72 and Counting

Rafael Nadal must be delighted

72 and Counting

Heading into the heart of the clay court season, Rafael Nadal must be delighted. He has won back-to-back tournaments in Monte Carlo and Barcelona without conceding a single set. He has lifted his remarkable clay court winning streak to 72 matches in a row. And he seems to be playing without much pain, covering the court with his old alacrity, moving freely and confidently on his favorite surface.

Nadal could not have asked for more. He was mired in a long and debilitating slump from last summer until March, when he recorded an uplifting tournament triumph at Indian Wells. Now, by virtue of his two clay court tournament victories, Nadal has been victorious in three of his last four events and is building his self conviction every step of the way

I did not expect him to perform so impressively at the start of the clay court season. Protecting such a long winning streak is no simple matter, and many of his colleagues may have believed that he was more vulnerable this year than he had been in the previous two seasons. But Nadal has really elevated his game. While Roger Federer was clearly out of sorts and in disarray during his final with the Spaniard in Monte Carlo, Nadal was largely responsible for the Swiss maestro’s woes. His 6-4, 6-4 triumph on that occasion over the world No. 1 was a first rate piece of business. So was Nadal’s straight set win over Guillermo Canas in the Barcelona final

Nadal has done himself a big favor by not taxing himself physically in Monte Carlo or Barcelona. He has conserved energy by being so efficient and should be very fresh as when he goes back to Rome in search of a third straight crown at the Italian Open. It will be fascinating to see if he can keep performing as well in the weeks ahead as he did in April. In both 2005 and 2006, Nadal needed to stretch himself to his absolute limits to prevail in grueling final round contests against Guillermo Coria and Federer. Both times he was taken into fifth set tie-breaks before coming through

The good news for Nadal is that he has set himself up so well for the ultimate slow court test at Roland Garros. Winning in Paris for the third year in a row is what matters more than anything else to this spirited left-hander. He will surely make a strong bid to win in Rome again and will be the heavy favorite there. But even if he stumbles, he could regroup and try to win in Hamburg. Rafael Nadal is in an enviable position. He has let his adversaries know in no uncertain terms that he is fully committed to protecting his turf.

2 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    great article. Nadal has great personality and a greater game. He wasted no time and started fantastic by dominating clay at such young age. Now he is ready to take over other surfaces one by one. federer cannot stay along for much longer and I am glad someone like Nadal is there to take over the crown. (zola)

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