Rafael Nadal looks to regain his form on his home soil as he competes in 2015 Mutual Madrid Open. The World’s No.4 player is back on clay, looking for his second victory of 2015.
The “King of Clay” is on his favorite surface for a third straight tournament, but he hasn’t exactly lived up to his nickname this year. Nadal won three matches at Monte Carlo until he lost in straight sets to Novak Djokovic in the semifinals. A week later, he was bounced at the Barcelona Open, being upset in the second round to No.30 Fabio Fognini.
"This is a blow for me, but I accept the challenge and the negative day I had,” Nadal said after the loss. “There is no other way forward other than to accept it or die.
"I will keep working. I am convinced that this situation of ups and downs I have had since returning from injuries, sooner or later, will come to an end."
Considering his struggles this year, Nadal’s run at Monte Carlo was somewhat encouraging. But he took another step back in the following tournament, losing to a player outside of the top 20 for the fourth time this year.
Nadal won’t have an easy time winning in Madrid. Other than Nadal, three of the top five tennis players in the world are competing in the tournament. The 28-year-old might have to go through Andy Murray or Kei Nishikori, though he definitely won’t face Roger Federer. Federer was upset by Nick Kyrgios in a match that lasted two hours and 37 minutes. A victory over either Murray or Nishikori could do wonders for Nadal's confidence, and perhaps strengthen his chances for another run at a title at Roland Garros.
Fortunately for Nadal, he won’t have to deal with Djokovic, no matter how far he advances. Having won 17 consecutive matches, the No.1 player in the world withdrew from the tournament, citing time needed to relax and spend with his family.
Nadal is 11-3 on clay this season, but that is not up to his usual standard. He hasn’t lost more than three times on clay since his first year on the ATP Tour when he suffered six defeats on his favorite surface.
A victory over Steve Johnson put Nadal into the third round of the Madrid Open. Defeating the American 6-4, 6-3, Nadal has won 10 straight clay matches against players from the United States.
Because he hasn’t been as dominant on clay, Nadal is no longer favored to win the 2015 French Open, despite winning the title in nine of the last 10 years. Djokovic is the favorite, and he’s beaten Nadal in five of their last six meetings.