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Sports Then and Now



Roundup: What the Rome Masters Means for … 3

Posted on May 04, 2010 by Rob York

Rafael Nadal: In Monte Carlo we saw Nadal at performing at his peak, as he didn’t drop a set and allowed three of his opponents just one game each. That was a sign that he was still capable of dominance.

In Rome, with his level not quite as high, the courts playing faster and the competition playing tougher, Nadal dropped one set and staved off a pair of tough challengers in the last two rounds. This is a sign that he’s still capable of competing like he did at his best, something that his three-set losses in Miami and Indian Wells had put in doubt.

That ability to compete will be critical in Madrid, where Nadal has voiced discomfort with the altitude and the speed of the court, and where back-to-back encounters with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer last year ruined his whole season. Madrid occupies the position once held by Hamburg on the schedule, finishing just one week before Roland Garros.

And like Hamburg’s clay, where the ball didn’t bounce as high as in Paris or Monte Carlo, Madrid’s slicker dirt levels the playing field for Roger Federer. In 2008 Nadal was able to defeat Federer (and Djokovic) at Hamburg, setting the stage for his most dominant RG performance.

In 2007 he lost at Hamburg to The Great Swiss but was able to prevail once the theater of their conflict switched to Paris. Some of us expected the same last season, but the years of defending and grinding had exacted a price on Nadal’s knees.

In Rome the Spaniard tied Andre Agassi’s record of 17 Master’s Series titles. In Madrid he’ll seek to set a new record, but needs be careful that he not sacrifice the greater glory that an RG title would bring. Read the rest of this entry →

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