Nadal Nukes Monte Carlo Field for Sixth Straight Title
by Sean Randall | April 18th, 2010, 12:10 pm

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. ADHEREL

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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118 Comments for Nadal Nukes Monte Carlo Field for Sixth Straight Title

Ben Pronin Says:

Has anyone ever lost less games en route to a title?

csebig Says:

Too many optimostic worlds, too early…

madmax Says:


can you finish your blog above please – the following line just tailed off….

“He’s also 26-2 in his career in ATP level clay court finals with Federer the onl”

That’s how it ended.

I am very happy that rafa has won a tournament. He is back, and that is good news. But I would like some expert input here please from Ben and from Sean, and anyone else who considers themselves an expert blogger here.

No criticism intended of rafa at all, but all the players he beat (apart from verdasco), were a qualifer, no.51, no.21, and verdy who was no. 12? so whilst this is great news for rafa, he wasnt playing the likes of soderling, davydenko, murray (the “real” murray), novak, (the “real” novak), delpotro, and of course, federer.

Does that make a difference to your overall theory that rafa is “back”. It’s just a question by the way, and NOT intended to offend any rafa fan at all.

I am looking forward to federer v nadal rivalries to resume.

Congratulations to all rafa fans today. I was expecting a better showing from verdasco as well, but wondered whether his neck had some effect on his overall game? Serving 2 DF back to back, was not a good sign.

Ben Pronin Says:

How important were the rankings in this case? Sure, I would’ve preferred Nadal play an in-form Djokovic to really gauge his form, but it didn’t happen. Instead, he played the two best clay courters this year, Ferrer and Ferrero. They may not be top 10 in the normal rankings, but they’re definitely two of the best clay courters around. But Nadal dismissed them rather easily. And they did push him compared to everyone else. They were the only guys who could get more than a game off him. So everyone who’s not a good clay courter is falling 0 and 1, and the others are getting 5-6 games. If Federer and Djokovic get their games back and are able to push Nadal, maybe he’ll fold. But that’s a big if. What’s not an if is Nadal’s form and skill. Besides just that, he’s playing like a monster. Just watch the points and games and you’ll see Nadal is playing fabulous tennis. No doubt.

Anna Says:

“To many optimostic worlds”, What does that mean?
Ohhhhh! “To many optimistic words”. Well, not if your a Nadal fan.

Hey Ben, the knees held up quite nicely.

jane Says:

” 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”


“his busy clay schedule which now takes him to Barcelona, Rome and then Madrid”

I read in an article, I think it may’ve been at Bleacher report, that there are rumours circulating that Rafa may skip Madrid, so he has more rest and time leading to the FO. I don’t know whether to believe this, however, as I think the same rumours floated last year. But it wouldn’t be a bad idea. He’d lose finalist points, but if Djoko continues to implode and bleed points, and Rafa continues to dominate and defend points, then Rafa could feasibly get back to #2 and have that seeding for the FO – in which case, why bother with defending Madrid, where the courts aren’t ideal for him?

Kimmi Says:

I asked this question before and i never got the answer that made sense… how is monte carlo a is not mandatory for top players to particiate.

it somehow rate same as barcelona where players can choose to play or not! Rome and madrid have way more class than monte carlo. whoever made these changes have downgraded the impontance of this tournament i am afraid.

Sean Randall Says:

Madmax, sorry, I’ve updated it. Federer is the only player to beat Rafa in a final.

As for his opponents, define a “real” Murray or a “real” Novak? What does that mean?

Even if they are “real” I don’t think either player can beat Nadal in Paris (Novak could in best of 3, not Murray).

For me, the two guys that could hurt Rafa in Paris are DelPo and Davydenko, but both are coming off injury. Soderling had his “lightning in a bottle” moment, no way Rafa would lose to him again.

And I don’t think Fed can best Rafa on clay best-of-five.

janadev Says:

Monte-carlo has a master’s status given by ATP, but it’s optional. You can skip it and dont get a penalty unlike other mandatory masters..

janadev Says:

Also, I dont think it will not be downgraded as almost all top players play this tournament, except Federer. This year Delp and Davy missed due to injuries not because of it’s optional status..

Ben Pronin Says:

I wouldn’t be so sure about Davydenko. He’s been rocked by Nadal on clay before, and he’s not capable of sustaining a super high level throughout 5 sets. He’d have to do it real fast, but even then he might choke.

jane Says:

I agree with Ben. No way Davy can beat Nadal on clay, especially best of 5. Delpo? Best of 3, maybe. Best of 5, not likely.

Kimmi Says:

janadev, I understand that its given the masters status by ATP..but the fact that it is optional, don’t you think it takes away the fact that you have to beat the best to win one of these..if the best are not playing?

Not taking nadal’s win away, btw! he won it fair and square.

janadev Says:

you are right Kimmi, but what I was trying to say is though it is optional, almost all top players generally play this tournament… This is the first year Fed is not playing this tournament..

Kimmi Says:

“..but if Djoko continues to implode and bleed points, and Rafa continues to dominate and defend points, then Rafa could feasibly get back to #2 and have that seeding for the FO ”

jane, i also think if nadal is seeded to meet Djoko in the semi in Rome (even if djoko game comes back, it will be extremely difficult to beat THIS nadal) then Djoko chances of defending his finalist points will deminish even more. So, it is fingers crossed nadal is on federer half in Rome for Djoko fans :)

Nadal is scary good right now!

Thangs Says:

Vamos Rafa! I really wish Rafa and Henin resume their french open….Undisputed King and Queen of clay

andrea Says:

well, good thing i didn’t bet any money on my prediction of verdasco in 3. he tried. that game point to give nadal 2-0 in the first set… nadal seared what should have been a winner from verdasco cross court. after that, i knew it was all down hill.

unreal that he has won that title 6 years in a row.

you can tell from the sobs into the towel that this win was something he needed mentally. maybe we are back to the ‘who can derail nadal on clay’ game again….

