Rhythm overrun

Photo by REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

Photo by REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

Rafa met world #3 Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals of the Paris Masters. These guys have had some tight matches this year and we were all hoping for another exciting one today. It started out looking like it was going that way, then cyborg Nole showed up and wiped the court with Rafa. It’s not like Rafa was playing bad; Nole was on fire. He was seeing the ball well and anticipating all Rafa’s shots. Rafa’s Paris tournament is over as he loses: 2-6, 3-6. Onward to London.


Nadal Djokovic
Statistics on Serve
Aces 4 4
Double Faults 2 4
1st Serve % 66% 58%
1st Serve Points Won 14/25 (56%) 24/29 (83%)
2nd Serve Points Won 6/13 (46%) 13/21 (62%)
Break Points Saved 0/3 (0%) 0/0 (%)
Service Games Played 8 9
Statistics on Return
1st Return Points Won 5/29 (17%) 11/25 (44%)
Second Return Points Won 8/21 (17%) 7/13 (54%)
Break Points Won 0/0 (%) 3/3 (100%)
Return Games Played 9 8
Statistics on Points
Total Service Points Won 20/38 (53%) 37/50 (74%)
Total Return Points Won 13/50 (26%) 18/38 (47%)
Total Points Won 33/88 (38%) 55/88 (63%)
Winners 13 31
Unforced errors 8 14
Net Approaches 3/5 (60%) 11/18 (61%)

As it happened blatherings:

Okay, I’m awake. Really I am.

Nole in the hallway waiting on an ever late Rafa.

Mo’s in the chair!

Rafa won the toss and will receive.

Nole does a dropper on the very first point…followed by a lob and a tweener from Rafa. It’s going to be one of those days! Beautiful backhand cross-court pass from Rafa! Double fault from Nole: 15-30. Uh, tennis gods? Why does my picture keep going black? Mo overrules a call that’s just in…Rafa looks at him like, dude! First game to Nole.

Rafa playing closer to the baseline that Nole – ahhh. Nole pulls Rafa into the net with a drop shot and then lives to regret it: 30-15. I’m so glad I’m not dependent on livescores today because according to it the match hasn’t started yet. Rafa holds.

Koenig warmed Rafa up? Why does that crack me up?

Blistering cross-court backhand from Nole! 30-15 Stress-free hold for Nole. 1-2 on serve.

Rafa works his way into the net and blocks a nice volley for a winner: 15-15. Two aces and an easy hold for Rafa: 2-2.

Wide serve, deep serve from Nole followed by a hard, deep shot to the other corner: 15-0. Weak second serve return from Rafa. Double fault from Nole. Ace.

Nole wins the first two points on Rafa’s next serve. Second serve. Double fault: 0-40. Nole only needs one as he breaks to go up 4-2.

Rafa sends a shot just wide. Serve and volley from Nole: 30-0. Rafa flings a return almost into the stands. Nole holds at love. Rafa to serve to stay in the set.

Nole totally dictating play. Serve goes way wide. Pushed far wide, Rafa nets a cross-court passing shot attempt. Triple set point for Nole. First set to Nole in just 32 minutes: 6-2.

Drop shot from Nole. Rafa tracks it down and hits it down the line for a winner: deuce. Way to hit the ball right back to him, Rafa. Game point, Nole. He holds to start set 2.

Second serve. Rafa nets an easy looking ball. Second serve. Nole tees off on the return and bosses the point until he hits a winner: 0-30. Second serve. Rafa almost on his knees trying to hit one ball. Triple break point. Nole breaks at love. He’s won 23 of the last 29 points.

Longish rally ends with Nole netting a ball. Rafa sends a return long: 15-15. Another long ball from Rafa and it’s 30-15. Blistering forehand from Nole: 40-15. Another and Nole holds. He’s up 3-0.

Nole continues to fire at will: 0-15. Nole misses 2 returns in a row: 30-30. Second serve. Nole shanks a ball into the stands: 40-30. Rafa holds; praise be.

Double fault from Nole: 15-15. Again, he moves Rafa all around the court: 30-15. Another double fault: 30-30. Longish rally ends with Rafa pushed deep and wide and firing a defensive shot long: 40-30. Sadly, the double faults were the only points Rafa won in the game. Nole holds for 4-1.

Double fault. Rafa into the net and guesses right on the passing shot – blocks back a nice drop volley winner: 15-15. Nole into the net this time and he knocks off an angled cross-court volley that Rafa can’t track down: 30-30. Nole sends one ball into the net and one long. Rafa holds for 2-4.

Nole sends a shot just wide: 15-15. Nicely placed forehand winner for Rafa: 15-30. Second serve. Nole drop shot, down the line return, winning cross-court passing shot from Nole: 30-30. Nole turned his ankle a bit in that last point. Ace. Nole sends a smash just long – or did he. He challenges the call and it’s good. He holds for 5-2. Rafa to serve to stay in the match.

