As soon as I woke up for the early morning viewing of the mend finals in Rome only to discover that there was a rain delay I got a feeling that Rafael Nadal fans worldwide would not be rejoicing. Novak Djokovic may have looked a little weary at times in his semi final and may have taken a nasty tumble but the more time there was for him to recover between the two matches the worse it was for Nadal.
In theory the heavier conditions should have favoured Nadal but the Spaniard’s clay court game has been plagued by short balls this season, while Djokovic has consistently demonstrated devastating depth, angle and touch over the last few weeks on the dirt. So, with the Gods seemingly smiling on him, Novak Djokovic beat Rafa Nadal 6-4, 6-4 for the fourth time in a row, the second on clay in as many weeks.
The King of Clay has been dethroned.
OK so maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Djokovic has had one truly amazing season. He has now won seven consecutive tournaments, beating Nadal four times in the process. Novak has won every tournament he has entered in 2011. He is playing phenomenal tennis. Novak Djokovic deserves the ranking that goes with being the best player in the world because right now world number one Rafael Nadal has no answsers, not even on clay.
What will be most interesting is Roland Garros. Novak has made no secret that his goals are to be number one and to win Wimbledon, however, I’m sure he’s going to come out firing to try and beat Nadal in his beloved Paris.
Maybe Novak’s legs will run out of gas (surely it’s got to happen soon) and maybe Nadal’s fever will get the best of him but it seems right now that Djokovic is the only player in the world who has worked out a winning formula for beating the left handed, heavy spin hitting, Armani clad Spaniard.
Novak has a long way to go to really dethrone Nadal as King of Clay. Nadal has won Roland Garros five times in six year, Monte Carlo seven consecutive times and has won numerous other clay court tournaments such as Barcelona and Rome multiple times. Over almost a decade it is Nadal’s name that has stood, second to none, as the undisputed champion on clay.
It seems Novak has arrived and is prepared to step up and give Nadal a run for his money. In beating Nadal twice now on clay, and comprehensively, it shows just how dominant Rafa has been and just how incredible his clay court achievements have been.
“He is the king of clay and he is the best player ever to play on this surface. I have won against him twice in the last eight days which I think is incredible, an incredible achievement for me, and he has given me a lot of confidence for the French Open. This is only a couple of tournaments this year and he has since been dominant on this surface for so many, many years.” – Novak Djokovic
“I have been doing everything that I can so I cannot ask myself more. I am trying and I am doing very well, but one player is doing better than me. The champion in my opinion is not only be able to win every week; it is when they are able to wait at the right moments and I am waiting at every week, trying to find solutions, and we will see what is going on next time… I wish him all the best and I have to wait my moment to win another time.
I am not disappointed with my performance, my level. He is doing amazing things. He is very tough mentally and physically, every week. He played very well but this week was very positive for me. I finished better than I started, which is not what happened in Madrid.”- Rafael Nadal