Nadal and Djokovic, please wait

Two weeks before Roland-Garros (May 22-June 5), Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic make a final stopover in Rome with, for the first, clear ideas on what he needs to improve, and, for the second, a ramp-up to be confirmed.

In more than fifteen years during which he imposed his ultra-dominance on clay, Nadal has never launched his season on ocher so late (apart from the Covid-19 parenthesis of 2020) than this year: May 3.

The fault of a fatigue fracture to a rib which stopped him dead at the end of March in his formidable momentum at the start of the season: a 21st crowning record in Grand Slam conquered in Australia and twenty victories in twenty matches.

“It was an important stoppage, which fell very badly in the season”, he summarized before the Madrid tournament.

Concretely: the Mallorcan found himself completely out of action for a month, resumed the racket barely two weeks before and only started serving again once he arrived in the Spanish capital.

Ideally, he would have preferred to return to competition a week earlier in Estoril (Portugal), in more favorable conditions: a less elevated tournament and at sea level, where the ball is easier to control. “But I wasn’t ready, I couldn’t take the risk,” he says.

– “Middle term” –

Three matches in three sets later, against in-form Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic, David Goffin — against whom he saved four match points — and the phenomenon Carlos Alcaraz, Nadal, eliminated in the quarter in Madrid, has “a clear vision ” of what he will have to implement to ” arrive with a little more chance the coming week (in Rome), and especially in two weeks ” in Paris.

Physically, “I have to improve my reaction speed, I am aware that I have to be more dynamic, have a better reading of the game, and that my legs follow”, he explains.

In terms of play, “I have to play deeper, have the ability to turn more often and faster around my backhand with my topspin forehand, recover speed, lists the current world N.4. It comes with the times and matches.”

“We must continue on this path with the same determination. With the objective that I have in the medium term, there is no room for the sadness of having lost”, concludes Nadal.

In Rome, he will start against John Isner, not the best customer to find rhythm, or a qualifier. He could then find Goffin, and why not meet Djokovic in the semi-finals. On the other hand, there will be no reunion with Alcaraz, since the Spanish prodigy decided after his coronation in Madrid, where he swept in the final Alexander Zverev (6-3, 6-1) Sunday, to give up the meeting. Roman.

Knocked out in turn by Alcaraz the day after Nadal, Djokovic had the head of the bad days in a press conference on Saturday evening: with four laconic answers on his scale, the world N.1 dispatched it in less than five minutes.

– “Not able to capitalize” –

Hot, the Serb blamed himself for not having been able to “kill” the match in the second set (two break points at the end of the set): “It was a fantastic match, but I’m disappointed not to have was able to seize my chance in the second set. I did not know how to capitalize when it was important”, he regretted.

Nevertheless, he who is in search of sensations after a first quarter almost at a standstill marked by his unlikely expulsion from Australia, for lack of vaccination against Covid-19, is undoubtedly “on the right track”.

After a gently sloping start to the tournament (against Monfils and Hurkacz, Murray forfeited between the two), his rise to power was obvious, in both play and attitude: against the Spanish nugget, he held the shock for more than three and a half hours.

“I played very good tennis, my best of the year. Probably when the disappointment of having lost is over, I will take a lot of positives from this week,” he said.

Djokovic will kick off his Roman week against Russian Aslan Karatsev, who will be No. 35 in the world on Monday. The two men are one win all, but Karatsev beat Djokovic in their only meeting on clay, which is more on the land of the Serb, in Belgrade in April 2021.

“Djoko” could later meet FĂ©lix Auger-Aliassime or Diego Schwartzman. In the meantime, in less than a month and three tournaments, it’s already day and night between the “Djoko” of Monte-Carlo and that of Madrid.


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