May 18, 2024

Open Court

MORE TENNIS THAN YOU'LL EVER NEED

Donkeys flew, hell froze over, Nadal lost in Barcelona

The storylines heading into next month’s French Open are getting more intriguing by the week.

A Grand Slam, and the best-of-five set format, change all the parameters. But for moment, king of clay Rafael Nadal has shown some frailty on the surface – the venues – where he has ruled for a decade.

First there was the loss to David Ferrer in Monte Carlo. Friday, there was a 2-6, 7-6 (5) 6-4, loss to another compatriot who came into the match with a 10-match losing streak against him, Nicolas Almagro.

Nadal’s streak of dominance at Monte Carlo had already been broken a year ago, by Novak Djokovic. But he came into this quarter-final having won 41 consecutive matches in Barcelona.

The last time he lost there, he was 15 years old. That’s an astonishing run.

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In the eight times he won it, Nadal had lost a total of TWO sets – to David Ferrer in the 2008 final (he bookended that with two 6-1 set wins) and the first set of his quarter-final vs. Jarkko Nieminen of Finland in 2006.

After this one, Nadal wasted little time getting to his chair while Almagro rejoiced. Almagro certainly celebrated, but it didn’t seem completely out of hand in our opinion, especially given the circumstances. The camera choices didn’t allow viewers at home to see whether Nadal did indeed wait at the net for him (but try finding an objective source in the stadium in Barcelona who could analyze that one, lol).

Certainly Nadal has had his fair share of opponents do their fair share of polite waiting at the net for him, after he rolls around in the dirt a bit following a big clay-court win. Probably didn’t like being on the side of it much – which you can understand. He also probably didn’t want to be left standing like a doof at the net, having to wait. Yeah, that’s probably not much fun, having to wait for your opponent to be ready. 🙂

Almagro, it should be noted, did no rolling. He knows as well as anyone that despite the bigness of the win, it’s only a quarterfinal.

At any rate, luckily Almagro was on the same side of the court as Nadal’s chair, so he was able to get him for the handshake on a drive-by. Had he not been, it would have been pretty interesting to see whether the victor would have crossed all the way over to shake Nadal’s hand, or whether the world No. 1 would have come back to the net. Or something.

At any rate, it seemed a bit awkward, although Almagro likely didn’t care a bit.

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It wasn’t really that big a deal, merely one of those little vignettes that go on in and around a big tennis match.

Here’s a link to a little video of Nadal’s post-match press conference. Basically, he said he didn’t think Almagro did anything particularly special. He felt he outplayed him the first two sets, had the chances, didn’t convert them, and against a good player like Almagro that means you lose.

A peek at Nadal’s comments, translated version from Spanish.

The originals are here.

“I had many opportunities in the second set when I was controlling (play). I wasted many opportunities in the second set and I lacked calm at times.”

“For two sets I was better than him. The first set was crushing because I won my serve easily and he didn’t. The match was always in my hands.”

“I could have won the match. I should have won the match. Last week in Monte Carlo, David was better than me. I don’t think that was the case today, even though the winner was better, because tennis is a fair sport.”

And then, some gallows humour.

“At least, maybe after ten years they’ll finally say that I am not the favorite ahead of Roland Garros.”

It’s just hilarious that Nadal always has a problem with this. I mean, this is a BAD thing? Or out-of-the-box thinking in any way?

From here, it’s kind of a statement of fact. We think he has always been the favorite, and will be every year until he retires.

Even this year.

(Screengrabs from tennistv.com)

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