Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Nadal's 18th Masters Title

One word. WOW!

Nadal The Master Of ATP World Tour's Premier Tournaments
by: Paul McPherson

Rafael Nadal’s 18 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles won before the age of 24 is one of the most jaw-dropping achievements of the Open Era. To give context to the speed of the accomplishment, the man with whom he previously shared the record, Andre Agassi, was 34 when he won his 17th Masters 1000 title.

Interestingly, it was Nadal’s stunning victory over Agassi in 2005 in the Montreal final that made an immediate impression with Agassi’s former coach Brad Gilbert. “After that win over Agassi I thought this kid was going to an outrageous level,” Gilbert said. “He won Canada on what I thought was the fastest hard court I had seen in 10 years and he also won the Madrid title indoors at altitude. It was then that I thought this guy could win a boatload of tournaments.”

Montreal was one of four ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles Nadal won during his breakout 2005 season, which reaped a career-best 11 titles. Nadal has won three or more Masters 1000 titles in five of the past six years. (He won two titles in 2006).

So just how many ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles may Nadal win over the course of his career? “Just looking at the next four years, if he can stay healthy, the over-under is 30 titles,” says Gilbert. “You expect him to win two a year on clay and at least one other – so that could easily add up to 12 more in the next four years.”

With the exception of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments present a challenge not found at Grand Slam level: the requirement to play without a day off in between matches against the best players in the world. The format doesn’t suit everyone. Former World No. 1 Yevgeny Kafelnikov won two Grand Slam titles but tasted no Masters 1000 success.

Gilbert believes that Nadal’s exceptional conditioning and focus on peaking for Grand Slams and Masters 1000s work in his favour. “At the Masters 1000s the top guys often have to win five matches in five days to take the title and physically that takes a toll. Rafa knows how to manage that extremely well.”

Although Nadal has won six different titles and reached the finals of eight of the current nine Masters 1000s, the foundation of his amazing streak has been his dominance of clay-court Masters 1000 titles, of which he has won 13 shields in the past six years. He has won a record six consecutive Monte-Carlo titles, five titles in six years in Rome, one clay-court Madrid title (two Madrid titles in all) and the 2008 Hamburg crown when the tournament had Masters 1000 status.

Not only has Nadal won more ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles than any other player, he also has the best winning percentage (83.7 percent), boasting a 180-35 record.

And he may be just warming up!

Picture from Getty Images

Keeping my fingers crossed for Roland Garros. Vamos Rafa!

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