The Reuters global sports blog
Greg Rusedski: Nadal shows he is still the clay king
The Monte Carlo Master Series is a good indicator for who is in good clay court form early during the run up to the French Open. Rafael Nadal has won this event the last 7 years in a row, which has never happened before on the ATP Tour.
This year it looked like his streak could come to an end because World Number 1 Novak Djokovic, who missed last year’s event, was in the draw. The only player missing in the top 4 was Roger Federer who needed a little break this week.
Novak Djokovic received some very sad news when he heard his grandfather passed away on Wednesday. While Novak’s grandfather was a big influence in his life, he decided to continue to play in the event, but was visibly upset throughout his matches and still found a way to get to the finals.
Nadal has been in great form all week even though he had talked about not being as strong as he liked in his legs going into the event. Nadal has lost his last 7 matches to Novak Djokovic; could he finally beat him?
To win Nadal would have to serve at a quicker speed on his first serve with a high percentage. This would allow him to start the point on his terms instead of Djokovic’s. Also, he has to hit his forehand up the line, to the slightly weaker forehand side of Djokovic, to get the opening in the court.
Rafael Nadal went on to win Monte Carlo for the 8th time in a row, a record that will never be broken. Nadal was sensational; he served great and hit his forehand up the line very well. This was a must win for Rafa; he finally broken his 7 match losing streak to Djokovic. The king of clay is back.
Novak on the other hand played his worst match since he has become World Number 1. He looked emotionally and physically drained from the week and was not up to the fight. Don’t expect this result to dent DJokovic’s build up for the French Open.
From a British point of view, Andy Murray had a solid start to his clay court season losing to Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals.
Berdych outclassed Murray in all departments and will be a real threat to go deep at the French Open. Murray had a great start to the season and looked like he would threaten the Top 3 but his recent form and play didn’t look comparable. Mentally he looks like the old Andy Murray and his forehand, smash, and serve don’t look as solid as they did in Australia.
At the moment it looks like Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will be the dominant two for all of the clay court season.