Why Nadal Never Lets Up
Third seed Rafael Nadal dropped just two games and didn’t face a break point in a one-sided third-round meeting with Grigor Dimitrov at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, but the Spaniard isn’t letting the result get to his head.
It was clear to viewers at home – and certainly to Nadal himself on Court Rainier III – that Dimitrov was not at his best. The Bulgarian was struggling to find the court during the 6-1, 6-1 rout, trying to finish points quickly and racking up 35 unforced errors in the process.
His struggles did not go unnoticed by the 11-time Monte-Carlo champion; the pair has met 14 times previously, with Dimitrov taking a set off of Nadal at this same venue in 2013. But in signature Nadal fashion, he did not concede an inch to his opponent on the court.
“Grigor missed much more than usual [for] him. We’ve had some amazing battles together. [It] is true that today was not one of these ones,” Nadal said after extending his ATP Head2Head lead to 14-1 over the Bulgarian.
“I feel a little bit sorry for him today, that he played, I think, a bad match. I did my thing. But that’s it. I am just focussed on [trying] to play as good as possible every single point.”
It was only after the match that the real culprit was revealed. In a press conference, Dimitrov told journalists that he had been struggling with debilitating pain due to ‘a massive tooth problem’ as a result of an infection.
“I didn’t know that. Now I understand a little bit more the things,” Nadal said. “I wish him all the best. He’s a great guy, a good friend… He didn’t tell me. That shows how good [a] guy he is. Hopefully the situation gets better for him soon.”
Nadal booked a spot into his 16th consecutive quarter-final in Monte-Carlo without dropping a set and at the expense of just five games. But even here, where the Spaniard has won 73 matches and taken a bite out of 11 trophies, Nadal never lets himself believe he is the favourite.
“I am always focussed on what can happen. Even if sometimes you go on court, you go, ‘Okay, I’m feeling great’, I always have had all the respect for the match, for the opponent, and for the tournament,” he said.
“Even if I feel good – I don’t say I am ‘worried’, but I am always focussed on trying to not lose that feeling. It’s not about, ‘I’m going on court and I’m feeling good today so things [are] going to go well.’ I feel good, so I need to keep going. That’s the way I proceed.”
Nadal will hope to continue as planned when he takes on the winner of sixth seed Andrey Rublev and ninth seed Roberto Bautista Agut.
“Good opponents [ahead]. I need to be playing at my highest level,” Nadal said. “I hope to be ready to play well and give myself chances to keep going.”