Nadal Gets Eighth Time Lucky Twice in Monte Carlo

It was a pretty disappointing final in Monte Carlo today as Nadal destroyed Djokovic 6-3, 6-1. I was hoping for something a bit more special and that hopefully Djokovic would finally break the Nadal stronghold in Monte Carlo. Nadal won a record eighth Monte Carlo title though, the first time that has been done at any event ever as far as I know. He also won for the first time against Djokovic is their last eight meetings. I guess it had to happen sometime. Beating Nadal at Monte Carlo was just one too much for Djokovic, especially after he had a very emotional week with his grandpa dying. He just never really showed up in the match. After the first set I thought he would come back. He lost the first set against Dolgopolov and Berdych after all.

But I think he was just mentally drained from it all. Whether he could have won is another story. I think beating Nadal at Monte Carlo would have been very difficult anyway, especially since Djokovic is not quite on the level he was last year. It just goes to show how good Roger was that he could sustain that incredibly high level between 2004-2007. Djokovic won’t have a year like 2011 again. That was his absolute peak and there is nowhere to go but down. That doesn’t mean he isn’t still an incredibly good player. I just sense that he has lost the smallest of edges. The fact that Nadal beat him in Monte Carlo makes Nadal the favorite for the French Open now in my book. Djokovic has never won the French Open and I don’t think its is happening this year.

Nadal will be very hard to beat over the best of five sets where he has won the title six out of seven years. It’s ok though. We will give him that. If Djokovic wins the French then he will complete the non-calender slam anyway, and we don’t really want that. That would also give him a chance to win the calender slam. There is a reason that hardly anyone has ever won four slams in a row. These records have stood the test of time for a reason. It’s not impossible for Djokovic but he is not the favorite to me. He will still be very hard to beat at Wimbledon and the US Open. He is probably the favorite for those slams but I think Roger will win one of those. Even though Monte Carlo was pretty much unwatchable for me, I give Nadal credit for what he has achieved on clay.

With Nadal dominating so much, clay has become my least favorite surface to watch tennis on. But what he has achieved is simply unreal. If he wins the French this year he will have seven slams there, surpassing Borg. Then you would have to say that he is the clear clay GOAT, although he pretty much is already. I see Nadal is also playing Barcelona. That surprises me given that he had knee problems again recently, unless he is planning on skipping Madrid or Rome. I never quite understood Nadal’s scheduling. You would think that one of these days it will catch up with him again. Next up for Roger is of course Madrid on the blue clay in two weeks. I’m looking forward to see the blue clay and having Roger back at higher altitude. Just two more weeks!

Photobucket


Posted in Uncategorized.

33 Comments

  1. Nadal has to be the favourite for the French. I still hope that Fed can pass him for the #2 before then so there would be a (slim) chance that Nadal and Djokovic go in the same half. It was clear Nole was not himself this week after his grandfather’s passing, and I imagine he’ll be much better in Madrid and Rome.
    I’m not even sure that Rafa had knee problems in Miami, just based off how well he played in MC this week. I still have a gut feeling that Rafa will get injured as we near RG, just based off how much he is playing again this clay season. As each year passes it must get harder for him to go on with that busy schedule because he is getting older and probably less and less fit, even if it is by the smallest of margins. Anyways, it has come to the point where I am not even sure if Rafa will win many more titles off clay – it seems to be the only surface where he remains unbeatable. But we will see.

    [Reply]

  2. Well …so… looks like Djokovic has the motivation to beat 2 competitors after his grandfather`s death due to his champion spirit/heart and when he enters the final vs. a player who lost to him 7 consecutive times he`s not motivated at all. I don`t buy it. he could burry nadal and dedicate the win to his beloved grandfather..what a better present for both of them? What many refuse to see is that Jokovic is a not the same player since end of US open last year. Its just that he is not using the service of his space egg so often or at all and doesnt have the cstrenght to play at 100% VS THE BIG players cause cannot sustain that level for even 2 sets anymore. He`s not going to win any clay court title this year if he doesnt drink, eat some substance or use the egg again…
    So expect that Rafa`s back. Roger also is back to his best but the win in Indian Wells was not convicing because huge mental lapses and the wind. Anyway ..interesting tournamnets are comming ahead.Hope Murry will wake up for a change to challege nadal for 1 match.

