My second to most recent column revolved around Nadal’s seeming invulnerability on clay. All of the sudden, Nadal is pushed hard by Grigor Dimitrov, struggled holding a lead and closing out a match vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and lost to Novak Djokovic in straight sets. Now, his solid wins over Ferrer and Almagro in Latin America as well as hardcourt wins over Federer, Berdych and Del Potro seem a little further away. My takeaways are as follows:
- Djokovic remains Nadal’s biggest threat on any surface. If Novak is playing near 2011 levels, this clay court season gets a lot more interesting. Last year, Nole went 0-3 vs. Rafa on clay. My column had Djokovic possessing a 20-35% chance of beating Nadal on clay. Monte Carlo makes me think Novak’s floor is 35% and his ceiling versus Nadal on clay in 2013 might be 50%.
- A 7 month layoff could have residual impacts on Nadal. Tsonga has weapons and Dimitrov has young legs. Each pushed Nadal. These typres of matches could happen as the clay court season unfolds.
- Nadal is still the favorite on clay against everyone in the world except for maybe Djokovic. Until Madrid and Rome are in the books, I will have Rafa as my favorite headed into Roland Garros. If Nole wins another head-to-head meeting, maybe Rafa would be the second most likely to win in Paris, but he is the man on clay until someone beats him multiple times. Rafa vs. Nole in the French Open quarterfinal would be as interesting as it would be terrible for fans.