Ben Pronin Says:

Del Potro, I think, is a good candidate when he’s playing well. Right now, he’s injured and he’ll be super short on match play. But he isn’t scared of the top players like Nadal and Federer so if he starts winning, he’s not going to choke. But we’ll see what happens.

Anna Says:

madmax – Just do the math. None of those players you named has taken a match from Rafa on this particular run of clay in 5 years (MC, Barca and Rome). Ferrero beat him in Rome two years ago, but otherwise that’s it. I’m sure some of the super heroes mentioned above must have been in good form at least once in those five years. An in form Nole had 3 chances last year to beat Rafa in the finals or semi’s and was denied each time. Rafa rules the clay like Roger rules the hardcourts. Rafa played 7-8 more grueling matches than Roger last year in the month leading up to the Madrid final or the story line there would have been different. Same holds true this year.
When you go into the 2nd or 3rd tourney of the season fresh as a daisy it does improve your odds.

Kimmi Says:

janadev, yes this is the first year federer is not playing. He is # 1 ranked player and big tournaments like this needs # 1 ranked player playing if he is healthy ofcourse.

I guess davydenko, delpo soderling and Roddick not playing did not help matters either.

For me, I am looking forward to see the tournament where majority of these players will be nice for fans and maybe we could see some more competative matches.

Voicemale1 Says:

madmax Says:

“No criticism intended of rafa at all, but all the players he beat (apart from verdasco), were a qualifer, no.51, no.21, and verdy who was no. 12? so whilst this is great news for rafa, he wasnt playing the likes of soderling, davydenko, murray (the “real” murray), novak, (the “real” novak), delpotro, and of course, federer.

Does that make a difference to your overall theory that rafa is “back”. It’s just a question by the way, and NOT intended to offend any rafa fan at all.”


It’s a fair question for sure to ask “Well who did he beat”? But consider that he played 5 matches here and in 3 of them he allowed his opponent but 1 single game. No matter who’s on the other side of the court, once you make the Top 100 you get there because you can hold your serve at least half the time you play. Nadal’s “toughest” matches here were against the two guys who’d accomplished most on clay this year: Ferrero & Ferrer. Not only could they not win a set, they never could hold their own serve enough to even get to a tie break. That’s just good work from Nadal no matter how you look at it.

Evidently the new strings are giving him more aggressiveness even on clay. He’s hitting deeper and harder more consistently, but doing so with even more topspin. Small wonder then he was able to dish out 3 servings of The Bagel & Breadstick Special. Used to be that playing Nadal was a mental nightmare before you took the court because you KNEW you’d be out there forever and would run around the globe at least once. This year two of his matches were FINISHED in less than an hour, which is how long he used to take to finish his opening set, employing the “exhaust them” approach. This week he showed he’s much more alert to his opportunities to go for The Kill Shot. All of this helps his scheduling too. He’s barely spent six hours on court of actual match time in a week. His body will thank him endlessly, and it will keep him more dangerous every week of the clay season and much less tired.

And you’re right that a lot of the big guns sat this event out. But. Nadal DID face the “real” Murray and “real” Djokovic at this event last year and beat them both, and beat them when HE was playing less than what he’s doing now. And he’s beaten Federer here 3 times. This win today will not only give Nadal his “calm” moving forward, but this newfound style is going to give the rest of the guys a lot to think about for the remainder of the clay swing.

Anna Says:

Voicemail – Excellent posting. Perceptive and well stated.

funches Says:


The closest I can find is Coria swept through Kitzbuhel and Sopot with the the loss of 42 games in 22 sets in 2003, losing 19 in the former and 23 in the latter. In those days, minor clay court tournament finals were best-of-five sets.

Coria’s numbers still were not as dominant as Rafa’s performance in Monte Carlo. It will be interesting to see how many total games he loses when he wins Barcelona.

funches Says:

I meant Stuttgart and Kitzbuhel. Coria swept through Sopot for his third consecutive tournament victory without the loss of a set after the first two.

Kimmi Says:

Robbie koenig commentator of tennistv was saying today that RG is faster than MC. So guys with bigger flat FH like soderling can hit thru RG clay than say MC.

montecarlo Says:

Excellent post voicemale1

Just want to add following points. Nadal did beat Ferrero, Ferrer and Verdasco this tournament who are IMHO are prime candidates of atleast reaching FO quarter finals this year.

Ferrero has been in terrific clay court form and Ferrer also won a clay tourney this year. Also no disrespect to Real Nole but Ferrer did beat that Real Nole in three straight sets on clay during their last encounter at davis cup and IMHO Ferrer is almost as good as so called Real Nole (if not better). The problem with Ferrer on clay is that he has faced Nadal far too often in earlier rounds (and again he will face him only at QF in Barcelona).
It will be interesting to see who reaches the final from other half at Barcelona and I wouldn’t be surprised if that Guy turns out to be Ferrero (he is still a better clay courter than Berdych and Soderling).

Now coming to Verdasco I don’t know how many of you noticed this but I saw a different Verdasco in this tournament. The way he was trying to hit those forehands resembled Rafa a lot. Especially in the semi final against Djokovic he was getting insane amount of top spin and Nole was forced to hit backhands way above his shoulders (sometimes even above the head). Today again in last 3-4 games of the match Verdasco started hitting those shots against Nadal and he was almost toe to toe in those games. If verdasco can do that more often he will surely increase his chances this clay season and I wouldn’t be surprised if he pushes Federer too (who is always vulnerable against that type of shot).

madmax Says:

Ben and Voicemail – thanks. Ditto what Anna says.

Ben Pronin Says:

Ironically, last time Nadal beat someone 0 and 1, they came back and beat him at RG.

montecarlo Says:

@ Ben

So you suggesting Berrer will beat Rafa at this French Open? XD

Sean Randall Says:

Ben, Davydenko could absolutely choke against Rafa at the French, but I’ve always thought his game matches up nice against Nadal.

Problem is for Davy and for DelPo both have been injured it’s hard to see either of the in “full flight” come Roland Garros.

