Monte Carlo: In form.
Oh yeth, it’s the time of the year for me to dig out this picture again.
As I write this, Rafa is pulverising Thiemo de Bakker for sport (Note: Rafa won, 61 60 by the time I finished writing). Coming into this clay season, there has been a mixture of both expectations of make and break for Nadal. No matter how much he’s improved on grass and hard court over the last two years, clay is and will always be his default setting. What happens when that default setting breaks down?
The latter of 2009 told us all we needed to know.
As much as Roger’s year is centered emotionally and form-wise on Wimbledon, 2009 taught us that Rafa’s year, no matter how much he values Wimbledon and the other slams, is at least centered on his Roland Garros performance form-wise. And when he couldn’t perform, it hurt. On so many different levels. And the hurt carried through right til the offseason.
Watching Nadal the past few months, even though he hasn’t won a title this year yet, I couldn’t buy into all the media negativity about his play. His results may look similar to late-2009 -quarterfinal, a final, two semis – but the buzz in his tennis is back. You couldn’t help but sense that he’s on the verge of something here – the moment when you swim ashore and fumble in the water for solid ground to stand on.
And what better solid ground than the red dirt on which he’s won 5 consecutive times?
Q. You played at a very high level in Miami, although you didn’t win the tournament. How encouraging was that coming into this clay court season?
RAFAEL NADAL: I played well in all the tournaments this year. I didn’t win yet, but I was there all the time. I had the problem on the knee in Australia, but I was playing really well.
And in Doha, for sure, best level probably in Doha. In Indian Wells, I was playing very good tournament. I played a terrible match in semifinals, but the rest of the matches I was playing a very high level. And in Miami, too. I played well. I played good match against Nalbandian, very good match against Tsonga. And later in the semifinals I was playing very well in the beginning. Then he played well and I played little bit worse.
That’s important, always play well, because that gives me a lot of confidence, give me know how I can play well another time, because the last year, the last six months, anyway, if I didn’t have bad result, having semifinals, one final in Shanghai, quarterfinals in other tournaments, I feel I wasn’t ready to win important tournaments.
But this year since I start, I feel ready.
Ready I think he is.
And what of players other than Rafael Nadal?
JCF has my vote for the best clay-courter outside the top 3 right now, but Wawrinka, coming off a title in Casablanca, had a surprisingly easy time in dismissing Ernie, 61 64. Truth be told though, the score line was partly Ernie’s own undoing. Still, 6th straight victory for Stanny the Manny. Impressive.
The Miami final seems to have given Birdy a mighty boost, as he rolled past Reeshie 62 60. Elsewhere, things didn’t get much better for the French, as Nando defeated Juju Ben 62 61.
There is no end in sight, for the reign in Spain.