Blogs & Opinion


Barry Cowan looks ahead to the Barcelona Open and reflects on injuries to Laura Robson and Novak Djokovic

Features Posted 22nd April 2014 view comments

This is a massive week for Rafa Nadal in Barcelona - he simply has to win.

We have to be very careful with just one result, but I was surprised how nervous he looked, and how nervously he played, in his defeat by David Ferrer at the Monte Carlo Masters last week.

The tell-tale sign with Rafa is his length. When he is not feeling good, the length of his ground stroke is short. And from there Ferrer was able to dictate to him.

Rafa Nadal: Lost to David Ferrer at the Monte Carlo Masters

Rafa Nadal: Lost to David Ferrer at the Monte Carlo Masters

If you look at Nadal's history, when he has had off days on other surfaces - he's only lost 22 on clay - he has always bounced back. That is why I think that this week is massive for him. I really feel this week is huge and he needs to win the title in Barcelona.

Anything but that this week for Rafa and it will put more doubt in his mind. That will bring a little bit of anxiety so he will feel that he is under the big spotlight this week.

If Rafa is fit and playing well and Djokovic is fit and playing well, then there will be three players who can win the French Open. Wawrinka is that third player.

Barry Cowan
Quotes of the week

I was surprised at how openly he talked about his injury worries, and how they have affected him mentally after in the Australian Open. You have to remember that he lost to Stanislas Wawrinka in the final, it was not Roger Federer, Andy Murray or Novak Djokovic - this was a guy who had not won a major before. May be getting in sight of Federer's record of 17 grand slam titles is making him slightly anxious.

He had a career threatening injury before that - although it was a totally different injury to his recent back troubles - and maybe what he had to go through to get himself back and playing great, has been a bit much. So mentally there have been tough moments.

What he needs to do - and he has great support around him - is to remember that he won in Rio by beating Alexandr Dolgopolov in the final and he made the final in Miami only losing to an inspired Djokovic. It is not all bad. He is not playing as well as he did 12 months ago, but one match can turn it around. That is why this week is huge for Rafa.

If you put me on the spot I think he will be back with a bang, win the event this week and he will be looking forward to Madrid, Rome and the French Open. You have to go on history.

People were questioning Nadal after Wimbledon last year and I thought that was just a blip; the French Open and the clay court season had taken so much out of him that he was mentally shot. And he came back to play unbelievable tennis in America. But now he does need to correct what went wrong last week and play better.

Stunning Stan

The performance of last week was undoubtedly Wawrinka, who beat Federer in the Monte Carlo final. It was a stunning effort and he played unbelievable tennis all week. To come through and win the title the way that he did, having looked a little out of sorts mentally at Indian Wells and Miami, and to battle through some difficult moments in the final was terrific.

Towards the end of the second set and the third set he was unstoppable. He is now showing on all surfaces that when he plays his best tennis, he is arguably one of the best players in the world.

That is not a sweeping statement - just look at the last few months. He beat Djokovic and Nadal in Australia, he beat Murray at the US Open and Roger really could not live with him in that third set in Monte Carlo (although it was not Roger's best surface).

If Rafa is fit and playing well and Djokovic is fit and playing well, then there will be three players who can win the French Open. Wawrinka is that third player.

Careful

Djokovic injured his wrist before the tournament but was able to continue to the semi-finals. So you have to feel that he had the right advice and treatment, and they felt it would not be a long-term issue. But you have to be careful with the wrist.

Sometimes those injuries take a while and you can make it worse. For me Djokovic needs to make sure he is absolutely right for Paris. If it means taking a month away and being under prepared in terms of matches for the French Open, but being 100 per cent fit, that is far better.

Hungrier

Laura Robson has been chasing it for the last few months with her wrist injury so hopefully now she will focus on just getting fit after surgery. The rankings are irrelevant because she has shown she is good enough to get back. In some ways it might help her to have time away to reflect on what she is missing.

It might make her hungrier. I don't think she has always given the impression that she loves the sport when she has been on court. It should be about enjoying her tennis and trying to be the best player she can be.