And I’ll throw out another guy who could cause Rafa trouble in Paris: Ivan Ljubicic. Go ahead and laugh but he’s has a big serve, has had success in Paris and could push Rafa to a breaker or two.

Overall, it’s a real shortlist of a guys who can beat Nadal on clay and an ever shorter one of guys who can beat him best-of-5 on clay.

montecarlo Says:

Interesting comments from Verdasco in his presser. It’s always nice to read these pressers coz they give you a fair idea of real scenarios–
Q. Do you think he’s back to his best level?
FERNANDO VERDASCO: Well, I think that he played really good during all the week, no? Not only today. I think he played unbelievable.
And on clay, I think last year he lost against Soderling and against Federer because he was like really tired, and also with problems in the knee. If he is not with this, I think he’s still the best on clay by far.

Q. What do you think you needed to do a little bit better today to make it a real contest and have a chance to maybe get some doubt in his head?
FERNANDO VERDASCO: I think if he plays like he play today, not only with me, I think if he plays like this, nobody can beat him.
So I cannot say something that you guys doesn’t know. I think that he was beating everyone during six years here, and I’m one more of all these. I cannot tell you something new, no?
I think that if he plays like this, nobody can beat him. What do you want me to tell you?

Q. Only on clay or all surfaces?
FERNANDO VERDASCO: Well, on clay for sure is the biggest difference. Hard court, more players beat him, you know, in the last year, for example, like Soderling, Davydenko, Federer and other players. On clay, is only two players.

Q. Behind Nadal, who are the best clay court players that you think are in the top five?

Q. Yes.
FERNANDO VERDASCO: I think I can put myself in the top five right now. But also there are very good players. I think Ferrer and Ferrero, they’re having unbelievable year. Also Federer is going to be there for sure. I don’t know, maybe Djokovic if he’s in a good shape also. [/quote]

Gregoire Says:

Roger, come back please!

Mitch Says:

If he’s winning in such dominant fashion, dropping so few games and spending so little time on the court, will his schedule really even be an issue?

jane Says:

Nice that Hotsauce puts himself in as one of the top five clay courter for the moment – good for him.

Kimmi Says:

this one tournament is making everybody think this is how things will be all the way to RG..its only one tournament, there is a long way to go. people should chill, relax and see what happens!

Skorocel Says:

Sean Randall to madmax: „As for his opponents, define a “real” Murray or a “real” Novak? What does that mean?“

I’d want to know that too… LOL :-) Only a completely naive tennis spectator would think that these two guys (who have a grand total of ZERO wins against Nadal on clay, btw) can beat the Spaniard on this surface and in such form…

Skorocel Says:

monte carlo: „Today again in last 3-4 games of the match Verdasco started hitting those shots against Nadal and he was almost toe to toe in those games.“

Toe or finger, he lost the match 0-6 1-6…


„So you suggesting Berrer will beat Rafa at this French Open? XD“

LOL :-)

blah Says:

Nadal has been scary good this tournament. In one of his closer sets against Ferrero, anyone who watched the match could clearly see that the conditions were bothering Nadal after he broke and then held to start the match. After they suspended play with Ferrero having taken advantage of that and winning three straight games to go up 3-2, Ferrero would go on to only get 3 more games in the entire match. It is a bit early to predict how FO would turn out though. I think a healthy Del Potro against Nadal in the FO would be a very interesting match, seeing how Soderling beat him there last year hitting through the court, and how Del Potro absolutely crushed him in the USO. I think the smartest for Nadal to do would be to skip Madrid. Five straight tournaments may just be too much. Also, I would love to see Nadal going into FO as #3 seed and him possibly facing Federer in the semis than someone like Djokovic (if he could get it together in the finals.) Watched his match against Nalbandian and he was showing how good his clay game is. Nalbandian only won 6 points of the first 24 serves he made, and that’s scary good returning from Djokovic. Didn’t see his match against Verdasco though, but I am guessing it goes back to the same things, mental toughness, serve, etc. I think Djokovic also needs to watch his schedule, and maybe skip Madrid too before FO. He is more likely to run out of gas in that slam than any of the other top clay contenders. Also, after Soderling recovers from his injury, would be interesting to see whether he can establish himself as a threat on clay. Also him and Delpo’s performance can also show whether even a clay court can be hit through now. Never seen big hitters dominate on clay so would be interesting to see how it turns out.

Ben Pronin Says:

Well everyone said that the 6-0 6-1 beating of Soderling last year was one of the closest matches with such a lopsided scoreline. Not Berrer, but perhaps Verdasco has a chance at RG. Before anyone says it’s impossible, just look back at 09 BEFORE RG. Did anyone thing it was even remotely possible for Soderling to upset Nadal?

blah Says:

(should read then Djokovic- would love seeing an in form and rested Djokovic facing Nadal in FO final, dream match.)

blah Says:

Ben- Verdasco has shown he could make a run at AO, but the biggest thing I think would be if he can go for his second serves. He makes a ton of Dfs and crappy second serves when he’s tentative. The guy does not have a good second serve and is imo, a mentally fragile player as well. As opposed to Soderling who always goes for his shots and is not affected even when playing against the top players (well, maybe Federer)

blah Says:

Also, much emphasis is placed on how Nadal would do in FO, and for good reason, but I am very curious how he would do in Wimbledon too. I had him and Federer on equal grounds there after the 08 Wimbledon, and obviously not too much should be taken away from last year. If he wins FO, I would put him as cofavorites with Fed in Wimbledon again, with Roddick just slightly behind.

guy Says:

agree with sean, potro and davydenko might have better chance than federer if they were fit. but lately, djokovic is the only guy who has come close to rafa on clay when rafa is fit. even 2008 french, djok played him way closer than federer. and last year in monte and rome things got tight. of course now the guy can’t serve. so that leaves nalbandian?

jane Says:

blah, I am also very curious to see how Nadal will fare on grass this year since he was out all of last year. But if we take into account the changes Voicemale1 describes above, which have Nadal being more aggressive, hitting deeper and finishing off points sooner, I have said before that I think this should translate very well to grass too. Like you, I think it would be a good idea for Rafa to skip Madrid and play his cards at the FO. Djoko I don’t know about. I suppose if he’s already down to #3 by the time Madrid rolls around then yeah he could afford to skip it as it won’t make much difference if he’s #3 or 4 at the FO, and I’d like to see him better his results in the slams especially.

