We’ve all seen the draw and have our thoughts on Nadal’s path to continued greatness on the Monte Carlo clay. He showed his form and typical fight in Valencia last week. This should bode well for the Spanish #1.
On the one hand, his MC quarter appears absolutely wedged with talent, as if the tournament (ATP) direction, once again, fell ill. If one has any say in the health of the sport, there are certain moves he/she/they can make to support that health. There are several topics here we could investigate, but we’re only talking about draws right now. Who is perhaps the only soul on planet ATP with an inkling of a shot to compete with Nadal? You have 5 seconds to guess.
Did you say Dominic Thiem? That’s the best answer (until someone else emerges). I’m not even sure of his health, coming back from an ankle/foot injury (to be tested here on the brutal European mud), but that’s your guy.
So you put him in a potential QF with Nadal? In terms of this health of which I speak, the tour is a source of entertainment. This is a live and broadcast show for fans to enjoy while players compete for titles and other athletic fruit.
So the health involves making the show the most entertaining show possible. We go back to NYC in September and recall the joke of a draw that Nadal got there. Now we have his brutal draw here, but the beneficiary here is actually Nadal. Why?
Because in this MC quarter, by the time Nadal gets to that round (QF), Coric, Haase, Rublev, Djokovic and Thiem will have determined his opponent.
The next quarter, Nadal’s SF opponent, has a bunch of able clay artists, as well. Goffin and Dimitrov head this challenge, followed by Ramos-Vinolas, Paire, Shapovalov, and a few other wild cards (on clay, almost anyone can be a wild card).
So, indeed a solid top half of talent to be washed-out in the wake of Nadal’s early-season Roland Garros surge, while defending too his world #1, both of which are very critical missions for the Majorcan monster.
What awaits the deadly south-paw in the Monte Carlo final? Maybe Schwartzman if his defense is intact? The diminutive Argentine, who does have his competent countryman Pella in R1, the surging Gasquet in R2 and someone like Pouille in R16, will get Sascha/Fognini in that third QF.
The bottom quarter is really up-for-grabs. Verdasco and Carreno Busta, though Spanish, are not drawn to clay, and though Edmund seems to have his form, reaching the final in Morocco this week, there are, again, a host of “wild cards” to determine the second part of that second SF.
Cuevas can play the dirt, but he’s got a tough first couple of matches with Verdasco and then Cilic. We have to remember that the big Croatian can play the dirt. Berdych v Nishikori is an interesting first round match and just as we say Edmund looks good coming in, he’ll be welcomed in the R1 by the ever volatile Dolgopolov.
Again, beyond Nadal, this is quite up for grabs and that little bracket to see who gets Nadal in the first QF is ATP brain sausage. Not a good look from the “producers.”
Of course, we get another look at Novak. Let me be clear about this: I (and I will speak for all of you, as well) want to see the Serb achieve some real positive form in Monte Carlo, which includes his formidable and relentless style of cerebral and physical fight. We have seen a mere shadow of that Nole in recent weeks. Does the return of Marian help him find this top gear?
Seems like a reach. As I already alluded to, his draw is diabolical. Perhaps this is exactly what the former #1 needs to reinvent himself.
Novak #Djokovic‘s potential route to a third Monte Carlo crown:
— Live Tennis (@livetennis) April 14, 2018
I’m interested in, really, the top half, especially the form of Coric, Thiem and Djokovic. For this next month of dirt to be at all watchable, we need some competition for the clay King. Otherwise, we may as well roll-out the carpet and order some more champagne in light of Nadal’s historical dominance on the surface.
Let’s cross our fingers for a couple of emerging forces to make this all more interesting. Monte Carlo christens the European clay and gives us a first look at the field that will define the fray.
I do still need to address the Federer vacancy. I will, starting with the comparison of how disappointed I was last year (mixed really, but bummed that his ’17 AO/Sunshine Double form would be sent away) compared to this year. Either way you look at it, a full clay retirement is a pretty ballsy move. This decision of his is health-oriented, strategic, perhaps necessary, but also ideological.
To be continued.
PS – we will put the final say on the U.S. Men’s Clay Championships in Houston. I watched some of a tough match between Isner and defending champ Johnson yesterday, but need to see more and say more about the continued emergence of Fritz, who beat fellow American Sock. That’s a big win, which also moves the younger American into the SF to play Johnson.