Rafa’s only made 7 unforced errors and yet is still being dominated.

Nole drop shots; Rafa hits a cross-court winner. Second serve. Nole nets a ball: 30-0. Ace. Second serve. Nole sends Rafa left then right and then nets an attempted drop shot: Rafa holds.

Rafa gets a new racket out of his bag for a game he must win?

Nole barely manages to track down a passing shot for a winner. Rafa sends a shot long. Down the line passing shot from Rafa: 30-15. Rafa nets a return: double match point for Nole. Second serve. Nole wins: 6-2, 6-3.

92 Responses

  1. g says:

    I don’t know what’s going on, why his level isn’t the same as before. Just go back to his performance during the hardcourt season earlier in the year, AO to Indian Wells. He was able to hit lots of winners from the baseline of the forehand and backhand but lately he seemed to merely put the ball back in play right in the middle of the court and let the opponent rips winners. He can’t beat people doing that for 95% of his shots. What happens to his ripping forehand and backhand. I think it’s a mental thing but he needs to regroup quickly and believe in himself again. I mean he needs to tell himself that he’s good so just go out there and play like he means it. It’s like he’s holding back. I don’t get it.

    • Rafafan says:

      This is exactly what I thought. I don’t think I saw one forehand winner down the line adn the forehands we did see were loopy spins mainly in middle of the court and it’s as if he has lost his ripping backhand. Just high and to the opponent. I think its true now as much as I hate to admit it most people can work out Rafa’s game – he is so predictable and the power isn’t there anymore. It’s like his bulk and mojo has deserted him. I think all these interviews do not help him ie. how long is he gonna play etc. By the way we are looking he won’t go past 2010. Coz I really think he doesn’t believe in himself and it shows on the court. Like someone said – b as aggressive as you can, even if you lose but “take it” to the other person and forget about your defense strategy for onec. I think it is now cause for concern. OK I know he has been in semis and quarters and looks good on paper with his return but he has become so inconsistent. And I think there is a time we stop making the excuse – getting into the rythm just returned from injury. Look at Andy Murray – there wasn’t much fuss on him being out for 6 weeks. Then he comes back and wins at Valencia. OK when out in 2nd round here but he still won a tournament. I can’t get that positive akitute yet

      • Emma says:

        Agree, agree, agree.

        I have been buying into this loop of saying how super, he’s reached the quarters or the semis, or even the final, but now I don’t think that is quite right as a success indicator on the grand scale as quite often he has got there by luck (through others retiring) or by not facing the best players eg Shanghai (and when he faced Dav he got mashed). Yes I know it’s importatnt to get to the last phases of tournaments, and what more can I expect, but he can’t manage the top players, and what is doing my head in is that he doesn’t seem to be trying.

        The old Rafa ran and ran and fought to the death, and I loved him for it for years and years, but he seems to have vanished. Keep seeing flashes of him, but now getting really scared he isn’t coming back.

        Thank God I can come here and say this stuff. People in my real world roll their eyes that I care so much about two people whacking balls around.

        • Rafafan says:

          Agree too. I think even Rafa is trying to convince himself and his fans. He says he is pleased since the injury he has got to quarters, semis, and final and that is positive! But your right it wasn’t against the best players. He has only one against 2 top 10 players in tournaments since the injury (Monfils at uso (he is now ranked 16)) and Tsonga 2 days ago. He says he needs practice to get his rythm etc. but how long is that gonna take. Also he should be practising on the courts he will be playing on otherwise a waste of time. If he is improving each day since the injury why was he so so horribly bad at the Almagro and Robredo match. I agree he isn’t trying to reach those balls, chase them down or have any sort of game plan. He looks slow and lethargic,not the Rafa we are used to, no power. I think all he is concentraing is on the DC and not really worried about Paris and end of year. I know he says he give 100% but I don’t agree. I think as long as he keeps fit and healthy that’s important and as he says “for sure Paris and London very important but for sure I want to win the DC”. You see his priorities and he is not gonna miss that for anything even if it means he doesn’t try so hard in the other matches. I hope in a way this is the case otherwise thre is no explanation why he gets whalloped so easily. If he keeps getting beat like this, you know what he says – if he feels he can’t be competitive and win tournaments that’s it he will be gone. Cry sob…….. xxxxxxxxx

          • Emma says:

            If it is the case that he wants to focus on the DC, isn’t he taking one hell of a risk that he won’t be properly match tight if he isn’t really trying? How can you find a positive rhythm if you don’t push yourself forward to find it?

            Starting to think if I hear the words “Must play more aggressive” one more time I will start getting aggressive myself involving a large pointy item.