Of course it’s all speculation but it’s fun anyhow. : )

Fot Says:

I think everyone should just relax, let the Nadal fans enjoy his victory today but I wouldn’t speculate too much concerning Nadal right now. We know any tournament, his troublesome knees can act up or his stomach or something. I’m not saying this in a negative way, but it has happened so many times that it seems like it’s a pattern lately. The way Nadal had been dominating on clay, I had penciled in him winning the French Open for the last 7-8 years! I never had any idea that a “Soderling” would come along, but he did. So heck, as good as Nadal is playing now, anything and anybody can still come along and stop anyone.

The problem with Nadal is that he is so good on clay that he loves to pack his schedule with all the clay tournanments and now that he has problems with his knees that schedule seems to hurt him physically. By the time Madrid comes along, folks say he’s too tired; he goes into the French and then his knees hurt. I know he loves the clay, and I know clay is the least taxing on your body – but I think his main goal should be gearing up for the French. If that means skipping some of the other tournaments – so be it. But more than before, it seems like when he plays a lot, his body breaks down. I guess it’s a juggling act for him.

Heck, I’m selfish – I wish Roger had this problem! lol! The problem we fans have for him is that he seem to play less and less every year and if it’s not a grand slam – he goes out of the tournament early so we don’t get a chance to see him that much! lol! But ok…enough about my man. Today is Nadal’s day.

So to all the Nadal fans here on the forum – Congratulations after a long drought! Your man got a title today! Enjoy!

challengerlevel Says:

I would like to say congratulations to Rafael Nadal for a wonderful tournament. He deserves this, and has endured 11 months with no titles. It was one of the best weeks I have seen clay court player have. However I do not think we should start talking about the French Open yet. The surface at Roland Garros changed last year to a different top layer which makes the clay close to 40% quicker than all the years past. They have said the surface will be the same this year despite several players wanting to back to the thicker top soil on the clay. The names of the players requesting this were not revealed by the French Federation. I expect Nadal to win Barcelona in similar fashion, but feel like Rome is where the clay season really kicks off. The French Open used to play almost exactly the same as Monte Carlo, but now with the change in the top soil Rome is the closest to Roland Garros.I do not see Djokovic having a great season at all, and feel like Nadal could be #2 by the time the French Open begins. Last, but not least. I am not a Federer fan, and am frankly sick of him winning everything. On top of that I cannot stand his pre-madonna attitude, but I will say I think he is going to repeat this year at the French Open regardless of how Nadal plays. I think Roger wants Rafa to come back to full health so he can beat him in Paris. As much as I hate to say it Roger is going to win again in Paris, and go on to possibly win the calendar slam.

Ben Pronin Says:

Nadal hasn’t lost before the quarterfinals of a Masters event since 08 Hamburg. Another record for the Spaniard.

jane Says:

“The surface at Roland Garros changed last year to a different top layer which makes the clay close to 40% quicker than all the years past.” Wow – very interesting. I was wondering if that surface had changed after seeing the way Soderling and Delpo – huge hitters – were able to go so deep. Many people have spoken about the grass slowing down, now the clay is speeding up: sheesh, why not make all surfaces the same? Just kidding, but it does seem to affect the playing field. Hmmm… thanks for telling us that.

Ben Pronin Says:

That would explain the 55 aces Karlovic came up with against Hewitt in the first round. And all the other hard hitters who were coming through.

challengerlevel Says:

I played for 6 years on the challenger circuit, and go to Paris for the French Open every year since 2004. I have hit on the courts every year since than, and I will tell you last year I got there about 4 days before the tournament started, and hit on one of the outside practice courts with Fernando Gonzales, and both Fernando and I both said Nadal might lose for the first time in Roland Garros. Roger’s game is suited perfectly for this clay, and could possibly win 2 more titles there.

Mindy Says:


I love reading your posts because you always keep it real. As far as who Rafa had to beat to win this tournament, I will say it again that it’s not his fault that Djoko and Murray aren’t holding up their end of the bargain. Rafa can’t pick who he wants to play. Also, your point is well taken that Rafa beat Djoker and Murray last year when they were actually playing their best. We know he wasn’t at his best.

Rafa is healthy this year and that does not bode well for his opponents. Also, I agree with you that the changes Rafa has made in his game are helping him win matches more quickly, taking the stress off his knees. He is not content to merely trade shots from the baseline on and on on, trying to wear out his opponent. That style of play helped wear out his knees. So now he moves forward in the court to aggressively close out points quickly. This will only make him even more dangerous on clay.

As far as I am concerned, neither Djoko and Murray have a prayer of beating Rafa in this kind of form. Rafa beat the best clay court guys in the game. There are no asterisks beside a win that make exceptions for not beating a top player. Those guys simply are not playing well enough to win now. Rafa came out and made a statement to everyone else – the King of Clay is back! He has been plagued with questions about injuries, no title in all these months. Now he has put that to rest. He got the monkey off his back in fine style.

Kimmi Says:

Like I said above, I also heard robbie koenig today mentioning about RG being faster than MC. I remember in previous years we used to hear how MC clay resembles RG.

jane, good point. It explains how big hitters did so well playing the hard court game.

challengerlevel, I would not be sure that federer is going to win RG, but if the courts are faster and the ball does not bounce as much will obviously suit his game better..

bafflingbaghy Says:

@challengerlevel: hey! where the hell were you after you hit with gonzo last year? you disappeared after gonzo was like, “nadal’s gonna lose, i’m gonna win.” and you were like, no, “soderling’s gonna win.”