    [Reply]

    Vasco Reply:

    So what does Roger have to do for you to consider his victories convincing? Bagel every opponent in straights from the 1st round until the trophy cerimony? Some people are simply never satisfied…

    [Reply]

    Stoyan Reply:

    He just needs to beat nadal a little bit more often and not only on indoor hard court for the final masters tournament. He needs to improve his mental department a lot in order to do so though.Its not about bagelling other oponents -its only being one oponent who he cannot consitently beat for years with few exceptions.Some say it took 7 yeras for victory on outdoor hard court, since 2007 he hasnt won a grand slam vs him …Its been said too much. I wish him all the glory this year but if he still cannot overcome nadal all that hard work is being wasted.see nadal was gonna win even AO and it was expected that next time he might do it and he succeeded while with fed is onesided since 2007…its not normal cause fed is wasy better than him.
    There is no argument though that Fed is in his best since long time but again he has to win slams and has to win vs nadal when he meets him a little more often than several yeasr.

    [Reply]

  3. Very good post, Ruan. I agree with your analysis.
    It was after all a disappointing final with very few moments of suspense.
    To me it was clear from early in the first set who was going to win this final. Djokovic played a very good first service game, but surprisingly checked out completely afterwards.
    Nadal however did exactly the opposite: he played as usual a weak first game by making three unforced errors in a row on Djokovic’ serve. But he then started playing amazingly well, with lots of power in all his strokes, in the serves as well as in his forehands and backhands, thereby maintaining a tremendous accuracy in his shots. He was aiming his heavy groundstrokes constantly close to the baseline and didn’t give Djokovic much of a chance to come forward, thereby alternating heavy attacking top spin shots with some weard defensive lobs and banashots that seemed to bother Djokovic a lot. I think Nadal was just too good today.
    Having seen this final, I must change my view a bit on the clay court season. It might not unfold as I thought it would, and Rafael Nadal is apparently not going to lose as many points as I thought, if any.
    I agree with you that he’s now the favorite for the French Open if he remains healthy and strong as is the case at the moment.
    Federer and DJokovic have an outsider-chance but not more than that, to possibly win Roland Garros.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Hi Wilfried. Thanks. Yes Nadal played well today and Djokovic played badly, resulting in a lopsided contest. I’m looking forward for the clay court season to really start in Madrid when Roger is back. I expect Djokovic to raise his game from MC as well. He wasn’t really convincing throughout. Hopefully he can still make life difficult for Nadal on clay.

    [Reply]

  4. Well, I agree that Nadal is the favorite for the French Open; in fact that was always my view. But I still can’t stop thinking that either his knee treatment is one hell of a miraculous formula or he is the biggest liar this sport has ever known… nobody with a serious injury can run like that, that’s my opinion…

    All Best

    [Reply]

  5. In hindsight, I believe Djokovic made a grievous error in judgement when he decided to take on the dragon in his favorite lair—Monte Carlo. Like Roger, he should have skipped this tournament and ceded the crown to Nadal, thereby maintaining his psychological advantage over the Spaniard. Instead, the Serb gave Nadal the ultimate gift: a surge in confidence, with the great weight of The Monkey finally thrown off his back. What happens now is anybody’s guess. Clearly, as Ruan stated, Djokovic’s 2011 level has dropped, and that can only be good news for Nadal and Roger. The Maestro must seize this moment and have a strong clay season, meaning he must add to his 2011 clay-point total by hopefully winning a tournament or two, and at least reaching the French Final again. Attaining such results would be the equivalent of establishing a secure and safe basecamp on Everest, which would then greatly increase his odds of reaching the summit at Wimbledon and lifting a 7th crown, along with the cherished Olympic gold two weeks later. Roger needs to end his Major title drought as soon as possible to show the world, once and for all, that his improved play is not a fluke. If he fails to ever achieve this, it will leave a residual feeling of disappointment despite a magnificent, record-breaking career. The Gods are almost demanding this now of Federer—one final Crown of Glory, just to remind the world again of the truest and most sublime meaning of Greatness.

