Thirteen games. That’s all Rafael Nadal’s allowed in four matches this week at the Rolex Tennis Masters Monte Carlo. And now after a 6-2, 6-3 drubbing over capable David Ferrer, Nadal is on the brink of ending an 11-month long title drought tomorrow against Fernando Verdasco and pocketing a sixth straight Monte Carlo title.
“I am playing very well,” Nadal said. “I think I played a very good match today. The last two games, I was a little bit more nervous than usual because I lost two semi-finals in a row, at [the BNP Paribas Open in] Indian Wells and [the Sony Ericsson Open in] Miami. I think I played very, very complete match.”
Nadal will meet his third straight Spaniard in the final after Verdasco stunned a lifeless Novak Djokovic 6-2, 6-2.
“I am so happy to be in the final,” said Verdasco who was appearing in his first Tennis Masters semifinal. “To beat a player like Djokovic, playing so good, with a score like it was important for me. I’m so happy to be in the final tomorrow against Nadal.”
For Djokovic it was quite shock defeat after the Serb played one of his best matches of the season in a win yesterday over David Nalbandian.
“This was quite a different performance,” said Djokovic following one of the most lopsided losses of his career.
“I wasn’t moving well, I wasn’t feeling well on court,” he said. “Actually, there’s been a little bit of a problem with allergies the last month and a half but obviously I don’t want to make excuses for the loss. He played very good but I think I made his win much easier because I made so many unforced errors.”
Allergies again? Meh. And his serve went into the crapper as well with five double faults in eight service games (four in that second set).
As for tomorrow, we all recall that slugfest Nadal and Verdasco endured last year at the Australian Open. Tomorrow’s match is best-of-three so it likely won’t come anywhere near to equaling that epic, but the two lefties should still provide us with some good mid-April fireworks.
Nadal has won all nine meetings with Hot Sauce and he’s never dropped a set to the guy on clay (9-0) including two wins last year at Madrid and Rome. Plus, Rafa’s 25-2 career in clay finals.
So for me, the pick remains Nadal – and not just for this event, but for entire clay season! As I thought after that Miami loss to Andy Roddick, he’s really come into this clay season pissed-off and ready to reclaim/restore that King of Clay crown. And Rafa is “this close” to finally getting back in the win column and he’s not going to let this opportunity slip at a tournament where he dominates. A loss would really hurt at this stage so I expect him to player incredibly well Sunday.
For Verdasco, he’s had a great week and posted an excellent win today over Novak. He has a lot of weapons with his big serve, big forehand but I don’t think mentally he can hold it together tight enough and long enough to beat Rafa, and even Nadal knows it.
“I think Verdasco [has] always had amazing potential,” said Nadal who has won 31 straight matches in Monte Carlo. “He can play very well. [The] important thing is [that] if he is focused mentally, his shots are unbelievable. He can be at very high level.”
The key phrase is “can be at very high level”. Contrast that with Nadal who we know “will be” at that high level.
The final begins 2:15pm local time or 8:15am on the East coast. The match will air on the Tennis Channel live.
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