Call me sometime, that match we played in the final of forest hills was incredible but you’re going down the next time we meet.


sar Says:

So, it is fingers crossed nadal is on federer half in Rome for Djoko fans :)

Kimmi, I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy nut but do you think Rome would allow that to happen in a draw? :–)

Voicemale1 Says:

So..if Roland Garros is now like Rome and not Monte Carlo, I’m not sure how that hurts Nadal given he’s won 4 times in Rome already and Federer has never won there? In fact Federer & Gonzo both lost Rome Finals to Nadal. And if I’m not mistaken, Nadal last year beat Soderling there 60 61. So the comparison of Rome to Roland Garros, based on actual results, is a little shaky. Now whether the Roland Garros courts are closer to Madrid is another story.

I will say it’s intriguing to hear about the surface change at The French. But how that guarantees a Federer win again is a mystery, given how tough his road was to get to the Final last year. Federer had to play two five setters (against guys who have game: Haas & Del Potro) and two four setters vs. guys who a ranked well below him (Mathieu & Acasuso). Soderling was clearly overwhelmed by the idea of his first Major Final. If the courts are indeed faster at The French, it’s worth remembering they’re faster for everyone; not just Federer.

Kimmi Says:

sar, its a tough one. during clay season no one wants nadal on their side of the draw. Now, lets see whose prayers will be answered..djoko or federer :) the way he played in MC, we can start praying now, ha!

Andy Says:

Very interesting insight, challengerlevel. The thing that struck me about Nadal during Monte Carlo was how much bend he was putting on the ball. Shots that looked a foot wide as they left his racket curve back inside for head-shaking winners.

If he’s hitting the ball like that, will the court speed at Roland Garros make all that much difference?


Tennis Vagabond Says:

Congratulations to Rafa. What an incredible win. That was absolutely the most dominant performance in a tournament I can recall.
That said, I do think his major challengers were absent. To be honest, there are only two players who have actually shown they can beat an in-form (or at least, close to in-form) Nadal, Fed and Soderling. Add to that, in my mind, DelPo who many of us felt could be a great clay player, considering how well he performed at the French while still in the steep slope of his improvement over last year. Nole? OK, he showed he was close last year, but he’s been around and hasn’t yet done the deed, so I would have to rank him below DelPo, even before his recent problems.
That said, the way Nadal won was simply awesome. He looked more dangerous than ever, because he has his wheels, he had his forehand, and know he was hitting winners. There was a whole new element to his game, the way he was shutting down points.
So I thought Fed has a chance before, but now it looks tough. And with DelPo and Soderling rusty after layoffs, I think they’re frankly out of the discussion.
Then the idea that the French has gotten faster, as explained by ChallengerLevel… that seems to be a tilt towards Federer, even if a slight one.
So it certainly looks like there’s only one real challenger, and even his chances seem a distance from 50/50.
But you never know when those knees’ll blow, do ya?
Certainly looking forward to Rome. Man, I hope DelPo and Soderling will get back soon enough to get some serious game in.
Last point: Nadal looked awesome.

Tennis Vagabond Says:

Verdasco’s presser was very interesting too, what a rare bit of actual insight into the player’s view of the field.

Von Says:

Congrats to Rafa and his fans for a great win and an amazing tournament!!

I don’t know if we could unequivocally state that the King of Clay is back as yet, but if not, he’s very close to being back, and I think if he continues in this punishing vein of being so stingy with losing points, NO ONE will be able to beat him. However, only time will tell ….

It’s not easy for the other clay courters to match Rafa in his present form, and I saw this last year also, at the SF in Madrid, his top spin is a few inches higher than previously, and that coupled with his supreme power, renders his opponent ineffective when trying to return his shots. They seem to drift or get pulled up from just the mere weight/power of the shot coming at them.

Voicemale1: Very insightful and illuminating posts. You’ve put everything into perspective. I can tell you’re happy, as it comes across in your statements. Enjoy your King of Clay’s victory.

Rsutherland Says:

Tennis Vagabond – I believe Soderling is playing in Barcelona, seeded second to Nadal. That should be soon enough, right? Perhaps he is a bit rusty, but I would suspect he is the biggest psychological ‘gorilla’ on Nadal’s back right now… not to mention his style of play which Nadal seems to find troubling.

Von Says:

Rsutherland: Congrats to you also. He did it!!

Mindy Says:

I wanted to make an additional point about this argument that Rafa didn’t beat the top guys, only lower ranked, albeit clay court specialists. If Rafa had some tough matches and was being challenged even a little by the likes of Ferrero and Ferrer, then one might have reason to think that this victory isn’t as much of a triumph. However, everyone saw how he decimated this field of clay courters and Djoko couldn’t manage to get to the finals. It wasn’t even competitive. There is a bit of a void at the top levels of men’s tennis right now. Murray has not even been competitive. At least Djoko put together a string of consecutive wins before the lopsided loss to Verdasco. Fed has been in poor form, however, I expect him to work hard in his preparation for clay court season and RG. His motivation is to defend his RG title. Everyone knows that he will be sure to show up ready to play.


He’s back enough for me. Did you see the emotion from him when he won? That says it all. This win can only help him as he moves through the clay season. The only thing that concerns me are his knees. That’s why I don’t want him playing Madrid. If getting back the crown at RG is his real priority, then he should schedule himself so that he is at peak form for RG.

Ben Pronin Says:

Let’s not forget now that Nadal has finally felt the sweet taste of a trophy, he’ll be even more motivated. No more tightening up and whatnot, he knows he can win the titles.

skeezerweezer Says:

“Mindy Says:

I wanted to make an additional point about this argument that Rafa didn’t beat the top guys, only lower ranked, albeit clay court specialists….”

Agreed. I am tired about the same kind of stuff said about Fed and “easy draw” and the like.

Rafa, Fed, and the other guys have to deal with the draw, and I think for the most part it is a fair system. Hey, they still have to win every match, it’s not like the trophy is handed to them, because they still have to go out and strike the ball to win.

