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Djokovic vs Nadal: 50

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal both have different reasons to be inspired to beat the other in today’s semifinals of the Mutua Madrid Open – Djokovic is desperate to snap out of his year-long malaise and Nadal does not want to surrender an inch of territory which he has dutifully regained after a couple of subpar years.

It will be the landmark 50th clash between Nadal and Djokovic today with Djokovic leading 26-23 in their legendary FedEx ATP Head2Head series.

While Djokovic seeks to establish a rejuvenation to prove again he can win Grand Slam major titles (he hasn’t won one since Paris a year ago) by contrast, Nadal has regained his mojo and is once again looking like the “king of clay” as he collected his tenth titles at both the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters and the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell. Nadal leads the ATP World Tour with 32 match wins in 2017 and has an Open Era record 51 clay crowns.

But Djokovic has been a troublesome task for Nadal in recent years. The Super Spaniard has lost his past seven matches – and fifteen straight sets – to Djokovic since winning his ninth trophy at Roland Garros in the 2014 final. Right now Djokovic has a mental edge over Rafa. The statistics agree: Djokovic has a 16-9 record over Nadal in ATP World Tour Masters 1000 matches, three straight clay-court wins (7-14 overall) and three consecutive semi-final victories (8-8).

Right now Nadal is the clearcut favorite to win the French Open. But a Djokovic win today vs Nadal would alter everything. Thus underscoring the profound psychological importance and value of today’s match. I feel Djokovic needs it more than Nadal and the prediction is: Nadal in two tough, hard fought sets.

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  • Scoop Malinowski · May 15, 2017 at 8:03 am

    Todd/Catherine: What was Wilander’s plummet about? Was it a loss of motivation and dedication / feeling of fulfillment? Or was he desperately trying hard to stay on top and dominate but the fire just wasn’t there anymore? I did not follow tennis back then but I would guess Wilander just kind of Borged it meaning he did it all and had enough of being at the top and all the work and sacrifice that goes with it.

  • Hartt · May 15, 2017 at 8:10 am

    Wilander has said himself that he lost motivation – he had achieved a lot and that was sufficient for him.

  • Scoop Malinowski · May 15, 2017 at 8:11 am

    I didn’t see Halep lose to Siegemund but I would guess the German frenzy to see a German win a title in Germany probably factored into stunting Halep’s intensity – Like when Rafa played Fed in that final in Basel a few years ago. Siegemund is definitely a red hot player now but I would bet heavily on Halep to win if they play this week or in Paris without the German full house crowd impacting the match.

  • Hartt · May 15, 2017 at 8:45 am

    Catherine, I agree that Simona can seem immature. She is 25 and has been playing at a high level for several years now, she is not an inexperienced kid. I am getting tired of her behaviour, and it does not look like she is about to change it.

  • catherine bell · May 15, 2017 at 9:41 am

    Scoop –
    Wilander got married around about 88/89 – I remember he took some time off to prepare for his wedding and everyone was a bit surprised – so I guess you could say his priorities had already changed. Also his style was a little mechanical and maybe he could see the future and it was going to be more of a struggle to keep at the top.

    Simona lost to Siegemund in the semis in Stuttgart. Of course Angie had lost the day before and Laura may have felt extra motivation to put a German in the final. She and Angie are the same age and they’ve shared the final for the past 3 years. Simona is an experienced player – she should have felt stimulated by the challenge but submitted quite easily. Laura’s never really reached the big time elsewhere.
    Re Angie – I thought that after Madrid she should take a break but if she is fit she probably thinks that it’s best if she keeps on playing. And if any of the problems afflicting her are in any way personal, not just on the court, that might be the right decision.
    Whatever – I really hope her tennis life picks up soon.

    BTW – the weather forecast for England is a warm wet summer – probably means cold and dry 🙂 But could impact on W’don and state of the courts.

  • Todd · May 15, 2017 at 9:45 am

    Wilander was a motivational situation…accomplished so much so early (4 slam titles by 20 yrs old)…’88 burned him out, seemingly. Djoker’s domination from Fall 2014 (post US Open SF loss to K-Nish) thru last year’s French was almost unprecedented, winning about 94% of his matches, including 5 of 6 slams, that it burned him out. Takes incredible concentration to maintain such excellence, and then the domination brings added pressure (further fan expectation of continued dominance). Like Mac in 1984, 82-3, just 25 yrs old…then never wins another slam in his career.

  • catherine bell · May 15, 2017 at 10:48 am

    Scoop –
    You get your wish – Simona meets Siegemund in Rome next match.

    Also – Kerber meets Sharapova most likely. Exit Angie I’m afraid.

  • Hartt · May 15, 2017 at 11:07 am

    Juan Monaco announced his retirement from tennis on twitter. The announcement is quite long and he is eloquent in talking about his love for tennis and what tennis has given him: “education, discipline, friendship and unforgettable moments.”

