Rafael Nadal is not thinking about slump with rivals ailing
MADRID // World No 1 Rafael Nadal heads into the Madrid Masters this week in the unusual position of searching for his first title on European clay for the season.
The 13-time grand slam title winner has dominated on the surface throughout his career, including an incredible stretch last season that netted him wins in Barcelona, Madrid, Rome and an eighth French Open title at Roland Garros.
Nadal has so far struggled this year to bounce back from a back injury that hampered him in losing the Australian Open final to Stanislas Wawrinka in January.
His slump has included surprise defeats to compatriots David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro at the Monte Carlo Masters and Barcelona Open respectively in recent weeks.
Yet, Nadal is hoping home advantage will help him recapture his best form and a fourth title in Madrid.
“Spain is my country and every time I play in any tournament here it is something special. The crowd always make a big difference here,” he said.
Nadal could be dethroned at the top of the world rankings by Novak Djokovic this week should he fail to reach the quarter-finals and the Serb go on to win for the second time in Madrid.
Djokovic has also had injury problems.
The world No 2 said after losing to Roger Federer in the semi-finals in Monte Carlo that he expected not “to play tennis for some time” because of an injury to his right wrist
That was reduced to just two weeks as he returned early in an attempt to build up some rhythm ahead of his tilt at completing a career grand slam in Paris.
The in-form Swiss duo of Federer and Wawrinka pose the major threats to Nadal and Djokovic.
Wawrinka made the final in the Spanish capital last year before being swept aside by Nadal, but will be full of confidence after securing his first Masters title in Monte Carlo to go with his maiden grand slam title in Australia.
Federer has had a resurgence in recent months under the tutelage of Stefan Edberg and is a three-time winner in Madrid, including twice since it became a clay court tournament in 2009.
Wimbledon champion Andy Murray also returns to action for the first time in a month since failing to propel Great Britain into the semi-finals of the Davis Cup and the world No 8 will be after ranking points to boost his seeding ahead of the French Open.
On the women’s side, Serena Williams returns to defend the title she has won the past two years.
The 17-time grand slam title champion has been resting for a month since she said tiredness had been behind her shock second-round defeat to Jana Cepelova on the green clay of Charleston.
Worryingly for her competition in Madrid, the world No 1 said this week she is feeling fresh ahead of her assault on the red clay over the European stretch.
“I’m so much better. I took so much time off and I needed it,” she said on Friday. “I had just been playing for such a long time non-stop. It was actually really good for me to get that off. I feel really good and very positive, and I think that’s what matters most.”
Follow us on twitter at @SprtNationalUAE
Published: May 3, 2014 04:00 AM