The only thing that is “rigged” in a draw is if you are seeded, you get preferred placement. Why? You EARNED it. Maybe the other players shouldn’t get knocked out early, if there are in the top ten, then play like it!


What’s the scoop on FO this year, have they changed the surface? Please enlighten me, last I reported they were just arguing about maybe changing the color to YELLOW………

Von Says:


Congrats to you also. How could I have forgotten you??

Yes, I saw the emotion pouring out of Rafa when he sat on the chair, with his head in his hands, and when he signed the camera lens, his face was all red. He looked very humbled at that moment and vulnerable also — a very poignant moment. Very soft — guys crying shows humility.

“That’s why I don’t want him playing Madrid. If getting back the crown at RG is his real priority, then he should schedule himself so that he is at peak form for RG.”

I agree, but you know the pressure that’s coming from the Madrid tourney administrators could be very overwhelming for him, he could feel pulled, and give in to their demands. Hopefully, he doesn’t as it’s FO that’s important.

Enjoy this day, Mindy, you’ve waited close to 12 months to celebrate!

ThyGodisTennis Says:

He knows he can win a title?

Yean, me too, if I played against Verdasco.

That guy didn’t deserve the one game he did win.

Voicemale1 Says:


I just replied to the original post by @challengerlevel at 5:08 pm. Tough to see his Rome-Roland Garros equivalency. But…if he’s right about the change, it would explain why we had the 4 French Open Semi-Finalists we had in 2009: Soderling, Gonzalez, Del Potro and Federer. None of these could ever be referred to as a “clay court specialist”. In fact all of them have had their greatest success on hard courts. And each of them hits a huge. flat forehand as opposed to the heavy topspin forehand which has been the most successful type of shot for a clay court. If there’s any evidence the Roland Garros courts have been sped up it might be the fact that these huge flat forehands hitters were the Last Four Standing a year ago.

skeezerweezer Says:


Well that helps things even out if true. I felt and have said Fed would have won more Wimbys if the Grass was like it was in Sampras’s days. It has slowed down a lot ( Why? Isn’t that what made Wimby unique? ) and the Wimby officials have acknowledged that….

Lion Says:

It is high time the Roland Garros courts were tinkered to suit hard-hitters. enough of sissies, beating their opponents by getting ball back in play.

Tennis like the kind nadal played in 2008 and the one where federer and soderling played in 2009, need to be rewarded! The claycourters have enjoyed the slowing down of the game since the 90s. very tired of these defensive players making life tough for attacking players. I want some attacking players to drive a few balls up their defensive *ss.

Voicemale1 Says:

skeezerweezer… on earth is it possible for Fed to have “won more Wimbys”? The allegedly slower slow grass has not stopped him – he’s won every Wimbledon save one for the last 7 years!! This claim of yours defies any logic :)

Voicemale1 Says:


Then as long as we’re supposed to “even things out”, lets slow down Flushing meadows and Cincinnati then. After all, if they heavy topspin forehands get their prime surface “equalized” by speeding it up, let’s slow down the flat hitters prime surfaces by graining up those uber fast hard courts :)

jane Says:

Also Roddick had his best results ever at the FO last year (he also did well at Madrid, apparently a faster clay surface, added to the altitude issue). This would support the theory/ claim that the FO surface was indeed altered last year.

jane Says:

^ I mean that obviously because Roddick is known as more of a fast court player, having had his best successes at Wimbledon and the USO, not suggesting he can’t play on clay because he has won titles and done well at other clay events, and he’s also changed his playing style, rounded out his game, etc, which would help him do better on clay too. But who knows? Maybe the surface is a factor too?

Von Says:


The fast courts are now only two, Cincy and the USO. IW and Miami are so slowed down like a snail’s pace. How many more alterations are the fast hitters supposed to endure?

There has been talk for years that Wimby was slowed down. Also, Rome is supposedly similar to the FO, and the new Madrid plays like a hard court. That said, it appears that there is some major tampering with the respective surfaces.

It’s a pity you don’t have the Tennis Channel because they are showing beginning tomorrow, past clay court final matches, and it’s obvious from a few I’ve seen in prior weeks that the surfaces are being changed gradually. Maybe, the powers that be are thinking that they need to slow some courts and speed up others, especially now that clay seems to be of such importance, and so many points can be won by HC specialists. And, vice versa for HC and Wimby.

skeezerweezer Says:


lol true true

Sean Randall Says:

Now why would Roland Garros want their courts to be sped up?

Wimbledon wanted them slowed to make for better TV (longer points), but what’s the advantage for the French Open? Help their players? Help the Americans? Help Roddick? Put more fannies in the seats???

Ben Pronin Says:

Give Federer a better chance of winning. The Frenchies love Fed.

Kimmi Says:

federer? It makes more sense to give a chance to french players..most of them like fast courts!

TD (Tam) Says:

Good evening all. Congrats to the Nadal fans here, you must be thrilled with his record breaking title!

I am so happy to see him back stronger than ever on the clay. I hope he can regain his Roland Garros title, and beats Federer along the way, just to remind everybody that Roger can only win when Rafa’s not around to stop him. :D

jane Says:

Yeah it must’ve been for Tsonga’s sake! : ) Kimmi’s right. (Although Monfils was doing better on the slower surface, I think).

Von Says:

Sean: ‘Help the Americans? Help Roddick? Put more fannies in the seats???”

Well, I can see this is the beginning of something turning ugly, as there will be tons of nastiness evolving from that statement. Why is it only to help Roddick or the American players. why are they the main target?

Arent’ the other HC players benefitting more than Roddick considering he plays very sparingly during the clay season. And, the reason is obvious, he always gets hurt. Anyway, have fun stirring the pot, featuring Andy Roddick, as he always engenders a lot of nasty posts and some additional hits for this site, isn’t that so?? Now every Roddick hater will be adding their half-penny’s worth of bashing. OY

Kimmi Says:

they also wanted mauresmo to win for years but it never worked. she likes faster courts..pity she retired.

challengerlevel Says:

I do not think Federer will beat Nadal at the French Open because of the slight change in top soil of the surface. I think Roger is going to beat Nadal at the French Open because he feels he has to. I hope you all understand what I mean when I say that.

