Nadal vs. Spain in 2014
Rafael Nadal’s clay court losses to David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro along with his near miss vs. Pablo Andujar have raised some questions. Spaniards had generally wilted in front of Nadal, but in 2014 they have pushed back against their numero uno. Roberto Bautista Agut has had a bit of a break out year in 2014 with a big Australian Open and nice showings elsewhere. He just beat a red hot (and mildly fatigued) Santiago Giraldo. He’s in the semifinals of a Masters 1000 event in his home country.
Nadal has had a few struggles in 2014. He’s never loved playing in Madrid. Bautista Agut is capable of pushing Rafa. If Nadal wins handily, I think we can chalk up some of the consternation about his 2014 clay court form as much ado about nothing. If Nadal wins a close match, we will all need to watch the final and Rome to have a sense of Rafa’s form. If Bautista Agut pulls an upset, we will have a story on our hands.
Berdych on clay in Spain is not a great challenge for Rafa. Still, my gut feeling is Rafa wins in straight sets and restores some order to a strange Masters Madrid event. I think Bautista Agut might make it close enough that the narrative will continue about Rafa’s form, but if one recalls the way Federer was being discussed prior to the US Open in 2008, it becomes clear that Rafa deserves the benefit of the doubt. Nadal d. Bautista Agut 6-1, 7-5