    [Reply]

    steve Reply:

    Excellent points, Balthazar. After this, I don’t think Djokovic will be #1 at the end of 2012.

    To my mind the only remaining question is whether it’s Federer or Nadal who gains the year-end #1 for an unprecedented third time.

    No one except Lendl regained the year-end #1 before Federer, it’s very rare. Most players don’t have the motivation to fight to recover something they’ve already achieved, even if they have the skills to compensate for the aging process (which few do).

    It takes a very exceptional kind of person to be able to climb back to the top of the “greasy pole” after having fallen down.

    Federer is the champion of champions. He sees the top spot as his natural place in the world, there’s nowhere else he’d rather be.

    Most players get tired of the burdens of the #1 spot: “heavy is the head that wears the crown.” It grinds them down. After having worked so hard to get to the top, they don’t know how to handle being there. Sooner or later they get jaded and complacent and someone younger and hungrier comes along and knocks them off their perch.

    Federer is an exception, he welcomes the responsibilities that come with the top position. He’s stimulated by his many duties and he carries them out with interest and enthusiasm.

    He’s got an eternally youthful spirit, he doesn’t dwell on losses, and he’ll always have the hunger and passion for the game that are required to keep him in the top position. That’s who he is naturally: tennis is both his vocation and his avocation.

    By contrast, Nadal is a machine. The will that drives him is not his own. He’s Uncle Toni’s tool. He won’t ever lose motivation, because Uncle Toni will never lose motivation.

    If Uncle Toni wants him to keep winning for the glory of Spain and the Nadal clan, to rake in the cash, and break Federer’s records, he will do as he’s told until he’s run himself into the ground, and as I said before, that’s probably gonna take a while.

    Federer has raised the bar for what it takes to be #1.

    The drive and effort required is so much higher than it used to be. You have to play well in every tournament and on every surface.

    In Sampras’ day, winning one major and doing well at other tournaments was enough to be top dog by a large margin.

    Since Federer first took the top spot in 2004, the #1 player has never won fewer than two majors. And the #1 player has won three majors in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2010, and 2011, when the last time that happened was in 1988.

    In 2011 Nadal won a major and a Masters, made three major finals and five Masters finals, and he was still only #2!

    Clearly that’s why Nadal wanted to rig the system to make it easier for him to retain the #1 spot. As physically inexhaustible as he is, even he can’t keep the pace that Federer set.

    Djokovic is made of lesser stuff than either Federer or Nadal. It’s hard for him to meet Federer’s standard for more than one year.

    He’s a great champion but not the champion of champions. The pure, inexhaustible love of tennis doesn’t burn quite as bright within him. That’s not a knock on him, just a statement of fact.

    He’ll start losing concentration in a couple more matches (like against Isner). He may have more days where he wakes up and feels he doesn’t want to train. He may start paying more attention to his family’s business ventures or settling down with his girlfriend. This is what makes the difference between #1 and #2.

    If he loses the #1, I don’t think he will ever regain it. His motivation is waning just a little bit. Not much, but enough. The standard is now so high that even if he wins one major a year for the next few years (and he probably will), it may not be enough to get him to #1. And once you lose the top spot, it’s a lot of grueling work to get it back, and he may not have the single-minded drive to go through that whole grind again.

    As I said, with Nadal motivation is irrelevant, because he’s been turned into a machine. You might as well ask whether a meat-grinder is “motivated” to grind down a thousand pounds of beef.

    Djokovic’s mind is more normal, not so mechanical. When his drive goes down, his performance suffers.

    Federer surely has his occasional downs where he’s less enthused about tennis than usual, but his downs seem to be a lot higher than other people’s highs.

    I want Federer to capture the French Open this year and to beat Nadal in doing it. No one is giving him a chance but I believe he can do it.

    He’s won the Coupe de Mousquetaires; that’s already been checked off his to-do list.

    The next challenge is something he hasn’t done, defeating the greatest clay-court player of the age at RG. He’s looking for that final against Nadal, it’s one of the few mountains remaining that he hasn’t climbed, and I believe that he can make it.

