


Von Says:

How about trying the back arrow and ‘undo’ buton. I’ve had that happen to me several times, but when I hit “UNDO” I usually get back my data minus a few words.


zola Says:

AI,
check the ATP bracket page for “tennis-x” group or “zola” and just join in.

Top story: Coric Ends Nadal's Season In Basel, Federer Overwhelms Dimitrov; Ferrer v Murray In Valencia
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Rankings
ATP - Oct 20 WTA - Oct 20
1 Novak Djokovic1 Serena Williams
2 Roger Federer2 Maria Sharapova
3 Rafael Nadal3 Simona Halep
4 Stan Wawrinka4 Petra Kvitova
5 David Ferrer5 Na Li
6 Tomas Berdych6 Agnieszka Radwanska
7 Kei Nishikori7 Eugenie Bouchard
8 Marin Cilic8 Ana Ivanovic
9 Milos Raonic9 Caroline Wozniacki
10 Andy Murray10 Angelique Kerber
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