Nadal Pounds Away At Djokovic For Rome Title, Goes Into Paris As Clear French Favorite
by Sean Randall | May 19th, 2019, 3:30 pm
  • 23 Comments

This week, Rafael Nadal sent a clear and unmistakable message to the tennis world that he is still the one and the only true King of Clay. And Sunday in Italy, he capped it off taking care of rival Novak Djokovic convincingly 6-0, 4-6, 6-1 to win his ninth Rome title.

“What means most to me is this trophy,” Nadal said after winning his first title of the season. “Rome is one of the most important tournaments of the year. [It’s a big] part of the history of our sport. To be able to win here again is the main thing.”

Nadal was by the sharper of the two early and appeared to be in full flight and in devastating form, pounding balls and dominating the match. It turned into such an onslaught that he reduced Djokovic, who had won nine of his last 11 against the Spaniard, to hitting moonballs and dropshots just to avoid long rallies.

After accumulating three breaks, Nadal won the first in a blink 6-0.

As the second began, you could see Djokovic begin to find the mark and he started getting depth on his shots and finally dictating. Critically, serving at 3-3 0-40 after blowing yet another overhead, somehow Djokovic survived then managed a break with Nadal serving 4-5 to take the set and force the decider.

Minutes earlier he was DOA serving 3-all, 0-40, now a chance for Novak? Perhaps. It was one set of tennis for the Rome title and role of favorite in Paris. But Nadal dug in quicker and grabbed an early break. A dejected Djokovic smashed his racquet and one could sense the air had gone from his sails. There wasn’t going to be any comeback.

Nadal’s 6-0 opening set was the first bagel between the two in now 144 total sets. And it capped a hell of a week for Rafa which just at the right time.

“I don’t care winning 6-0 or 6-4, being honest. That is just a fact. I don’t care much,” Nadal said. “I played a great first set in all aspects. No mistakes. Playing so aggressive, changing directions. These kind of days happens. It’s not usual and probably will not happen again… the first set is just an important part of the match. What helps the first set is shows that I was able to play at that level.”

Djokovic, who looked a little flat early, mounted a great charge in the second before fading in the third. And all the tennis he’s played, he said, did catch up to him.

“In the second set, it was better,” said Djokovic. “Just overall, I was lacking a little bit more of a dynamic movement, kind of attacking the ball. He’s got a very difficult, heavy topspin. He can change directions so easily. He’s got a great flick of the wrist. He’s so talented on any surface. But, I mean, clay especially. He covers the court so well.

“I’m really glad that I managed to get into the third set, considering the first set where I was blown away from the court. Obviously third set was not much different from the first,” Djokovic added. “I was just running out of fuel a little bit today. Just kind of missed that half a step, especially on the backhand side. He used it very well. He’s been playing some terrific tennis throughout the entire week. He was just too strong today.”

Djokovic will still be the top seed, and now we head into Paris with Nadal, Djokovic and 2018 finalist Dominic Thiem all sharing clay titles.

“I think it was a great week, considering I was one shot away [from losing in the] quarter-finals against Del Potro. To get to the finals is really a great result,” Djokovic said. “I haven’t played my best today, I haven’t felt my best. At the same time I managed to fight. That’s the positive I take from it.”

Most importantly, Nadal now heads to Paris having just beaten two guys he lost to earlier this year in big matches, Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas. He’s also got that first title of the year out of the way so that question has been answered.

But after watching this week, how are you going to win three sets off Rafa at Roland Garros?

I. Don’t. See. It.


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23 Comments for Nadal Pounds Away At Djokovic For Rome Title, Goes Into Paris As Clear French Favorite

Czarlazar Says:

I. See. It. Naming Nadal the fave for RG after this match is the conventional pick, but overplays the significance of what happened today. Nole was tired and less motivated than Nadal, who needed a win to end a long title drought and put him back in the favourite position for the French. Djokovic could have drained the tank and left it all on the court had he thought it was important enough, but it clearly wasn’t necessary. Madrid gave him the Masters clay win to bolster his confidence, pre-RG, and Nole sees that Nadal’s spotty clay campaign has made him beatable again, just as in 2015. The stakes will be 100% higher in the RG final three weeks from now, both men will be equally motivated and the winner will be the man whose form has been clearly superior since Wimbledon last year. That adds up to a 16th GS title for Nole and a legitimate chance at a calendar year sweep.


tennismonger Says:

I get that a top player would rather peak at a Slam (& possibly win it) than win a warmup tourney but something was off w/Novak in today’s match.

