Rafael Nadal captured a record-setting 18th Masters 1000 shield this weekend when he continued his clay-court domination over Roger Federer defeating the world's top baller 6-4, 7-6 (5) in Madrid. He now becomes the baller with the most Masters 1000 titles surpassing Andre Agassi and increasing his H2H over the Swiss to 14-7 (10-2 on clay - ouch.) And he achieved this astounding feat all before the age of 24.
Although it was exciting to finally get another Fedal final on the ATP World Tour after almost a year I think we all knew who would come out the winner in the end. Rafa not only owns Fed on the slippery stuff but, based on current form, the outcome was clearly written on the wall. It was a great effort for Fed to make the final after his mediocre results of late but he'll need much more game in his Nike back pocket if he's going to defend his Roland Garros crown. Much, much more.
As for Rafa, he finally ended his year-long title drought in Monte Carlo and never looked back, returning to brilliance on his fave surface and making smart scheduling choices to preserve his body for an assault on the big ones, most importantly capturing his seventh major and fifth title in Paris. Even at this point I just don't see anyone stopping him. I dare you to try.
Aravane Rezai grabbed the third and biggest title of her career when she defeated Venus Williams 6-2, 7-5 in Madrid. The Frenchie lady baller had a career week in the Spanish city opening her campaign with a win over Justine Henin (feeding the Belgian a bagel in the third set) and stopping an in-form Jelena Jankovic in the quarterfinals. It was the first time Rezzie defeated two Top tenners in the same week (V, JJ.)
Not only can the girl crack a tennis ball, but she also has real grit and attitude on (and sometimes off) the court which served her well against the big ballers all week long. But it wasn't all ball-bashing in the final sending serves to all parts of the box to get V out of position and using one of the best strategies you can use on the clay: hitting behind your opponent. Rezzie used the strategy to perfection against V, never letting the newly-minted World No. 2 to set up for her shots particularly on the backhand side which opened up the American's shaky forehand. Brills.
Let's hope Rezzie stays healthy and confident in the weeks to come. If she does she'll surely give the Roland Garros faves something to think about.