Rafael Nadal is back to winning trophies and accolades. After two European clay triumphs in the month of April, the Spaniard has been named the VAVEL USA Player of the Month for April. April marked “Cloud Nine” for the world number five as he won his ninth titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona respectively. Those titles have given many the hopes that Nadal is back as threatens to become the first man to win the same major 10 times.
The Prince of the Principality
After a subpar South American clay court swing, Nadal knew he needed to turn his results around on the European clay. His last tournament before heading to the principality of Monaco was a second retirement to Damir Dzumhur in the Miami Open. Any sign of weariness from the Spaniard on his favorite surface would begin to raise many questions.
He took care of Aljaz Bedene in his opener then survived against Dominic Thiem in the third round as the Austrian failed to make the most of his multitude of break point opportunities. After steamrolling Stan Wawrinka, the Spaniard was forced to comeback against Andy Murray in the semifinals. He did just that, setting up an enticing finals showdown with Gael Monfils. The final was filled with brilliant shotmaking and brutal rallies, but in the end, Monfils succumbed after falling behind in the third to give Nadal the title.
A Rival’s City But His Home Ground
Barcelona is the closest city to Majorca, the city where Nadal resides. It’s also home to FC Barcelona, rivals of Real Madrid, a team that Nadal fondly supports. The Spaniard took care of his two countryman, Marcel Granollers and Albert Montañés, in his first two matches. The world number five met a familiar foe in Fabio Fognini in the quarterfinals. The Italian, who truly was a thorn in Nadal’s side last year, gave his best efforts but fell in straight sets.
The nine-time French Open champion took care of business against Philipp Kohlschreiber, setting up another mouthwatering final, this time with Kei Nishikori. With Nishikori’s clay prowess over the last couple of years, many thought this would be one to go the distance. However, Nadal truly proved he was back, by taking this one in straight sets.