Nadal Says Djokovic Will be Number One Next Month

(Reuters) – In-form Novak Djokovic is not even competing at this week’s Monte Carlo Masters yet Rafael Nadal can still sense the Serb lurking in the shadows as the claycourt season begins in stifling sunshine.

For a man who won every clay tournament he entered last year and who at Monte Carlo is bidding to be the first player in the open era to win the same event seven times in a row, the Spanish world number one was remarkably subdued on Monday.

Two straight final defeats to Djokovic on the hard courts at Indian Wells and Miami have left their mark despite the switch to clay and the Serb’s absence from Monte Carlo to rest a knee injury.

I feel very beatable when I go on court. The last six years on clay, I could never have imagined what I did. It’s almost impossible to repeat a season like last year,” Nadal told reporters at the Country Club, perched above the shimmering sea.

“It’s almost a year since I’ve played on clay. As usual, I try to watch videos (of myself) to remember what I have to do. Last year I started to play and felt fantastic from the beginning. Every year is different. You need matches.”

World number two Djokovic, whose injury is expected to clear up in the next few days, has won 24 straight matches in 2011 and nine-times Grand Slam champion Nadal reckons that form can be transferred onto clay despite the Serb skipping this week.

“I’m sure on clay he’s going to be good,” Nadal said, muscles bulging out of his shirt sleeves.

“This year Novak has a lot of advantages. He is in a perfect situation to be number one. I’m sure he’ll be number one next month. He started the season playing unbelievably. In my opinion he didn’t even play his top level in Indian Wells and Miami.”

Nadal, who fought to keep the glamorous but small scale Monte Carlo tournament a Masters event, has such an attachment to Monaco that he had a special audience with Prince Albert on Sunday.

“I played my best tennis ever on clay I think here last year,” added Nadal, due to play his first match on Wednesday. “This place is one of my favourites in the world.”

World number three Roger Federer was keen to point out he is no mug on clay as the build up to next’s month’s French Open begins.

“I feel very strong on the surface. It’s the surface I grew up on. Everybody knows that by now. I can make a huge step forward,” the Swiss said.

If Federer’s recent form is patchy, Andy Murray’s has been downright dreadful since his Australian Open final defeat to Djokovic and the Briton is no nearer to finding a new coach.

“I’m not any closer. I’m trying to concentrate on playing,” the world number four said.

“I feel better this year, I just haven’t been playing well in the matches. I’m sure this week there will be a few upsets.”

As usual Nadal is playing his chances down and he now believes Djokovic will me number one in a month. Does he really believe that? The way I know Nadal he is just saying that to take pressure off himself. He knows he is the clear favorite to sweep the clay season and he doesn’t like it one bit. That is made clear by the fact that he says he is very beatable when he steps on the court. He probably feels unbeatable. Everyone expects Nadal to repeat what he did on clay the last few years and he is trying to lower the expectations on him. It has always been his way. If anyone is the favorite to be number one in a month it is him, because if he can do the clay sweep again, that will be what will probably happen. He even says that Djokovic was not at his best in Indian Wells and Miami, where he personally lost to him in both finals.

Roger on the other hand says it the way it is. He isn’t afraid to admit that he can play on clay and he believes he can make a big step forward. As always Nadal and Roger is direct opposites in their approach. Personally I prefer that a player says it as it is, not use some kind of fake humbleness to take the pressure of himself. This is why I just can’t be a fan of Nadal. He does this time and time again. We will have to see if it works. Personally I think Djokovic could beat him during the clay season, but that would only be in a final and he therefor won’t lose much ranking points. Nadal has to be upset in an early round again like he was by Soderling at the French Open two years ago, or else he will be hard to stop from keeping the number one spot. What do you make of all of this? Do you think Roger can make a huge step forward on clay like he says? What will constitute a big step forward for that matter?


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  1. Nadal’s fake humbleness at its prime. Either way it works on his favor from the point of view of the media. If he loses, media will say that the guy talks straight, if not, they will just flatter around saying that despite beaing world number one, he his so humble. We have seen enough of this, aren’t we? It is just like those fake injury times he is (in)famous for. I hope Federer can repeat Madrid 2009 to shut many mouths.


  2. This is getting embarrassing, not just laughable. I mean someone in the media should actually do their job and call him on this – all they have to do is dig up his *most recent* post-match presser where, after the Miami finals, he had this to say about the loss: “In general, I think I didn’t play as well as I did two days ago. I didn’t play bad, that’s true. I was close on probably his favorite surface and against the best Novak Djokovic.”

    Flat contradiction with what he’s saying now about Djoker’s play there (he also showered in the presser effusions of “Nole’s confidence is so high” “Probably best moment of his career”, etc.”).

    Notice also the point he’s making there – about being close on despite not being at his best on not his best surface against best-form Djokovic on his best surface – is the sort of thing that Fed would be skewered for saying. Actually Rafa often says these sorts of things often in post-match pressers – and I think they’re completely fine. It would be bizarre if Fed and Rafa didn’t think most of their losses had to do with them rather than their opponent or, even if they thought otherwise to say it too loudly.


  3. A big step forward for Federer would be winning the French Open. I still have hopes that he can do it–whether or not he has to go through Nadal–even if he loses at Monte Carlo.

    Unlike last year, he’s healthy and he got plenty of matches during the spring hard court season. He should be able to hone his clay game this year. If he wins a clay Masters title, that would improve his chances considerably.


    Ru-an Reply:

    Im still a bit surprised you think Roger can win the French Steve. He now not only as Nadal to go through, but Djokovic too and there are other players like Soderling who can throw him off too. I guess nothing is impossible but if he wins the French it would surprise me immensely.


