With the tennis clay season well underway, a familiar name has again begun dominating headlines, Rafael Nadal. It’s the same man that experts continue to espouse has finally been psychologically defeated, the same man whose body, according to them, has finally broken down.
There is no question that Nadal has problems with his knees. That’s been well documented over the years. There have been occasions on which a flareup prevented him from playing his “A” game. Indeed, there were times that he simply could not play.
But Rafael Nadal is a soldier, a soldier of the red clay. And he takes no prisoners. Just ask those who fell victim to his tenacious play two weeks ago in Monte Carlo where “the soldier” marched through a draw of 64 without dropping a set to win an unprecedented eighth consecutive title there.
The victory was particularly sweet as he defeated Novak Djokovic in the final match. Djokovic had beaten Nadal in the last seven finals in which they met which precipitated rumblings that Nadal had finally been mastered. Yeah, right!
To further punctuate his dominance on red clay, today Nadal dispatched his countryman, David Ferrer to win his seventh consecutive Barcelona Open, again without dropping a set.
Poor Ferrer. Four straight years he’s gotten to the finals only to be defeated by his friend Nadal. Though heartbreaking, there is “no shame in his game.” His losses have been to arguably the best player ever on clay.
Nadal is the only man in the open era to have been so utterly dominant on dirt. Though records are made to be broken, It’s hard to imagine anyone ever usurping his clay court accomplishments, especially considering his march continues relentlessly towards Paris, Roland Garros and the French Open.
Were Nadal to win the 2012 French, he would set yet another milestone by eclipsing Bjorn Borg’s record six wins at Roland Garros. The thought of it is astounding. Keep in mind, Nadal is still in his prime. Astonishingly, he is still improving.
It remains to be seen how many more major events “the soldier” can win. The only certainty is that he continues to march and he marches to the beat of his own drum regardless of his detractors.
Those who write him off do so at their own peril. Even when wounded, Nadal never gives in or gives up. He’s relentless.
He’s a soldier.