Rafael Nadal won yet another clay court title, this time in Brazil’s Rio Open. Nadal withstood a tough semifinal test from Pablo Andujar before eventually defeating Alexander Dolgopolov in the mens final. The win moves Rafa to 43 clay court titles, and is a nice confidence booster for the Spaniard coming just four weeks after his loss to Stanislas Wawrinka in the Australian Open final.
In the warmup of the Australian Open final, Nadal suffered a back strain which during the second set severely hampered his performance and movement. The injury substantially weakened his chances of contending for the title, and combined with Wawrinka’s red-hot form, Nadal met with defeat in Australia. The question at the end of the Major “down under” was whether the injury Nadal suffered was going to seriously affect the rest of his season, or if it would be just a speed bump.
Nadal’s performance at the Rio De Janeiro Open has answered many lingering questions regarding his condition, and perhaps has upped some expectations for his 2014 results. Throughout the entire tournament, Rafa faced only one serious threat, and that was his semifinal combatant Pablo Andujar. Andujar appeared to have the courage and skills to dispatch Nadal, the champion also known as “The King of Clay.” Nadal found himself being pushed around and dictated to by the incredible ball-striking and accuracy of Andujar through the first set. In the second set, things looked to normalize as Nadal restored some level control by winning the set in convincing fashion. Andujar however was unfazed and came out swinging in the third set. After some time violations given to both players, which received hot replies, the third set headed into a tie-breaker. Nadal survived three set points to eventually put Andujar away in an amazing finish to the mens semifinal match.
In the finals, Nadal faced the Ukrainian Alexander Dolgopolov. “The Dog” as he is known, is a quick-serving, amazingly athletic, dangerous contender, who possesses the game to trouble most of the top players. Nadal however, was only challenged once throughout the engagement, when he dropped serve early in the second set to trail Dolgopolov for a brief moment. The Spaniard quickly regained control of the match however, and went on to win clay court title number 43 in Rio, defeating the Ukrainian 6-3, 7-6 (3).
The win is good news for worried fans, along with Nadal and his team who may have been a bit uncertain about the year following the injury at the Australian Open. It appears that the “King of Clay” is at it again, racking up clay court titles in his usual dominant style. Nadal’s recent result is sure to be noticed in the locker room as the tour’s top men keep a keen eye on a player who represents one of the sport’s toughest competitors.
Editorial By Daniel Worku