Not sure how long it's been since Rafa has ruled the clay in Europe, maybe two years or so where injuries and lack of confidence has kept him from dominating the dirt as he did for ten years or so. It's funny how the Tennis World finds a way to give a champion another chance just as it did with Federer after all those beltings at the French Open by Rafa.
All that had to happen for Roger to gain tennis immortality was for Rafa to have a day against a challenger that didn't go according to plan and that's exactly what happened in 2009 when Soderling stunned the Spaniard in the Fourth Round.
To prove it wasn't a fluke Soderling also beat Roger in 2010 in the quarters at the same event. Back to 2009.
Roger took that unexpected loss to Rafa as a catalyst to put his name in the record books as maybe the greatest ever tennis player on the planet. It was almost all or nothing because if Roger didn't make the most of that opportunity then he quite possibly would never have won it. I am probably stating the obvious here.
This year in Monte Carlo Novak Djokovic got beaten rather early for his lofty standards and even though he was a 'local' he played like a tourist, perhaps more interested in the surrounds than the tennis. Monte Carlo is like that, trust me I have been there, the scenery is distracting. Maybe Novak thought that as a resident of one of the most magnificent places in the World to play tennis at he could simply turn up on his home turf and claim the title. Tennis aint like that.
So back to this year.
I put Rafa in now as a certainty to win the event because the pressure is off. No one has to play Novak in the final so there is no tightness, no concern over who is going to finish second to the World number 1 and no thought of a press conference asking why Novak can't be beaten. It's party time in Monte Carlo.
Rafa will take this opportunity to show the rest of the World that he isn't quite finished just yet and when he wins this year in Monte Carlo he may just put some doubt in the mind of Novak going into the French Open because that's all Novak requires to join Rafa and Roger as all time legends of the game.
You need to win all 4, Novak knows it but now he may be doubting it but best of 3 is a little different than best of 5, tactics change and so does the mind set.
If Rafa loses in Monte Carlo he can kiss his chances goodbye of winning another title on the dirt of any significance because Novak won't lose too many unless he is injured from now on. I think he simply turned up this year at the home of Bjorn Borg's last ever tournament match with the wrong attitude, he will fix it I am sure.
I am tipping Rafa to get through to the final in Monte Carlo and to win it comfortably to put him back on the clay court tennis map. He has won it eight times, I think his ninth is only a few days away. Not many champions let an opportunity like this go by just as Roger did in Paris in 2009 when Rafa went out early.
They sense a moment, I think Rafa already senses his.....