April 22, 2014 by Parveer Mann
Even before Stanislas Wawrinka captured his first Masters title in an all-Swiss affair, this year’s Monte Carlo Masters had already produced more questions than at any other point in its recent past. With clay stalwarts and recent champions Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic removed from the title hunt and suddenly facing different problems, Monte Carlo seems to have singlehandedly shaken up the clay season.
Is something wrong with Nadal?
After watching Rafael Nadal fizzle in both Miami and Monte Carlo, many have speculated (including Nadal) that Nadal has not looked the same since his loss in Melbourne. However, it is not concern over the tweaked back but rather his mental approach these past few months. In his press availability this week, he spoke to that issue:
Nadal said Monday that “I started the season OK except for some lack of confidence and competitiveness in important moments of certain matches.”
He added that “I’ve faced adversities throughout my career, and this is just another one.” –AP
This self-assessment is consistent with the candor that Rafa has provided in the past. He was one of the first to acknowledge how overcoming Novak in 2011 was a struggle and how insecure he was coming back from injury last year. Personally, I think this year’s issue pales in comparison and is only noteworthy because of the lofty expectations he created last year.
I’m confident he’ll able to work through most of these mental roadblocks because he gives himself ample opportunities on clay to do so. He’s entered in Barcelona this week as the defending champion and will surely play in Madrid and Rome. Now if we see something like his loss to David Ferrer (in Monte Carlo) in the next few weeks then we’ll all have to reassess his position in the tennis hierarchy.
How long will Novak be out?
The news out of Monte Carlo this week was that Novak Djokovic had been complaining about his wrist well before his loss to Roger Federer. He only vocalized the extent of the injury or the uncertainty surrounding it after the fact. All indications are that there is no structural damage and the problems are soreness and core strength. It’ll take him time to heal and obviously limit any practicing or playing he does in the near future. Here’s a look at his upcoming schedule (based on previous years):
Madrid Masters- May 5th (two weeks away)
Rome Masters- May 12th (three weeks away)
French Open- May 25th (five weeks away)
I fully expect Novak to suit up in time for Madrid but if he doesn’t, the timetable gets interesting. Does Djokovic take precaution and skip the clay Masters events or does missing Roland Garros become an option? He doesn’t have a lot of points to defend from last year. We’ll find out soon enough.
After nine years of Nadal or Djokovic beginning their clay seasons in championship form, this year both players move forward with a certain degree of uncertainty that could add further intrigue to an already exciting 2014 season.