Rafael Nadal is back. And he’s angry. After hearing all the talk of his vulnerabilities, his poor form and his ailments, Nadal sent a crystal clear message this week that on clay he’s still the undisputed king. Order has been restored.
Nadal didn’t just win Monte Carlo, he destroyed the field losing just 14 games total en route to his first ATP title in 11 months. In about 90 minutes today, Nadal routed his good friend Fernando Verdasco 6-0, 6-1 to become the only man in the Open Era to win an event six straight titles.
Despite the one-sided scoreline, the match actually had some entertaining moments. Unlike Novak Djokovic who played like a chum yesterday, Verdasco was connecting on his shots, hitting winners with his big forehand but Rafa just did everything better.
Some more numbers: Nadal has won 54 consecutive matches on clay in the month of April and he’s won 10 titles during that stretch, six in Monte Carlo and four at the Barcelona. His last loss on clay in April came on 8 April, 2005 to Igor Andreev in the Valencia quarter-finals. He ranks seventh overall with 26 trophies in the all-time list of clay-court title leaders, 19 titles behind Guillermo Vilas (45). And the 14 games he lost at the tournament in five matches are the fewest he has dropped en route to a title in his career. He’s also 26-2 in his career in ATP level clay court finals with Federer the only player to beat (07 Hamburg, 09 Madrid).
If Rafa can stay healthy – a big “if” given his busy clay schedule which now takes him to Barcelona, Rome and then Madrid – I don’t think anyone is going get this guy on the clay leading up the French Open.
And remember in Paris, to beat him you will need to win not two but three sets. Funny when you think three players this week couldn’t even win two games against the guy. Scary.
Nadal: “I was playing really well since the start of 2010 season. I didn’t win a tournament yet. I won this week, not before. But I was ready to win before this tournament, no? I was relaxed. When I watch [myself] play well in Doha, in Australia, in Indian Wells, in Miami, when you play like this, you know you’re going to have your chance soon. I had two chances, two important chances, in Indian Wells and Miami. I didn’t convert. But the third one, yes, here in Monte-Carlo. Sure for me is very emotional. [It] is probably my favourite tournament. I love this tournament. [To] win here another time is a dream for me.”
Verdasco: “If you see the score, [there] is a big difference. But in some games I had some chances to be closer, to make him think a little bit more. But I think that he had unbelievable day and he played really good. I also didn’t maybe have a good day, because I was trying to force and made more mistakes than unusual.”
A great point won by Verdasco:
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