Simon Reed

Nadal form ominous for rivals

Simon Reed

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Rafael Nadal at the Monte Carlo Masters was like going back two years when he
was unbeatable on clay.

He was the
best player in the world then and last week he got way clear of anything anybody
could get remotely close to in Monte Carlo.

I have to
admit I never thought I'd see him play such dominant tennis again, even on
clay. But I'm so pleased he is. Rafa's a great guy and I know the injuries have
frustrated him immensely, but to see him playing with such great joy and
exuberance was fantastic.

his forehand looked even better than it did two years ago and the damage he was
able to do against some of the best performers in the world was awesome.

It seems
that even with the likes of Nadal and Federer, confidence plays a big part in
their games. Once things began to click for Rafa, he again started to believe
in the inevitability of victory. He seemed to be having the time of his life
and it was terrific to watch.

That kind
of form is hugely ominous for the other players. They cannot afford to think
like this, but Rafa's performance in Monte Carlo was so impressive, the clay
court season already looked over on Sunday evening.

Indeed, the
others' best chance of winning something on clay this season appears to be when
Rafa isn't in attendance, like in Barcelona this week.

When I was
talking about Kim Clijsters the other week, I said that players need to play as
much as they can in the build-up to Grand Slams to get their fitness and form
together, but Rafa is an exception to that rule.

Rafa takes
so much out of himself even in such ludicrously easy wins as in Monte Carlo.
The sheer physicality of his game is of a different dimension to anybody else.

The danger
with Nadal is that having played so well in Monte Carlo he would overdo it in
Barcelona. He's a fiercely patriotic man, and he would have loved to have
played - and given his all - in his home tournament.

His camp
have had a long think and they've decided discretion is the best way forward.
It's the right decision if it means he will be able to give 100 per cent at
Roland Garros.

I seriously
hope the decision was taken purely on the basis that he has to rest. If it is
anything worse that has ruled him out, it would be a real shame, given his
emphatic victory in Monte Carlo.  Let's hope that's not the case.

Let's just
wait and see if he plays Rome and Madrid. If he does, it will be great news for
anyone who will be watching, but it cannot be good news for his rivals.

- - -

Sam Stosur
has emerged as a real contender for glory in the women's tournament at Roland

In the
final at Charleston she produced the most extraordinary performances and for
me, outside the Belgians, she is the most likely winner in Paris.

she was 150-1 to win the French. Now she is 40-1 and I think that is

main asset is her serve - she hits it like a man. The damage her serve does is
up there with the Williams sisters, if not above, and on the clay with the bite
and kick that it gets, it is the best serve in the women's game. And one of the
best serves ever in the women's game.

Sam can
only beat herself now. The only difference between her and the Belgians at the
moment is that they have big match experience and rarely freeze when the
pressure is on, whereas she has been known to.

But that
said, her play is so good at the moment, most players can't get near enough to
her to make her nervous. She's so powerful and her groundstrokes are so strong,
her serve so unplayable, that her performance at Charleston was nothing short
of phenomenal.

recovered from her illness, she's cut out the doubles and is now being managed
really well. In David Taylor, she's got one of the best coaches there is and
she's got to be in with a real shout at Roland Garros. Everything looks
right for her at the moment.

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