Rafael Nadal at Madrid Masters: ‘Perhaps the best I have played this year on clay’

Rafael Nadal, after struggling in a pair of earlier clay-court tournaments, dominated Juan Monaco 6-1, 6-0 on Wednesday in the second round of the Madrid Masters.
Rafael Nadal returns the ball to Argentinian Juan Monaco during their men's singles match at the Madrid Masters second round at the Caja Magica in Madrid on Wednesday. Pierre-Philippe Marcou / AFP / May 7, 2014
Rafael Nadal returns the ball to Argentinian Juan Monaco during their men's singles match at the Madrid Masters second round at the Caja Magica in Madrid on Wednesday. Pierre-Philippe Marcou / AFP / May 7, 2014

World No 1 Rafael Nadal believes he played his best match of the clay court season so far in routing Argentina’s Juan Monaco 6-1, 6-0 to reach the third round of the Madrid Masters on Wednesday.

Nadal had admitted to suffering doubts over the level of his play on a surface on which he has dominated throughout his career after surprising defeats at the Monte Carlo Masters and Barcelona Open in recent weeks.

However, in front of a home crowd in the Spanish capital, he showed signs of his top form as he rolled off 10 straight games to seal victory in little over an hour and set up a meeting with Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen.

“The start of a match after you have lost is always a bit more difficult. I think that after I consolidated the break at 4-1 in the first set I played well, perhaps the best I have played this year on clay from 4-1 in the first set until the end of the match,” said the 13-time Grand Slam champion.

“My movement was better and I played more like I have in the past on clay.

“I can’t be at 100 percent straight away, I have to improve bit by bit to find my best form.”

Nadal is the strong favourite to claim a fourth title in Madrid as Novak Djokovic withdrew due to an ongoing wrist injury, whilst Roger Federer also pulled out to attend the birth of his twin sons on Tuesday.

Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka was also ousted in the second round by Austrian qualifier Dominic Thiem to leave Nadal as the only top four seed left in the draw.

“Wawrinka was here and lost, but that is sport,” said Nadal.

“I feel for the tournament that there are two important absences in Novak and Roger. I feel for Novak because missing a tournament is always a difficult decision to take and I congratulate Roger on being a father once more. They are two very different situations, one is sad and the other is of great happiness.

“For me, though, the tournament hasn’t changed. I am here, I am playing at home and I want to play well. It doesn’t matter whether Novak, Roger are here, or, in the case of Wawrinka, whether they are still in the draw.”

There was one moment of controversy in an otherwise one-sided match when Monaco was given a time-violation warning towards the end of the first set.

And Nadal repeated his call for players to be given more time to recover after extended rallies.

“It seems like the people in charge don’t want long points.

“If you look at what the fans want, they don’t applaud an ace like a long rally or points that stretch players to the limit and it seems those in charge don’t realise that. I think if they want two-shot rallies and quick play, that for me isn’t sport.

“I understand why Juan was angry with the warning after a long point that went form side to side because you need to recover if you are to continue putting on a good show in the next point.

“I said it before when they introduced this stricter rule last year. They haven’t changed the rule, but my opinion on it also hasn’t changed.”

Wimbledon champion Andy Murray was also victorious on his return to action for the first time in over a month as he progressed to the third round with a 6-1, 1-6, 6-4 win over Spain’s Nicolas Almagro.

The Scot cruised through the opening set, but went on to lose six games in a row after breaking the Almagro serve in the first game of the second.

Serve was dominant in the third until a backhand error from Almagro gifted Murray the vital break on match point to set up a third round meeting with Colombian Santiago Giraldo, who dismissed world No 13 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-4, 6-3.

In Wednesday’s other results, sixth seed Tomas Berdych beat South African Kevin Anderson 6-1, 6-4 while seeds John Isner (9) and Grigor Dimitrov (12) laboured through three-set victories.

No 15 seed Mikhail Youzhny fell to Spaniard Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, as well, and unseeded players Ernests Gulbis, Marin Cilic and Lukasz Kubot earned victories.

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Published: May 8, 2014 04:00 AM

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