Rafael Nadal's dominance on clay ahead of the French Open continued on Thursday as the spectacular Spaniard made quick work of Italian Andreas Seppi in the third round of the Monte-Carlo Masters.
Nadal had little issue in cruising to a 6-1, 6-3 victory, and he entered elite company with his 300th career win on clay in the process, according to Infostrada Sports:
Rafael Nadal can a) become 10th player to win 300+ singles matches on clay b) make Monte Carlo 2nd tournament in which he has 50+ wins— Infostrada Sports (@InfostradaGold) April 17, 2014
Rafa will now meet the winner of the match between countryman David Ferrer and Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov in the next round.
Although Seppi is no pushover as the No. 35 player in the world, Nadal made him look like a novice. Rafa is on a totally different level when it comes to clay-court play, and he further bolstered his status as the No. 1-ranked player in tennis.
It is possible that Seppi believed he had a fighting chance entering the match, but the delusions of grandeur quickly evaporated. Seppi started on serve, and Nadal proceeded to break him twice with a hold of his own mixed in, according to Tennis TV on Twitter:
Seppi was able to salvage his serve once in the first set, but it wasn't enough to offer much resistance as Nadal went on to take the set 6-1, per We Are Tennis on Twitter:
Nadal essentially toyed with Seppi, but Rafa is so good on clay that TV4 tennis analyst Jonas Bjorkman half-jokingly praised Seppi for his performance:
There are plenty of factors that make Nadal nearly impossible to beat on clay, including his fluid movement. Perhaps his biggest asset, though, is his topspin forehand. As seen in this graphic courtesy of Tennis TV, Seppi simply couldn't contend with that shot in the first set:
Despite getting embarrassed by Nadal in the opening frame, Seppi didn't get discouraged. After dropping the first three games of the second set, the Italian underdog started to settle into a comfort zone.
Seppi was able to hold serve on a couple of occasions, and he even managed to break Nadal at love, which is an extremely rare occurrence on clay:
With Nadal's big lead starting to slip away, he found the killer instinct that he is so famous for. Rafa was able to break back after a poor service game of his own and then he put Seppi away on serve to preserve the 6-1, 6-3 triumph.
The French Open is a little over a month away, and Nadal appears to be in fine form. Rafa has reigned supreme at Roland Garros in eight of the past nine years, and his current form suggests that he is poised to make it nine out of 10.
Despite the fact that Nadal is so clearly better than anyone else on the red stuff, he tried to downplay his dominance entering the Monte-Carlo Masters.
According to Fox News Latino, Nadal said that there would be an adjustment period in going from hard courts to clay courts.
The rest of the time I play on hard courts. I do not practice on clay, so I need time to make adjustments to my game to find my rhythm. I have to learn once again how to set up points to achieve victory. (...) It's true that it's easier for me than for the guys who started playing on hard courts when they were young. But I need time, too.
Who will win the 2014 Monte-Carlo Masters?
Nadal has seemingly made the transition seamlessly, judging by his fairly easy win over Seppi. The competition will get tougher as the tournament wears on, but there is no question that Nadal is the favorite.
Prior to losing to Novak Djokovic in the finals of this tournament last year, Nadal had won it eight consecutive times. He is probably anxious to halt the losing streak at one, and there is reason to believe that he will do precisely that.
Rafa looks to be in vintage form, and there probably isn't a player on the planet who can stop him right now. Provided Nadal continues to play like this in the coming weeks, he'll be in for another walk in the park at Roland Garros.
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