As expected, Nadal won the Rome Maters Series today when he beat David Ferrer 7-5, 6-2 in a predictable final. At 5-4 and Nadal serving, Ferrer was two points away from the set at 30-0, but dumped a return off a second serve from Nadal straight into the net. He went on to play several more feeble points after which Nadal held serve. And predictably Nadal broke in the next game. The rest is history. It’s disappointing seeing another Masters Series final where a Spanish player basically just bows down before Nadal. Ernests Gulbis did no such thing though in the semi-finals, where he became the first player this clay court season to win a set off Nadal when he lost 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. For the first time Nadal started showing some vulnerability against a player who was not afraid to go for his shots. This is the sign we’ve been waiting for.
It seems Nadal is beatable on clay after all, depending on the speed of the surface. I think Monte Carlo is slow and high bouncing, which is why Nadal always does so well there. In Rome the surface is faster and the ball bounces lower, which doesn’t suit Nadal as much. In Madrid the conditions is even faster, which means Nadal will be beatable again there like he was last year. I don’t think Nadal is the player he was in previous years. Today against Ferrer he wasn’t all that impressive, and if he played against someone who was less likely to choke and had a bigger game, he may have been in trouble. All this is good news for Federer is his quest to defend the French Open and keep his hopes of achieving the calender slam alive. I’m not sure exactly what the conditions is like at the French Open, but Soderling has shown last year that Nadal can be beaten there by a player with a big attacking game.
It is important that Federer or someone else upsets Nadal at Madrid so that he doesn’t go into the French Open unbeaten. Last year that worked like a charm to soften up Nadal before the French Open when Roger beat him in Madrid. Lets not forget Soderling who played his part. This year someone will have to do something similar, or Roger would have to do it himself. I’d prefer that actually. Beating Nadal at the French Open would be something special. I heard today on twitter that Del Potro may need wrist surgery which would put him out of the game for 3-6 months. This is sad and unfortunate. Del Potro is an exciting player and one of the few guys who could threaten Nadal on clay. But at least it is one less difficult opponent for Federer to deal with on clay. Speaking of difficult opponents, there won’t be too many of those this coming week in Estoril. Here is the draw:
R. FEDERER  2 BYE 3 QUALIFIER 4 PHAU, Bjorn GER 5 KUNITSYN, Igor RUS 6 CLEMENT, Arnaud FRA 7 FALLA, Alejandro COL 8 CHELA, Juan Ignacio ARG 9 MONTANES, Albert ESP  10 BYE 11 LAPENTTI, Nicolas ECU 12 GIMENO-TRAVER, Daniel ESP 13 GRANOLLERS, Marcel ESP 14 HERNANDEZ, Oscar ESP 15 QUALIFIER 16 CUEVAS, Pablo URU 17 GARCIA-LOPEZ, Guillermo ESP 18 MALISSE, Xavier BEL 19 TAVARES, Leonardo POR 20 MELLO, Ricardo BRA 21 QUALIFIER 22 QUALIFIER 23 BYE 24 MONFILS, Gael FRA  25 MAYER, Florian GER 26 GIL, Frederico POR 27 DARCIS, Steve BEL 28 GIRALDO, Santiago COL 29 MASSU, Nicolas CHI 30 MACHADO, Rui POR 31 BYE 32 LJUBICIC, Ivan CRO 
This is an ideal tournament for Federer now. It is probably the weakest event he will play all year as well. He really should win this title. His first match should be no problem, even with his confidence being as low as it is. Then next he could face Chela, who recently made the final of a clay court event in Houston. Then he could face Albert Montanes, last year’s winner at Estoril, in the semi-finals. In the final he could meet someone like Ljubicic or Monfils. This tournament should provide him with enough match wins and confidence to give Madrid a real title shot. I know you’ve heard this all before, but I really think and hope that this is tournament where Roger will get some much needed wins under the belt. I have a feeling that this is a pivotal time in the clay court season, a time in which Federer will start making his move in a plot to topple the clay king from his thrown once more.