Nadal cannot get his head above the water in this beginning of season. The ghosts that seemed to dissipate in the last months of 2015 reappeared with strength in the semis of Buenos Aires, when the Austrian Dominic Thiem could overcome a match point to win finally 6-4 4-6 7-6 (4).
The Balearic, once unbeatable on clay, does not seem to take up again with his best version. Rafa just lost 14 matches on clay in the period 2005-2014. Between 2015 and 2016 so far he already accumulated 7 defeats on his favourite surface. Just half of which he had lost in the 10 years of continuous success.
The Balearic statistics on clay reflect this fall’s performance on all settings. But is in the key points of the match where the decline is more noticeable. Nadal has gone from winning 50% of break points that he disposed to live with a 44%. The difference is even more pronounced in breaking points saved, from 68% to 59%. Perhaps that mental injury that he referred last year is not completely overcome. Nadal clay court stats 2015-2016
And when the public was still recovering from the shock caused by the defeat of Rafa, the other big surprise of the day came. Nicolás Almagro, who had a 0-15 against David Ferrer in the head to head, could finally break the curse with the Alicantino and beat him for the first time. H2H Almagro-Ferrer
It has been a great tournament for Almagro, finally reaching the final, something that he didn’t achieve since April 2014, when he lost the title of Houston at the hands of Fernando Verdasco. He has also been able to defeat nothing less than two top-10, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga preceded Ferrer in the quarterfinals, breaking a streak of seven consecutive defeats since his victory facing Nadal at Conde de Godo 2014. We hope that with this tournament Almagro leaves definitively behind his particular journey through the desert that took him from top-20 ranked to 174 in the world ranking.
He was also about to win the title, something that he doesn’t get from Nice 2012. But was the emerging Thiem who pulled it off in the end, beating him in two tie-breaks. It is the fourth title for the Austrian, who at 22 is by far the most successful player of his generation. For guys born since 1993 only Jiri Vesely – winner last year in Auckland – and he have managed to succeed in an ATP World Tour tournament.
In Memphis, Taylor Fritz, another young player, still a teenager with his 18 years, he was close to swell this reduced list, reaching the final of the tournament. The great American hope has achieved that milestone in his third ATP tournament, since he had only previously played Nottingham 2015 and last Australian Open.Fritz ATP activity
To calibrate the difficulty of the feat of Fritz is enough to remember that Nadal, a player of great precocity, played a final in his 14th tournament; Federer did it in his twenty-first and Djokovic needed 24 attempts before playing the final at Amersfoort 2006. We have to go back to Lleyton Hewitt to find a similar case. The Australian reached the final at Adelaide 1998 – and he won it – in his second appearance in an ATP tournament.
But if the young Fritz has been the sensation of Memphis, the winner has been again Kei Nishikori, who has won his fourth consecutive title in the city of Elvis Presley, in another example of those idylls we talked about last week.
With this new victory the Japanese falls squarely in the records book of a tournament which was founded in 1900 as American Indoor Championship, tying titles with legends such as Jean Borotra, Gregory Mangin and Gustave Touchard; just one title behind Wylie Grant and three of Jimmy Connors. What none of them achieved was to win four tournaments in a row, record which now passed into the hands of the Japanese with the best winning percentage, 17 of 18 for 94%. Memphis records
Nishikori had no great difficulties with a draw in which the second seeded, Steve Johnson, came as number 29 in the world. The Japanese just armoured his service – he only ceded three breaks – to be closing out his rivals, of whom only Sam Querrey put him in genuine difficulties. In the section on aces, Fritz showed up as an authentic gunboat achieving 56, 0.89 per service. Memphis Stats
In Rotterdam, Martin Klizan had to save 8 match points, 5 before Roberto Bautista and 3 against Nicolas Mahut, to stand up in the final with Gael Monfils. This is what tennis has, until the last point no one is blissful. Hundreds of players can certify it, but above all of them is Giorgio de Stefani, who in the Inter-Zonas final of the Davis Cup 1930 could not win any of the 18 match points he had against the American Wilmer Allison to finish losing 4-6 7-9 6-4 8-6 10-8. An 86 year old record and, sincerely, we do not want no one comes to mind beat it.
In the final with Gael Monfils there was a curious contrast. While the Slovak looked an immaculate balance of three titles in three finals, Monfils presented the record of being the player, with 15 or more competed ATP final, with the worst percentage in the last match, 5 of 22, a 22.73%. A statistic in which his compatriot Julien Bennetteau takes the cake, he has not been able to win any of the ten finals he has played. Monfils finals results
Monfils started with advantage in the final, not in vain he has played almost three hours less than Klizan, 5 hours 58 minutes of play against the 8 hours 42 minutes that the Slovak brought in the legs. From the beginning the French seemed willing to do good that forecasts and, incidentally, to improve that poor percentage at finals, winning the first set in the tie-break.
But this fact did not agitate Klizan, who already had been exactly in that same situation in his quarters and semis matches, before Bautista and Mahut respectively. So becoming strong with his forehand he took the initiative to pass over Monfils. The Gallic had a total impotence, his poor percentage of second service return points won speaks for it, just 31%. With this percentage, Monfils has won only 7 matches in his entire career. Monfils Advanced Stats
And the coming week the everyone´s eyes will be in the tournaments of Marseille, Delray Beach and Rio de Janeiro, attentive to the Nadal evolution; there is no doubt that the title would be the best balm for the Balearic.
Gabriel García / thetennisbase.com