Rafael Nadal appears to be returning to his usual dominating-on-clay form with a decisive 6-2, 6-2 win at the Mutua Madrid Open over Simone Bolelli.
Nadal has been going through a rough patch recently, despite the return to his favourite surface, clay, culminating in a shocking loss to Fabio Fognini in the third round of Barcelona. Last year he was plagued with injuries and illness and so far this year he’s been struggling with the more internal demons of nerves and a loss of confidence.
With the pressure of being considered the greatest player in history on clay and making a record-extending bid at a tenth French Open win, Nadal’s triumph today has got to feel like a big step in the right direction. And his healthy attitude confirms it.
“I managed to maintain a good level throughout the match. It’s not been incredible, but I think it’s an acceptable level. I’m happy with the level I had today. I’ll try to just step up again tomorrow. It’s an important victory today. I made it to the quarterfinals. At the moment, we have to be happy about everything that I achieve. I have to be happy about all the victories. They are really valuable. I’m happy, and let’s try to be ready for tomorrow.”
That victory sets up the quarterfinal battle against Grigor Dimitrov. Dimitrov sent Stanislas Wawrinka packing earlier in the day in a toughly fought match, 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-3. Nadal has a 5-0 head-to-head record against Dimitrov, with two of those wins happening on clay. So is Nadal worried?
“Yeah, everything worries me about Dimitrov. He’s a very good player. He serves well, very good forehand. Backhand, too. Slice also. He moves very well and has good footwork. He is a very complicated player. All round. Only way to beat him is to play at a really high level. Let’s see what happens. I hope I’m going to be ready for the match and I’m going to have fun.”
Can Dimitrov get his first win over Nadal in the Madrid Masters? http://t.co/XfWBHY4EPZ pic.twitter.com/9EJn3jnoOK
— Live Tennis (@livetennis) May 7, 2015
But how does Dimitrov feel?
“I know what to expect from [Nadal] and we all know what I’m going to put out there on the court, which is going to be a great performance. It’s one of those days where I really want to be out there on the court, playing against him on clay. I feel like I have been playing good tennis, so why not go out there and have fun, but at the same time, I know why I’m out there.”
If Nadal can get past Dimitrov, he stands a good chance of winning his fifth title in Madrid. Novak Djokovic, the man who many expect to take this years’ French Open crown away from Nadal, pulled out of the tournament for some downtime and Roger Federer went down to Australia’s Nick Kyrgios yesterday. Though he’d still have to get past the winner of the Tomas Berdych/John Isner match before reaching the final.
Check out the Hot Shot of the match during an incredible point that had Nadal running to the net and back before finishing Bolelli off.
Tune in tomorrow to see Nadal take on Dimitrov.
[Photo by: Julian Finney/Getty Images Sport]