In a rematch of the Monte Carlo Masters final earlier this year, legendary Spaniard Rafael Nadal takes on his countryman Albert Ramos Vinolas. Both are having terrific seasons, with Nadal set to return to world number one for the first time since 2014 at the end of this week. Ramos Vinolas earlier in the season reached a career high ranking of 17th in the world, largely as a result of his great clay court performances. He scored a win over outgoing world number one Andy Murray on the clay, can he get one over the Scot’s incoming replacement in Ohio?
Nadal has an excellent record against his compatriots. Even David Ferrer has only claimed six wins in 24 matches against Nadal, with Fernando Verdasco claiming three from 19 encounters. Even Juan Carlos Ferrero, the last Spaniard to hold the number one ranking before Nadal, managed just two wins in nine. Ramos Vinolas has a less storied rivalry with Nadal, they have met only three times. All three matches were on clay, and Ramos Vinolas lost all of them. Their first meeting came in Barcelona in the quarter-finals in 2013. Nadal crushed Ramos Vinolas 6-3 6-0. They played again a year later in Barcelona, and although Ramos Vinolas pushed Nadal, he still fell in straight sets as Nadal won 7-6 6-4. Their most recent meeting in Monte Carlo was another very comfortable win for Nadal. With Ramos Vinolas looking overawed by the occasion in the final, he fell to a 6-1 6-3 defeat.
Nadal is also vastly more experienced that Ramos Vinolas. Ramos Vinolas, 29, has forged a successful career, winning one title amongst his 152 career wins. But Nadal’s numbers dwarf that. He has 854 match wins and 73 titles, which include 15 Majors and 30 Masters 1000s. That includes a win at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in 2013 when he defeated John Isner in the final.
Path to the third round
Nadal, as the top seed in Cincinnati, enjoyed a bye into the second round. There he began against Richard Gasquet, against whom he has an utterly dominant record. He went into the match having won 14 out of 14 against the Frenchman, and he swiftly made it 15 in 15. Gasquet’s long winding groundstrokes were mercilessly exposed by Nadal’s power and he could offer little resistance. The Spaniard took the win 6-3 6-4 to move into the third round.
Ramos Vinolas’ ranking of 24th left him just outside the seedings, despite the plague of injuries effecting the top of the tennis world. He opened his Cincinnati campaign against former US Open semi-finalist Mikhail Youzhny. At his peak, the Russian was ranked as high as eighth in the world but injuries have taken their toll on the 35-year-old. He now finds himself ranked 93rd but he fought hard against the higher ranked Spaniard. Ramos Vinolas looked comfortable early on, taking the first set 6-3, but Youzhny rebounded to level the match. Ramos Vinolas was not to be denied, and he won the decider 6-3 to move into the second round.
There he came up against recent Wimbledon quarter-finalist Gilles Muller, the 16th seed. The fast conditions in Ohio favoured the Luxembourger, and he took the first set. But Ramos Vinolas dug in and overcame the disadvantage in court surface. He hit some fine passing shots to get by the net rushing Muller and took the next two sets by the score of 6-4 to reach the third round.
How do they match up?
Both are very competent baseliners, solid off both wings. Ramos Vinolas plays a much flatter shot than Nadal, particularly off the forehand. That shot is his biggest weapon and can be effective on a fast court as it skids through. It will have to be to puncture Nadal’s defence regularly enough for him to win the match. Nadal’s retrieval skills are rightly legendary. Although less effective on a hard court than Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray’s, they are still amongst the very best in the world. His forehand has also been firing again this year although it has looked shaky in his last two defeats. His backhand and serve are better than ever though, with Carlos Moya’s guidance seemingly given them a new lease of life.
The key battle will be forehand to forehand though. Ramos Vinolas has a good backhand, but he will not be able to hurt Nadal with it sufficiently to win the match. His forehand is a real weapon but it will have to be at its very best if he is to survive many cross court rallies with Nadal. Both are left handers, which will negate somewhat Nadal’s traditional advantage. But it will also expose Ramos Vinolas’ forehand to Nadal’s.
Nadal should win this match. He has the experience, the clear advantage in the head-to-head, and the better record on hard courts. Albert Ramos Vinolas does have the game to make this a close contest, closer than any of their clay court meetings. But he doesn’t seem to have the tools to actually defeat Nadal. Nadal also looked looser against Gasquet, returning to number one has likely given him a welcome confidence boost ahead of the US Open. Nadal in straight sets.
Who do you think will win the match? Let us know in the comments below!
Want to share your opinion? Why not Write For Us?