King of clay Rafael Nadal has struggled on his preferred surface as of late, but the Spanish star asserted his dominance Wednesday in a 6-1, 6-0 thrashing of Juan Monaco in the second round of the Mutua Madrid Open.
According to ESPN Tennis, it took barely an hour for Nadal to dispatch Monaco in what was a captivating performance:
Nadal dismantles Monaco 6-1, 6-0 in just over an hour in the 2nd round. #ESPNTennis— ESPNTennis (@ESPNTennis) May 7, 2014
As seen in this Instagram photo of BolaMarela.com's Jose Morgado, Estadio Manolo Santana was packed to see Nadal put on a clinic and the fans weren't disappointed:
Despite Nadal's status as an eight-time French Open champion, observers have begun to question if his play on clay might be slipping with Roland Garros approaching on May 25.
Nadal suffered quarterfinal losses in the Monte-Carlo Masters and Barcelona Open to countrymen David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro respectively leading up to the Madrid Open.
Rafa certainly silenced some of his critics with a vintage performance against Monaco, but one win won't cure all of his ills.
With that said, Tim Clement of Sky Sports pointed out that Nadal was able to rise to the occasion despite the whispers surrounding his poor form:
Rafael Nadal producing the critic-silencing tennis expected in pummeling Monaco, who doing his best Fognini impression. #redfog— Tim Clement (@SkyTimClement) May 7, 2014
When asked about his recent issues on clay, Nadal essentially chalked it up to the law of averages, according to the Associated Press, via NDTV.com.
Is Nadal officially back in top form?
"Maybe it's normal to lose ... in the quarterfinals. Maybe what's not normal is what happened during the past nine years," Nadal said.
There is no question that Nadal has established clay excellence as his own personal form of normalcy, and that is precisely what fans have come to expect.
Although Monaco is a capable clay player in his own right, he got everything he could possibly handle from Nadal during Wednesday's encounter. The Argentinian veteran broke Nadal after Rafa broke him to take a 1-0 lead, but that would prove to be his lone highlight of the first set.
The No. 1-seeded Nadal, who also happens to be the Madrid Open's defending champion, proceeded to reel off five consecutive games after Monaco's break, and left his over-matched opponent reeling in the process, per ESPN Tennis:
Nadal is off to a fiery start in Madrid, breaking Monaco for the third time and taking a 5-1 lead in the 1st - http://t.co/pYq73sDMJG— ESPNTennis (@ESPNTennis) May 7, 2014
Although Nadal wasn't perfect by any means in the first set, he gave Monaco a ton of trouble and made life miserable for him on serve, according to Russell Fuller of BBC:
Nadal takes first set v Juan Monaco 6-1. Quite a few errors on both sides early on, but Monaco is yet to hold serve— Russell Fuller (@russellcfuller) May 7, 2014
Per Tennis TV, Monaco didn't have an answer for Nadal's tactic of standing well behind the baseline when returning serve:
As seen in this graphic courtesy of Live Tennis, Nadal got the better of Monaco in nearly every measurable category during the opening set:
Nadal leads Monaco 6-1 with the Argentine yet to hold serve. First set stats ... pic.twitter.com/cA63E0pDK3— Live Tennis (@livetennis) May 7, 2014
Unfortunately for Monaco, Nadal was just getting started. As difficult as it may be to fathom, Rafa was actually better in the second set as he absolutely stifled his beleaguered opponent to the tune of a 6-0 romp.
According to Tennis Stats on Twitter, Nadal's drubbing of Monaco was the most convincing win at the Madrid Open in a decade:
Monaco didn't play a great match by any means, but Nadal deserves all the credit in the world for rebounding and showing that he is still the guy to beat on the red stuff. The challenges will unquestionably get tougher as the tournament progresses, but Rafa finds himself in ideal position.
With Novak Djokovic withdrawing due to injury, Roger Federer withdrawing to the birth of twin babies and Stanislas Wawrinka getting upset by Dominic Thiem, most of Nadal's closest competition was already eliminated prior to Wednesday's match, per Tennis.com:
Nadal hasn't hit a ball in Madrid and Djokovic, Federer, and Wawrinka are out.— TENNIS.com (@Tennis) May 6, 2014
The path toward a second consecutive Madrid Open title doesn't feature many significant obstacles, so Nadal has a golden opportunity to get his confidence level where it needs to be prior to the French Open in a couple weeks.
Rafa will absolutely roll through the competition if he continues to play the way he did against Monaco, and that is a scary thought for the rest of the tour.
Nadal seemingly had a sense of urgency in terms of reestablishing his spot at the top and he needs to continue carrying that chip on his shoulder. There is no reason to believe that he won't, which means there is every reason to believe that a Madrid Open title is in his future.
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