The last time Rafael Nadal reclaimed the No 1 ranking, it was at the China Open in 2013, even though he went on to lose the finals to Novak Djokovic. This year though, in a similar scenario, where it is quite likely that he would lose to Djokovic, there won’t be a ranking for him to grab but he will be gaining points to qualify for the Year End Championships, a tournament that has mocked him until now. With his run at the China Open, Nadal has significantly closed in on his gap with Tomas Berdych in the Race to the Finals rankings. With just four places left to grab, Nadal is now 6th with 3970 points and Berdych is next in line to qualify with 4100 points. There is a huge difference of 1100 points between Ferrer (placed 8th) and Gasquet (placed 9th).
2013 was one of Nadal’s best seasons, after 2010 or 2008, whereas this year has been disastrous in comparison. This is the first year in the last decade when Nadal has not won a Grand Slam or an ATP Masters Trophy. Some might say that there are two ATP Masters yet to be played but both of them being on Indoor Hard Courts, it is highly unlikely that either would come to Nadal’s rescue. Uncle Toni thinks that for Nadal to regain his form and composure, he needs to start winning at Clay, as that is where he draws his strength from. But Uncleji, as far as this season goes, there aren’t any clay tournaments left to win. Not a great way to motivate your player ahead of a final!
Djokovic is 28-0 at the China Open, winning five of the previous six tournaments and trails Nadal’s start (31-0) at the French Open (05-09) for the best start to a tournament. Well, Nadal is the best person here to save his own record. Even if, Djokovic were to surpass the 31-0 mark in the foreseeable future, Nadal’s record, according to me, should be considered superior given that his run came at a Grand Slam tournament. Djokovic is trying to close in on his Head to Head record against Rafa where he trails 21-23. Djokovic is going by the book, it seems, and slowly but surely cementing his place in history and building his legacy.
The humble man that Nadal is, has rated Djokovic as the favourite today and says that Djokovic is on a completely different level compared to him but I am sure the bull in him would disagree as always, and he would put up a fight that is worthy of his own expectations.
Nadal has won 23 matches against Djokovic and Federer both and leads their Head to Head records. Djokovic has won 21 matches against Federer and Nadal both. Federer doesn’t look very good sometimes when the stats are put differently. Djokovic has won six of his last seven matches against Nadal, which would be a confidence booster for him today, as if he needs any.
After today’s epic clash, there is a potential semi final between Roger Federerand Rafael Nadal in the upcoming Shanghai Masters, where Federer defends his title and looks to regain his No 2 spot that he will lose tomorrow to Andy Murray. But, for Nadal to face Federer, he would have to overcome Stan Wawrinka in the Quarters, who is in fine form himself.
Nadal has already managed to hush down a lot of critics who have been bothering him since the beginning of the season and his Quarter Final loss at the French Open was just the cherry on top. This is his first hard court final this year and he did avenge his US Open loss to Fognini in the Semi Finals. I know Djokovic is the favourite today but I really want Nadal to find his way back to the top, not for himself, not for the rivalry he shares with other great players, not to prove he is better than Federer, but for the spirit of the sport and the beauty of the game.
Word of the Day: Vamos!