Let’s face it…
Although Rafael Nadal is for many tennis pundits the greatest clay courter of all time… better than Guillermo Vilas (45 clay titles) or Thomas Muster (40) or even Bjorn Borg (30 titles, including 6 wins at Roland Garros)…
For all that, the Spanish tennis ace just doesn’t seem to care about winning the ATP Madrid Masters. And, if truth be told, I don’t think he’s all that bothered about the following event on tour, the Rome Masters, either…
Look at the stats… the ‘Pearl Of Manacor’ has won 34 clay titles to date… and that figure will only rise on through the coming years.
But aside from victories at the ATP World Tour 250 level (which came early in his career at the likes of Sopot 2004 & Costa Do Sauipe 2005) he has clearly targeted three specific clay events.
And they don’t include Madrid (or it’s former equivalent at Hamburg) and, you could say, Rome.
What ATP Tour events does Rafa aim to win?
Because being as good as Rafa is… he can pretty much win any clay court event, if he wants to.
Monte Carlo (record 44-1)… without question Nadal puts a marker down here. He’s won this event in each of the last 8 years and has won his last 42 matches here, winning every year since 2005.
Barcelona (35-1)… this is only a 500 series event but Rafa has come here straight after Monte Carlo and won 7 times since 2005 (he didn’t play in 2010).. he also makes a point of winning this event.
Roland Garros (45-1)… aside from a freak loss to Soderling in 2009, Nadal has won here every time he’s played since 2005. And who would bet against him winning several more times in Paris?
But if you combine Nadal’s record at Hamburg and the tournament which effectively replaced it on the schedule, Madrid, his record is a modest (by his standards!!) 24-4.
Yes, he has won in both Hamburg and Madrid in the past, but Rafa’s record in both venues isn’t a patch on the form he’s shown in his three favourite tournaments.
I would even argue that his Rome record (31-2), which includes 5 Masters Series titles, is markedly less impressive than the ‘chosen three’.
So why does Rafa play in Madrid?
The simple answer is because he has to.
This is a Masters Series event and players, unless injured, are more or less ‘contractually obliged’ to play in such events. Also, being a native of Spain, how would it look if the world No.2 prefered to play in the Catalan-based event (Barcelona) and not the tournament in the national capital (Madrid).
Would his life be worth living!!
But a record in this event which is modest, by the champion’s stratospheric standards, suggests that he plays here on 75% power… whereas the others are played at full-throttle.
As such, would a threatened boycott of this event (made on the grounds of the controversial blue clay surface prefered by event consultant Ion Tiriac) be that much of a loss?
Well, in a sense it would be a blow for tennis betting tipsters and those who advise tennis betting tips…
Because you might want to lay the great man at his usual short odds.
Spectators also might well field aggrieved.
However the facts, in terms of Rafa’s record, say that a swerve of Madrid in the future would be no great loss. He might well hope that organisers choose to stick with the blue clay!! It has been heavily criticised by payers during the event.
What will make Nadal play better in Madrid?
Quite simply, a move in the schedule.
It appears that Rafa’s dodgy form in his native country isn’t down to any grudge against the capital, or even the slippery blue clay, but the fact that after getting his game in A1 shape in Monte Carlo and Barcelona he likes to ‘take it easy’ before heading off to Paris and the French Open.
He gets his game in shape. He gets himself match-fit on clay. And then he gives his already ailing body (saving those knees!) a well-earned break.