Rafa Nadal Montreal Preview 3 Wins From Best ATP View Hard Work Can Earn You

Nadal Montreal

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com

Rafa Nadal is three matches away from holding the No.1 ranking for the first time since July 6 2014. The Tennis Review previews Nadal’s potential last steps back up to the best ATP Tour view hard work can earn you. 

For a man who has won 46 matches this season, and won a minimum three matches in a row eight times, another three wins to grab the No.1 world ranking does not sound like too much of an obstacle.

But the three matches which potentially await Rafa Nadal in Montreal will need the Spaniard’s full focus if he is going to clear them- Borna Coric in round two, John Isner or Juan Martin del Potro in round three, and  Milos Raonic or David Goffin in the last eight.

While the Spaniard has a pretty tough draw, his recent form and his history at the event indicate Montreal is as good a place as any to reassert himself at the top of the rankings.

Nadal has a 28-7 winning record at the Rogers Cup and three titles (2005, 2008, 2013). When the Spaniard is in great form, as he was in those years, his serve and forehand are strong enough to hit through the relatively fast courts and out hit high achieving hard courters such as Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Andre Agassi.

Nadal is in impressive all court form this year, too, the Spaniard’s No.1 chances built on both a successful clay court season and a hard court one, reaching the Australian Open, Miami and Acapulco finals.

In the years Nadal has held the No.1 ranking, (2008, 2010, 2013), the Spaniard has managed to adapt his game across most surfaces, and this year is no different.

The Spaniard has been flattening out his shots, serving up there with the best of them, (Nadal is 10th on serve in the 52 week ATP leaderboard) and playing aggressive tennis. Those factors have seen him lead the Race to London and beaten on hard courts by ‘only’ Roger Federer, Milos Raonic and Sam Querrey.

Nadal will also have a little point to prove after his 15-13 fifth set loss to Gilles Muller in the Wimbledon last sixteen.

Nadal is likely to have learned from that defeat, and if his twitter feed showing him training at his academy with the likes of Grigor Dimitrov is anything to go by, he is motivated to take the final few steps of a comeback to the very top of the game and beat the players lined up for him in the Montreal draw,

Borna Coric is likely to be Nadal’s first Montreal opponent. The Croatian has two wins over Nadal (Basel ’14, Cincinnati ’16) and one loss (US Open ’15). The world No. 54, who has a win over Andy Murray this year on his way to the Madrid Quarters and won his first title in Casablanca back in April, has the consistency and tactical acumen to take advantage of his opponent’s weaknesses so if Nadal is at all struggling, Coric will not be afraid to capitalize.

One player who could beat Nadal however well the Spaniard is playing is Juan Martin del Potro, one of the Spaniard’s potential third round rivals. Nadal leads del Potro 8-5 but all five of those del Potro wins have all come on outdoor hard including at last year’s Rio Olympics.

John Isner, del Potro’s first round match up, is more of a long-shot to prevent Nadal reaching No.1, (Nadal leads him 6-0), but the American has a big serve to take Nadal to tiebreaks where anything could happen and is also match fit after winning in Atlanta.

In the last eight, Nadal could meet David Goffin. Nadal is 2-0 versus Goffin and the Belgian is on the comeback from injury so a Goffin win would be a big upset.

More dangerous a last eight opponent for Nadal would be Milos Raonic. Nadal leads Raonic 7-2 but both those losses have come on outdoor hard (Brisbane ’17, Indian Wells ’15).

Nadal did beat Raonic in straight sets at the Australian Open this January, a match with more on the line than Brisbane, and if Nadal has the world No.1 ranking one more match on the line, the Spaniard should prove to be the mentally tougher if the match is close.

Raonic, though, has been injury prone the last 12 months and Nadal could even find himself in the position Andy Murray did when he became No.1 at last year’s Paris Open after Raonic withdrew from their semi-final.

A year ago, Nadal was on the comeback path once again in his injury hit career, ranked No.5, and the prospect of La Decima and the No.1 ranking a distant one. One year on, after making some changes to his team, adding Carlos Moya and deciding to part from Uncle Toni at the end of this season, and adapting his game to his older body, Nadal is three wins away from the No.1 ranking.

The ideal outcome for Nadal would be not just grabbing the No.1 ranking in the semis, but winning the title and its 1000 points, and thus strengthening his bid to finish the year at the top of the rankings. To achieve that Montreal title win, Nadal would have to, if the draw plays out, defeat Alexander Zverev (4) in the semis and Roger Federer (2) in the final.

Zverev has proven a difficult rival for Nadal, holding match point against him in Indian Wells ’16 and taking him to five sets at this season’s Australian Open.  The German is also the recent Citi Open winner and his big serve and powerful backhand combined with confidence could be a lethal concoction for the Montreal top seed especially if Nadal is feeling any letdown after finally regaining the world No.1 spot.

If the achievement inflates Nadal instead, beating Federer in the final might still be out of reach- Federer has beaten Nadal three times on hard this season and is the Spaniard’s biggest rival for the year end No.1 ranking– but even if the Spaniard does lose, defeat will never have looked as pretty as it does from the World No.1 suite in the ATP rankings penthouse.

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Christian Deverille

Christian Deverille is a tennis writer with a diploma in Freelance Sports Writing from the London School of Journalism. He loves all things tennis, most of all the Federer and del Potro forehands.
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