Rafael Nadal has made a habit of winning almost everything in sight on the clay, but this year, he hasn’t played up to his standards. The Spaniard is down to No. 7 in the rankings and will be seeded to meet one of the top four in the quarterfinals of the French Open, yet he is still second in points earned on clay this season. That’s partly because he has played six clay events — more than any of the top players — and partly because he was a titlist and semifinalist at the South American events in Buenos Aires and Rio. Even if those were taken away, he’d still be fourth with his Monte Carlo semifinal and Madrid final, so it’s not like the nine-time French Open champion isn’t one of the guys to beat.
- French Open 2015: It’s better if Rafa Nadal loses – then I won’t be only one to beat him, says Robin Soderling (via The Telegraph)
“This year, for the first time in a long time, Rafa is not the favourite,” Soderling told the Telegraph. “Novak is. Of course it’s going to be tough to beat Rafa at Roland Garros, over five sets on clay: a much bigger deal than playing best-of-three. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened.” And what about that crazy statistic: 10 years of struggle against the world’s elite and only a single loss? “It says more about Rafa than it does about me,” Soderling replies. “It will never happen again, not in 100 years. “It’s good to be the only one, but everybody is asking me only about this match. I am really proud of many other things in my career… So maybe it’s better that Rafa loses again, then everybody will stop asking me about it.”
- Nadal prepared for low seeding at French Open (via tennis.com)
With his quarterfinal loss to Stan Wawrinka in Rome, Rafael Nadal could be the No. 7 seed at the French Open, his lowest ever seeding at the clay-court Grand Slam. The Spaniard had been ranked in the Top 5 for over a decade before his loss to Andy Murray in last week’s Madrid final.
- Federer: Nadal Still The Roland Garros Favourite (via ATP World Tour)
“You cannot take away the past 10 years,” said Federer. “It’s going to be best-of-five sets. We know how tough Rafa is physically and mentally. He is the favourite still to me. Novak at this point probably has to win, with the results he’s shown this year. It feels similar to 2011 when he didn’t lose the whole year. Maybe Rafa isn’t having the same success as before but nevertheless that remains the situation for me. But it’s all talk because in the end his racquet’s going to do the talking.”
- Aces and Faults (via SI.com)
Again, the match-to-match consistency isn’t there. After making the Madrid Open final and losing to Murray, Nadal made the Italian Open semifinal and lost to a slumping Stan Wawrinka. To be fair, Wawrinka played his best match in months to upend Nadal, but it’s not often you’ll see Nadal squander quadruple set points and lose.
- Masters Class (via tennis.com)
The Murray loss in Madrid was a one-off train wreck that could be quickly forgotten. But the Wawrinka loss in Rome seemed worrying, because Nadal gave it his absolute best, played pretty well, and still lost in straight sets. The things that usually lead to winning tennis for him—big forehand, great defense, major chest thump—didn’t work this time. Even a 6-2 tiebreaker lead didn’t work. Rafa generated the momentum, but couldn’t capitalize on it. Was Stan just playing out of his mind, or does he represent a locker room that’s more confident against Nadal now, even on clay? We’ll find out very soon.
Reminder: Rafa’s Birthday Project 🙂