If first impressions really are the most important, then Rafael Nadal could not have sent a clearer message in the Caja Mágica. The defending champion made a strong start to his defence of the cup, seeing off French player Gael Monfils 6-3, 6-1 in just 73 minutes. In a Manolo Santana stadium that was packed to the rafters, the Mallorcan continued the dominance he has shown throughout the clay season.
Having been crowned champion of Monte Carlo and Barcelona, the Balearic Islander’s momentum continued in the Spanish capital. Nadal only gave away four points on his first serve and ended the match without being broken, no mean feat against a player of the quality of Monfils.
“I really believe in dynamics“, said the Spaniard, whose utmost confidence seems to provide him with solutions in any situation. “Today I found myself in a situation that could have been 0-3 at the start of the match. However, I managed to make it 3-0”. This is the level of conviction of the player that tops the ATP ranking, who is in search of a sixth title in the Spanish capital this week.
In addition, his win over Monfils made it 48 consecutive sets won on clay for the Spaniard, just two sets short of the mark reached by John McEnroe on carpet. “When I go out on the court it will be a question of playing my best and winning the match“, stated Nadal, when asked about the possibility of achieving the feat. “I don’t know if these records are important and I’m not saying I don’t care about them, but I have bigger goals in tennis”, noted the Spaniard.
His opener in Madrid gives him a 13-0 record this season, which will undoubtedly be a worry to the rest of the field. It is the perfect reaction to the injuries that forced him to withdraw from the hard-court season. “I’ve done a lot of good things since my return“, mentioned Nadal. “I’m playing with the right level of intensity, my backhand is working very well. It is the shot I feel happiest with. I have recovered from myIliopsoas injury and I can tell that I can cope with intense matches. That’s very important for me”.
The superiority of the Spaniard was so clear in his opener in Madrid that he even won the admiration of Monfils. Towards the end of the match the Frenchman bowed to him in appreciation, a gesture that was reflected by the fans.
Now, after taking his first step in the Caja Mágica, Nadal will meet Diego Schwartzman in the last sixteen. The Argentinian beat Feliciano López 7-5, 2-6, 6-2.