Nadal Wins Barcelona: Is He Back?

Hi, folks. I hope you are all doing very well. Nadal won his 9th Barcelona title last week and in doing so equaled Vilas for the most clay court titles at 49. This after he won Monte Carlo last week.

Of course, his fans will claim that is another sign that he is back. But what does that even mean? That Nadal is going to start winning slams again? When is he back? When he wins the French Open?

He did that nine previous times as well. I don’t even think if he wins the French Open that it necessarily means he is back. One more French Open was always a possibility. For me, he would be back if he can win a slam off of clay.

I watched some of Nadal’s matches against Fognini and Nishikori. And yes he played well. I couldn’t see much difference between his current self and his old self. But for me, the real test was always going to be when Djokovic is back.

Nadal was pretty much expected to win Barcelona. Will it help his confidence? Of course, it will! But we will see what happens when he faces Djokovic again. That is the true test. Djokovic won both their meetings on clay last year, including the straight-set beatdowns in Monte Carlo and the French Open.

He has also won their last 6 meetings without dropping a set and 10 of their last 11 meetings. And the straight-set beatdown at the French Open last year was a big psychological victory for Djokovic.

So we will see how it goes the next time they meet. And that could well be in Madrid. The crowd will favor Nadal there but I don’t think it bothers Djokovic much and the higher altitude would favor him.

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In the end, I think Nadal was always going to make some kind of comeback at some point. I thought it started during the indoor season last year but then he lost the plot again for a while. Now we are back at the clay court season and this was always going to be the most likely time that he was going to shine again.

He has won the first two events of the clay court season like he did in his prime years but never had to face Djokovic at Monte Carlo who was burned out. The clay court season for me really starts in Madrid.

From there on it gets very interesting with Djokovic back. If Djokovic wins Madrid he is the firm favorite again to win the French Open. The current situation is in a way good for Djokovic. Being the top dog all the way through until the French creates its own pressure.

Kind of like last year before the US Open where Federer looked like the top dog but when it mattered Djokovic came through. I think this bit of down time for Djokovic is actually ideal. But I do think he also needs to make some statements now.

The French Open is obviously the big one for him. Last year it was the US Open under extremely trying conditions and he passed the test with flying colors. That was good preparation for what now lies ahead.

The stakes are now even higher if that is even possible and that victory will have given him a lot of confidence that he is ready for what now lies ahead.

Can’t wait for Madrid to get under way!

Is Nadal back?

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Nadal Wins Monte Carlo to Tie Djokovic in Masters Titles

So finally after a long drought Nadal has won a big title again, defeating Monfils 7-5, 5-7, 6-0 in the final. In doing so he tied Djokovic on 28 Masters titles after Djokovic surpassed him in Miami. It was also Nadal’s 9th Monte Carlo title.

If Nadal was ever going to find form again it was going to be during the clay court season. But I wouldn’t get too excited just yet if I was a Nadal fan. Nadal didn’t have to face Djokovic after all and winning one Masters doesn’t mean he is officially back.

But at least he seems to be playing his best tennis since the 2014 clay season. You always kind of figured he’d eventually win something noteworthy again and that it would be on clay. The days of winning anything big off of clay seem to be long gone.

We will see how it goes from here. If he really wants to prove that he is back he needs to win more clay events. Madrid will be interesting when Djokovic is back. He will have something to prove as well after losing his first match in Monte Carlo.

And Madrid won’t be the easiest place to do that with that fanatical crowd. So that will already be Djokovic’s first test of the clay season. It will be important for him to send a message that this is his year in the clay court season.

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As I watched some of the tennis today I noticed how Monfils failed to end the points against Nadal when he really should have. Djokovic is the only guy who can really do that against Nadal on clay. Nadal’s endless retrieving on clay is frustrating to watch so I don’t even bother much unless he faces Djokovic.

To get back to Madrid, it is high altitude which is something that will favor Djokovic against the likes of Nadal at least. It will be easier to end points. In my last post, I also made the mistake of saying Djokovic had two weeks of rest.

