CHAMP10N

In this sport, some things are just meant to be. After a tough 3 years after winning his 9th Roland Garros Rafal Nadal etches his name onto that famous trophy for a 10th time which is incredible!

After making the final in Australia all talk turned to that Roland Garros title aiming for number 10 but Nadal always saying 9 is his favourite number but he might be re-evaluating that right now.

Over the past three years he has struggled with injuries and form but as well as celebrating another major for the Spaniard also celebrate and praise his work ethic and commitment to always trying to be a better player. When things got tough after Grand Slam No.14 you couldn’t fault him if he decided to hang up his racket at this point but he wasn’t done and I have a feeling he isn’t done yet.

Even the best can go through that period of having a lack of confidence which shows despite title after title they are human and you can see what it meant to him to win once again and in style, the forehand was immense but his consistency throughout the fortnight in Paris was special dropping just 35 games in 7 matches which is his lowest number of games dropped during his run to 10 titles!

VAMOS!

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Nadal teaches Zverev a tough lesson in Monte Carlo

Rafael Nadal wasn’t really in a forgiving mood this week and in one of the earlier rounds youngster Alex Zverev who is tipped to reach the top but he was taught a tough lesson by the king of clay.

Throughout the week in Monte Carlo you couldn’t fault the former world number one who claimed his 10th title by the sea he was just stunning!

I like Zverev I think at the moment he has a good game for a top 10-20 ranked player the next step to get to that top 10 position will be tough but he needs to adapt to his opponent in different situations.

I’ve watched back the match between Nadal and Zverev and to come up with a challenge against Nadal in the form he has been in is tough and to turn up with little variation to play Nadal on clay is surprising.

When playing Nadal on clay you can’t just stand there and hit. The movement and plan was just non-existent and the frustration was there as playing high balls against Nadal won’t win prizes as he will happily camp 3 metres behind the baseline and send the ball back with height and spin jamming your body so sitting on the baseline won’t help.

We saw this in the third game of the match.

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The still doesn’t tell the whole story. In a general rally this isn’t a bad backhand line up from Zverev but it’s not a backhand he’s in control of. Nadal is comfortable behind the baseline, just look at the feet. He is ready to move where as Zverev is jammed at this point and forced into hooking a backhand due to the speed and height Nadal sent his way basically inviting him and toying with him behind the baseline and it worked perfectly.

I don’t think in tennis there is time to admire shots until they pop up on a replay. At 1-2 30-40 in the first set Zverev plays a lovely backhand cross court and admires it. This backhand would usually end a rally. It’s flat and powerful but Nadal just gets a quick slice on it and maybe that admiration of the backhand cost him and put him in two minds.

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This was the first big moment in the match. Zverev is stuck in two minds does he go cross court forehand and pull Nadal onto his backhand or up the line and follow into the net because realistically the only chance Nadal would have of passing would be down the line or with a lob but you can’t over-think this shot and suddenly a simple shot becomes over complicated!

 

Why Rafa can dominate on the dirt again!

“King of Clay” we all know who we are talking about but it is something we haven’t used for a while. Monte-Carlo and French Open champion on nine occasions his dominance on the dirt was absolutely outstanding.

A couple of years of injuries and inconsistency in form meant that title was used less and less. It’s been almost three years since Rafa won his last major at Roland Garros in 2014 and this year he has looked as sharp as he did that year but has fallen short on three occasions to Roger Federer.

The big question is, can he reclaim that title and become a force on the clay once again?

Last year we saw Rafa win Monte-Carlo for the first time in three years after winning it 8 years in a row and going on an incredible 46 match winning streak by the coast but is he favourite once again?

Going into the tournament you’d have to say he is favourite. Inconsistencies are there in Kei and Stan’s game despite both being good clay court players and for Andy and Novak this is realistically going to be a tough ask, first tournament since early exit at Indian Wells it may take a week to find rhythm again.

There are no doubts in my mind that Nadal is playing his best tennis since he last won Roland Garros, he seems to have found some new confidence and slight changes to his game have helped.

This season he has added Carlos Moya to his team and I think it helps to get another set of eyes and ideas and this year we have seen a bit more variation in the serve especially with some spin and Nadal having one of the highest first serve percentages on the tour isn’t a surprise.

Where he has struggled this year is against fast thinking players and the first one that comes to mind is Federer. On the fast hard courts it doesn’t always suit Nadal but in these slow conditions in Monte Carlo he will be patient will be the one to beat.

 

Monte-Carlo Preview – Dan Evans v Kyle Edmund, backhand v forehand. Winner gets Nadal!

Good friends and Davis Cup team mates but for about two hours they will have to put this aside as in one of the standout round matches at Monte Carlo see’s Kyle Edmund up against Dan Evans for a place in round two against a man who has won Monte-Carlo 9 times in the last 12 years and once went on 46 win streak there, so no pressure!

Both have been playing some good tennis this year, it didn’t work out for them in Davis Cup recently against one of the strongest teams in the competition in France but now they battle each other in France in the first big tournament of the clay court season.

Dan is currently ranked at 44 and Kyle at 47 which is good going forward into these Masters events over the next few weeks in Rome and Madrid to get into the main-draws but need to keep that ranking up there to qualify.

This one you could put it down to two shots, the backhand of Dan against the forehand of Kyle. To just talk about two shots doesn’t necessarily mean there is an over-reliance on these respective shots but their games are built on it.

The clay in Monte-Carlo is quite a slow and can be a heavy surface which is why it might benefit Dan more as he is patient on the baseline and can use the slice off that backhand to slow down Edmund who will be looking for that forehand cross court but should look to mix it up.