  • Thomas Tung · May 15, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    Hartt — can’t say I blame Monaco, as his career has stalled in the Top 100 (or a bit down) over the last 2 years or so (barring that title win in Houston a while back). Back when he came on the scene 12+ years ago, he impressed with his relatively flat and quick groundstroke play, taking the ball pretty early for a clay-courter this side of Marcelo Rios. Over the last few years, though, he has become much more of a defensive retriever type. Not sure why, actually.

    I saw Juan play in the past US Open against Marcel Granollers and he wasn’t playing too well, with a blistered foot. Granollers wasn’t playing too well, either, but the injury made a big difference.

  • Andrew Miller · May 15, 2017 at 2:21 pm

    Maybe Wilander hired a swami too.

  • catherine bell · May 15, 2017 at 3:47 pm

    Sorry to see the press still needling Sharapova about her qualification for tournaments and whether the dressing room likes her or not and what the latest whispers are.
    (eg Guardian today and other papers)
    She’s here, she’s not going away and it’s going to be a very boring summer if press conferences are dominated by these tedious discussions.

  • Hartt · May 15, 2017 at 6:37 pm

    A pretty good match today between Delpo and Dimitrov. Delpo won, partly thanks to Grigor making DFs at key moments. Grigor, for all his talent and terrific shot-making, is not a great competitor.

  • Scoop Malinowski · May 15, 2017 at 7:58 pm

    Wilander was another one of those rare super greats as a teen he won Roland Garros at 17 I believe and that is incredible – Even Nadal could not do that – maybe the players back then aren’t as greedy or they just burnt out earlier – Agassi was one of the first all time greats to milk his career to the last drop and Connors too – now it’s becoming the norm for the greats to hang on as long as possible –

  • Scoop Malinowski · May 15, 2017 at 8:00 pm

    Sudden departure by Pico but I guess his body broke down – He had a very good career breaking into the teens and a few big wins – I would say his signature win is winning Houston a couple of years ago vs Sock in the final – Or the win vs Rafa –

  • Scoop Malinowski · May 15, 2017 at 8:08 pm

    Another heartbreaking loss in the home stretch by Super G he just can’t close out those tough three setters with top players anymore – Rafa in Aus; Sock in IW; Thiem last week and now Delpo – Super G’s killer instinct is lacking – He could be too nice to be a top elite player –

  • Andrew Miller · May 15, 2017 at 8:49 pm

    Super G has zero competitive instincts. When push comes to shove every biggest match ever for him is a replay of most Federer-Wawrinka matches, with Dimitrov playing the role of doormat.

  • catherine bell · May 16, 2017 at 2:07 am

    Scoop –
    Pancho Gonzales hung on for a while as I recall 🙂

  • Hartt · May 16, 2017 at 7:03 am

    Although their situation was different because of the years they were ineligible for “amateur” events, both Ken Rosewall and Rod Laver played to a ripe old age in tennis terms.

  • catherine bell · May 16, 2017 at 7:38 am

    Andrew –
    Once you get typecast as a doormat it’s hard to break out of that role.
    I can think of some great doormats in women’s tennis but it wouldn’t be fair to name them 🙂

  • Chazz · May 16, 2017 at 8:34 am

    In other news, Sock beat Schwartzman 7-5 in 3 after his usual winning the first set and tanking the second.

  • Scoop Malinowski · May 16, 2017 at 8:39 am

    Rosewall too Catherine 🙂 Also Navratilova and Paes and Nestor and the Bryans and Gar Mulloy 🙂

  • Scoop Malinowski · May 16, 2017 at 8:41 am

    Doormatrov ?

  • Chazz · May 16, 2017 at 9:13 am

    Kyrgios pulled out of Rome due to his hip injury and RG is in doubt. So the injury explains why he and Sock didn’t play in the doubles semifinal in Madrid. Still doesn’t explain why they switched partners in Rome.

  • Scoop Malinowski · May 16, 2017 at 10:26 am

    The curious enigma of Nick Kyrgios continues to grow in stature and intrigue, Chazz.

  • catherine bell · May 16, 2017 at 11:16 am

    Why do so many men players suffer from hip problems ? Seems like more men than women but perhaps not.
    Is it the strain the twohanded style puts on the joints there ?

  • Scoop Malinowski · May 16, 2017 at 11:39 am

    Kuerten was felled by hip issues too and he had the beautiful one hander. I think it could be over training and putting in too many hours on the practice courts and playing just too much on hard courts.

  • catherine bell · May 16, 2017 at 1:07 pm

    Yes – re the issues of over training and practising, this came up with Murray earlier in the year, there was some criticism of his training regime but I can’t remember who actually said it. Basically the idea of training in blocks wasn’t a particularly good one for some players, puts more strain on the body than regular training over a longer period.

    I’ve wondered if Kerber has been doing too much of that. All the benefits of building up strength and practice routines seem to fly out of the window once she gets on the court. Angie’s imploding career has to be the worst story of the season so far – agonising for her surely.

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