The Sunday Mail
It’S not quite mission impossible, but the first shots in the battle to dethrone Rafael Nadal as French Open champion are about to be fired in the upmarket surrounds of the Monte Carlo Country Club. These skirmishes follow a similar pattern each year. Nadal will usually win at least three claycourt tour events in the European spring, surviving the odd scare, on his way to another familiar Sunday afternoon of crowning glory on the crushed red brick surface of Roland Garros.
Figures released by the ATP last week illustrate the Spaniard’s dominance on clay, a surface which has yielded 43 of his 62 career titles, including a record eight French Open titles.
At Roland Garros alone, the Spaniard has won 59 out of 60 matches, the only blotch being his injury-hit 2009 fourth-round exit to Robin Soderling.
According to the ATP, the eight-time French Open champion has a .934 winning percentage and 298-21 match record on clay.
Novak Djokovic, who dethroned Nadal as an eight-time defending champion at the Monte Carlo Masters in 2013, is only eighth among all-time leaders with a .774 mark on clay, followed by Roger Federer (.766), David Ferrer (.718) and Tommy Robredo (.693).
Apart from Federer, only two players have beaten Nadal in claycourt finals – Djokovic has done it three times while Argentine journeyman Horacio Zeballos accomplished the feat last February in Vina del Mar where Nadal was making his comeback after seven months out.
More history beckons for Nadal over the next two months with Guillermo Vilas’s all-time record of 46 claycourt titles also within his sights.
Not that the modest Spaniard is getting too far ahead of himself as he bids for a ninth Monte Carlo title starting from today.
“I need to be 100 percent to make a little bit of difference, to try to be aggressive, to try to move myself very well on clay, and to try to find the best feeling possible as soon as possible,” he said. — AFP.