First of all let me just say thank you to the Fedfans who are staying involved after Roger’s departure and taking part in the discussion. It is encouraging to see and I hope some of the other Fedfans can join as in due time after realizing tennis isn’t just about Roger. Like I told Veronica today, Fedfans miss out on half the fun due to their narrow minded view. If they realized that Djokovic is not the bad guy but the only reason Nadal isn’t already the GOAT, they may enjoy wacthing him pounding the player that caused Roger so much heartbreak as much as I do.
Getting the formalities out of the way before the war
I really enjoyed this match immensely. Never mind the French Open and who the favorite is there. Seeing Nadal getting utterly owned like this by a player who matches up well against him is sweet revenge for all those years that Nadal pounded Roger’s backhand into submission, again and again. Every time Djokovic defeats Nadal, no matter what the circumstances, is a triumph and release by itself. It is just delicious to see the Djoker’s masterpiece of a backhand neutralizing Nadal’s one destructive shot and rendering it powerless.
Djokovic quickly found himself trailing 0-2 after getting broken in the opening game. Nadal came out like a house on fire and looked like he found his old confidence. But Djokovic would have none of it. He held serve and broke Nadal back straight away after setting up break point with a delicious drop shot and lob combo, that left Nadal scampering after the ball in vain. On break point he just made the return and Nadal nervously dumped a forehand into the net. Djokovic then consolidated to love if I remember correctly.
The normal order of things had been restored with Djokovic looking very comfortable against the clay monster. At 3-3 and 30-30 on the Djoker’s serve there came one of the several unbelievable rallies in this match. Yes it was a very high quality affair. It was a long base line rally after which Djokovic hit a strong forehand down the line. Nadal ran it down and hit one of those rediculous curling forehand winners down the line. Break point. But this time the Djoker was up to the challenge as he saved break point after successfully lobbing Nadal again and hitting the overhead winner.
There was another amazing point at deuce where Djokovic ran a drop shot down from Nadal after a long rally and hit a delightful cross court angled drop shot winner. Holding serve there was big, because in the next game he broke Nadal after one of many deep returns off Nadal’s first serve which forced Nadal into an error. Djokovic’s return of serve was one of the big features of this match. It was incredible how he kept pounding them deep off Nadal’s first serve, who by the way was serving quite big himself.
Djokovic then served out the first set to 30 to take it 6-3.
In the opening game of the second set Djokovic was threatening to run away with it as he held two break points on the Nadal serve at 40-15, but in his usual clutch way Nadal dug himself out of that hole and held serve. In the next game where Djokovic held serve to love he did another drop shot and lob combo which left Nadal scampering to the base line again and missing the following shot. That is a play I really enjoy seeing. It looks like Djokovic is toying with Nadal when he does that and I bet Nadal just loves it!
And at 1-2 and 40-0 on his serve Djokovic hit yet another drop shot and lob combo. This time Nadal jumped and tried to hit the backhand smash but it bounced before the net! I almost felt sorry for the guy. OK just kidding. At 2-3 and 30-30 with Djokovic serving there came another one of those big points. Another long base line rally ensued with Djokovic drawing Nadal out wide on the ad court and approaching down the line with that masterful backhand of his.
Nadal as usual made it as hard as possible for Djokovic with the next shot but Djokovic calmly put away a textbook volley cross court. Now that is something his coach Becker would have liked. Djokovic held serve and that is when the big game was played. At 3-3 Nadal raced to 40-0 but Djokovic reeled him in to the point where he had a break point. Nadal was already going crazy with fist pumps in the previous game to try and unnerve Djokovic and psyche himself up.
The match point and celebration was highly enjoyable
But on the break point he played a defensive point as good as any I’ve seen from him and he erupted in a fist pump unlike any other. Djokovic’s reaction to that point was key I thought. I kind of expected him to be frustrated or surprised, but he just smiled it off and proceeded to break anyway. That was the most impressive thing about Djokovic today probably, his calmness and composure. He just looked in total control all the way, no matter what Nadal threw at him.
He played perfect tennis with a calm and confidence I probably only saw from him in 2011. He then held serve without much trouble I think and even broke Nadal at 5-3 as Nadal was trying to at least make him serve it out. That was a good message he sent to Nadal I thought. It made the difference between a straight set win and a good old spanking. It’s the kind of message he’d want to send Nadal if he has any chance of stopping Nadal in Paris this time. Usually I would have said Djokovic still had no chance to win the French.
But this win convinced me that the Djokovic of 2011 is back, and again credit to our oracle Veronica for calling it. The power, control, and composure he is playing with out there is just unreal. The only player who was ever capable of a higher level is Roger. You are welcome Fedfans. And yes his serve is still improved and also helped with this victory. Even his net game is improved and he didn’t miss a single overhead today I think. And there were quite a few. Nadal made sure he tested that area.
