Paris June 06, 2012
Surface tension: Rafael Nadal is 'the man on clay'. Photo: Getty Images
AS IS his wont, Rafael Nadal declined to assess whether his devastating run through the French Open field suggests this could be his best campaign at Roland Garros.
Perhaps the question was too narrow.
The truth is, Nadal so far has put together one of the most dominant runs at the claycourt grand slam tournament - or any major tournament, for that matter - losing only 19 games in four matches, including his 6-2, 6-0, 6-0 fourth-round victory over 13th-seeded Juan Monaco of Argentina.
That's the fewest games conceded to this point at Roland Garros since 1982, when Guillermo Vilas dropped only 16.
Like Nadal, John McEnroe also made it through four rounds while only losing 19 games at the 1984 US Open.
''I feel really comfortable, really at ease,'' said Nadal, who is tied with Bjorn Borg with a record six French Open championships.
''When the tournament is over, I'll tell you if this was my best Roland Garros or not. So far, so good. But we'll see; things could change.''
Nadal trailed 2-1 at the start against Monaco, one of his best friends on tour, before reeling off the last 17 games.
Against Monaco he made only 13 unforced errors, raising his total for the tournament to 64 - or 13 fewer than No.1-seeded Novak Djokovic made in his fourth-round match alone.
''I have won quite easily. My results are good,'' Nadal said. ''But I'm not going through immediately to the semi-finals.''
Well, yes, that's true. And consider this: When Vilas breezed through the early rounds 30 years ago, he wound up losing in the final to Mats Wilander.
Nadal is scheduled to play an all-Spanish quarter-final against Nicolas Almagro tonight (Melbourne time). Nadal has a 7-0 mark against Almagro, including victories in the 2008 and 2010 French Open quarter-finals. The other men's quarter-final in their half of the draw is Andy Murray against David Ferrer.
Almagro said Nadal was ''the man on clay, and we are trying to get close to him''.