At last, Rafael Nadal opens 2016 with an explosive win in Monte Carlo. Before the details, let’s rewind the time a bit.
Rafa failed to win a grand slam in 2015. In fact, he only won two titles in clay. The first was in Buenos Aires. It’s a 250-tournament so the draw was easy for the King of Clay.
He defeated four Argentians in straight sets – namely Facundo Arguello (4, 0), Federico Delbonis (1, 1), Carlos Berloq (6, 2) and Juan Monaco (4, 1).
He went to Harmburg (a 500-tournament) after his second-round exit in Wimbledon. There, he faced a more competitive draw. He outlasted Fernando Verdasco (3, 1, 1), Jiri Veseley (4, 6), Pablo Cuevas (3, 2), Andreas Seppi (1, 2) and Fabio Fognini (5, 5).
It’s too early to say but it seems 2016 is a renaissance year for Rafa. He opens the clay season by winning his ninth title in Monte Carlo – his favorite tournament according to his autobiography.
Monte Carlo is a 1000-Master tournament – where he’s seeded five. He received a first round bye but he faced tougher competitors in the succeeding rounds.
In the second round, the bankable rising-star from Great Britain, Aljaz Bedene, scored a total of six games. Dominic Thiem is a new Austrian supernova who won three clay titles in 2015 + 1 this year (as of this writing). But against Rafa, he exited in straight sets.
Stan Wawrinka stopped Rafa from winning his second Australian Open title in 2014. It’s a hardcourt surface but it’s a different story in clay. Rafa allowed him to win five games in the quarterfinals.
Andy Murray and Gael Monfils tested the King in the last final rounds, respectively. It seemed Murray couldn’t repeat his straight-set victory in Madrid. After winning the first set, Rafa fought back and found himself in finals after eight months of waiting and recovering.
The finals took more than two hours. Rafa lost the second set but ended the match on fire. At long last, all his hard work paid off.
Personally, he’s my favorite to win French Open for the 10th time but somehow, less expectation is healthier than making predictions. Rafa will take it one match at a time. VAMOS!
Photo Courtesy of: Rafael Nadal Fans