For the second straight Friday Rafael Nadal was stunned by a fellow Spaniard on his beloved clay. Last week Nadal got bounced by David Ferrer. Today it was Nicolas Almagro’s turn to temporarily dethrone the King of Clay, knocking out Rafa 2-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 in the Barcelona quarterfinals.
Nadal had dominated Almagro winning all 10 of their prior meetings, losing just one single set. And he had won 41 straight matches in Barcelona where, like Monte Carlo, he was looking for a ninth title.
Yet today, after blowing out to a 6-2 first set lead (his 44th straight set win at the event) Nadal wouldn’t win another. And that after he held a 3-1 lead in the third.
Now it’s two clay events, two losses in the quarterfinals to opponents he’s dominated.
Credit to Almagro and Ferrer, this still had to win, but what’s going on with Rafa? Two curious losses in consecutive weeks at two of his most successful events on his favorite surface? Something is up and something is wrong.
Balls are landing short. His movement just isn’t there and sometimes he looks lost on the clay. Today on the bigger points, Almagro appeared to be the aggressor.
Nadal talked about losing that confidence after Monte Carlo and this result won’t help.
Rafa began the year with a title in Doha and he reached the Australian Open final where I think things took a turn. That back injury may now be healed but perhaps he hasn’t mentally recovered from it. Is it still in the back of his mind? Or is he just feeling his age and years of work – he’s about to turn 28?
I don’t know. I’m just guessing.
But fortunately Nadal has another month to get right before Paris. So don’t panic just yet, and remember the French is still best of 5! In the meantime what a boon for the contenders like Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka. No longer is the clay ruled by one man and one man only. At least not right now it isn’t.
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Nadal Wins 500th Career Match, Meets Ferrer for Barcelona Title Sunday