Can anybody stop Rafael Nadal on clay?
It’s the conundrum that everyone has been trying to solve.
Yet after tackling the problem for little more than a few minutes, one has no alternative but to conclude that Nadal will not be relinquishing his grip on the French Open trophy anytime soon.
Nadal has brushed aside all challengers to his dusty red pedestal over the last three weeks. The Spaniard, however, isn’t the only tennis player dominating the game on the European clay courts.
The Canadian-Serbian pairing of Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic has been right at home on the red clay this past month. While Nadal has been busy winning the Monte Carlo Masters, Barcelona Open, and Rome Masters in consecutive weeks, the world No. 2 doubles pairing lifted the doubles titles at each of these events.
Nestor and Zimonjic’s year had been somewhat mediocre before they arrived in Europe a month ago. The season started well as the duo made it to the finals in the year’s first two events before surprisingly faltering in the second round of the Australian Open.
The two veterans of the doubles game, however, managed to put that poor performance behind them as they won their only title of the year, prior to the Monte Carlo Masters, in Rotterdam in early February.
The troubles came in March as the team struggled for form in both the Indian Wells Masters and Miami Masters tournaments. In both events they unceremoniously crashed out in the first round to rather inferior doubles opponents.
Some of their problems could well be traced back to Zimonjic’s back problems. After all, he did have surgery on his back recently.
Nevertheless, the problems that thwarted their progress earlier in the year appear to have subsided.
The bad news for the rest of the field is that Nestor and Zimonjic have been serving beautifully over the last three weeks. The left-handed slice serve of Nestor has bamboozled opponents, while Zimonjic simply powers through the opposition with his precise and fast serving.
Provided nothing catastrophic happens to them at the Madrid Masters next week, it would be hard not to see them installed has favourites heading into Roland Garros.
The duo have a 12-game winning streak on clay, but perhaps more importantly, their wins in Monte Carlo and Rome came at the expense of their archrivals, the Bryan twins, in the each of the finals.
In Monte Carlo the Bryans were embarrassed as they were beaten 6-4 6-1 in merely 48 minutes.
This past Sunday the Bryans did a little better but still succumbed to the superior quality of their adversaries, losing 7-6 (7-5) 6-3.
In much the same vein as Nadal, if the opposition can’t beat Nestor and Zimonjic now, then it’s going to be nigh on impossible for them to do it at Roland Garros.
After Sunday’s victory in “The Eternal City,” Nestor stated that he hoped they hadn’t peaked too soon. In sport, as in life, it’s a very real possibility.
Nonetheless, Nestor and Zimonjic have all the momentum heading towards Paris. Thus, it’s difficult to see anyone stepping up and defeating the duo.