Rafael Nadal is the king of the clay. There is absolutely no doubt about it. But are we seeing actually his demise from the throne? Three losses in semifinals in a row. What does it mean for Rafael Nadal future? What does it mean for tennis at all?
Nadal lost with Fognini in Monte Carlo, then with Thiem in Barcelona and last Saturday with Tsitsipas in Madrid. Losses with Fognini and Thiem were plain two sets game, the match with Tsitsipas was longer, it took three sets for young Greek to claim the match. That all means that Nadal is a tough opponent and it is far from easy to beat him.
However, he won matches of this kind in the past. He won Barcelona and Monte Carlo in 2018, He won all three tournaments (Monte Carlo, Barcelona, and Madrid) in 2017.
This week he starts in Roma in bid to defend the title he won in 2018. Then he moves right to Paris to start his journey to 12th win of French Open. Tournaments he won easily in the past, but even the Roma title does not seem guaranteed this year.
Roma singles draw shows that Nadal would face Thiem in quarterfinals, Federer or Tsitsipas in semifinals and Djokovic in final. That seems like a too hard road for him at the moment. I do not claim it is impossible for Nadal to win in Roma, but I would not bet on it.
Nadal is missing the killer instinct and younger players (Tsitsipas and Thiem) are able to handle the pressure and the long exchanges with him. The permanent injury problems made Nadal weaker. He is still a good player, but not great anymore.
In our bold predictions for 2019 season, we put Thiem as our pick for French Open win. It was more about Nadal demise than actually about Dominic Thiem. And we feel quite sure about our pre-season pick. We would not underestimate Djokovic, who clearly aims at calendar Grand Slam this year and also Tsitsipas is showing signs of readiness for big triumph.
Nadal is still a favorite, but not the biggest one for Roma tournament and French Open. Now, we are witnessing the generation change in tennis. This French Open will be open as it has never been in the past 10 years. Grab your popcorn and enjoy it!