x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Rafael Nadal's clay dominance beginning to get old

A key attraction of watching sports is believing that an outcome cannot be predicted. That has not been the case when Nadal is cavorting on clay. Everyone else is playing for second place.

In journalism, "news" is sometimes defined as "man bites dog" and the banal is dismissed as "dog bites man". Rafael Nadal winning on clay definitely rates as "dog bites man".

Nadal captured the Barcelona Open for the sixth time on Sunday, overpowering Spanish compatriot David Ferrer 6-2, 6-4.

A week before, Nadal won on the clay at Monte Carlo for the seventh time. He is now the first player to win two tournaments six or more times. It is no accident that both tournaments are played on clay.

At each of those events he has not lost a match since 2003, and he has not lost anywhere on clay since Robin Soderling defeated him in the fourth round of the 2009 French Open. That 6-2, 6-7, 6-4, 7-6 result is the only defeat Nadal has suffered at Roland Garros in 39 matches, and it perhaps should come with an asterisk; citing tendinitis, Nadal did not play again for three months.

A key attraction of watching sports is believing that an outcome cannot be predicted. That has not been the case when Nadal is cavorting on clay. Everyone else is playing for second place.

Who will take his measure on the surface? Ferrer is a leading candidate, but he now has been spanked by Nadal on consecutive Sundays. Some hold out hope for Nicolas Almagro or even Soderling. Realistically, his most likely conqueror will be injury, or perhaps senility.

Nadal's dominance on clay is astonishing. It no longer is particularly interesting.

poberjuerge@thenational.ae