    [Reply]

    Wilfried Reply:

    I agree with you, Steve, that Federer raised the bar for what it takes to be number one and that you have to play very well in every tournament and on every surface the whole year through. I’m not convinced it always takes winning two or three slam titles to conquer that top spot though. All depends I think on how close the skill distribution is between the top contenders and if they are capable to beat each other in the slams. If the margins between them are very close, the slams will turn out to be more evenly distributed among them, and the rest of their results will co-determine which one of them is occupying the top spot (temporarily). 2012 might turn out to be such a year of more evenly distribution of the slam titles, at least I hope so. Roger skipped Monte Carlo so that he can be as well prepared as possible to take another shot at winning a slam this summer. Let’s hope this strategy will bear fruit somehow for Roger.

    [Reply]

  6. Novak’s tank just hit empty — it was a tough week for him. Nadal must know that he hasn’t truly solved the Novak problem; this match wasn’t really on equal terms because of the events of the week. Still, it is obviously an impressive achievement, winning a tournament 8 times in a row.

    Hoping for good things for Roger in Madrid :-)

    [Reply]

  7. Unfortunately, love has lost.

    Djokovic surely was off his game for obvious reasons. But has anyone considered the possibility that Uncle Toni’s team has at last found a way to give him that extra “edge” to grind down Djokovic? There were no knee problems in Miami: it was presumably a pretense to give him the “special treatments” that make him strong (the so-called “therapeutic use exemption”).

    I wouldn’t bet on Nadal burning out, either. He will be playing his best till he is at least thirty with no problems, I’m sure of that. His medical team is infinitely resourceful and will keep him in good shape. And eventually he may stop concentrating on everything but clay season and the majors to avoid stressing his body.

    Usually cutting down on tournaments means a player gets too rusty from lack of matches, but Nadal’s game is so mechanical that he can go in totally cold and win, as long as he is sufficiently strong physically.

    Djokovic did well to fight through to the final despite his personal loss, though. I have no doubt that his performance was affected by grief, and it may be a while before he’s back to his competitive best. I’m guessing he may want to spend some time with his family now. Anyone know if he’s still playing Madrid?

    Why so hasty to overlook Federer’s chances during this clay season? He played fantastic tennis during the post-AO hard court run. The indications are that he has raised his game and can now adapt his tactics against the top players fairly readily. There is no reason he can’t put it together for the red (and blue) clay.

    Some are hoping that Federer gets the #2 ranking before RG so that Djokovic will be matched against Nadal in the semis.

    I want Roger to have another shot at Nadal in the final of RG, and I’m sure he does too.

    Because of his efficient style, Federer is physically capable of defeating the top two players back-to-back in a Grand Slam tournament. The question is a mental one, whether he can make the tactical adjustments needed within a two-day turnaround.

    He’s up for the challenge and I hope he can do it.

    [Reply]

    jarek Reply:

    My first reaction to Djokovics form was actually when he was entering. He was trying to massage his (left I believe) shoulder. Is he really that tense I thought. During his first service game it became quite obvious that he was. Very few servers (if any) above 180km/h. Djokovics serve is usually better than Nadals but this time,from the beginning, it was obviously not so. No, Djokovic had lost before he entered the court. Why, I don’t know. Mind or form or both.

    [Reply]

    Wilfried Reply:

    Roger grew up on clay and enjoys playing on clay-courts. Clay helps him with his footwork and movement, and with the construction of points. It allows him to display more his artistry, using angels,spin and touch. But the slowness of the clay-court makes it also much harder for him to impose himself on Nadal. First of all because hitting winners with his serve or with his trademark flat laser-like forehand shots is less easy on a slow clay-court. Second because going for blitzkrieg tennis by playing serve and volley is a very risky enterprise against Nadal on a clay-court, given the time he’s got to set up for his curving passing shots. So Roger’s strengths are partially neutralized by the disadvantages clay represents to his attacking oriented style of play.
    Patiently rallying from the baseline to the point where Nadal is well and truly in a difficult position and cannot offer more than a standard reply that is easily dispatched into the open court, could be a good tactic. It’s one that worked very well last year at Roland Garros and gained him lots of points during the first set. But it is not a workable option for Roger over 3 or more sets. So the only residual winning strategy for Roger seems to me to constantly vary his way of playing, thereby not giving Nadal too much of the same, and keep him guessing by playing a bit cat and mouse game with him. But this a very difficult option to execute well. So, even if Roger looks fit and healthy at the moment and with the right frame of mind, I think it remains a tall order to defeat the King of Clay at Roland Garros, particularly since the latter seems approaching his usual whirlwind momentum. Counting on a Nadal- off-day against Roger seems senseless to me, because Nadal has rarely off-days against Roger. Ergo barring injury I only see Roger winning at Roland Garros if JesusFed shows up for three or four entire sets without too much of a dip.