            I think I need to go on a tennis-free retreat somewhere. It’s no joke trying to keep up with it all (not just Rafa), work full time and have a life. I watched the Nole match at 1am after seeing Rocky Horror, sitting there in me corset. Wish I had just gone to bed now. God, now I am complaining about the Tour schedule. God what a miserable git I am. Going for tea and biscuits and to stare at the rain.

        • aRafaelite says:

          We do get a little too caught up in it sometimes, don’t we?! To be honest, I need a bit of drama in my life at the moment, and tennis – especially Rafa! – provides that. The way I figure it, there are much worse things (and people) to get caught up in. Better obsess a bit over Rafa and his results and share our joys and frustrations through this great forum, than spice up our lives with e.g. drugs and alcohol!!! Even when he’s not playing his best tennis, Rafa is a great role model and worthy of admiration. I’ve looked at other fan sites, and tennis blogs, and found some of them scarily obsessive. I love that people here remind one another to follow Rafa’s example in their behaviour and comments. His positive acktitude, humanity, and determination have really inspired and motivated me to make changes in my life, so I’ve found it really painful to watch him floundering over the last few months. Maybe it’s gonna take longer than we hoped for him to work through it – but I have every faith that he will!!!

  2. emir says:

    for sure ao and indian wells he was much in better form but paris cincinatti us open kind of tournuments at the end of the year SO MUCH FASTER SURFACES COMPARE TO AO AND INDIAN WELLS….it will be very interesting for me to watch rafa in davis cup even maybe more interesting than london …..then i will have much more wiew where his game is really is at the moment…..

  3. Maya says:

    Emir, You are super patient and your message is clear. I quite agree with you. Nole sucked Rafa in those first few games. Let him think his game was a winner and then put the pedal to the metal. Rafa had no way of running down most of those shots without a.) possibly damaging his newly mended knees, and b.) Nole being at the net and all over his return. I think it is important for Rafa to finish the year in the best health possible in order to get a good start on training for the new year. He and Tony will have their work cut out for them. I also think the DC is more important to Rafa than either Bercy or London. Rafa will be in his element fighting for his country, on clay in Spain. I’m pretty sure there will be no holding back.

  4. Rose says:

    I watched all matches at bercy and I do agree Rafa seems to have a confidence problem After watching him play Tsonga yesterday I expected at least a fight a 3-setter specially since the second semi was so hard fought. The commentator kept wondering why Rafa was hitting to Nole’s backhand which is his strength. The almagro match was painful to watch. The tennis.com website has a great article byTignor (a rafa fan in disguise) in which he says it is time Rafa believes that he is a really really good player. We do but he needs to soon

  5. Carol says:

    OK, Rafa played well according to his standards – and HCs are not his forte, as I think he’s the first to admit.

    Come on, reaching the semis is no big loss – in my eyes anyway…

    I’m looking forward to the DC more than London, really (and I was born within hellooo distance of the O2)!

    BTW: what’s this gossip on the web that Feli & Nando are Together as an Item?

  6. Ch F says:

    Ok I’m trying to take a deep breath to rethink everything I’ve been reading. Indeed Nole played a great great match and everything worked. As much as I think Rafa would have lost the match even in his 2008 form, I do believe Rafa didn’t seem to feel it’s worth to fight for it. To me, he seemed that after the two first games he decided it would be very difficult to win and he couldn’t find the force to try. That’s what worries me more. I think it’s the flip side of his total respect to his opponents. He seemed to think ok, Djokovic is brilliant today, I have had all these problems, how can I win against him? He’s so much better. He seems overwhelmed almost. That’s why he found the will against Almagro and Robredo. But Djokovic? he knows it’s not the same. As for the power, I didn’t see him having any problem against Tsonga. Everything worked because he put pressure and allowed it to work. So what I think Rafa has lost is his problem solving skills and his will to adapt. I even wonder if it’s a question of form. I think he finds it easily from one point to the other when something works. It was obvious in the Tsonga match. Even yesterday, when he served and volleyed and won a great point, he served an ace and his shots were far better for two or three points. It’s some kind of mental blockage. Which of course doesn’t mean he doesn’t need to adjust his game and be less predictable. Thanks for all the comments guys.

  7. g says:

    Nole played great but Rafa made him looked great cuz Rafa played just average and allowed Nole to look good. I think Nole played the same level as when he played other guys. It’s almost a repeat of Cincy in August and I thought Rafa would have learned something from that loss and come out with a different game plan. Rafa’s level certainly has dropped and in interviews I wish he sets a bit higher expectation. I admire his humility and all that (that’s what we all love about him) and maybe he feels differently than what he says in interviews but I wish he shows more of that I’m not happy w/ my game and that I will do more to get back to my old form and then really show it on the courts to back it up. Maybe he does feel that way and I hope he does, I just haven’t seen much evidence of that and it’s a cause for concern. I guess time will tell and I will always be a fan.

