Nikoloz has no re­ply to Nadal’s clay­court mas­tery

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

NIKOLOZ BASI­LASHVILI had a plan when he turned up to play Rafa Nadal yes­ter­day but, like Mike Tyson said, ev­ery­body has a plan un­til they’re punched in the face.

And that’s what hap­pened – in ten­nis terms – to the Ge­or­gian in the French Open third round.

“I had a cou­ple of plays in my head of how to play against him,” Basi­lashvili said. The 6-0 6-1 6-0 score­line am­ply il­lus­trates how that went.

“I was ex­pect­ing, ob­vi­ously, a very, very dif­fi­cult match, but not some­thing like this,” he added. “The score is quite em­bar­rass­ing, you know, but I have to ac­cept it.”

The bru­tal­ity of Nadal’s de­struc­tion of the world num­ber 63 on the Roland Gar­ros main show­court was with­er­ing.

A scan of the statis­tics makes for grisly read­ing. Grisly for Basi­lashvili, grisly for Nadal’s next op­po­nent, fel­low Spa­niard Roberto Bautista Agut, grisly for ev­ery­one in the draw.

Grisly for ev­ery­one in the way of the fourth seed.

For ex­am­ple, it took Basi­lashvili un­til the 12th game of the match to reg­is­ter on the score­board.

He won one in four of his first serve points in the open­ing set.

The num­ber of win­ners he struck in the match could be counted on one hand, and his 34 un­forced er­rors al­most matched the en­tire num­ber of points he won all match – 36.

Yet Basi­lashvili is no rookie: Nadal did this to him. Con­sider that the 25-year-old Ge­or­gian had al­ready this year beaten then-world num­ber eight Do­minic Thiem.

Nadal is a unique crea­ture on clay, though. His statis­tics are mind-bog­gling.

Yes­ter­day’s vic­tory was his 100th best-of-five-set match on the slow sur­face, and he now has a stag­ger­ing win-loss ra­tio of 98-2.

Yes­ter­day’s vic­tory was his most one-sided at Roland Gar­ros, where he is speed­ing to­wards a 10th ti­tle. His pre­vi­ous best was a 6-2 6-0 6-0 win over Juan Monaco here in 2012.

It is an as­ton­ish­ing thought that he may be get­ting bet­ter, but there it is. And you would find few tak­ers to bet against him win­ning ‘ La Dec­ima’ next Sun­day.

Pro­fes­sional play­ers rarely speak about each other’s achieve­ments dur­ing a tour­na­ment.

As Cana­dian Mi­los Raonic said on Fri­day, “I think ev­ery­one is fo­cused on them­selves quite a bit as long as they are still in this tour­na­ment. Ev­ery­body is look­ing down and go­ing about their own busi­ness.”

Nadal’s achieve­ments seem to war­rant spe­cial treat­ment, though.

“When you do sit down and talk about it, it’s be­yond re­mark­able,” he said of the Spa­niard. “It’s go­ing to be one of the great­est... feats in any sport.”

As for the man him­self ? Tac­i­turn at the best of times, he avoided su­perla­tives with a cus­tom­ary as­sess­ment: “Was a great match for me, no?” he told re­porters.

“I won win­ning with that score against a player that al­ready won against (Gilles) Si­mon and (Vic­tor) Troicki, so can­not say an­other thing. I played very well.”

To­day he cel­e­brates his 31st birth­day, but it will take more than an­other num­ber added to his age to stop Nadal in his tracks

De­fend­ing cham­pion No­vak Djokovic came out on top in a fiveset thriller with a 5-7 6-3 3-6 6-1 6-1 win over Ar­gen­tine Diego Schwartz­man on Court Philippe Cha­trier.

It was the Serb’s 25th win in 33 grand slam five-set­ters as he booked a spot in the last 16.

Kristina Mlade­n­ovic took her love affair with Roland Gar­ros to a new level yes­ter­day, feed­ing off the home crowd to bat­tle into the French Open fourth round with a 7-5 4-6 8-6 vic­tory over Amer­i­can Shelby Rogers.

“I have no words to de­scribe the love I have for you,” said Mlade­n­ovic, who ral­lied from 5-2 down in the third set to book a clash with de­fend­ing cham­pion Gar­bine Mugu­ruza on Mon­day.

“Hon­estly, I went through so many emo­tions dur­ing this match that I don’t know what to say. Your sup­port helps me so much. I had goose bumps.”

“Kiki! Kiki!,” the crowd chanted again in an elec­tric at­mos­phere, declar­ing their love back to Mlade­n­ovic.

One of the favourites af­ter reach­ing the fi­nal in the Madrid and Stuttgart clay­court tour­na­ments, the 13th-seeded Mlade­n­ovic is look­ing to be­come the first French woman since Mary Pierce in 2000 to lift the Suzanne Len­glen Cup.

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