Rafael Nadal needed to get the intimidation factor back. He needed his confidence back. And he needed clay surfaces to soften the blows on his troublesome knees. Two weeks after the beginning of clay season, the World number 2, with two consecutive titles in the bag, is looking like the man to beat once again.
Not that Nadal success in Barcelona and a week earlier in Monte Carlo is anything new. Beating David Ferrer in the Barcelona final has become something of a regularity in recent years, with Sunday’s 7-6, 7-5 win over his fellow countryman being Ferrer’s fourth loss to Nadal in that final over the last five years. For Nadal it was his 7th title in Barcelona over the last 8 years.
A week earlier in Monte Carlo it was a bigger, sweeter win. His first over Novak Djokovic in over 18 months, after 7 consecutive finals of disappointment. Djokovic wasn’t at his best, crushed and exhausted by then from his grandfather’s death, but Nadal needed a title bad, after going for almost a year, since the 2011 Roland Garros, without lifting some silverwear.
There’s nothing like going to a familiar place to find your comfort zone. Nadal won for the 8th consecutive time in Monte Carlo, and will now head into the finals in Madrid and Rome as the clear favorite to win. Not to mention the Roland Garros, where Nadal has won a shared record of six times. Unlike his words from about a month ago, Nadal sounded completely confident after yet another (48th single title, 34th on clay) triumphant week on his favorite surface.
I played at a very high level to win in Monte Carlo and now Barcelona without losing a set, but I’ve been playing at a high level from the beginning of the year starting in Australia.
It’s almost unimaginable to win here seven times. It’s a special tournament for me, at home in my club. To win at home in front of the people you know is always more special. The emotions are always high, but probably each year they get a bit higher as you are one year older and you don’t know how many chances you are going to have left.
But there are a couple of things to remember. Novak Djokovic wasn’t at full capacity when the two met in Monaco. Hopefully, given the ample time to recover, Novak will be recharged and recovered from his loss once the tournament in Madrid and should present more of a problem to Nadal when the two meet again, giving the fans a better match as well.
And then there’s Roger Federer, who has already captured three titles this year, including the Indian Wells Masters. Nadal is obviously the favorite against Federer on clay and also beat him this season in the Australian Open, but lets see how Nadal dominates with the full roster of the world’s best participating in the next clay masters. Might not be so easy then.