    IROCK Reply:

    It will be nothingg short of surprising if he wins the FO considering the form of Nole and Nadalgoing into the clay season.I dont think many others could topple him


    steve Reply:

    Federer obviously thinks he can win the French Open, and that can’t be a bad sign. It’s not like last year when he was always one step behind, struggling to recover form after his illness.

    He’s been playing consistently well this season; not quite as well as Djokovic and Nadal, but still he’s made at least the semis of every tournament he’s entered this year. Only two players are playing better tennis right now, and the margins between the top players are very small, as Federer always points out. Just a little shift at the right time could make the difference.

    Nadal’s obviously feeling some pressure to repeat his perfect clay season, otherwise he wouldn’t be resorting to his usual self-deprecating mind games to sandbag his opponents. Also he is playing Barcelona in addition to all three clay Masters, which will tax even his abnormal stamina. On top of that he has the chance to equal Borg’s record of French Open titles, and however much he disavows coveting that record, I’m sure it’s weighing on his mind.

    Djokovic I expect to come back full force in Belgrade (his home tournament) and Madrid, but he’ll have to keep winning every title in order to maintain momentum. If he loses after having gone undefeated for so long, he may have a hard time recovering psychologically in time for the French Open. I don’t see him continuing his winning streak throughout the clay season.

    Federer’s actually not too far from his best stuff. Just a question of being able to put it all together with total confidence. If he reaches peak form at the tail-end of the clay Masters season, he’ll be ready to mount a great campaign at RG.


    Ru-an Reply:

    Nadal is just too dominant on clay. He will hammer Rogers bh to death of they were to play. Only way i can see Roger winning the FO is if Nadal gets upset, and i dont see that happening for probably another 3 years at least. I also dont see Roger beating Nadal on clay again. Doing so on another surface will be hard enough.


    Nelson Goodman Reply:

    Wow, I think Rafa’s a bit in your head Ru-an – you think he has three straight FOs ahead of him, to give him 8 FOs in 9 years? Absolutely no way. It’s strange how, in the midst of someone’s dominance, people forget its inevitable demise until it happens, as if all past patterns for all other players just have no bearing. Rafa will end his career with 7 FOs max.


    TD Reply:

    Agree Nelson, I don’t believe Nadal will win the FO when he’s 28. We are not far from the day that someone will run faster, hit harder and be fitter than Nadal. That’s his legacy and one day someone will beat him with with his tools.


    Ru-an Reply:

    I dont see anyone in sight who is even close to beating Nadal on clay. Djokovic would be the closest but the only chance I see for him is at Madrid. Nadal is really ridiculously dominant on clay, more dominant than Roger ever was at any one given slam. I can see him winning 7-8 FO titles for sure.


    Ru-an Reply:

    Well it is better to overestimate his chances than getting disappointed. So far no one has come even close to beating Nadal at the FO accept for when he had that issue with his family and lost to Soderling who played out of his mind. That was a freak occurrence in my mind so its hard to see him get beat there any time soon. I like to be pleasantly surprised ;-)


  4. The line about how he needs to watch videos of himself in order to remember how to play on clay had me rolling on the floor laughing. It’s unbelievable what he can say and get away with it.


    Andrew Reply:

    I agree with you 100 percent Katarina! He just says everyone is much better than him all the time. It’s amazing he wins any points on the court if he really thought he was as awful as he tells everyone. Who is the current world number 1?! Rafa will always be a number 2 in his head maybe


  5. Ruan
    I FEel you’re Overestimating rafa’s potential
    He will stop at 6 or 7 slams at the French
    Guys like delpo and soderling can stop him on clay and so can djokovic
    Also did you notice he didn’t have a challenge last year played only1 or 2 top 10 players during the clay season
    And there will come a time when players outfox rafa with his own game hitting harder with more aggression,chasing unreturnable balls


  6. Not to pick too much on Nadal personally, but his recent deal with Bacardi to become their “ambassador” exemplifies the hypocrisy and moral confusion that seems to perpetually surround him.

    The effect of his new ad campaign will be to promote and encourage people to drink alcohol, which is a very ethically questionable thing for a top athlete to do.

    What will young people think when they see those ads? They’ll see a young, handsome, vigorous, world-famous athlete holding a drink, and the Bacardi logo, and they’re going to imitate him by drinking, while ignoring the boring things he says about “responsibility.” Do as I do, not as I say.

    This is obviously the exact outcome that Bacardi intends. They wouldn’t be paying Nadal so much money if they thought they would lose customers by it.

    His protests that he’s not being unethical because he’s advocating “responsible drinking” are just so much silly BS. If Nadal really believed that alcoholism was a problem, he’d have signed up to be a spokesperson for Alcoholics’ Anonymous or MADD or some other such charitable organization that combats alcoholism.

    Obviously, the reason he didn’t do so is that those organizations, unlike Bacardi, wouldn’t pay him millions of dollars.

    If he genuinely believes his own excuses (and he may), he’s a stooge who’s unknowingly being used by Bacardi and his own management team. If he doesn’t, then he’s simply a liar. Either way it’s unworthy of a great athlete whom so many people look up to.

    And his response to the controversy is typical: to demand that he be judged by different standards than the ones that apply to everyone else. What’s moral, in Nadal’s book, is the same as what’s good for him personally. Everyone else has to behave in a way that suits him, but when it comes to his own behavior, he can do whatever he likes and no one can say anything. This is why I’m not a fan.


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