Sure, Nole took the middle set, but why was he hitting moonballs in game 3 of set 1?

As for match point, I’ve looked at it 10 times & Novak played it like he was playing a casual exhibition somewhere else.

I guess the clay season is a long slog, but it looked weird.


Tennis Fan Says:

Nadal was hitting short leaving the ball around mid court for 4 weeks. He fixed that in Rome.


chrisford1 Says:

Czarlazar – I’d like to see Novak-Rafa, but it’s not a given. There are people that can upset either guy, obviously Novak is at bigger risk of that. And odds will shift some depending on the draw.

Stakes are bigger for Djokovic, I think. A non-calendar year Grand Slam. Just as hard to get starting with any particular Slam. The idea of 6 in a row is something that has to admit to ridiculous odds. Though the French is now the toughest to start with or end with just because of Nadal.
Rafa wins, it’s just #12 for the Lord of Dirtpens.


Czarlazar Says:

tennismonger: I thought the moonballs were weird also, but Nole started so meekly that it seemed he hadn’t completely decided whether he was going to give it a full effort or not. The bagel probably stung his pride enough for him to fight back in the second, but losing his serve at the top of the third extinguished his willingness to exert himself at a high enough level. If they were playing the finals of the French today, instead of Italy, I’m pretty sure it’d have been the usual gladiatorial cage match we’ve come to expect from them.

chrisford: As a Nole fan, I’ve not feared Nadal only two years, 2015 and 2016, when Rafa was not 100% healthy and Djokovic was at the peak of his powers. It’s true they might not meet in the RG final but I’d say the chances are high. If they do, I just think Novak’s form is better than Rafa’s right now, even on clay. However, these are just opinions and predictions, and that along with $2.00 will get us a large coffee at McDonalds in the morning.


Wog Boy Says:

Czarlazar,
Don’t tell you eat or drink that supersized rubbish called McDonalds meal deals, Hungry Jack is much better (Burger King but here they have to operate under different name since Burger King already existed in Perth and didn’t allowed Americans to use it here, even they wanted to buy the name).


Nits Says:

Nadal at Phillippe Chartier always dangerous form or not. It’s a long tournament Nadal can fine tune his current form. Being a Nadal fan I am not worried.


lylenubbins Says:

A Czarlazar: After winning AO, Joker’s form in 2019 has been somewhat spotty, agree?


Solomon Ekegbu Says:

Iylenubbins,

I think that’s a trick. He did the same after US Open and then won Australian open.

I don’t know what’s wrong but he usually seem to find form when it’s close to a Slam period


Czarlazar Says:

WB: I mentioned McDonalds coffee to give our global audience a common frame of reference, but the best coffee in the world is from Tim Hortons.

Lylenubbins: there’s no doubt Nole’s form post-Melbourne has been spotty, but so has everyone else’s, except for Tsitsipas. However, I still think he has the motivation and skills to win at RG and believe Thiem or Tsitsipas are more likely to stop him than Nadal this year. Also, he played at an otherworldly level in the AO final and don’t think it’s possible to maintain such brilliance. Look forward to the tournament, and am savouring each match between the Big 3 because it’s nearing the end and we’ve been spoiled for a long time…


Madmax Says:

Czar,

No one understands what Wog Boy is saying. Don’t worry about it.

Seriously. He is the biggest Macdonalds eater here!

I agree with your earlier post. Czarlazar Says:
I. See. It. Naming Nadal the fave for RG after this match is the conventional pick, but overplays the significance of what happened today. Nole was tired and less motivated than Nadal, who needed a win to end a long title drought and put him back in the favourite position for the French. Djokovic could have drained the tank and left it all on the court had he thought it was important enough, but it clearly wasn’t necessary. Madrid gave him the Masters clay win to bolster his confidence, pre-RG, and Nole sees that Nadal’s spotty clay campaign has made him beatable again, just as in 2015. The stakes will be 100% higher in the RG final three weeks from now, both men will be equally motivated and the winner will be the man whose form has been clearly superior since Wimbledon last year. That adds up to a 16th GS title for Nole and a legitimate chance at a calendar year sweep.

May 19th, 2019 at 5:05 pm

Every time Nadal is injured and his fans go all crazy, he wins a tournament when he has some ‘time off’. It really is getting more than suspicious but part of Nadal’s routine. Now perhaps he is just taking it easy and getting the therapy that is needed, but these long absences, all players should take a leaf out of his book. It’s crazy to be so injured and then to go on and win. Novak was sub par yesterday, but he was fit enough to play, just playing 2 matches in the same day previously, and then a short turn around, well, it’s the price you pay. And he did.

