Rafael Nadal won his third career title in Madrid yesterday with a crushing 6-2, 6-4 victory over Stan Wawrinka. Stan won in Portugal last weekend and has played brilliantly most of the week in Spain, but Rafa in a clay court Masters final was just too tough an ask. It’s nice to see Stan back in the top 10, however, and well-deserved. Jaw dropping: this is Rafa’s fifth title and seventh straight final in his abbreviated season; he’s won his record 23rd Masters title (Roger trails in second place with 21) and his 40th clay court title (only Vilas has more); and he’s amassed a tour best 31-2 record for the season so far.
Rafa’s latest Facebook update has a Napoleonic ring to it, despite the language of origin: “Nos vamos de Madrid… A Roma!”
Madrid came and went with some interesting results: first time in forever that none of the top four men’s seeds made the final weekend. Of course, that just highlights the fact that Rafael Nadal wasn’t one of the top four seeds. Seeding is a hot topic these days. Rafael Nadal will not receive preferential seeding, says Roland Garros (come on, did we really expect any different?) and at this point he could go into the Major he’s won a record seven times seeded a humble No. 5. However, if Rafa continues his trend of eating up clay court trophies like gigantic, silver-plated energy bars and wins this week in Rome, he will go into Roland Garros seeded a draw-soothing No. 4. (This means he also beats current world No. 4, David Ferrer, in the quarters, where they are seeded to meet this week.)
So, interesting fan conundrum: Do fans of players other than Rafa root for Rafa to win in Rome?
Speaking of Facebook updates: really, Roger? This is what happens when Mirka goes to the spa for Mother’s Day and leaves him to his own devices. I imagine him panicking – “where’s the ball boy?”
Hopefully Roger Federer isn’t panicking too much about his draw in Rome, which would also be just fine for Roland Garros, thank you very much. Nole and Rafa are way off on the other side of the draw, and Andy Murray and Juan Martin Del Potro will need to fight it out for a chance to face him in the semis. Not that Roger’s quarter doesn’t have some tough challenges – he could get Stepanek (again) or Starace in the second round, Simon or Haas in the third and in the quarters, Tsonga or Gasquet – though Gasquet must first win a tough second rounder vs. Dimitrov – fun, fun, fun!
Tipsarevic is Rafa’s seeded Round of 16 opponent and unless he’s fatigued or otherwise prone to leave Roma early for some R&R, Rafa should have a fairly smooth ride to the quarters (Ferrer) and beyond. Djokovic is probably staying wary of Berdych in the quarters and then will be hoping to squelch Rafa’s momentum by beating the Spaniard twice in a row on clay.
All in all, it should be another entertaining tournament, with some intriguing results prior to RG.
It was a shock to read that until this weekend in Madrid, Serena Williams hadn’t contested a red clay final since 2002. (Madrid was blue last year, and her beloved Family Circle Cup is on green dirt.) But with her 6-1, 6-4 crush of world number 2 Maria Sharapova in the Madrid final on Sunday, Serena not only defended her multi-colored crown in Madrid and retained her No. 1 ranking, she also won her 50th career title and pulverized the confidence of her closest rival just a little bit more (she’s now 13-2 vs. Maria, with Masha’s only wins coming in 2004.) With Serena dominating Maria and Maria dominating anyone who isn’t Serena, it’s hard to know what else to say about any draw that includes the top two players in the world these days.
For those who prefer things a little more ambiguous, feel free to read into Serena’s post match quote (via Yahoo!):
”I don’t know how many more (titles) I can win. Who knows if I will ever win another title? I just want to live the dream. Hopefully, I can keep it going.
”When you first start out everything is so exciting. Now I expect to win.”
Join the club, Serena.