Absolute Expectation: Rafa Nadal, the king of clay, debuts today in Monte Carlo
A month after retiring in Indian Wells due to discomfort in his right knee, Rafa Nadal returns to the competition on Wednesday in one of his fetish appointments, the Masters 1000 of Monte Carlo that he has already won 11 times, the same as in Roland Garros and at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell. The Balearic tennis player, who starts this way the assault on his favourite surface, the clay, debuts against Roberto Bautista, 22 of the ATP ranking, a demanding opponent who he has defeated comfortably in their previous duels, in Madrid in 2014 and at Roland Garros 2017.
Rafa has lived many of his great moments on red clay. On this surface he won eight of the 11 titles of 2005, his most prolific season, and four of the trophies he lifted in 2018. This season, the Spaniard seeks his first title and Monte Carlo seems the right place to achieve it, prior to his arrival at Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, the 1.000 Masters of Madrid and the great date of the season on clay, Roland Garros.
The number 2 of the world returns to the surface that totally dominates, and 311 days after his last contact with the clay, in Roland Garros, in which he defeated precisely Dominic Thiem. In his debut today he starts defending 54.6% of his current points in the ranking, that is, 4,680 points.
Rafa wants to make history. Winning at the centre court of the Montecarlo Country Club for the twelfth time - he won the trophy in 2005, when he debuted at 18, and did it consecutively until 2012, as well as in 2016, 2017 and 2018 - he would equal the American of Czech origin Martina Navratilova who did the same in the tournament in Chicago, absolute record of victories of a tennis player (man or woman) in the same tournament.
His numbers are outrageous. The balance of the disciple of Carlos Moya on clay is the following: 415 victories for 36 defeats, which means 92% of wins in all the tournaments he has played. Another fact to consider: in the capital of the Principality has won 68 matches and has only lost four. In total, he has 11 titles out of the 57 that he has conquered on clay since he won his first trophy in 2004, in the Polish city of Sopot.
If for most tennis players the start of this small circuit on clay means the beginning of agony, for the Balearic is nothing but the end of hell dragging on hard courts, especially in the last two seasons. After winning the US Open in 2017 he has added nothing less than 15 withdrawals, two retirements and only won one title, in Toronto, in 2018.
Nadal, at 32, has changed the way he plays. He and his team considered that was the only way to survive age and injuries. Now avoid the long rallies, close the points before and consume less energy. That change has worked him thoroughly with his team and has evolved his serve, seeking greater effectiveness.
If his forecasts are met, Rafa Nadal will debut today in Monaco, after he will play the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, from April 20 to 28, the Mutua Madrid Open, from May 6 to 12, and the Foro Italico in Rome, the following week before arriving at Roland Garros on May 26.