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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Can anyone beat Nadal on Clay?

There you have it. And the most remarkable aspect of that trivia question is what's left unsaid—that nobody else has beaten Nadal (at least not since he was a mere stripling) on the red clay in Europe before Paris. The only real surprise on that list is Andreev—all the other players are Grand Slam champions and former No. 1-ranked players. Andreev took the measure of Rafa in the quarters of Valencia in 2005, when Nadal was ranked No. 31. But it was just days

It wasn't that Acapulco was such a big event. Rather, it was the overpowering way Nadal blasted his way to the title, taking out (in order), Alex Calatrava, Santiago Ventura, Guillermo Canas, Mariano Puerta and Albert Montanes. It was a kind of Platonic round-by-round for clay-court tennis, all either Spanish or Argentinian men with a preference for the dirt. And Nadal gave Montanes a single game in the final, which he won 6-1, 6-0.
Furthermore, after what looks like an odd, inexplicable glitch against against Andreev, Nadal became the Rafa whom we now know and love (or, in some cases, fear and loathe). He would not lose again in 2005 until his feet touched grass in Halle. Nadal won, in succession, Monte Carlo (d. Guillermo Coria), Barcelona (d. Ferrero), Rome (d. Coria) and Roland Garros (d. Puerta). By the end of that run, he was No. 3 in the world and no longer a question mark in anyone's mind.

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