Tom Gainey Says:

I have a video clip of the great point between Nadal & Verdasco from today. Sean, I sent it to you to add to this story.

Ben Pronin Says:

I’m telling you guys, it was to help Federer. They’ve been cheering for him like crazy for years now. And they even booed Nadal when he lost (the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen from the fans).

Sean Randall Says:

Federer doesn’t like “fast” clay. He’s doesn’t like to slide. He likes “slow” clay. Hamburg clay. Wet clay.

Was it not a damp, rainy day during the French final last year? Yes.

That said, I doubt the French caters much to the interests of the players, even their own. I’m now expert but i would think it’s difficult of manufacture fast red clay v. slow red clay.

A lot depends on altitude (Madrid) and weather (rain).

Sean Randall Says:

Tom, thanks. Indeed, great point. I will try to add the code in.

Von Says:

If it’s true that Fed likks slow clay, then Madrid was somewhat of an exception, because he beat Nadal at Madrid, didn’t he, which is supposedly playing like a HC? And, Djokovic came close to winning tht SF also, because it plays like a HC. Therefore, the theory that Fed likes ‘slow clay’, is maybe a bit off?

jane Says:

Was it damp and rainy at Madrid too? That’s a sincere question because I can’t remember. Fed won Madrid, supposedly a clay court which plays fast, and he won the FO, supposedly once it’d been sped up. That doesn’t seem to suggest he favours slower clay, though the sliding point is interesting – had never heard that before. I remember hearing how he didn’t like to use the drop shot, which now he does, but not about the sliding.

Sean Randall Says:

Video added to original post. Thanks for the find, Tom.

Von/Jane, I would just say he prefers slower, heavier clay to the slick, fast stuff. That’s all. Regardless, he’s shown that he’s good enough to win on anything.

Fed’s a timing guy. Most timing guys like to have their feet set below them. A slippery surface can hinder that.

skeezerweezer Says:

Ok gang,

Ok, ok.

What is the point to play on 3 different surfaces if they all are getting close to the same? Are you kidding me? Yes this is gonna get ugly if you’re going down this path. SLOW down Wimby for the fans?

Why not say speed up Clay “for the Fans”?

Let’s make the HC the same too.

Why don’t we play everything on one surface. Who are we kidding?

The whole great point of the playing on the 3 surfaces is to prove who can play the best on all three to make them the best complete player. That is the way the Slams are made, and great ones are judged. The more they play different, the better IMO

Wimby has been FAST for decades, ever played on it? I have. But turning it into a bouncing court like clay was not good in my IMO.

Why not just paint it Red then?

Same with the HC, you folks think that there is faster and slower, but theer use to be WAY faster courts a decade ago.

I know we are living in the new world but the whole point of winning on all thre surfaces was the respect that they were totally different!


You read me wrong. Kudos to Fed cause he can play and win with the slower surface at Wimby. My point is do you really think he would have lost to Rafa at Wimby if the courts weren’t slowed down? No friggin way.

Lion Says:

I loved nadal getting booed last year :) I hope they do it tho him this year as well, when djokovic, federer, murray or roddick beat him and bring down to his knees.

get it? bring down to his KNEES…. LOL

steve Says:

Congratulations to Nadal on six straight Monte Carlo titles, an Open Era record, I believe.

skeezerweezer Says:

I got a little ugly on that last post, my bad and apologies to everyone…… :(…must have been the wine :))

jane Says:

“Fed’s a timing guy. Most timing guys like to have their feet set below them. A slippery surface can hinder that.”

Makes sense Sean: Although one wonders how he manages so well on grass then since it can get very slippery. I guess it’s different though in that a player doesn’t deliberately slide into shots. Fed’s movement is such a strength anyhow, no matter what the surface.

funches Says:

Re the topic of speeding up the clay: conspiracy theorists abound in all sports.

Most of them are delusional nut cases.

Ben Pronin Says:

Federer likes a low bounce. Both the clay in Madrid and the clay in Hamburg provided that.

Von Says:


“That’s all. Regardless, he’s shown that he’s good enough to win on anything.”

Very true, and no one can take that away from him.

“Fed’s a timing guy. Most timing guys like to have their feet set below them. A slippery surface can hinder that.”

This is true also, that slippery can hinder Fed’s timing, and it could be the reason he didn’t win the FO vs. Nadal, because he couldn’t/dosen’t slide as fast as Nadal could/does.

Sean Randall Says:

And to add, if Federer “likes” the faster clay, how the heck did Roddick take a set off of him on it in Madrid last year?

Then again, if Madrid was so fast why the heck did Nadal and Djokovic play for four hours the very next day?

My point is getting into a debate over court speeds is really a no win. I rarely ever bring it up because it’s all a load of you know what.

For every example there’s a often a perfect counter. And around and around we go.

Sean Randall Says:

Jane, on grass because of the special dimpled shoes wear there’s minimal sliding.

jane Says:

Sean, thanks, and can you please send a quick message to Djoko about those dimpled shoes, perhaps a few other guys too? There was a lot of “sliding” or slippage last year at Wimbledon. Of course I’m joking but sheesh. I remember Benneteau slid into the wall and was bleeding, and once Djoko slid right under the net. LOL.

Von Says:

“And to add, if Federer “likes” the faster clay, how the heck did Roddick take a set off of him on it in Madrid last year?”

Because Roddick’s getting to be a more patient player, and the experts do say that Madrid plays differently.

I could care less about all the debate on the surfaces and who is better, etc., I just like to see good tennis. if the courts help some players and not others, then so be it.

“Fed’s a timing guy. Most timing guys like to have their feet set below them. A slippery surface can hinder that.”

You mentioned the above.

