Rafael Nadal chalked up his 43rd consecutive victory on the red clay of the Monte Carlo Country Club with a 6-1, 6-2 win Wednesday over Australia’s Marinko Matosevic — a streak of success that has seen him win the Rolex Masters eight straight times.
As yet, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic can only dream of that kind of domination of a particular tournament. Record-breaking statistics were far from the Serb’s mind as he gave his injured ankle a run out against the experienced Russian Mikhail Youzhny.
Djokovic came through the awkward encounter 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 but announced afterward that he had twisted his ankle again. It did not prevent him from playing any more than it had when he suffered the initial injury 10 days ago at the start of his Davis Cup match against Sam Querrey in Boise, Idaho.
“Unfortunately, I had a part of the match (in the second set) where I twisted it again,” said Djokovic. “But the protection, the tape, was good. So I managed to overcome that pain. For me it’s important not to have a bigger risk of injuring myself and if it was not Monaco, I would consider not playing. But I enjoy this tournament very much. I’m just happy to compete, to be honest. I had ups and downs against a quality opponent but hopefully tomorrow I will be playing better.”
Djokovic received a warning for time violation under the 25-second rule that the ATP brought in this year. Having been caught before, Djokovic reiterated that he had no problem with the rule and admitted he was one of the slower players on the tour in that regard. “The only thing is that I think it’s fair to the player to have a pre-warning as was the case in past years,” he said. “If they say at a change-over, you’re a bit slow, hurry up or you’re going to get a time violation — in that case, I have nothing to say. Sometimes the players don’t have a sense of the time they spend on court. You’re thinking of rallies, the next point, so you go over the time limit.”
The fact is that the rule is still too vague and requires expert umpiring to make it work. There is still the problem of not knowing exactly when the 25 seconds begins and the ATP Board will have to revisit the rule at its next meeting after talking to Roger Federer, who is president of the players’ council.
Nadal was glad to be back after deciding to miss Miami. “I think I played with the right intensity and played to the right places,” he said. “And that gave me confidence.”
Confidence is a commodity that Nadal should not be short of — he hasn’t lost here since 2003 when Guillermo Coria beat him in the third round. Nadal couldn’t play in 2004 because of injury, but he’s won every year since.
“This is a tournament I saw on TV as a kid,” Nadal said. “Then I had this amazing success, I could not imagine. The place is special, very beautiful. The tournament is history. Sport needs innovations; needs new, big events but historic events like this make the tour important; make the sport bigger.”
Later, after another day of cloudless skies, No. 2 seed Andy Murray had a very secure start to his clay court campaign with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over the Frenchman Edouard Roger-Vasselin.
Coming from his ATP Masters 1000 win in Miami, Murray was pleased with his adjustment from hard courts.
“It doesn’t matter how much training you do, until you get the matches and the feel of how to play under pressure, it’s completely different,” he said. “I think the first match, you’re just trying to win. You try to play solid and not take too many risks. It was good.”