100th win and still dominant

Posted on May 1, 2008

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Perhaps we should just wrap up the clay court season for tennis this year and move right on to the grass court season.

Spain’s Rafael Nadal, probably the best clay court tennis player of all time, has just reached another astonishing milestone and does not even come close to slowing down on the red dirt at all.

The 21-year old has just won his 100th clay court match in Barcelona today, beating compatriot Feliciano Lopez 6-4, 6-3 in the third round of the Barcelona Open.

His record on clay now stands at a formidable 100-1. The sole blip to an otherwise perfect record was inflicted by world number one Roger Federer in Hamburg last year. 

Was Federer watching Nadal’s latest match? If he was, he would undoubtedly take note of its significance and perchance find it just a little bit more daunting for himself.

Federer is still trying to claim the one Grand Slam title, the French Open, that has hitherto dodged his grasp. And Nadal has been the only one to stand in his way. Coming up against Nadal’s latest statistics, along with former tennis champion Bjorn Borg’s recent prediction that Nadal will sweep both the French Open and Wimbledon in succession this year, Federer will be facing an uphill climb for the next month or two.

But it is not impossible for Federer and too early to count him out anyway.

Besides beating Nadal outright in Hamburg last year, Federer came close at the recent Monte Carlo Masters finals. In both sets, Federer could capitalize quickly on Nadal’s mistakes and broke his service games repeatedly. Unfortunately, he slipped up at crucial moments and threw the match away, by failing to consolidate on the service breaks, falling back, and letting Nadal dictate play and wear him out. The problem seems more mental than anything else. If Federer believed enough, he could still beat Nadal at Roland Garros.

Nadal, though, won’t give in without a heroic struggle. He has arguably the toughest defence on clay, plus the endurance and self-belief to outlast any challenger. He just keeps getting more comfortable on the dirt, which makes him the one to beat in the months ahead.

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