Madrid only starts in two weeks from now so he will have more rest which is a great thing I think. I had it wrong because I thought Madrid starts a week earlier, and actually that wouldn’t have given Djokovic that much time to recover.

He plays an awful lot of tennis and he can really use this time off to recharge and get ready for an important clay court season for him. In the meantime, Nadal will play Barcelona which he could probably win as well.

I see Fogini is in his quarter of the draw who has given Nadal some tough times of late so that could already get interesting.

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Djokovic and Federer Fall Before Monte Carlo Semis

Isn’t it ironic how my last post was about Djokovic winning everything and then he loses his very next match? But then all the winning he did has a lot to do with this loss in my view.

By now you are probably aware of the fact that Djokovic suffered a shock 4-6, 6-2, 4-6 loss to Vesely in his first match in Monte Carlo. I could only watch in patches and Djokovic appeared to be burned out.

It reminded me a lot of the Frantangelo match in Indian Wells but this time, he couldn’t pull out the win. And a lot of credit has to go to Vesely for that. He didn’t seem to choke at all when he had the opportunity to finish Djokovic off.

He was always going for his shots and played very well I thought. Djokovic, on the other hand, was missing much more than we are used to seeing from him and there is no doubt in my mind that all the tennis he has played of late took its toll.

The signs were already there during Davis Cup against Kazakhstan where he needed five sets to beat Kukushkin. Then he lost the first set to Frantangelo in Indian Wells. From there on he got a second wind as he won Indian Wells and Miami without dropping another set.

But even during those matches, he didn’t look particularly fresh. It looked like he was just doing enough to win. The only times he played his best were in the finals.

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So I happen to think this was a good loss for Djokovic before a very important clay season. He’s played more tennis than anyone since the beginning of the year and even if you win that takes a toll. I don’t like Davis Cup but he decided to play it instead of taking a much-needed break and now he paid the price for it.

But at least he now gets two weeks off before Madrid. Last year he skipped Madrid because at some point you just need a break. If you keep making the finals like him it eventually will take a toll especially if you play Davis Cup as well.

I thought there would be enough breaks for him but in hindsight the matches in Davis Cup, Indian Wells, and Miami were signs of burnout so I think it’s a good thing he lost his first match in Monte Carlo.

It gives him the maximum time to recharge and come back fresh for Madrid. I’m sure this loss was big news in the tennis world and the haters are now saying that this is a sign Djokovic is getting ready to ‘choke’ for the French Open.

I wouldn’t get my hopes up just yet if I were them. We will see what happens when he comes back refreshed. He didn’t win Montreal or Cincinnati before the US Open either and yet did the business in what could also be considered a cursed slam for him.

As a fan, I am far from worried. I think this is a much-needed break before a very important clay court season for him. But we will see. No one knows what the future holds.

  • Elsewhere in the Draw

Today Federer lost 6-3, 2-6, 5-7 to Tsonga in the quarterfinals as well after winning his first match against Garcia-Lopez. He won’t be 100% match fit after his break but it’s not like Tsonga can’t beat big name players either.

So in the end, you have to give Tsonga credit for that win who will play his compatriot and friend Monfils in the semis who defeated Granollers. So I bet the French are happy that they will have a French player in the final.

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The bottom half has been just as interesting with Nadal defeating Stan 6-1, 6-4 today and Murray destroying Raonic 6-2, 6-0. I didn’t watch any of the bottom half action but I guess Nadal must have been playing pretty decent to defeat Stan by that scoreline.

Same thing for Murray. The last time Nadal and Murray met on clay was in last year’s Madrid final and Murray won that match 6-3, 6-2. He looks to be in good form so that will probably be a competitive match.

The top half is tough to call as well. But with Djokovic for once an early loser, I’m sure all these guys will desperately want to take advantage. Murray and Nadal because they have been struggling of late and the French players simply because Monte Carlo feels almost like home to them.

Looking forward to the conclusion!

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