World No. 1 Rafael Nadal will begin his 2014 Madrid Masters campaign on Wednesday afternoon against Juan Monaco, who beat Jurgen Melzer in straight sets to set up the clash. Nadal leads the head-to-head series 4-1 and has won all of their clay court encounters.
The Spaniard surged through an inspirational 2013, after having suffered a knee injury that forced him onto the sidelines for the majority of the 2012 season. He would find key victories at the French Open and the U.S Open, as well as collecting five Masters 1000 titles that helped him usurp the No. 1 ranking from Djokovic in October. While his 2013 season was a fantastic one, Nadal has only managed to win two titles so far this season, losing in the Australian Open finals, and in Indian Wells, Miami and Monte Carlo. He most recently suffered a historic upset in Barcelona, where he win streak snapped by Nicolas Almagro in the quarter-final round. He has not lost at that event since he was 15 years old.
“When you lose, you have a hard moment, you have more doubts,” admitted Nadal on Sunday at the Caja Magica. “But that’s what happened. I’ve already said it several times. I didn’t try to win Monte Carlo 12 times or Barcelona 12 times. Maybe that isn’t normal. This is the reality of the situation. Maybe it’s normal to lose three times in the quarter-finals. Maybe what’s not normal is what happened during the past nine years.”
Nadal holds 12900 points and was in a position where he needed to defend 1860 points against Djokovic, who currently holds 11040 points, to secure his ranking. He will have that pressure alleviated this week, as Djokovic revealed that he was forced to withdraw from Madrid with a right arm injury.
“I’ve been training, trying to do things properly, as I’ve been doing always. I hope that it just works out. I have been working since I lost in Barcelona. I tried to train well to come here. If things don’t come out well, we will go to Rome; if things don’t work out there, we will go to Paris.
This marks the sixth time these two competitors will meet on the professional tour, with Nadal leading the series 4-1. HE will look to add to his lead against the Argentinean, and begin his campaign in strong fashion on Wednesday afternoon.
Prediction: Rafael Nadal in Straight Sets