I like clay court tennis, it brings a different aspect to the front of the game it relies players to be a bit more creative and be more clever with their footwork to progress and be creative and even for players who’s game may just have a big weapon it does throw the need to find variety but variety doesn’t always have to mean being good on the baseline, good at the net and a good volleyed but using a strength or more ways than one.

Let’s look at Edmund’s forehand for example.

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Kyle will look to backhand into that inside-out position and play that flat forehand cross court but if anything it could end up playing into Dan’s hands. Dan will happily sit on the baseline and defend using that backhand slice which he can utilise down the line or cross court with little power and pace giving Kyle little to work with.

Kyle should be looking to mixing it up as you don’t want to get stuck in a rhythm of going for the same shot but should look to maybe go for the forehand up the line which may have more risk attached to it as it will be a more curved shot on the racket with less power.

Tough one to call, conditions in mind I have to think that Dan is favourite. It’s a big match for both at one of the biggest tournaments out there and the winner gets Rafael Nadal in round two.

One week until Monte-Carlo! The best are set to return and where better to kick off the clay court season?

It’s that time of the year again. Monte-Carlo kicks off an incredible run of tournaments as they clay court season welcomes the big boys and there isn’t a better setting for tennis than this.

Tennis - Masters Series Monte-Carlo - Day 2 - Men's Singles 2nd Round - Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) v Nicolas Almagro (ESP)

As ever it attracts the best in the world as they look to get preparations for Roland Garros under way but who needs a big week and who could surprise a few?

Novak’s wait…

Former world number one Novak Djokovic is currently on his longest drought without winning a Masters 1000 title since 2009 when he waited 9 tournaments between Paris 2009 and Indian Wells 2011. This man was unstoppable and to go from that perfect form to being vulnerable and just looking out of sorts is worrying. Form this year hasn’t been good and throw injuries into that it just isn’t working for him.

No.10?

Rafael Nadal went 8 years undefeated in Monte-Carlo and then in 2013, 14, 15 he didn’t win the title as form and injuries took over but last year he returned to see off Gael Monfils in a thrilling final to claim his 16th Masters title but with no Federer and doubts over how good Murray and Djokovic will be coming into Monte-Carlo surely that makes the king of clay favourite once again?

Andy’s time?

Andy Murray has never won in Monte-Carlo it’s been a mixture of results for him over the years. This elbow injury halted him in Indian Wells and of course forced him out of Miami and the Davis Cup weekend in France but pictures and videos have appeared on social media of the world number one training with other players at the Mouratoglou tennis academy this last week.

Stay tuned!

There is a week to go until Monte-Carlo begins. It will be a massive week of tennis as clay court finally gets underway, players have something to prove and on these big stages anything is possible. Throughout the week there will be new pieces including Djokovic, Murray, Cilic and more!

 

Only Federer could pull off such a precise and punishing performance against Nadal!

Thousands turned up and millions tuned in as Roger Federer put a display only he could be capable of as the 18 time Grand Slam champion crushed the 14 time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal at Indian Wells but how did he do it?

Top gear

Sometimes against any player on the tour it can take a few minutes to get up the gears and find rhythm but it was top gear from the first point to the last and Nadal recognised this and he played his game as he would but the shake of the head in appreciation at the end of the match basically said ‘that was bloody good’

Service return

This a big factor. Nadal’s serve is very good and effective but it was neutralised quickly and efficiently and credit to Roger for having the balls to play this way. Nadal had been so effective all week off serve and once rallies gained momentum and length the majority went the way of the Spaniard so Federer had to make a mark quickly and he did that.

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This still from a first serve into the body shows the belief of Roger in his returning ability. He’s had to shift his body quickly and is jumping off the ground but the control on the right arm is epic! The arm is straight and the bend on the elbow with the grip on the racket gives him that strong defensive volley return which he executed perfectly something only he could do.

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Fast-forward the point on a little bit more and Nadal is on the defensive from that sensational return. The ball bounced where the red mark is and Nadal has to now swing for that defensive forehand in the third shot of the rally.

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Seconds later, we are in this position and we all know right now what is coming that backhand down the line. #winner

Issue with the kick

The kick serve just didn’t kick, Federer ended any effective serve throughout the match on this side.

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The backhand flattened out the serve and because Federer took it early it made the serve ineffective where a flat or top spin serve would have been more beneficial but he continued with this throughout the match. When Federer makes contact with this backhand Rafa isn’t even set, there is no defensive position it’s a bit like playing a game of stuck in the mud.

 

Federer 6-2 6-3 Nadal – From the marathon in Melbourne to the sprint in California

Sometimes in sport you just have to sit there and say “too good”. After their marathon in Melbourne no one really expected a quick walk in the desert but that’s what we got as Federer strolled past the Spaniard to record his third win in a row against Nadal which is something he had never done before.

No time!

Nadal has been so dangerous this week in Indian Wells as he has had time, he’s played against players happy enough to sit on the baseline and compete for a certain amount of time but inevitably Nadal had been breaking down opponents with the work off the forehand and backhand but Federer took that time away from him and it began with the serve.

When Nadal goes for that big swinging serve there are two options to take the serve early before it bounces or wait, Federer went for it and with that serve into the ad court looking out-wide he instinctively just went for the backhand return which got excellent depth on the court and Federer quickly found himself in control.

Going forward

Next up it does get tougher. Nick Kyrgios played a beautiful game of tennis to defeat Novak Djokovic. It will be interesting to see how Federer adapts to the different service game of Kyrgios who smashing down ace after ace down the T as well as hitting second serve aces around 119mph!