Making history has become commonplace for Rafael Nadal. Today, in the finals of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, Nadal pulverized Fernando Verdasco 6-0,6-1 to claim his sixth successive title. Nadal stands as the only person in the open era to accomplish this feat on any surface.
In getting to the finals, Verdasco jumped two huge hurdles. First, he reached his first ATP 1000 Masters final and defeated top seed Novak Djokovic for the first time since 2006. Yet, Verdasco’s biggest hindrance laid ahead. With a lifetime mark of 0-9 versus Nadal, Verdasco was searching for his maiden win, moreover on clay. It was transparent from the initial game that Verdasco chances were bleak.
With three mistakes by Verdasco, Nadal had triple break point to open the match. When Verdasco’s forehand sailed long, Nadal secured the game. After Nadal got to 40-15 with an ace, Verdasco smoked two forehand winners for deuce. However, two points later with an absurd crosscourt backhand pass for a winner, Nadal held for 2-0. Slightly jaded, Verdasco fell behind 0-40 when Nadal connected on a backhand down the line winner. Despite three consecutive winners to arrive at deuce, Verdasco surrendered the double break by netting the next two shots. Verdasco’s suspension in perpetual hell seemed unending as Nadal curled a forehand up the line for break point and later captured the game for 5-0. At intermission, Verdasco needed medical attention to his neck. It was most likely tension from being crushed by Nadal’s play than true physical ailment. When at 40-15 Verdasco’s forehand landed out of play, Nadal carried the set.
With a backhand crosscourt miscue in the second set, Verdasco faced break point. As Nadal’s forehand up the line landed long, Verdasco was at deuce. After erasing two more break points, on a missed return by Nadal, Verdasco had his initial game point of the match. With an ace, Verdasco got on the board at 1-0. Following a hold by Nadal, Verdasco appeared on the verge of an easy game at 40-15. But, with two consecutive double faults, Verdasco was at deuce. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Nadal capitalized on his third break opportunity by sticking a forehand crosscourt pass for winner and a 2-1 lead. The next game, with an unbelievable one handed backhand crosscourt pass, Nadal got to 40-30. Subsequent to Verdasco sending the return out of play, Nadal consolidated for 3-1. Then, by forcing errors from Verdasco’s forehand, Nadal broke at love for 4-1. With a couple of errant forehands, Nadal gave Verdasco a sliver of hope at double break point; but quickly recuperated for deuce. What was unquestionably the point of the tournament, Nadal tracked down Verdasco’s lob, then an overhead before misfiring with a volley by millimeters in a 29 stroke rally. This caused Verdasco to drop to his knees in gratification for his fourth break point of the game. But, the tennis gods would not be swayed. Nadal wiped out five break points to extend his lead to 5-1. At double break/championship point, Nadal struck a forehand up the winner to terminate the match.
The knee injuries, the loss last year at the French Open and an eleven month title drought gave way to chatter that Nadal’s domination on clay may be a thing of the past. With his majestic performance this week, Nadal muzzled any lingering skepticism by redressing himself in his clay cloak of invincibility. Whether friend or foe, Nadal demonstrated no compassion. Opponents took great pride in simply winning a solitary game. Nadal permitted his rivals only two games the first two matches and a total of 14 the entire tournament in recording his 32nd win in a row in Monte-Carlo.
With his 37th career title, Nadal also ties Roger Federer with 16 Masters shields. The Spaniard is now one victory from tying record holder Andre Agassi. With a couple of Masters 1000 event upcoming, Agassi’s record is in certain danger.
In congratulating Nadal, Verdasco, who will rejoin the top ten, said “I hope Rafa gets tired [of winning] and lets [us] win one of these days”. This seems a sentiment many players will be reiterating the remainder of the clay court season.