19 January - 1 February 2015
Put yourself on court with ReturnServe. From analysing returns on the court to measuring social sentiment. Data is a game changer. IBM.
Put yourself on court with ReturnServe. From analysing returns on the court to measuring social sentiment. Data is a game changer. IBM.
Rafael Nadal


Rafa ran him ragged. That's one way of describing Rafael Nadal's neat 6-1 6-2 6-3 victory over Gael Monfils, an encounter that had promised to be a Saturday night gourmet but was more fast food instead, so good was the world No.1.

Monfils had teed up his 12th meeting with the Australian Open 2009 champion by describing it as "very nice" to be facing Nadal. Not exactly words of intent. The flexible Frenchman has the weapons and temperament to play the former champion tough, and he knows it. But, having lost to him two weeks ago in Doha for the ninth time, he also knows that he lacks the concept of what to do when to make that happen.

That is not to say that ‘LaMonf’, as his fan club fondly call him, played badly or with any lack of effort. He catapulted himself after balls as best he could, and even sent down a 214km/h second serve ace to show that he was not to be trifled with.

But Nadal was simply better. While Monfils ran, he ran faster. While Monfils hit, he hit harder. While Monfils roared, he roared loader.

"Tonight I think I played a great match," Nadal said. "Very happy the way that I played against a very tough opponent like Gael. So that makes the level that I played tonight better, because was against tough opponent."

Skipping his way into the fourth round in two hours and four minutes, it was not a wealth of winners that was impressive, just six, five and 10 set-by-set. It was Nadal's relentless consistency everywhere else. Making 90 per cent of returns in set one, and keeping his first serve figures above 65, he executed as if every point were a match point, no quarter given, no easy route taken.

Back- to-back breaks to start things off were the product of Monfils' forehand flying long, followed by a backhand at 5-1 in Nadal's favour. Two breaks came in set No.2 at 3-2 and 5-2, an unforced forehand error and a double fault from the former world No.7 deciding both. And in the third, another forehand error, this time at 4-3.

The Frenchman had six break points, six chances to take the match to Nadal, and on every one, he was left unsatisfied.

His 57 unforced errors didn't help either.

The third set presented the potential to turn things around, Monfils earning two break points at 3-3, the crowd urging him on with allez's and come on's. But Nadal snuffed them out.

"I just keep fighting, that's tennis, that's always tough. My spirit was to keep trying," Monfils said about that third set.

"Definitely today he was in great shape, much better than Doha for sure. Been a while since I play Rafa like that."

Ominous for his opponents, the next of whom is Kei Nishikori, the 16th seed. Nadal has dropped just one set to Nishikori in five meetings, and on Saturday night's showing, looks highly unlikely to add to that number.

"Kei is a great player, he is able to play very aggressive, make very easy the very difficult things,” Nadal said.

“He is very quick on the movements and will be a very tough opponent for me. He is playing great, it will be a tough one. I need to play the way that I played tonight."

In fact, Nadal was unusually complimentary about his level.

"Well, today I think I have to say that I played well from everywhere," Nadal said. "I think I played very well with my forehand. Very good control of the ball. Good winners. Movements were great tonight.

"Backhand very good, I think. If we can add to that, I didn't lose serve during the whole match. That's another good thing.

But, true to form, he remains circumspect about what comes next.

"Just one very good day," Nadal said. "That makes me feel confident, but I am in fourth round. That's all.

"At the end, no one is unstoppable."

Monfils and his other conquered opponents might beg to differ.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015
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