The clay season has well and truly begun with the King of Clay ending his title drought and securing his 8th straight title at Monte Carlo! The five prominent points to take away from last week’s action at the beautiful rich-man town follow:
1. The invincible clay-man
Rafael Nadal was commemorated at the start of the week for his 7 consecutive titles here but he made that celebration obsolete by winning his 8th one yesterday! He annihilated the defense of Djokovic, executing a clear game-plan he had in mind, and used it to reverse his 7 consecutive final losses against the Serb. In the process, he ended his 11 month title drought and we know what he is capable of when he does that sort of thing – He showed us all in 2010 when he won at Monte Carlo after going title-less for 11 months!
2. The World No. 1 can still win humdingers
If the week was an intensely uncomfortable experience for any one player, that player has got to be Djokovic. The personal devastation he experienced was clearly visible during his match against Dolgopolov. But the fighting instincts are still burning red-hot, for he was able to eke out wins not once but twice after being a set down against formidable opponents in ‘The Dog’ and Berdych. His final mauling at Nadal’s hands may or may not play a role in the subsequent Masters events. If it doesn’t, we can expect an encore from the world no.1 – his steely resolve is yet to get rusted!
3. The retirement season is ‘ON’
Miami saw a player with one of the biggest forehanders of the mid 2000s – Fernando Gonzalez – retire. At Monte Carlo, it was the turn of a resident to retire. Ivan Ljubicic, a former world no.3, has always been a man to look out for on the circuit. He was the kind of player they all categorize as a ‘dangerous floater’, and he has had his share of successes on the tour. With 10 ATP titles and a combined 5 victories against Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to his credit, he can safely say that he had an influencing period while he was on the ATP tour.
4. The Czech deserves some credit
Another semi-final appearance, another loss after a promising start. But the man never seems to get bogged down. One player outside of the top four who has been pretty consistent over the last 2-3 years is Tomas Berdych. This week too, he showed his potential by causing an upset in defeating Andy Murray in the quarters and adapting pretty decently to windy conditions early on in his semi-final against Nole. His is one dangerous quarter-final showdown the top-4 must be wary of this season and he might cause an upset or two in the coming months of action.
5. Will Nos. 3 & 4 catch up?
A question that is getting all too familiar now is ‘How far are Roger and Andy in comparison with Novak and Rafa?’. The answer might have been different had Roger not lost to Roddick at Miami or if he had played Monte-Carlo or if Andy had come up with more buzz on court than the buzz-cut he sported for last week’s event. As none of theoe things happened, the question still lingers and the Madrid & Rome Masters have to provide a convincing answer soon so that betting on the Roland Garros winner gets more easy or more difficult – depending on how the Swiss and the Scot perform!