Sunday, April 17, 2011

When the Ground is Red

I could have written this post last year and I don't think anyone would have been able to tell. If I had called the opponent Mr X, then I guarantee no one would have been able to tell.

Put Rafa Nadal on clay - particularly, it seems, the clay of Monte Carlo - and it doesn't matter who is on the other side of the net, because he's going to win. The opponent, in many ways, is beaten before he even begins. No one dethrones Rafa Nadal in Monte Carlo. And, as it is the first tournament of the clay season (the proper clay season, none of this Golden Swing ridiculousness), it's an ominous note for the rest of the ATP.

When the ground is red, it's Rafa's time. (As well as all those other times when it's Rafa's time.)

I don't think Rafa played anywhere near his true abilities on clay today - not even close. And yet, even playing at, what, 70%? 75%? there was no way Daveed Ferrer was touching him. And Ferrer is not exactly sub-par when it comes to clay - he has a clay title already this year, which he earned by beating Almagro, the Prince of Clay. But when it comes to Rafa...

It must be so hard for people to come out against Rafa on clay and expect to win. Belief is a huge ingredient of the tennis... cake? pie? and it is a rare man who comes out with even the faintest hint of belief that he'll win. This is why Nadal/Djokovic on clay will be such an interesting match, I think, whensoe'er it happens (and it seems likely that it will, at some point), because if there is one thing Novak has never struggled with, it's belief.

But that is a match for another day. Today is all about Rafa, and one of the most ridiculous tournament streaks we have ever seen. Congratulations, Rafa. When the ground is red, you are terrifyingly, ridiculously good.

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