Monte Carlo: Nadal d. Matosevic
Ball kids held umbrellas to shield the players from the sun during changeovers, but 10 minutes into this match, Marinko Matosevic looked like a man in dire need of a bunker for protection from the barrage Rafael Nadal unleashed. The streaking Spaniard won four consecutive games to open the match and seized six straight games to close a 6-1, 6-2 thrashing of the 54th-ranked Australian.
Patrolling the red clay with the confidence of a man romping around his backyard, Nadal registered his 43rd consecutive win in Monte Carlo, raising his record in the Principality to 45-1. The eight-time champion has ruled Monte Carlo nearly as long as Prince Albert II has reigned in Monaco: He began his winning streak here in 2005, just six weeks into Albert’s reign, and spent much of today’s match asserting his authority in baseline rallies.
Running in place in front of his courtside seat, Nadal looked like a man going places before he even struck a shot. The third seed won 12 of the first 14 points in tearing out to a 4-0 lead a mere 11 minutes into the match. When Matosevic finally held at 30 to cut the lead to 4-1, he acknowledged a sympathetic crowd roar by raising his arms in air in an expression of bemused relief at halting a shutout. It was a brief reprieve: Nadal held at love to extend his command to 5-1.
The challenge that faced Matosevic, who beat Fernando Verdasco to win his first career Monte Carlo match beforehand, was a demanding one. Playing on his least favorite surface, the Bosnian-born Aussie knew that competing in each point required completing a series of tasks correctly—making his first serve, keeping the ball off of Nadal’s lethal forehand side, maintaining depth of his drives. But even when he managed to do it right, Nadal was sharp enough to make things go wrong.
Serving to extend the set, Matosevic was up 40-15, but successive errors and a double fault gave Nadal a set point. Rafa closed the opener in 24 minutes when Matosevic missed the mark with a backhand. The seven-time Roland Garros champion was oppressive in the opening set, winning 12 of 13 points played on his serve and 15 of 23 points played on Matosevic’s serve.
Changing his t-shirt from an optic yellow to a mossy green, Matosevic showed signs of life in breaking at 30 to seize a 1-0 second-set lead. He consolidated with a surprise serve-and-volley winner for 2-0 and had two break points to stretch the lead to 3-0. But Nadal, who has lost just two sets in the past six years in Monte Carlo, dug in to deny the uprising. A pair of Matosevic errors and a hooking forehand winner down the line from Nadal gave him the hold.
The Nadal forehand down the line was a key stroke in the second set. Playing crisp combinations, he used the curling cross-court forehand to corner the lanky Matosevic on the backhand side and clear out expansive space for his forehand down the line. From 1-2 down, Nadal won 16 of the next 22 points, scoring successive breaks at 30 before unloading a crackling forehand winner up the line—struck outside the doubles alley—to hold for 5-2.
Nadal extended his 2013 record to 18-1; he owns an 8-1 record against 16th-seeded Philipp Kohlschreiber, his next opponent.