Saturday, 10 May 2014

Rafa eyeing off Roland Garros #9

2013 was almost the year that Novak Djokovic finally overcame Rafa Nadal on the clay at Roland Garros.  He had stunned the Spaniard at Monaco, but just couldn't force a win in the classic semi final which most agree should have been the final of the French Open (no disrespect to David Ferrer)

This year, the major goal again for Djokovic, but unspoken compared to last years outspoken desperate desire, was to complete his career Grand Slam by taking home the title in Paris in June.  However, after a stunning hard court period, with the Indian Wells and Miami titles safely pocketed, injury has cruelly stepped in to mar the progress of the world number two.

World number three, and the only player with a mathematical chance of a 2014 Grand Slam, Stanislas Wawrinka, won through at Monaco to pose a possible threat to Rafa in Paris, but his poor showing in Madrid underlined his lack of ability to consistently win through to at least the semis of the Masters events.  Maybe he will save his best for the biggest stage as he did in Melbourne.

His fellow Swiss top four compatriot, Roger Federer, has been rewriting record books with his wife Mirka, and the two are proud parents of a second set of twins.  Roger's priorities are such that the Madrid Masters was dropped from his schedule in order to me his daddy obligations.  All power to him for that decision too.

Naturally, while his likely major threats have been having less than smooth tennis entrances into Roland Garros, we would expect that Rafa would be doing what he does most times on clay - win most of the time.  However, he lost, inexplicably in the quarters at both Monaco (to Ferrer) and then Barcelona (to Almagro).  The last time he lost in Barcelona I believe he was wearing nappies.
It must be a share the glory to fellow Spaniards month or something.

Don't expect anything similar come the end of May though.  Even now Rafa is rolling through the draw in Madrid, his last victim Berdych in the quarters.  Should be a Nadal v either Ferrer or Nishikori final.

Watch out for the Japanese star in Paris - he will be in the top ten next week for the first time, and his rate of improvement this last 12-18 months has been eye catching.

However, Rafa Nadal still owns the Roland Garros clay, and deserves to start a very short priced favourite to make it nine titles, and equal Martina Navratilova's number achieved on the Wimbledon grass.

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