Madrid and the Clay Debate

We’re at the SF in Madrid and let’s take a look at how we got here.

Nadal beat Kuztensov, Querrey and Sousa. He now gets Murray in a rematch of last year’s Madrid final, where Murray triumphed over the clay king 3 and 2. Certainly Nadal is looking to use this to fuel his 2016 clay-inspired momentum, something he’s done throughout his career.

But nice draw for Nadal. Wow. Shocking but not so shocking. Now that he’s late in the draw and has a ton of “confidence,” he should steamroll Murray, right? History says he’ll beat Murray, but if Murray has an ounce of pride, he’ll want to avoid what appeared to be a collapse in Monte Carlo a few weeks ago. Up 1 at 6-2, he lost, fading in the third 2-6. Indeed, the classic Nadal-finds-strength-late kind of outcome.

Murray had Stepanek, Simon and Berdych to reach this SF. A little more currency in that draw, so the Scot looks to be playing well and ready to repeat his 2015 Madrid Nadal result.

I’m going to say the Scot beats Nadal mainly because I think his tennis SHOULD be enough, along with a little pride spiked by the recent collapse in MC. He has the firepower to beat the Spaniard, who really hasn’t been that tested during this clay run. But then again that’s the clay for you. Players like Sousa and Cuevas become “beasts.” That’s clay.

Seriously, I like Murray to overcome Nadal. Granted, I don’t trust Nadal as far as I can throw my car, but the Scot absolutely needs this win to endorse some much needed confidence (memo to Murray: the tour is a roll of toilet paper right now; put yourself in position to grab some big wins).

Djokovic v Raonic is underway; Novak seems to have found his form. I watched the first four games of his match v Agut and thought, fuck an A, this clay is killing me. Agut was dictating pace and moving the Serb around. I had to leave for work and quickly learned that after a tight 2-2, Novak cruised easily into the QF. He had Coric, Agut and now Raonic to get to the SF. Legitimate.

Nishikori, waiting for the Raonic/Djokovic winner, had the toughest draw of the semi finalists. Fognini, Gasquet and Kyrgios. Kyrgios had Pella, Wawrinka and Cuevas. Tough clay competition in that quarter. Well done, Kei.

Bottom-line: should be a solid final four with Djokovic presumably advancing in a couple of hours. But Nadal was gifted a joke of a draw. I discussed his worst-case scenario in my previous post which was still to his benefit. Such is the life of a king.

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I’ve been doing a little discussion board exercise over on TennisX, which has some, at times, interesting discussion. In the end, bias rules the day, as it often does even here.

My degradation of Nadal and clay gets more support in discussions like that. This particular discussion was a GOAT debate following Laver’s statement in an article about Nole and Roger being equal in the debate.

With the clay season and Nadal’s form in full swing, his name is propped up in this GOAT debate but it’s clear he’s not considered really at the top of the sport. Why? Clay has something to do with it (his inability to consistently transfer his dominance on that surface to other surfaces). People freak-out when they hear it put this way. Someone naturally comes to the defense of clay.

We reach these conclusions about the sport from watching and the more tennis we’ve seen played at that highest level by the greatest players on tour, week-in-and-week-out, year after year, certain perceptions, strengthened by visual and historical evidence, manifest themselves.

As for clay, look at the winners of the French prior to Nadal’s run. The surface has never really facilitated the best game. That is not the who’s who of tennis greatness, Borg and Lendl being the exceptions.

Again, not sure why this needs to be explained, or defended. I want to think tennis fans are more enlightened, more experienced in watching and playing the sport. If you came upon the sport during Nadal’s clay dominance, you might think clay is more legit than it is. I’m not hating clay. Fact: that surface is not considered on equal terms with grass or HC. This is not a controversial statement.

Again, if you think clay is as legitimate, how in the world can you say Novak is GOAT, which is what Laver more or less said in that aforementioned article. You and I know that the Novak is GOAT float is coming down main street as we speak.  Par of this is prisoner of the moment stuff and part because Novak is proving on the court that he is an all-time great, maybe the all-time great. News flash: he has never won RG. You think someone would mention a player’s GOAT qualifications if they had never won WB?

As one of Nadal’s defenders pointed-out, Roger was GOAT before he won RG. Ha. Exactly.

Sampras was considered goat until Roger came along. One RG between them.

Does one not see the correlation here?

This is not controversial. It’s common sense.

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