Nadal’s Monte Carlo Title Means…Return of the King?
by Jeremy Davis | April 22nd, 2018, 10:35 pm

It’s been a strange year for Rafael Nadal.
He’s No. 1 on the ATP rankings even though it’s late April and he’s only played two tournaments. Roger Federer is sitting out the claycourt season. Novak Djokovic is injured — or not injured if you ask him — but he’s not winning. Stan Wawrinka is injured.

None of the ATP “Next Gen” are stepping up to challenge the old guard, and we mean old, like some pushing 40.

So Rafa seemingly has the claycourt season all to himself, but can he trudge through every week of the dirt season like a man in his 20s?

The 30-year-old withdrew mid-Australian Open with a hip injury, and returned only at the Davis Cup two weeks ago, winning then sweeping to the Monte Carlo title.

Kei Nishikori (now 0-4 in Masters finals) never had a chance, falling 6-3, 6-2 in the Monte Carlo final.

“He gives me all the balls back,” said Nishikori. “I was kind of out of gas, especially in the second set. How he plays…he makes every shot. He makes it tough. I think he was also playing great tennis.”

It was an incredible 11th Monte Carlo title for the Spaniard, and he goes for 11 again this week in Barcelona.

“These kind of things are not going to happen forever, so I just try to enjoy them and to play with the full passion and with the full energy and concentration, full love for the sport until I can,” said Nadal. “I know the day to say goodbye is closer than 10 years ago.”

Nadal has only an 11-1 win-loss record in 2018, almost four months in. But he begins his 171st week at No. 1 on the ATP rankings on Monday, breaking a tie with American John McEnroe (170 weeks). One more title and will tie McEnroe’s career 77.

He is also now the all-time Masters title leader with 31, separating himself from Djokovic who has 30. With the Monte Carlo win Nadal broke his own record for wins at a single tournament.

“Next week is another week that I have a tough draw in Barcelona,” Nadal said. “Is the moment to stay focused and to keep holding that momentum that is good one after winning seven matches in a row on clay now, this year.”

Is this a fully-healthy Nadal, or a 30-year-old Spaniard with a history of bad knees and now hips with an injury around the corner? Will a fresh injection of blood platelets get him through the claycourt season? Will he finish the year No. 1?

So many questions, who has the answers?

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20 Comments for Nadal’s Monte Carlo Title Means…Return of the King?

Tennis Vagabond Says:

Its Rafa’s time right now. This domination of a surface is unprecedented in tennis. It feels banal even to say that. Rafa is so good on clay that to say he is the clay GOAT seems silly. Of COURSE he is. We all know that. He’s so good that it will be a shock when/if someone takes him down this year.

As long as Novak is in the draw, there’s at least a flicker of hope for him to take a run at his old form. In all of Novak’s accomplishments, perhaps the one that stands out the most: he had his periods where he could go toe to toe on clay with this legend and come out on top.

squirrel Says:

Congrats Nadal and his lovely fans: Willow, AM and others!
Not dropping a single set, such a domination, Rafa on clay is a beast!

Van Persie Says:

Amazing achievement for Rafa!
Big congrats to him and his fans for that!

Yes, Novak is the only one, who has really challenged Rafa on clay. That helped us Nole fans perhaps not to become ‘clay haters’;)
Not so sure Nole is a huge threat for Rafa on clay this year, we’ll see.

AndyMira Says:

Thank u so much Squirrel & VP!

As for Nole,i think if he will meet with Rafa in QF like predicted,we will see another level of tennis from Nole…They tend to bring the best in each other when they meet…Let’s wait whether they do meet or not…

gonzalowski Says:

yes, for me Nole is still a threat for Rafa, let’s see Barcelona… smoe time ago Djokovic overall, but on clay too, dominated Rafa so…

Okiegal Says:

@VP…..Thank you guys for your congrats to us Rafa fans! We’re happy campers!!

rognadfan Says:

When did the king actually go away?

lylenubbins Says:

Currently, Novak’s form is nowhere near what it was when he beat Rafa on clay. He just lost to Thiem and then Nadal beat Thiem 0&2.

Van Persie Says:

Yes ,lylenubbins, agree with you, Djoko is not the same as in 2011-2016, but “He just lost to Thiem and then Nadal beat Thiem 0&2.” is not the measure : I could take as example Rome 2017, whre Thiem beat Rafa, and Djoko trashed Thiem afterwards…and we know how Djoko lost the final against Zverev..

I only hope, Djoko can make it competitive, should he play Rafa.

martin Says:

I must take a moment to review several posts of years past in light of what the greatest clay court player of all time has now achieved. To have now won 11 Monte Carlo titles is almost beyond comprehension, but that is precisely what Rafa has done. Will it or can it ever be done again? I doubt it, even though they say “records are made to be broken.”

RZ Says:

Return? To paraphrase LL Cool J, don’t call it a comeback, he’s been here for years!

Humble Rafa Says:

don’t call it a comeback, he’s been here for years!

You create an artificial crisis in the Kingdom, when the King returns from his vacation to his throne that has always been His, you act like normality has been restored.

Games the weak play.

Humble Rafa Says:

Nole is still a threat for Rafa

May be the joke of the year.

RZ Says:

HR – if your “artificial crisis” post is directed at me, you’re aiming at the wrong target. I’m making the point that the King of Clay never went away.

RZ Says:

Not directly related, but the injury carousel isn’t slowing down any time soon. Raonic, 4K, and Kyrgios are back on the injured list.

SG1 Says:

Novak’s not where he needs to be to beat Rafa on clay. In a lot of ways, Novak and Rafa play the same way. Novak can’t be consistent enough to draw Rafa into errors these days. When Novak was beating Rafa on clay (…which incidentally didn’t happen often), he frustrated Rafa by keeping a lot of balls in play and taking Rafa up the line when the opportunities to do so presented themselves. Novak is too erratic to pull that off these days. He needs more time to get back into the groove.

Humble Rafa Says:

Finally, a tennis player is going to have a baby after marriage. WOW!

Willow Says:

Mirza Humble Rafa ?

Humble Rafa Says:

Yep. I am always impressed with people who follow the proper sequence. Marriage comes before kid. Kid comes after marriage.

Willow Says:

Thankyou Squirrel ;-)

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