Rafael Nadal won six ATP titles on clay in 2013, including two in a row at Barcelona, Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros. A year later, things didn't work out so well for the Spaniard on his beloved surface, suffering quarter-final defeats in Monte Carlo and Barcelona to David Ferrer and Nicolás Almagro and hoping to bounce back at home in Madrid.
Rafa played well against Juan Monaco, Jarkko Nieminen, Tomas Berdych and Roberto Bautista Agut to advance to the fifth of six editions at Caja Mágica against Kei Nishikori. The aggressive Japanese had the threads of the match on his hands, needing just an hour to forge a 6-2, 3-1 lead and on the brink of the first Masters 1000 title before suffering a back injury that forced him to retire.
in the decisive. In the end, Nadal clinched a 2-6, 6-4, 3-0 victory in one hour and 43 minutes to lift the 27th Masters 1000 crown and fourth in Madrid, nine years after the first on indoor hard court. Struggling to match the rival's rhythm, Rafa lost his serve three times in that first part of the match, committing too many mistakes and not imposing his blows.
Still, the Spaniard claimed seven straight 4-2 games against in the second to improve his numbers against the opponent who was miles from his best, securing three consecutive breaks before Kei retired after taking just one point in the third set.
Nishikori had the upper hand in the more extended rallies. Still, Nadal erased that distance in the shorter and mid-range exchanges, playing better and better after that comeback and celebrating the title shortly after that as Nishikori had nothing left in the tank.
Roig on Rafael Nadal's chance in Paris
Rafael Nadal's alternate coach Francisco Roig believes that the Spaniard needs to iron out a few flaws in his game before the French Open. Roig also showered rich praise on Dominic Thiem, and claimed that the Austrian would be as big a threat in Paris as Novak Djokovic if he manages to regain his form.
"Looking ahead to Roland Garros, I think a little more mobility is important," Roig said. "At the level of aerobic capacity, he has been very good, holding out in games, but I think we have room for improvement when moving.
It can still be a more dynamic point, both forward and in lateral mobility. And the serve must also be worked on, although it has gotten better and better," he added. "In fact, against Djokovic he was already pretty good.
Of course, if Dominic Thiem regains the rhythm and confidence that he usually shows on clay, I would say that I do not see differences between him and Djokovic," Roig said. "Since he won the US Open he has dropped a bit, but I'm sure that for Roland Garros he will be at the necessary level and will be a very tough opponent.
He is a very complete player, who demands a lot in each hit, if you leave the ball a little short, the point is over. On a physical level he is very demanding."