Rafa Nadal beat Russian Andrey Kuznetsov 6-3, 6-3 to advance to the second round of the Madrid Open. Nadal has won the Madrid Open four times, more than any other player. Formerly played on hardcourts, Madrid changed over to clay in 2009 — likely not without considering Spain’s greatest player. Nadal, a 9-time French Open champ, is the most dominant clay courter in history.
As Nadal hit Madrid this week — where other former champs have names like Federer, Djokovic and Murray — he brings two straight titles (Monte Carlo and Barcelona) and a ten match winning streak (now 11). Nadal is in an entirely different place — emotionally, physically and mentally — than he found himself in last year, when few narratives about Nadal failed to mention his decline and diminished position among the world’s elite. Not anymore. Even without a title at Madrid it’s conceivable Nadal will enter the French Open later this month as the favorite, despite Novak Djokovic’s stronghold on the No. 1 World Ranking. Nadal’s streak hasn’t meant traveling an easy road either — he’s beaten No. 2 Murray, No. 4 Stan Wawrinka, and No. 6 Kei Nishikori. Murray defends at Madrid, having beaten Nadal handily in last year’s final 6-3, 6-2.