Blogs & Opinion

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

Barry Cowan 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.


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.


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 Tennis Experts:

Latest Posts in Tennis:

Barry Cowan

Too tough to call

Andy Murray is in impressive form but Tomas Berdych is showing real class, says Barry Cowan....

Barry Cowan

Opportunity knocks

Barry Cowan reflects on a good start for Andy Murray and an Australian Open draw that has opened up....

Latest News RSS feeds

Murray marches into final

Andy Murray reached the Australian Open final after fighting back from a set down to beat Tomas Berdych in Melbourne.

Murray v Berdych recap

Catch up with how Andy Murray made it through to the Australian Open final by beating Tomas Berdych.

Murray praises Mauresmo impact

Andy Murray says reaching the Australian Open final under Amelie Mauresmo's guidance is proof women can be top coaches.

Whiley reaches doubles final

Jordanne Whiley could become a back-to-back Australian Open champion after reaching the wheelchair doubles final.

Williams faces Sharapova in final

Serena Williams beat Madison Keys in the last four to set up Australian Open final showdown against Maria Sharapova.


Australian Open 2015: We look back at what's happened in Melbourne over the past week

Australian Open 2015: We look back at what's happened in Melbourne over the past week

We take a look back at what's happened in Melbourne with the best pictures of the week.

Australian Open: Andy Murray's early performances impress Barry Cowan

Australian Open: Andy Murray's early performances impress Barry Cowan

Andy Murray's half of the Australian Open draw has been opened up by Roger Federer's exit, according to Barry Cowan.

Australian Open: Order of play

Australian Open: Order of play

Order of Play for Friday January 30.