The Monte Carlo Masters event has gotten well under way and a lot of the big names have been in action. Novak Djokovic blasted Florent Serra off the court and Andy Murray in turn got blasted off the court by Phillipp Kohlschreiber.
And the five-time defending champion Rafael Nadal? He demolished Thiemo de Bakker 6-1, 6-0 in an hour. Sure, de Bakker had to get into the tournament as a qualifier, but that can be a good thing sometimes because it means you've gotten some matches under your belt and are used to the conditions. However, that didn't matter at all to Rafa.
And I know a lot of talk has been made about Nadal not having won a tournament since last year in Rome, which can be primarily attributed to injury, but I think he's going to be A-OK. I don't mean to downplay his ailments or the impact his game, which is so physical, has on his body. There are other factors that are going to carry him through in the future and current indicators that show he's not playing that bad, despite not taking home the hardware.
First, as much as his style of play might wear on his own body, it does the same to his opponents as well. When guys on the other side of the court have to constantly deal with balls bouncing up to their shoulders that's a draining style to go against, especially on clay. Then there's the mental drain that has to be dealt with as well—knowing that Rafa's never going to give up or give in and chase down every ball. And the guy gets excited after getting one break in a set: He loves to win!
Plus, it doesn't matter what style of play you bring to the table—baseline, serve-and-volley, all-court, monster serve, counterpuncher—Nadal has the tools to counter it. And this statement should sum that up: He's beaten Roger Federer on grass! If you can do that, which is as close to impossible a task as there's been in pro tennis history, then winning a title in Monte Carlo should be a cinch—even on one leg!
And if you look at his record for the year, which again, shows no singles titles won, things really haven't been that bad: Four tournaments played and reaching at least the quarters in all of them, and that's all on hard courts. But you want to know my favorite result of his for 2010? Winning the doubles in Indian Wells with Marc Lopez, who isn't exactly a world beater. They beat a few Grand Slam winners on their way to the title, which makes the feat even more impressive. So if he can do that on his toughest surface and in an aspect of the game he rarely competes in, then his form is fine.
Here's one more thing that I think shouldn't be overlooked: He's so young! Nadal turns 24 this year and he already has six Majors to his name. Let's say he were to have knee surgery today and shut it down for a year. He comes back around Monte Carlo time 2011, when he'd still only be 24. Would you bet against him winning the whole thing?
So while it's a little shocking he hasn't won an event in so long, I would say don't worry about him. The titles will come, along with a further assault on the record books.
An old friend of mine and I used to talk tennis for hours, whether it was our own games or what was happening in the pros. I've started Tennis Talk, Anyone? to, well, talk tennis with an even broader crowd! My name is Van Sias and I've been playing for 20 years now, and not only am I player, I'm a huge fan of the game as well: pro, amateur, you name it. I'll post links to news items related to the sport, and offer my own personal opinion, predictions and hopefully get some of yours as well.