Rafa Roundup: Nadal and Djokovic are one match away from their seventh clash at French Open

Spain's Rafael Nadal drinks during a break between games in the second round match of the French Open tennis tournament against Spain's Nicolas Almagro at the Roland Garros stadium, in Paris, France, Thursday, May 28, 2015.  (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Rafael Nadal drinks during a break between games in the second round match of the French Open tennis tournament against Nicolas Almagro at the Roland Garros stadium, in Paris, France, Thursday, May 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

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When the No. 6 seed was drawn to face No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals, the speculation that the king of clay might finally be dethroned reached catastrophic levels. So far, however, so good: Nadal and Djokovic have each survived with ease, both needing wins Monday in their respective fourth-round matches to set up the blockbuster.

One thing we know about this one: The ball is going to rotate. A lot. These two guys turn the ball over more times per millisecond than anyone else in tennis. But is that all we’re going to get from the 22-year-old Sock against the King of Clay? I don’t think so. … Sock has matured and improved this season, and even, seemingly, over the last week. But becoming the second man to beat Rafa at Roland Garros is probably a step too far for now.

This is my pick for the match of the day. How will Sock’s forehand stack up against Nadal’s? Will they be able to find each other’s backhand corners? Will Nadal’s lefty spin give him the advantage? Or will Sock’s bigger serve tip things back in his direction and keep him in the sets and ultimately give him chances to break?

“Obviously as a tennis player, when you play Roger at Wimbledon or playing Rafa here, there’s a few of those matchups and scenarios where it’s the greatest of all time on that surface,” Sock said, referring also to Roger Federer. “So I will be excited to play. I’m more looking forward to it. It will be a tough one, but it will be a fun one.”

“Creo que las cosas han ido bien en la primera semana”, resumía después. “He ganado tres partidos, no he cedido ningún set y creo que estado consistente. No es la peor primera semana de mi vida en Roland Garros”, apostilló el español, cuyo equipo pone siempre mucho énfasis en salir airoso de los primeros siete días en París y que el próximo lunes tendrá enfrente al estadounidense Jack Sock, 22 años, 37 en la lista mundial, buen pegador (6-2, 6-1 y 6-4 a Borna Coric). “Creo que hasta ahora todo ha ido bien, pero ahora debo dar el salto y mejorar mi tenis. Si lo hago, tendré opciones; de lo contrario, tendré que pensar en el próximo torneo”, prolongó.

The extra space on Chatrier allows Nadal to do what he does best: roam several feet behind the baseline and dig balls out of corners; return serve deep in the court where he can take massive swipes at the ball; and generally make offensive-minded players miserable. … Nadal admitted Saturday that, were it his choice, he would play every match on a court that accentuates his instincts — where he can slide further, scamper longer and lace zingers from far behind the baseline.“It’s obvious that a big court helps a little bit more my game and for the opponent is a little bit more difficult to attack, to see the clear winner,” said Nadal, who has won 14 majors.

Clay, known to be slower than its hard and grass court cousins on tour, is a surface that matches up best to nine-time champion Rafael Nadal when he plays in the afternoon, especially when the sun is out. But the Spaniard who is a career 68-1 at this event doesn’t mind the conditions, no matter what they are. He’ll play American Jack Sock in the fourth round Monday. Asked if a heavier set of conditions play on his mind when entering into a match, the 28-year-old Nadal shrugged off such an assertion. “No,” he replied without missing a beat. “No, no. Seriously, no.”

Spain's Rafael Nadal clenches his fist after scoring a point in the third round match of the French Open tennis tournament against Russia's Andrey Kuznetsov at the Roland Garros stadium, in Paris, France, Saturday, May 30, 2015. (AP Photo/David Vincent)
AP Photo/David Vincent

Rafael Nadal sort of looks like a can of blue paint splashed on what was all-white gear, but Nike’s monochromatic-turned-fade motif ultimately works. It probably wouldn’t fly on the form of a player with less tenacity and presence on court. Rafa rocks it.

Sock’s forehand versus Nadal’s forehand could prove to be one of the most exciting match ups of the tournament so far. Make sure you tune in.

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4 comments

  1. Rafa, what have you got to lose – nothing! At age “21” you won Wimbledon n Roland Garros …. n you have continued to win Roland Garros. Kayserasera whatever will be will be? God bless n be with you today. Vamos Rafa my adopted grandson. Your Aussie Nana. 🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈

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