The good news: The King of Clay is back on the dirt, where he has always enjoyed his best footing. Nadal has played two clay events so far this year. He lost to 22-year-old Dominic Thiem in the semifinals of the Argentina Open, then fell to Pablo Cuevas in the semifinals of the Rio Open. Rafa enters Monte Carlo without a title for the first time since 2012. Interestingly, he won Monte Carlo that year — and the other three years (2008, 2010 and 2011) in which he entered the event winless.
- Clay Cristal Ball | Tennis Tuesday
It’s impossible to talk about a clay-court season without beginning with Rafael Nadal. After a tumultuous 2015 saw him fail to win a clay Masters title, his form appears improved, which spells danger for anyone across the net from him. The world No. 5 has four Madrid, seven Rome, eight Barcelona and nine Roland Garros titles. If he’s going to get back on the right foot, it’ll be on clay. This is his time to shine again; never count out the King of Clay.
- Rafael Nadal on Novak Djokovic: Serb has ‘lethal combination’ which makes him unstoppable | ibtimes.com.au
Nadal believes there is no stopping his career rival Djokovic this season after yet another masterful performance at the Miami Open for the world No. 1. The King of Clay knows it very well, having faced Djokovic in 47 occasions, most recently in Indian Wells, where Nole defeated Nadal in the semifinal round.
“There is much difference between him and the rest. It’s impossible to stop him and you have to congratulate him,” Nadal told IB3 as reported by Tennis World USA. “When you are very good and you have nothing that stops you, like injuries, it becomes a lethal combination.”
No. 5 Rafael Nadal: C+ It says a lot about where Nadal is at the moment that two losses against Djokovic have been the highlights of the Spaniard’s first quarter. He reached the final at Doha but was thumped by the No. 1. Nadal then had a much tighter meeting against Djokovic in the Indian Wells quarterfinal.
Other than that, Nadal has dropped matches he should have won, including a five-set defeat to Fernando Verdasco in the Aussie Open first round and three-set losses against Dominic Thiem and Pablo Cuevas in the South America swing. But most troubling was Nadal’s retirement in the Miami opener because of an apparent heat illness.
During the presentation of the 6th edition of the “What really matters” Majorca congress of which Nadal is the honorary president, the Spaniard said “Last year I was competing against myself and this year I am competing against rivals.”