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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