    • Emma says:

      I wonder if in the same way he can’t really talk about his injuries at the time during pressers, he can’t really say he isn’t overall happy with his game – as this would inform his opponents too much about his mindset. If of course that is his mindset, as I am off in total conjecture land here.

      I just felt a bit…hurt?? (for want of a better word)…that he said Nole was so good that he couldn’t do anything about it. Yeah Nole was terrific but couldn’t you have fought? Oh hang on, is he worried about getting injured before the DC again?

      Don’t know, don’t know, don’t know. Just need to move on, and get my ass to London on Saturday. Been looking forward to it for so long, now can’t believe it’s nearly here.

      • Ch F says:

        He could have done something about it, the ongoing tiebreak between Djokovic and Monfils definitely proves that. You can always try and do something about it. Had Rafa fought, and lost, it would have been perfectly ok for him to say that.

  8. sia says:

    I don’t quite understand why everyone seems to think this is a bad, or unpredictable result. Djokovic tends to do very well at this time of year … his best surface is on hard courts, he has a better HtoH against Rafa on hard courts, he is number 3 in the world (and has been for some time) … Novak hasn’t won a masters series event all year and is right now finding a rhythm he hasn’t really had all year.
    Rafa has told us his main focus is the Davis Cup … we should listen (he and his camp always speak the truth, from my experience). I know some think this will be a walk in the park for Spain… but last year everyone thought Argentina was going to win and look what happened. Fernando still has a foot injury that may need surgery, Feli has been up and, (mostly), down this year, poor Ferrer has been plagued by small injuries and a big drop in rankings … Robredo seems to be playing consistently at least. Rafa probably feels a big responsibility to keep himself healthy and fresh.
    I think if they can win the DC Rafa will be so happy with his year.

    • g says:

      If he only cares about DC then he should skip Paris and WTF. Isn’t he all about focusing on 1 tournament (in fact one game) at a time. I don’t think we have been harsh just having a critical analysis.

  9. sia says:

    hee hee g you know he isn’t able to just skip tournaments, and yes Rafa is the first one to say it is all about the next match … one at a time … but in this instance he has told us that the DC is a real priority. Paris hasn’t been a great tournament for him, but he got to the semi finals. Honestly I don’t think there was much he could have done technically to have changed the outcome of the match … he could have played a little more with his heart but I think he has given his heart to Spain, perhaps he feels Paris just doesn’t deserve it just yet. Only my opinion, of course.

  10. Sekar says:

    Does anyone know why there was no tiebreak in the third set of Nadal’s doubles loss with Robredo but there is a tiebreak in the singles match third set final today between Nole and Monfils ? I didn’t think there would be a tiebreak in the third set in today’s match but there was. Somewhat inconsistent rules in Paris between singles/doubles.

    • miri says:

      There’s always a final set tie-break in Masters events. The final set of the doubles matches are Super-tie break set. That’s the norm for doubles.

  11. miri says:

    Gloom! Doom! OMG! Something’s wrong with Rafa! He’s never going to win again!


    You win some, you lose some, people. That’s sports. Yes, there are some trends in Rafa’s game recently that worry me, but I’m not going to go !!!!! over it. He’ll sort it out or he won’t. It will be sad if he doesn’t, but I’m not going to panic just yet.

    Remember, as Toni says, there’s no drama in tennis. There’s much bigger things in life and the world to get worried about.

    • mary says:

      “Gloom! Doom! OMG! Something’s wrong with Rafa! He’s never going to win again!

      Now that cracks me up. lol

      • Emma says:

        Yeah, OK, made me laugh as well:)

        Rafa is only the “5 minutes to midnight” on my lifelong love of tennis – I’ve seen them come and go. But he is the biggest lamb of them all and I do want him to be alright.

    • Atch2 says:

      Thanks for putting Rafa’s loss in perspective for us. I trust and believe that Rafa will be back. One of the best things he does well IS bounce back from adversity.

  12. emir says:

    well i watched the djokovic and nadal match again because i realy couldnt understand what is going when there is TOO MUCH EXCIMENT…well i said before rafa didnt play that badly…well not so sure anymore because i caught rafa didnt run some balls didnt put raqcet in some balls WHICH HE CLEARLY CAN…..i also watch some parts of the matches which these two played on hardcourts and there is huge diffrence with the way rafa playing i am afraid…there is no such a thing that JUST NOVAK played so well…clearly rafa could have done what monfills done today….he couldnt i really beleive rafa isnt pushing himself to the LIMIT as he has done in the past he clearly afraid of injuring him self once again…but you know you cant play like this against TOP GUYS you need that extra zip and edge desperetly…i really now sure that this season finished in his head…he doesnt want to push him self to the limit before next season…..

  13. Anonymous says:

    I miss 2008 Rafa..