Rafael Nadal has suffered another clay court loss this season: A huge upset at the hands of Nicolas Almagro in the Barcelona Open. Nadal fell in three sets to his fellow Spaniard in a drama filled three-setter. It would appear that the King of Clay is having to fight harder than usual these days to ward off challengers to his throne. In 2011 the Serbian Slugger, Novak Djokovic, made it quite clear that he has his eyes set on Rafa’s prized French Open throne, and since that time the clay court battlefield has become somewhat more complicated for the clay court superstar.
It is one thing however for the world no. 1 to lose to Djokovic, who himself has achieved tennis’ top spot more than once. Losing to fellow Spaniards though, on a surface on which he has looked untouchable for the greater part of a decade is completely new territory for Nadal. The insurrection began when David Ferrer managed to sneak out a victory against Nadal last week in Monte Carlo. One might even be able to point to the previous year’s loss to Djokovic in Monte Carlo or the 2011 season where Novak managed to pull off some significant victories against Nadal on clay. Those losses may have put just enough belief in the field that Nadal was beatable on his best surface.
Whatever the case may be, it certainly appears that the King of Clay is fighting tooth and nail these days to remain atop his clay court empire. The last two losses to fellow Spaniards have highlighted possible vulnerabilities in the clay dominance of Nadal. On the bright side of the week, at least Novak was not present and racking up points as Nadal ate the defeat from Almagro. Were Djokovic playing, the distance between the two may have been eroded just a little bit more. As of now however Rafael Nadal has suffered a huge upset loss to Nicolas Almagro, and appears to have some issues to sort through if he intends to dominate in Roland Garros.
Rafa won the first set against Almagro with ease, cruising to a 6-2 first set victory. In the second set Nadal led 3-1 in the second set before losing momentum and dropping a few games in a row to let his fellow Spaniard right back into the fight. The two remained on serve until a second set tie-breaker. In the tie-breaker the two Spaniards were at 5-5 and Almagro hit a shot which clipped the tape, falling unplayable onto Rafa’s side of the net, giving Almagro set point. Almagro managed to convert his set point, greeting opportunity with open arms.
The two Spaniards moved into a third set where Almagro surprisingly kept his nerve about him. The two traded a lot of breaks, finally ending up at 4-4 in dramatic fashion. Nadal, looking nothing like the dominant clay court force that many are used to, found himself serving to put himself one game away from victory. In unprecedented fashion however, Nicolas Almagro broke the King of Clay at love and earned the chance to serve for the match.
With steely nerves, Nicolas Almagro, having never beaten Rafa Nadal previously, served out the match in style. As the chips now lie, Nicolas Almagro is the last Spaniard standing in a tournament that is used to seeing Rafael Nadal cruise mercilessly through opponents without so much as a second thought. With back to back losses on clay to someone other than Novak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal will have to seek council with his advisors as it appears that his clay court kingdom is under attack on multiple fronts. Time will tell how the King of Clay responds to two uncharacteristic losses on this years road to Roland Garros.
At present, the new rippling across the clay court battlefields of Spain is that Rafael Nadal has suffered a huge upset loss to fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro.
Commentary by Daniel Worku