For the past few years Rafael Nadal has yo-yo’d between the number one and two positions.
As we all know he has bounced between positions on the ranking board between Roger Federer and now primarily Novak Djokovic.
Until the recent triumph in Monte Carlo the year was looking very much like a carbon copy of 2011. For a player ranked number two with the accolades such as Nadal, his 2011 season must have been insanely irritating. Aside from the numerous minor injuries and the suspected bust up with coach Uncle Tony the pressure was all on court. For a start he made ten finals but only won three titles, all on clay. Of his seven losses one was to Andy Murray in Tokyo, the rest were to Novak Djokovic.
Nadal’s recent win over Novak was very, very important. For the better part of a year he has had no answer for the Serbian number one and has struggled consistently since Cincinnati in 2009, having lost the ten of thirteen meetings including the last seven in a row. We need no reminder of the 2011 season and the Novak Djokovic dominance. Okay, a quick reminder – 10 titles on all surfaces all around the world, 3 out of 4 slams, a record 5 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles, 70-6 win loss record including a streak of 41 wins in a row to start the year (43 matches inclusive of 2010).
“It’s very important to break that situation,” said Nadal after his winning his latest Monte Carlo crown. “It’s important to win a tournament another time. Especially [this] tournament. [Breaking] that situation [and] winning a Masters 1000, one of my favourites, [makes] everything perfect today.”
Are we witnessing the beginning of another Rafael Nadal clay court run where he collects the majority of the tournaments, till the red clay turns to green grass? Have all the Novak demons within the Nadal brain been vanquished with this one little win? Will he repeat his clay slam of 2010 or go on another run similar to his 81 match record on clay courts (11 April 2005 – 20 May 2007).
But just hang on a minute Rafael. Don’t get so romantic, there is still a lot of tennis to be played.
Novak Djokovic may count Monte Carlo as his home address but we are all aware Rafael Nadal owns Monte Carlo, having now won there eight times in a row. The Monte Carlo win should have an asterisk beside it on the record books as Nadal possesses some hidden advantage at the event that renders his opponents useless. This is perhaps a good reason why Roger Federer didn’t show up and Djokovic was helpless in the final. What is more telling now than ever is what happens at the subsequent clay court events. Does Djokovic rebound after his defeat and the loss of his grandfather or has Nadal finally figured out how to deal with the high octane Novak? We have seen the improved serve and updated strategy but the big question is whether it will continue outside Monaco. Lots of points and many titles are on the line for Novak in Barcelona, Madrid and Rome.
Bragging rights shall be concluded in Paris where Novak attempts to unify the grand slams and Nadal goes for his seventh French Open crown.
To be continued…