Poor performances are extremely rare for Rafael Nadal on clay but this early in the clay court season, is it a concern?

Friday night in Monte-Carlo concluded with a surprise exit from Rafael Nadal but an even more surprising performances from the eleven time champion, I’d go as far to say one of the most confusing I’ve seen on a clay court.

Against Delbonis and Dimitrov he was sharp, with respect against Dimitrov he was helped out by the flurry of errors from the Buglarian but the amount he produced on Friday was a concern.

There are always two stories to a match and it big credit to Andrey Rublev for the way he played on Friday night, that for me was his biggest win, he’s set the trend this year but after a slip up in Miami this performance and the sheer power generated through his forehand showed he’s got what it takes to compete at the highest level.

It was the first time in his career that Rafael Nadal lost a match in three sets at Monte-Carlo, especially after winning the second set the third set collapse was surprising but as was the struggle on serve.

He finished the match with:

1st Serve In: 59%
1st Serve Points Won: 56%
2nd Serve Points Won: 42%

All of these are about 10-20% below his average on clay throughout the last few years, only twice in his career in best of 3 or 5 set matches has Rafa hit eight or more double faults in a match which is pretty astonishing anyway but Rafa hit seven which is unusually high.

Rafael didn’t hit too well on his groundstrokes, a lot of shanks and the backhand lacked bite. The net clearance on the backhand was extremely high, he didn’t hit through the ball but got underneath it.

These unusual performances are extremely few and far between and I don’t think it is a major time to panic but what led to a performance which left you thinking, ‘woah, what happened there?’

Is the lack of matches a problem since the Australian Open, whether it is on clay or not after two months without playing it is difficult to get back in the groove. This is the time of year we wax lyrical over the Spaniard record in Monte-Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid and Rome but in all seriousness the real show we waiting for the performances to fall into play is Paris.

Is it time to worry? Not at the moment, this next week in Barcelona should hopefully help settle things and then Madrid and Rome will be targets for him but if more of these performances sneak in over the next few weeks then could we see the Roland Garros title change hands in Paris?

Remember in 2019…

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