Well for once Nadal has done something that Federer has not done, which is to win six straight titles of any professional tournament, when he beat Verdasco in the final of Monte Carlo today, 6-0, 6-1. He also becomes the first man in the open era to do so. Of course Federer has won five straight titles at both the US Open and Wimbledon, and on both occasions he came awfully close to making it six in a row, losing in five sets to Del Potro at the US Open and in five sets to Nadal at Wimbledon. Having won five consecutive titles at two slams is also one of Federer’s most impressive records, because no one else has achieved that feat. For me Nadal’s four straight Roland Garros title is far more significant then his six straight Monte Carlo tournaments. But what he did today just further strengthens his case for being the clay court GOAT.
And if you look at the fact that he dropped only fourteen games throughout the tournament it is even more impressive. Verdasco on the other hand was not so impressive. I get very frustrated when I watch Verdasco play, because he has so much potential, but his head is a mess. As far as raw talent goes it is my opinion that he has even more than Nadal, but as far as mentality goes they are complete opposites. Verdasco did his best to throw away a set and a 5-1 lead against Montanes in the quarter final. He really had no business losing the second set, and in the third it looked like Montanes was spent, losing it 6-0. In the semi-finals Verdasco put up a better performance when he beat Djokovic 6-2, 6-2. Djokovic on the other hand was awful.
Against Nadal it was clear that Verdasco had to play attacking tennis. Whenever he went for his shots and played attacking tennis, he almost always won the point. Last year Roger and Soderling showed that Nadal can be beaten by playing attacking tennis against him on clay, so it is possible. I felt Verdasco had the weapons to give Nadal a really tough match, but he just played a terrible match. He didn’t play with any real intent or self belief. He played as if he was happy with being in the final and wanted Nadal to win a sixth title. To me that is just sinful if you are a professional tennis player. You simply have to maximize your talent and play every as if it is your last, like Nadal does. This match was the perfect example of the fact that talent is secondary to mental toughness. You have two players who are pretty equal in the talent department(as I said I believe Verdasco may be even more talented), yet the one serves the other a bagel and a bread stick.
I think if Verdasco had Nadal’s head on his shoulders he would have won something like ten slams by now. That is how much of an underachiever he is, and that’s what Federer could have become if he didn’t make an attitude change at one point in his career. And thank God he did, or we would have been deprived of so much beauty and excitement. It must be said that Nadal is looking better now than he did at last year this time. He just looks fresh and really motivated for the clay season, and I also hear that he is not going to play Madrid. I think he made a big mistake by playing Madrid last year, which may have cost him the French Open. He is playing so many clay court events already, that playing Madrid as well is just too much, and because Madrid is higher above sea level it is not ideal preparation for him going into the French Open either.
It seems Nadal has finally learned something about scheduling. But it is more his form that I’m worried about. If he keeps playing as well as he did in Monte Carlo, he will make things very difficult for Roger once again at Roland Garros. I’m still thinking in terms of Federer winning the calender slam. I realize it is a very lofty goal, but he if can win the French Open he would have a real shot at it. We will see how the clay season unfolds, but Nadal is looking very dangerous right now. He still hans’t beaten a top 10 player in Monte Carlo, but you would think it will just be a question of time before he does so in the clay season. This coming week it will be Barcelona, of which the draw you can find HERE. It will probably be another easy victory for Nadal, and then finally Roger will kick off his clay season in Rome. Can’t wait