Only one event last week on the ATP Tour… but the victory of Novak Djokovic in the Rome Masters provided some interesting talking points.
Same goes for the WTA event which ran alongside the men’s event in Italy as Serena Williams took the title.
Here’s what my tennis analyst made of the goings-on at the Foro Italico…
Had to be Nadal v Djokovic. Didn’t it?
Coming into this tournament, Rafael Nadal boasted a 41:2 record in the Italian capital.
In nine previous starts… the Spaniard had claimed seven outright wins plus one RU (losing to Djokovic in the 2011 final) and one R32 defeat (to clay-court maestro, Juan Carlos Ferrero).
Nadal clearly takes this event seriously.
By the same token, in seven starts at the forum, Novak Djokovic had posted some extremely solid performances…
So on paper, at least, these two players had to be a shoo-in to contest another Rome final?
They were the only previous Rome Masters winners present in the field of 56… between them winning every title since 2005.
Well, after last week, the history books will forever say ‘Yes’ they were obvious picks…
But that’s not really the full story.
Current form v Past form
So here’s the deal…
Despite A1 credentials – tournament form, clay-court form, Masters Series form etc – there were clear doubts about the two market leaders.
Already this year on clay [in Europe], Nadal had lost ‘winnable’ matches in Monte Carlo (Ferrer) and Barcelona (Almagro) and his recent tournament win in Madrid only came after his opponent (Kei Nishikori) had out-played him, only to retire with a back injury.
As said time and again in these updates, the 2014 version of Rafael Nadal is a much less fearsome opponent than in former times.
As for Djokovic…
The 26-year-old had withdrawn from action a couple of weeks before (after the Monte Carlo Masters) with a wrist injury, and this was his first tournament back.
So was he match fit?
What’s more, with this being a Masters Series tournament, neither player had a soft run to the final.
Nadal had to beat Simon-Youzhny-Murray-Dimitrov, while Djokovic needed to beat Stepanek- Kohlschreiber-Ferrer-Raonic.
Ok, not the toughest test for each player… but not exactly a cakewalk.
As it happened, Nadal was pushed to three sets in each of his first three matches… Djokovic also had to go to a decider in R2, QF and SF.
It’s the classic form study dilemma.
What’s more important – a player’s current well-being or their past successes?
Form is temporary, class is permanent.
I guess this is the phrase pundits use to sum this kind of situation/outcome.
But it remains a constant question for any form student.
Last week were we on the side of “form”… arguing that both Nadal and Djokovic, given current factors, looked opposable – hence no outright bet.
And, ok, hands up… “class” won out. This time it did anyway.
Next time, might be a different story!
A couple of quick things to mention…
• Despite everything said before, Nadal’s loss to Djokovic in the final was still a surprise. We backed Nadal in the match, expecting him to win… but fair play to Nole, he raised his game and overturned the champion.
We know Djokovic can beat Nadal on clay over three sets, what about five at Roland Garros?
• Andy Murray actually played ok last week (the Nadal match was a good effort) but without a coach – the Lendl split hardly seems a step forward at the moment – he’s looking at a long hard slog in 2014.
What should we make of the WTA tournament?
Just following on the theme of form study…
In the women’s singles two matches, played back-to-back, kind of summed up betting on the WTA.
In R3 Na Li faced Sam Stosur, trailling the Aussie 0:6 on their head-to-head.
And Li wins the match.
Next up in the QFs, the Chinese girl takes on Sara Errani, who she leads 6:0 on their head-to-head.
And Li loses.
This, in a nutshell, is women’s tennis. Predictably unpredictable!
And a note about Serena Williams…
The top seed and world No.1 may have landed the title in Italy but the view is that the American remains opposable in the Slams (at very short prices).
It’ll be very interesting to see the draw in Paris… where, given the chance, going against the market leader might be a sound call.
Updating the ATP Tour stats after last week…
No.1 and No.2 seeds accounting for 12/29 (41%) of tournament wins.
And after last week’s round of action, the verdict is…
Who’s Hot… Milos Raonic & Novak Djokovic.
Who’s Not… Tomas Berdych & Stanislas Wawrinka.
This week the action takes place in Dusseldorf and Nice.
Pretty weak fields in both tournaments in what is the last chance the players will have to get some match practice, or much needed rest, ahead of the French Open starting Sunday, May 25th.
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