    [Reply]

  8. Its difficult for Djoker to play with passing of his grandfather. Mentally he was not there and he just too emotional about it. Clay is Djoker’s weakest surface, he could not handle odd bounce as well as Nadal. The real clay battle will be at Madrid and Rome. MC is just appetiser with many players like Isner, Delpo and Roger skipping this tourney. I guess they know there no point entering into Dragon’s lair unprepared.

    [Reply]

  9. Well it looks like 2010 all over again. Nadal doesn’t win a tournament in nearly a year then come the claycourt season he starts destroying everyone before him. Believe me, Djokovic didn’t just lose, he was destroyed by Nadal. I have never seen defence like it. Djoko has just had a taste of what it’s been like for Fed to face Nadal in clay-court finals, especailly the FO in ’08. But this was rididulous. Nadal took out the current world No.1 as though he was the world 100 player (Ok, Djoko wasn’t at his absolute best. But he looked completely outmatched physically and in every other department.) I will stick my neck out and and say that no one will beat this souped-up joke of a player until after Wimbledon and may be even the USO. 2010 – deja vu – all over again. And anyone who believes this guy has bad knees should ask what it’s like from someone who has actually had those sort of problems. Or get a job in the North Korean Ministry of Propaganda.

    [Reply]

    Mike Reply:

    to be fair he has been regularly making finals in the past year, its just that djokovic was always better in those finals. Not having won a title for a year is not particularly relevant, given that he has made the last 3 slam finals.

    Also why would nadal “dope” so much for a masters 1000 event and not a slam, like the Aus open? Assuming he has been doping every slam, why couldn’t he destroy djokovic in any of the slam finals.

    [Reply]

    rich Reply:

    Not particularly relevant that he hasn’t won a title in almost a year, despite being in 3 slam finals? So how can a 3-time slam finalist not be good enough to pick up a single title anywhere else? Who else has droughts – and comebacks – like this in the peak of their career? Can you see the Nadal who loses to the like of Florian Mayer later in the year cleaning up every claycourt title in sight, as he routinely does from Monte Carlo to Paris, if that part of the tour was played in the second half of the year? Nah. He peaks for the claycourt season and starts to slide after Wimbledon every year. Funny that. The argument that he should be able to do just that because he is a claycourter begs the question of why other great claycourters, that include Djokovic and Federer – and they are great on clay, no doubt, don’t stand a chance against him on the dirt. There is only one reason and that is Nadal, at that time of the year, is so much stronger faster and tireless than at any other time of the year, and no one can find a way through him. In 2009 they could, as we saw with Soderling in the French, but all the bullshit about his knees couldn’t disguise the fact that he was coming down from his physical peak (you wonder why) and he was not as fast or as strong as he was even in ’08 or even at the AO in ’09. So he could be beaten on his specialist surface. But after struggling in Indian Wells and Miami with those b/s knees only a few weeks ago he then plays a match in Monte Carlo that was at a physical level (did you see what he could retrieve, and then turn into a crushing winner?) that no player could have any chance against – even a Djokovic (or Federer) in top form. There is only one thing that determines the outcome in Nadal’s matches – how much of a physical margin of superiority does he have over hs opposition. And that’s a juicer. Tell me I am wrong when he loses Madrid, Rome and Paris (and wins Bercy, Shanghai and London.)

    [Reply]

    Mike Reply:

    then why didn’t his magical dope work in the australian open or the US open? why in the world would anyone dope for a ms1000 event but not for three slam finals (wimby, us and aus). I would love an explanation.

