As if Rafael Nadal’s 6-2, 6-0 victory over defending champ David Ferrer in this weekend’s Acapulco final wasn’t statement enough, he actually told reporters this, afterwards:
“This was a great week for me and today I played exceptionally well, I dominated the game against the world No. 4 and couldn’t be happier, especially when I think where I am coming from,” said Nadal. “Perhaps the conditions were in my favour but I feel it was maybe one of the best matches of my career.” (via the ATP)
“If you ask me if I’m capable of beating one of the top three it would be difficult, but today I beat the No. 4 in world and the difference… between No. 3 and No. 4 isn’t much,” Nadal told reporters. “Ferrer is one of best, most complete players in world.” (via Tennis.com)
“I didn’t think I was ready for that level, but I was ready to fight, and enjoy it,” he said. “Matches like today make me believe I can play at the level I played last year at Roland Garros.” (via Tennis.com)
That’s as close to an out-and-out revel we’ll ever get from Rafa, and his excitement over winning the title and beating three time Acapulco champ David Ferrer so handily is contagious. I can only imagine how thrilled Rafa’s fans are to hear him gush about his play. He’s usually pretty conservative when it comes to analyzing the state of his game, so this is heady stuff. It will be fun to see him ride the momentum into the Californian desert. . .
Except. . . Novak Djokovic also won a title this week, and it was on hard courts in a desert. He beat Federer-killer Tomas Berdych, 7-5, 6-3 in the Dubai final this weekend, winning his fourth title there in five years.
So the table is set, and we tennis fans are in for one juicy dinner! Because very soon Novak and Rafa are going to face off – if not in California for sure on the European clay, and we will be able to judge who is to be the true favorite at Roland Garros (I’m just leaving Roger out of this equation for now – I feel like at this point Roger’s making his own destiny and won’t really be part of a “rivalry” during the clay court season, but maybe I’m wrong.) Sure, Rafa’s won 12 of the 13 matches he’s played this season, but Novak hasn’t lost since Bercy, and is riding an 18 match win streak that includes the WTF and the Australian Open.
I admit it, my mouth is watering.
In Florida, Ernests Gulbis won his second Delray Beach title with a 7-6, 6-3 victory over Edouard Roger-Vasselin. Assign meaning at your peril:
“I’m really happy. I worked hard,” said Gulbis. “These last nine days were tough. I had a match almost every day, except one day when it rained, so I’m exhausted now. It’s my favourite tournament. It’s the only tournament in the world I am winning.” (via ATP)
On the women’s side, the Acapulco final between two petit clay court specialists. Little engine that could, Sara Errani, took out Carla Suarez Navarro in a tidy 6-0 6-4 scoreline. In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, young Czech Karolina Pliskova won her first WTA title with a 1-6 7-5 6-3 win over veteran Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who is now 0- 4 in finals but coming back strong after her ranking fell to 243 last summer due to injuries. In Brazil, Monica Niculescu defeated Olga Puchkova 6-2 4-6 6-4.
The men and women converge next week in Indian Wells. Exciting! It’s hard to read much into the past few weeks, except to say that Djokovic goes into the tournament as the favorite on the men’s side, though all eyes will be on Nadal. In terms of the ladies, with Serena out as usual, I’m wondering if Azarenka can continue to show the WTA tour that she’s boss.*
* Serena (coming off back and ankle injuries) and Azarenka face off tomorrow at the BNP Paribas Showdown in Madison Square Garden and Nadal will be running on fumes against Juan Martin Del Potro. Also on Monday, Novak Djokovic will play Mardy Fish and Tommy Haas will play James Blake in the LA Tennis Challenge, a charity event held at UCLA. Novak will also pair up with Pete Sampras to play doubles against the Bryan Brothers. I guess these few days before Indian Wells are prime time for exhibitions.