Tennis is often a game of matchups and right now on the clay, Novak Djokovic is all over Rafael Nadal. The Serb gave further evidence of that dismissing the King of Clay Nadal on his favorite surface 6-4, 6-4 to win the Rome Tennis Masters and sweep the French Open lead up (and the season thus far).
Aided by a 3-hour rain delay this morning, Djokovic showed no signs of weariness whatsoever from his 3-hour epic semifinal win last night over Andy Murray in today’s comprehensive victory. In fact, like last week in Madrid, Djokovic is having an easier time on the clay against Nadal than he did on the hardcourts at Indian Wells and Miami where Nadal at least won sets.
This month, however, Djokovic has simply dominated Nadal by pounding any short offerings and really taking the offensive on Rafa’s serve. The backhand is immense and the angles he’s finding are incredible. It’s really a sight to behold.
And after losing nine straight to Nadal on clay Djokovic has now improbably won the last four straight sets and he did it relatively comfortable fashion.
All told Djokovic the Destroyer has won 39 straight matches (37 this season) and he looks as unbeatable as anyone ever has – yeah, that means you Roger Federer. There’s just no where for a player to hit the ball and feel any sort of comfort right now against him. And that includes Nadal who even tried moonballing today.
So does this make Djokovic the favorite to win in Paris which starts in a week? I think so. He may have never reached the French Open final but he’s beaten Nadal convincingly twice on clay and four straight times overall this season. And then there’s the win streak. No one’s taken two sets, imagine getting three!
Still, a power player with a big serve is likely the only guy who’s going to get him right now. And there’s not many of them out there.
As for Nadal, he’ll need to get that US Open serve back (maybe get Bellucci’s serve b/c he won just 5 pts on his second today) or hope that someone else can knock Novak out. Because right now he doesn’t seem to have any answer for the Serb be it at the altitude of Madrid or the fast court at Rome, the matches weren’t really that close. And today against Djokovic who probably wasn’t 100% fit – he has to be feeling some fatigue – he still couldn’t make a real impression.
Rafa will get some help and comfort from his familiarity with Paris, but if the two meet again in three weeks it’s tough to see how Rafa’s going to get through it.
And as saying goes for Nadal about the shear difficulty of winning three sets against him on clay, I guess the same can be applied to Novak. Wow.
What a stunning 8-month transformation for someone who was struggling so mightily at the start of the US Open. Calling him Super Human probably doesn’t do him justice anymore.
Djokovic: “He is the king of clay and he is the best player ever to play on this surface. I have won against him twice in the last eight days which I think is incredible, an incredible achievement for me, and he has given me a lot of confidence for the French Open. This is only a couple of tournaments this year and he has since been dominant on this surface for so many, many years.”
“I am most happy about the game this year on clay. The way I was fighting all the way, I am confident and aware and [have] self-belief that I can win against the top players.”
“It is an incredible honour to be part of the history in some ways and part of the elite of players like Federer and Nadal and McEnroe and Lendl and those players who have won many matches in a row.”
Nadal: “My level felt much better today than it did in Madrid. I was able to go inside the court and move well and to play more aggressive, and I think I did. I am not disappointed about my match and I am not sad tonight. We will try next time.”
“I have been doing everything that I can so I cannot ask myself more. I am trying and I am doing very well, but one player is doing better than me. The champion in my opinion is not only be able to win every week; it is when they are able to wait at the right moments and I am waiting at every week, trying to find solutions, and we will see what is going on next time… I wish him all the best and I have to wait my moment to win another time.”
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