Djokovic is becoming more and more complete as a player and it does look an awful lot like the 2011 Djokovic is back. Veronica said he may be even better because he is more mature and complete now. The winning streak in 2011 was unreal but who knows where he can go from here. I do think if this version continues he would have a chance against Nadal at the French. I had a strong feeling that he would beat Nadal in the 2011 French Open final but then of course Roger prevented that.
The losses the Djoker suffered to Nadal at the French since then won’t help if they face in Paris again this year, but if he plays like today no one would be so stupid as to give him no chance at all. But there is a long way to go before then and much can happen. But Djokovic did what he wanted to do in Monte Carlo. He unceremoniously dumped Nadal out of the tournament after Nadal looked like he was seriously starting to threaten again. That said, Nadal would still feel good about his week.
More attacking tennis from Djokovic won the day
I’m sure he will win Barcelona but who knows. Djokovic will take a much deserved two week break now after which he will come back refreshed to try and kick Nadal’s ass some more in Madrid and Rome. Surely if he keeps beating Nadal time after time it will have an effect on him in slams too. I thought that was what would happen in 2011 after he schooled Nadal in Madrid and Rome, but then Roger spoiled the party in Paris like I said. I think Djokovic is fairly deep in his head again after winning 5 of the last 6 meetings(and 13 of the last 20).
He just has to build on that in Madrid and Rome. And personally I am very much looking forward to those events. As for the final tomorrow you would expect Djokovic to win the title as he leads the head-to-head a staggering 18-2 vs Birdshit. But the main thing is that Nadal was prevented from winning yet another Monte Carlo title which would have been awfully boring. At least Djokovic already cost Nadal several clay Masters titles(4 + Monte Carlo). Now he just needs to translate that into a clay slam and we will finally have been delivered from the reign of terror.
Today’s tennis began with Raonic withdrawing in his match against Berdych after trailing 2-5 in the opening set. Next up was Roger’s conquerer Monfils against Dimitrov. It was yet another poor showing from Dimitrov after getting through the early rounds, getting schooled 6-1, 6-3 by the Frenchman. Monfils is clearly playing well but losing 1 and 3? Pathetic really.
Djokovic vs Cilic
Following that disappointing match was the top seed and world number one Djokovic against US Open champion Cilic. The Djoker was looking as sharp and fresh as ever as he served another bagel in the opening set. This looks more like the 2011 version of Djokovic who you may remember served bakery products left and right in a devastating opening run to the season where he went on a 41-match winning streak. In the second set Cilic put up a bit more resistance as Djokovic wrapped it up 6-3.
It was another impressive display from the world number one who still looks unstoppable. Bageling Cilic would also be the kind of message he wanted to send Nadal before a possible semi-final encounter.
Nadal vs Ferrer
This replay of last year’s quarter final was always going to be the match of the day. In the first set it looked like the Nadal of old who had Ferrer on a string as he won it 6-4. In the second set he raced to a 4-1 lead with two breaks and it looked like it would be another short match. Fortunately for the spectators no one fights harder than Ferrer. He clawed his way back to 4-5 and with Nadal serving for the match he broke serve again. He then broke Nadal for a third time in the set as he turned the second set around 7-5.
There is simply no surrender in Ferrer’s vocabulary and for that you have to respect the guy. I get mad at him when he doesn’t have the weapons to defeat Nadal but that is just silly because he gives everything and you can’t expect more than that. Nadal has more powerful ground strokes and the ability to make difficult shots at important junctures, which is what sets him apart from Ferrer. The third set was anything but a schooling because Ferrer kept fighting hard, but Nadal took it 6-2.
The Djokodal semi-final
I don’t care about the bottom half. I don’t care about either player and I don’t care who wins. As far as I’m concerned the real final is being played tomorrow between the Djoker and Nadal. The head-to-head is currently 23-19 in Nadal’s favor but Djokovic is on another dominating run in the rivalry as he won 4 of the last 5 five meetings(and 12 of the last 19). So hopefully he can just continue the domination and prevent Nadal from winning a ninth Monte Carlo Masters. Already 19 of his record 27 Masters titles are on clay and that has to stop.
Not to mention that there should be at least one grass Masters to replace a clay Masters. Anyway it should be another interesting encounter. Djokovic must stop Nadal or he almost instantly becomes the favorite to win the French Open again. In fact he probably is already after the Ferrer win. He looked ominous and only Ferrer’s stern refusal to surrender prevented a straight set drubbing. Nadal may still be slightly vulnerable though and if that is the case Djokovic must take full advantage.
Should be a cracker!
The fact that Nadal did not put Ferrer away after being two breaks up in the second set may suggest vulnerability, but like I said Ferrer also deserves a lot of credit for the way he refused to surrender. Djokovic is of course an altogether different animal though. Defeating Nadal on clay is nothing new to him and he is showing no signs of fatigue whatsoever. He possesses the weapons, defense, and mental fortitude that Ferrer does not have. But the main thing is that he does not fear Nadal at all.