“Then again, if Madrid was so fast why the heck did Nadal and Djokovic play for four hours the very next day?”

Well, the reason is clear, but i wouldn’t get into that because it’s not a topic that’s shall we say “user-friendly”. LOL.

Sean Randall Says:

Well, the shoes are really important at Wimbledon. Novak’s had his problems with slipping and blisters, etc.

That said, maybe Nike is the answer. Look how many Wimbledon champs they’ve had: Federer, Sampras, Agassi, Hewitt, Krajicek.

For some reason Adidas struggles on the grass.

Mindy Says:


Yes, the same goes for all that nonsense about Fed winning because of the easy draws, being in an era of weak players, etc. There is nothing in the record books that quantifies who you beat and how you beat him. You don’t win 16 grand slams out of luck, rigged draws, weak opponents or any other conspiracy nonsense. I have never been fond of this type of talk.

I also agree about the ranking being the only so-called rigged part. But, as you said, you earned that placement!

Also to the person who made fun of Rafa beating the likes of Verdasco, just a little reminder – the number one seed, none other than Djoko, lost to the guy you are trashing! Djoko didn’t make it, so Rafa couldn’t beat him!!


Thanks so much for the kind words! This has been an emotional day for Rafa and his fans. I am happy that I woke up to good news! Please don’t let yourself get too upset about the Roddick trasing that goes on here. I know it’s frustrating being the lonely voice in defense of your guy, but there are others like me who also appreciate him. It’s not easy to stay in the top five for as long as Roddick did, to be in the top ten and be playing some of his best tennis at this late stage of his career. I take my hat off to him!


Who let you out of your cage? You sound like a rabid dog, not a lion! I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for Djoko and Murray to beat Rafa at RG. If they can just win some matches these days, it’s an achievement.

The only one who should be down on his knees is you! Your comments are just plain lowdown dirty!

Lion Says:


STFU …. you want me to explain that to you?

Lion Says:

” I take my hat off to him! ”

Please don’t Mindy, we don’t want to see your Medusa head!

Von Says:

Sean: I think a lot of clay specialists try to slide even on HC, and they end up with ankle problems. In view of that, it’s easy to understand why they slide so much on grass. They need some feet adjustment. LOL.

Mindy: You’re welcome and thanks on Roddick. Don’t worry, be happy (Ben Vereen), things are looking good!!

jane Says:

Sean interesting point about Nike shoes and SW19 champs, but last year there was a lot of slippage by a number of players and I assume they weren’t all adidas men, though that’d be interesting to check into. I think Delpo had some problems at Wimby; he wear Nike right? I think there was a lot of slippage at Queens too if my memory serves. Anyhow, it seemed to last only for the first couple of days of each event while the grass was slick.

Skeezerweezer Says:


“My point is getting into a debate over court speeds is really a no win. I rarely ever bring it up because it’s all a load of you know what.
For every example there’s a often a perfect counter. And around and around we go.”

Uh, please enlighten us with your generic talk about court surfaces, slowing them down, and for what purpose? I made my case, you “punted” yours,

Why not do some studious research on the matter and write an article? You might be enlightened..

So why are there 3 different surfaces?

It’s now just all about the color…….


Skeezerweezer Says:



margot Says:

challengerlevel: thanks for your posts, an “insider’s” knowledge is always most interesting.
Do surfaces bother Fed? I don’t think so.

Mindy Says:


Thanks for the smiley! I am not going to let some creep ruin this day for me! I have only just begun to celebrate!:)


Oy! As you would say!

Ben Pronin Says:

Skeezer, I’m not going to claim to be an expert on the surfaces, but there’s still a difference even with similar speeds.

The surfaces are different in the simple sense that they are different surfaces. A faster/slower court doesn’t change the actual bounce. Even if Wimbledon is slower, the ball still stays low on the grass. Just like at RG, even if the clay is faster, the ball is more likely to kick up. And on hard courts, imo, you have a truer bounce. Also the movement varies from surfaces to surface. The clay will always require sliding. Grass requires small steps. You shouldn’t slide on clay but you’re footwork doesn’t have to be as precise as it does on grass (although it doesn’t hurt to be).

Like I said, it’s not so much the speed of a surface that bothers (or helps) Federer, it’s the bounce. That’s why he’s so good on grass because he gets a lot of those low bouncing balls. Even with the slowed down courts you had a blow out FO and then a ridiculously epic Wimbledon in 2008. With Nadal’s super high shots, Federer has a lot of trouble, but on grass they’re kept lower, so he has more to work with.

As for why Roddick took a set off Federer in Madrid, I have to go with Von’s reason. Roddick’s become a very steady player and he played Federer real close on all 3 surfaces last year, so it’s not just because Madrid was fast. And the reason Madrid played like a hard court wasn’t necessarily the speed of the court but the bounce, again. The ball went through the court more which kept it lower. The damp clay courts in Hamburg do the same thing, they keep the ball low.

Skeezerweezer Says:


Don’t disagree with you there that there is still a difference.

However, there used to be a significant difference. When Clay court season ended, so did the Clay court specialists. Now, how many guys from the dirt can play on Wimby so well?

The Forehand eastern grip was developed BY the surface. The ball bounced low, lucky to have it come higher than your knees. So was the Western Forehand grip for Clay. Bounced at least waist high….

So how many eastern forehand grips to you see on the tour now?

Don’t tell me it’s because of the players and rackets, it’s like you said, the bounce. What has changed?

And why?

I guess it doesn’t matter in the end, it is was it is.

Ben Pronin Says:

“So how many eastern forehand grips to you see on the tour now?”


Well, the players are learning to adjust. Not just that but the development of the semi-western grip has helped level the playing field. It’s not too extreme for grass but not too uncomfortable on clay, either. The bounces are still different but it’s a different game now. I agree with you about it being dumb to make everything the same speed. The surfaces keep their differences but cmon, it’ll kill the need to adapt.

skeezerweezer Says:



Grace :) Says:

Rafa can beat Djoko on clay easily.

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