(AUDIO) Nostalgic Nadal Thriving In His Beloved Monte Carlo
Rafael Nadal’s third round clash against Alexander Zverev at the Monte Carlo Masters was one that even excelled his own expectations.
Facing Zverev, a player tipped to be a future world No.1, Nadal was in an unforgiving mood during his 6-1, 6-1, triumph. A far from perfect way for Zverev to celebrate his 20th birthday. The experience of the nine-time champion prove pivotal against his lacklustre German opponent, who produced a costly 34 unforced errors. Impressively Nadal dropped just seven points behind his serve throughout the match.
“I played much better than yesterday. I play more aggressive, I played with a high intensity from the beginning and I played better with my forehand.” Said Nadal.
Nadal’s one-sided display occurs at an event close to the heart of the Spaniard. Fourteen years have passed since he first made headlines in Monte Carlo. At the age of 17 he stunned world No.7 Albert Costa in the second round to score his first win over a top-10 player. Nadal is the first to admit that his memories of that match are limited. After all, he has scored over 140 wins against top-10 players since. Still, it is the significance of what he achieved that is embedded in his memory.
“It was my the first big big victory, especially in Monte Carlo. I remember I came here with a lot of confidence because I was winning a lot of matches.” He recounted.
Since 2003, Nadal’s love-affair with the Masters event has only intensified. This week he has the chance of becoming the first man in history to win the title ten times and the first ever to win a 50th ATP title on the clay. His title winning Monte Carlo run is emulated at other clay-court events in Barcelona and Roland Garros, but this one remains special.
“I love this tournament. It’s one of my favourites without a doubt. I always felt comfortable playing here and I have always enjoyed it from the first time I played here in 2003.” He said.
Praise for the Next Generation
Whilst relishing in his current resurgence in form this year, the world knows Nadal’s career can’t go on forever. This is why the ATP has been working frantically to promote their ‘Nextgen’ campaign. Zverev is one of the poster boys for the initiative, which promotes this rising stars of the men’s tour. Judging on today’s performance there is a wide gap between the ‘big four’ and those who hope to emulate them. Nevertheless, Nadal’s respect for Zverev is one that many would envy to have.
‘Before the match, I thought going to be a big test for me, going to be a very hard match’, The nine-time French Open champion said about Zverev. ‘I went on court knowing it’s going to be one of these kind of matches that if you don’t play well, you probably going to go out.”
In reality the Zverev test turned out to be a Nadal walk in the park. It was a sharp contrast to their two previous encounters, where the world No.7 battled through in much closer matches. It is hard to dismiss Zverev’s talent as he continues his search for consistency on the tour. For the moment he might have to just wait for his time to come, according to his Spanish conqueror.
“Zverev is a player that is in a position that he has all the great shots. He has a great serve, he has all the ingredients to be a top player and I really believe he will do.” Nadal explained.
“But all these things takes a little bit of time. It’s just a little bit more experience and learning from a few small things that make a big change.”
Seeking his 61st win in the tournament on Friday, Nadal will play Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman in the quarter-finals. If all goes accordingly, he is set to face off against Novak Djokovic in the last four.