When he steps on the court with the Spaniard he backs his own chances. His backhand is so damn solid that Nadal cannot exploit it with his vicious forehand cyclones of death. He also has the serve and forehand to keep Nadal on the back foot on his own serve. And not to be forgotten is his exceptional returns of serve which can put Nadal on the defensive on Nadal’s serve. Djokovic possesses all the tools necessary to disarm and destroy the monster. He is the anti-Nadal like Nadal is the anti-Federer.
So much for the promising start to the clay court season. Our resident oracle Veronica predicted it and so it was. Personally I thought Roger was just picking up where he left off in Indian Wells but I couldn’t have been more wrong. This was the Roger from the Australian Open, letting himself down when it mattered. He played a poor game to get broken to 15 at 4-4 in the first set. In the second set tie break he led 5-3 with a serve to come and then collapsed again to lose the next four points and the match 6-4, 7-6(5).
Low first serve percentage and too many unforced errors
On the fist point at 5-3 in the tie break he made a lame backhand unforced error. On the next point he made a lame forehand unforced error. Monfils then forced the error with a first serve. And back on his own serve facing match point he made another lame forehand unforced error. So really he has no one to blame but himself and it is unclear why 4.0 disappeared again. Maybe our oracle Veronica can shed some light on it for us. I guess since Nadal is back on his favorite clay it is now time for Roger to fall again.
Nadal vs Isner
They always alternate like that, and not surprisingly Nadal won the next match against Isner in three sets, 7-6(6), 4-6, 6-3. And Ironically it was Isner who was the one who collapsed in the tie break when he had set point at 6-5 on his own serve. You would usually bet on Isner to win that point with his big serve, but Nadal asked the question and Isner dumped a forehand into the net. And who knows if he had won the first set, given the final scoreline, he could well have won the match.
It seems to me like the balance is swinging again in Nadal’s favor in the seemingly never ending Fedal saga. But make no mistake about it, they are both losing ground. Even though Nadal won today he still looked very vulnerable. He is not a lock for the French Open as he was in previous years. I know it’s early days but he is not the force he used to be and many players are starting to smell blood. Can he win the French Open a tenth time? Of course! But it is not as set in stone as it used to be.
Elsewhere in the draw
Djokovic continued his bid for a second Monte Carlo title today with a 6-4, 6-0 drubbing of Haider-Maurer and now plays Cilic who defeated Tsonga in straight sets. Nadal now plays Ferrer in a quarter final repeat of last year after Ferrer needed three sets to get by Simon. That will be another tough test for Nadal. In the bottom half Berdych plays Raonic and Monfils plays Dimitrov who destroyed Stan 6-1, 6-2. I watched the first set of that and saw that Stan was tanking, so I went to meditate.
I don’t know what Stan’s problem was but that was a very strange match indeed. He wasn’t trying to win at all. It just looked like he was coming out for a casual hit and getting out of there as fast as he can. But at least Dimitrov is winning some matches again and the bottom half is now wide open. The top half is probably between Djokovic and Nadal but I wouldn’t write Ferrer off. He beat Nadal last year when Nadal was playing better so he definitely has a shot.
It was a tough day in the office for Roger and quite to the contrary of what I felt like yesterday, this was a discouraging performance from him. It was one of those performances we have gotten used to over the years where he doesn’t show up mentally. You will remember after Melbourne I feared that we may have seen the end of 4.0, but then 4.0 came right back in Dubai and Indian Wells with very encouraging performances. And after the Chardy match I thought he was still around.
But now he put in another Melbourne-like performance and I am wondering if 4.0 is disappearing again. Nadal was still not featuring strongly in North-America but now that it is clay season you expect that to happen. So that could have an effect on Roger too. I hope we will not see Nadal continuing to rise now while Roger goes back to being mentally absent in matches. Luckily Roger plays a packed clay court schedule and he will now probably play all of Istanbul, Madrid, and Rome.
No one beats Cilic 12 times in a row?!
As for Djokovic some people have asked the question as to whether he should play in Monte Carlo after doing the difficult Indian Wells/Miami double again, while others have called him burned out. And yet he is still bageling opponents and looking as good as ever. My view was that he should play Monte Carlo even though he may be slightly fatigued. Mentally he will still be fresh because he is winning. If he can just hold off Nadal in Monte Carlo then he can take a two week break and come back fresh for Madrid and Rome.
Nadal is still struggling with confidence and if Djokovic just skipped Monte Carlo he would have given Nadal almost a free pass to the title. Now Nadal has to deal with a much tougher draw and even if he gets by Ferrer Djokovic can try to stop him himself. So I definitely think Djokovic should have played Monte Carlo and I don’t think he is anywhere close to being burned out. Even if he loses in Monte Carlo it will be due to some physical fatigue and wouldn’t mean that he is burned out.