May 3, 2009

Primed for a Sweep

Now I don't want to jinx anything, but Rafael Nadal looks ready to win every clay court tournament this year.

He'd already taken the crowns in Monte Carlo and Barcelona -- the fifth straight time he's won both -- and this weekend he became the record four-time champion in Rome when he defeated last year's victor Novak Djokovic in straight sets.

It was an important showing for both players, Nadal reclaiming the title and solidifying his spot at the top, and Djokovic showing that he is a force to be reckoned with on clay -- he upset Roger Federer on his way to the final. Unfortunately for Novak, because he didn't win he's going to lose his #3 ranking to Andy Murray, even though the Brit lost in the first round to Juan Monaco. It's a system which makes me further question the validity of the ranking system -- maybe Murray is the better player this year, but it just seems that the timing is off.

Nadal is taking this next week off, but will be back in action in Madrid the week after. While he will no doubt be the favortie there, it's a tournament he has surprisingly never won! Last year he was ousted in the semis by Gilles Simon and the year before by eventual champion David Nalbandian in the quarters.

But things are different this year. In the past twelve months Rafa has won three of the four majors and the Olympics. So far this year he's only lost three matches, and you have to think that's just bolstering the confidence he already has on clay. Here's hoping he's able to keep up his success.

Incidentally in Stuttgart, where brand new #1 Dinara Safina started off with a bang, the final turned out to be a little more exciting than she'd bargained for. She took on compatriot Svetlana Kuznetsova, who has neither won a championship nor managed a victory over Safina since 2007.

But Kuznetsova improved her game in Rome. Going into the semifinals, she'd lost her previous eight matches against top-ten players. When she beat Elena Dementieva, though, she harnessed her momentum and brought her A-game against Safina, winning 6-4, 6-3 and never dropping serve. While it may not be exactly the type of dominance Nadal is enjoying, it can't hurt to reestablish her strength.

Congrats to all!

1 comment:

Kavitha said...

I stand corrected.

As the Madrid Open kicks off today, I am reminded that Nadal did in fact win the tournament in 2005 -- not sure what I was thinking previously.

In any case, it's only one title in a tournament he will clearly be the favorite in this year.

Good luck!