The FO will be one to watch. No one expects Roger to win, but Thiem is in with a legitimate chance.


Giles Says:

What is “suspicious” is fed retiring when there was clearly nothing wrong with him. He just wants to rest his body for the forthcoming grand slams. What a wimp!!


lylenubbins Says:

good thread. . . bottom line is French is really up for grabs but I’m rooting for Rafa!


tennismonger Says:

Lots of good comments here about the mind set/mind games played prior to a slam…

Based on Solly’s comment, I’m gonna “go there” and posit that Nole was basically in “exo mode” (or just gassed at best) yesterday. Seeing Rafa’s intensity & determination to get a pre-Roland Garros title probably made him more inclined to roll over as well.

I seem to recall poor Murray muttering after a loss to Nole at the AO, ‘he does this every time,” after it appeared Novak was suffering some mystery injury during that match.

No doubt Nole (like Rafa) will be back to giving out bagels and bread sticks next week in Paris…but Rafa is obviously still the man to beat now, top seed or not.


tennismonger Says:

Czarlazar: And thanks to you, I’m now having an unnatural craving for a Mickey D’s Cafe Americano! ;-)


j-kath Says:

Gosh I thought all the unnecessary nastiness of one poster re. another had changed, but evidently not. Why not stick to Tennis
comments – a Grand Slam has just started – forget the pettiness.


Wog Boy Says:

madmax,
My understanding was that we mutually agreed to avoid each other here, but if you want to resume hostilities I am quite happy to oblige.
I always admired British people for having a nice manners, you are obviously not full blooded Brit since nobody was talking to you nor you were invited into our conversation, you invited yourself which is very bad manners.
Instead of going around and trying to pick up a fight why don’t you checkup on serial offender “injured” leg, he might need some massage, but don’t go to close to the groin, you might end up with nasty surprise in your wrinkled hands.


Wog Boy Says:

Czarlazar,
Just teasing you, I am coffoholic and we are blessed here that hundred of thousands Italians and Greeks arrived here after the war snd brought coffee culture here in their owner operated boutique style coffee shops and bakeries with best pastries and coffees, but demographic changed dramatically here and from being number one immigrants by numbers they dropped down on that scale.
Chinese and Indians are well ahead of them now (every eighth person out of over 5 million people in Sydney is Chinese) and Chinese keep buying (paying very good money) those coffee shops in big numbers and as much as I admire Chinese people they just don’t know how to make proper good coffee, they can make Rolex, they can make Louis Vuitton, but they just don’t know how to make good coffee.
It’s getting harder and harder to find good coffee here, but some of younger generations are revamping those old fashion coffee and pastry shops and trendy bakeries in the inner suburbs so there is a hope.
I will tell you how good coffee we have here, Sturbucks came to Australia some time ago with a big bang, opening more than 100 stores around the country, they failed big time, more than two thirds failed and went belly up and the had to close them, no wander they have awful coffee.


Czarlazar Says:

WB: agree on Starbucks. Though some people love it, I find it a bit rough and am surprised the company became a global giant with such an average brew. We get Starbucks free at work but I always go downstairs and pay for Tim Hortons. Once you try it, you’re hooked for life.

Chrisford: it does seem far-fetched to imagine someone winning six majors in a row. However, the French will be Nole’s biggest hurdle with three incredibly tough opponents, ie, KOC and the two young and hungry juniors. If he’s able to pull it off, the last two tourneys are easier. Murray being out and Fed past his prime make Wimbledon less daunting and New York is Nole’s to lose as KOHC. Murray, Fed and Nadal are less imposing and the young guns are not quite ready, so Nole has an opportunity to run the board. Even Kyrgios said Nole would surpass Fed’s GS totals and who are we to doubt him?


Wog Boy Says:

Well, we don’t have Tim Hortons here, tell them to franchise them overhere, we have Canadian Club here and it’s heavily marketed here, they can send that one too.
I like your take on Kyrgios.


skeezer Says:

Tennis X,

Help a tennis fan out here, make an announcement here when Tennis is the topic once again so we again follow and talk tennis.


Giles Says:

Lol. That was a quick recovery faker fed, eh? He must have started taking the “pills” again!


senorita Says:

Fed wanted to avoid being taken to the bakery for some breadsticks and bagels by The King of Clay.


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