It is obviously hugely disappointing for British fans that she will not be at the French Open or Wimbledon. Last year she showed that she can, not just do well at Wimbledon but, win it. I felt she was that close last year.

Before the event I would have said Laura would have had as much chance of beating Marion Bartoli, as Bartoli would of beating Laura. Hopefully next year she'll be fighting fit and ready for another good showing.

back to top

Other Experts:

Latest Posts in :

Alex Ferguson

Start your engines!

Alex Ferguson predicts who will triumph in NASCAR's showpiece race, the Daytona 500....

comments

Graeme Souness

Souness: Chelsea, City will progress

Graeme Souness tips Bayern Munich to win the Champions League, but says City and Chelsea could go close....

Paul Merson

Merse: Trophies far off for Arsenal

Paul Merson says Arsenal's defeat in Dortmund shows why silverware could be beyond them this year....

Ed Chamberlin

Van the man?

Ed Chamberlin explains why Tejay van Garderen is capable of plucking the Tour de France's Yellow Jersey....

comments

Gary Neville

Nev: Ron return 'more possible'

Gary Neville has responded to the rumours that Manchester United could bring back Cristiano Ronaldo....

Stuart Barnes

Boks clever

Smart play from South Africa wasn't enough to beat a resilient New Zealand, says Stuart Barnes....

Barrie vs Terry

Barrie v Terry

Barrie McDermott and Terry O'Connor go head-to-head with their Super League predictions......

Phil Clarke

Eye of the Tigers

As the season reaches its climax, Phil Clarke says he can't remember a better finale to a season....

Rob Lee

In a decent State

Europe are Ryder Cup favourites, says Rob Lee, but Team USA have plenty of reasons to be optimistic....

Richard Boxall

Wild boys

Richard Boxall says Paul McGinley's Ryder Cup picks bring Gleneagles nous, experience and passion....

Alex Hammond

Hear the Music!

Alex Hammond looks ahead to the weekend's racing including the feature Betfred Sprint Cup....

Alex Hammond

Look to the Future

Alex Hammond on a fantastic week at York and picks three best bets for this weekend, including Godolphin's Future Empire...

Neal Foulds

Selby steel

New world champion Mark Selby's the master of match play, says Neal Foulds - but what's next for Ronnie?...

comments

Neal Foulds

Trump tip

Ronnie O'Sullivan is favourite for the Worlds - but Judd Trump could spring a shock, says Neal Foulds....

comments

Neal Foulds

Night at the Circus

Neal Foulds is looking forward to another fun, raucous Snooker Shoot-Out - but can't pick a winner....

comments

Kelvin Tatum

Back on track

Lakeside can make it two wins over Belle Vue Aces in four days, says Kelvin Tatum, but it'll be close!...

comments

Kelvin Tatum

Hit the road

Swindon are struggling this season but will fancy their chances at Birmingham, says Kelvin Tatum....

comments

Kelvin Tatum

Racing away

Belle Vue are unbeaten at home but Kelvin Tatum asks if they can transfer that form at Swindon....

comments

Richard Moore

The final curtain

Richard Moore reflects on Sunday's Closing Ceremony to an unforgettable Olympic Games......

comments

Richard Moore

A lasting golden glow

Richard Moore suggests all the British Olympians should visit schools and talk about their experiences....

comments

Richard Moore

Favourite Froome

Richard Moore reveals his predictions for the 100th Tour de France, which starts on Saturday....

comments

Wayne McCullough

Wonderful Davis

Wayne McCullough watched Antonio Rogerio Nogueria take on Phil Davis at UFC Fight Night 24. ...

0 comments

Wayne McCullough

Jones shines bright

Wayne McCullough was highly impressed as the talented Jon Jones made short work of Mauricio Rua....

2 comments

Wayne McCullough

A bloody marvel

Wayne McCullough salutes Diego Sanchez as he edges out Martin Kampmann in a UFC humdinger....

0 comments