World No. 2 Rafael Nadal is seeing redemption at the Barcelona Open, a tournament that includes a tennis court named after the clay legend, the Pisa Rafa Nadal, at the Real Club de Tenis Barcelona-1899. The top seed here, Nadal is seeking his 12th title to add to his ‘Undecima’ haul, at the oldest Spanish tennis club.
But the ‘king of clay’ is entering the Spanish tournament at a slight disadvantage. Although he got to the semis at Monte Carlo—another ATP event where he owns 11 crowns—he lost to the tournament winner, Fabio Fognini.
But it was no ordinary loss, with concern from fans over the ease with which the Italian beat him—on clay! —almost bageling him the last set. Rafa was very forthright that the easy loss troubled him as well. “My personal opinion is that I played one of the worst matches on clay.
It's a reality. There is no need to hide it. I do not see the benefit of wanting to deny it,” Nadal spoke with the ATP on Monday after his mini-tennis match with Kei Nishikori, at the Palau de la Música Catalana.
“What has happened has happened”. Despite the lack of titles in the last nine months, the 17-time grand slam champion has clocked in a highly consistent season. He made the finals in Australia—ultimately losing to Novak Djokovic at the end of his winning streak—and his grand slam performance has been superior to Roger Federer’s in the last 12 months, although the Swiss has been able to capitalize on two ATP titles this year.
Novak Djokovic and Federer are first and second in the ATP Race to London standings, but Rafa sits in third. “It is true that I have not won any titles, but I reached the final in Australia, semi-finals in Indian Wells and now semi-finals again in Monte-Carlo.
The year is not bad and I'm third in the [ATP Race To London], but with more problems than I would have liked,” Nadal said. His right knee injury forced him to retire a highly anticipated matchup with Federer in Miami, where the 20-time slam winner went on to collect the title.
The Spaniard looked fully recovered once clay season started, the time of year when the legend shines. But the 11-time French Open winner seemed to indicate that the injury was still a concern, with Rafa looking to build back confidence tournament-by-tournament.
“In Monte-Carlo, I took a step forward with how I was a week before. I lost a good opportunity to start the season in a fantastic way. But now I'm going to have another one. “The job is to find myself. During the last 18 months, I have had too many stops and ups and downs, non-tennis related.
And when that happens, it's hard to pick up rhythm and continuity. But it is true that it has happened so many times, and that after things go well... everything that happened seems to be forgotten. I hope to be ready to play well.
And if it is not here, it will be in Madrid, in Rome or at Roland Garros”. No one seems to bounce back from injury like the oft-wounded 32-year-old. Up next for him will be Argentinian Leonard Mayer, who the Nadal has beaten in all of their five meetings.
“This is a very special tournament that is part of the history of tennis and of my own. I have another morning to practice, and we will see how we are doing. On a physical level, I'm more or less well,” continued Rafa. Rafael Nadal and Leonard Mayer face each other on Wednesday.