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.
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!