    [Reply]

    rich Reply:

    His magical dope does work at the AO and the USO, and Wimbledon. He’s won all of them and been in finals for all of them. It just wasn’t enough for him to beat Djokovic last year on those surfaces (now that Djoko has gone gluten-free). You miss the point. If Nadal is doping – and I would bet the house the car and the dog that he is – he isn’t just doping for a Masters 1000 tournament – he’s doping for the claycourt run, because is where he has the best chance of winning. (Clay rewards muscle more than talent. Otherwise Federer would own him there too.) He’s way better this month than he was last month, when he was getting his butt kicked at Indian Wells and Miami. But that’s a natural improvement, right? But only for Nadal it seems. Watch him go on his usual tear through to at least Wimbledon (yep, it works for grass too.) He peaks in the claycourt season and at the slams. It’s called cycling. (Lance Armstrong apparently knows quite a bit about that. Pun intended.) But really, all you have to do is watch the guy play. If you think that his capacity for unbelievable retrieving and hitting massive 150k winners while nearly falling back on his arse (oh yeah – and always injured), and then routinely playing like a wimp at the end of the year, is a natural tennis player then I’d say you have been watching too much play-station.

    [Reply]

    Jiten Reply:

    I am not sure whether it is only my observation or not, Rafa has grown into a HULK in the past month or so. Just compare his size in WTF and now!

    [Reply]

  10. Anybody who has seen all the last seven Djodal matches has to surely concede that Djoker was not mentally upto it today. He hardly displayed patience in the rallies and tried to hit Nadal off the court. It is neither his game, or the best game or clay or the game that had Nadal troubled all these preceding losses. It is almost like Djokovic was saying, ok, I am not playing my best, you can have this one. Plus he was really troubled by the wind, which was worse since he was trying to hit Nadal off court.

    Nadal was playing really well and should receive a massive boost of confidence from this match. He is not a player that you want to give confidence. Throughout the week, I kept thinking that Djokovic had nothing to lose this tournament, except if he loses badly and then guess what happened.

    If not anything, this sets up the rest of the clay season very well. I think Djokovic will not have any mental scars, he has after all won the last 7 matches on three different surfaces and he will live to fight another day..
    Nadal in this form can really sweep the clay season, IF Djokovic does not raise his game. I think nobody can trouble Nadal on clay when he is playing like this.

    [Reply]

    Dave Reply:

    Nobody can trouble Nadal? Nadal isn’t playing that great. I would still put my money on Isner or Federer and maybe Djokovic on future tournaments. Hard to believe this guy is still running after every shot and not COMPLAINING about his bad knee. He is a liar.

    [Reply]

  11. Condolences to Djokovic for losing his grandfather, congratulations to Nadal for winning an incredible 8th title in a row in Monte Carlo, and off we go to the next tournament! There is a lot of tennis left to play…

    [Reply]

  12. Steve, I enjoyed your long cogent reply to my post. Keep up your great commentary—it is one of the highlights of this blog.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Agreed Balthazar, and so is yours.

    [Reply]

    rich Reply:

    When are we going to see the slow-motion replays?

    [Reply]

  13. Hi boyz & girls. I ‘d like to add something to the bigger picture regarding the year end no 1 ranking. Nadal defended successfully last year’s points. He didn’t gain any. Djokovic on the other hand gained 600 points. Overall both are staying in the same position as last year more or less.Only negative for Nole is lackluster on his armors’ polish but nothing really serious. Nothing is going to change before Wimbledon even if Novac doesn’t win practically anything.
    Roger’s window of opportunity stretches as far as US Open. He has very few points to defend compared to Nole and Rafa as opposed to the last part of the season where he won almost everything.
    So as far as Roger is concerned things are more or less obvious. Win one of the three following majors and maybe a master’s title and become World No 1. And lets be fair. To be a legitimate No 1 you should be the reigning champion of at least one Grand Slam.
    We are going into the most exciting six month period tennis has seen in many many years. Everything is at stake. So buckle up, say your prayers and let the battle begin. May the best man win.

    [Reply]

  14. Nadal’s win was no big deal, Novak wasn’t himself. My guy is Federer. I really want him to win another slam but I think it will be difficult. I can’t stand Nadal. Hopefully Roger will come through with another trophy, if not anyone else but Nadal.

    [Reply]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *