Problems in the head

Photo by REUTERS/Fadi Al-Assaad

Thanks to CC for alerting me to this article by Richard Eaton

“I have had a lot of problems in the head,” the former world number one said after winning 6-1, 2-0 when his opponent, the Belgian qualifier Steve Darcis, retired after only 35 minutes of very one-sided action.

“I have had under-confidence and things in the head – but that’s life. You have to accept problems and you have to come back. I am trying. We will see what happens in the next six months.”

Yes, let’s see. Step by step – you’ve been on the right track so far this year.

Nadal was asked whether the media has been too impatient with him – suggesting that he is not the player he was, for having reached just one final since returning from a three-month absence in August.

“We will see in a few months,” Nadal replied amicably. “Everyone is free to talk. I can say nothing against them. I didn’t win against the best players.

“But that’s tennis – you can’t be all the time one hundred percent. I am ready to try and win tournaments, but you never know what will happen. You have to work every day, every week, and wait your moment.”

That is the tennis. Compared to the end of last year, he does seem more ready to try and win.

During the very short time Nadal was on court it was apparent that he was trying to be more forceful with his first serve, later volunteering to having made small improvements identified after many hours of watching videos with his uncle.

I just can’t imagine watching hours of onself doing anything on video. Then again, I can’t imagine seeing your own face plastered on billboards, etc. Oh well – keep it up, Rafa. So far it looks like all the work is paying off!

37 Responses

  1. CC says:

    Makes me want to hug him really tight.

  2. neil in toronto says:

    Love him and he’s been a true beast and a truer gentleman this week.

  3. jimmy says:

    “I have really worked hard in the past couple of months. I CHANGED MY STRINGS and practiced hard on the court playing on the baseline and coming closer to the net. The past six months was not bad but was not good either. I told myself that I have to work hard to win at the highest level and I have done that,” Nadal said on his fitness after the injury.

    I don’t know how accurate this article is. But if Rafa indeed said that he changed strings, that’s big news! Yay! After all these years, “perhaps” he’s finally gone to PHT. Color me surprised! (in a good way)

    • miri says:

      From that article:

      “Everybody is talking about Rafa is back. But Rafa has been here all the time.”


      • jimmy says:

        I’ve read that one before after Abu Dhabi too –

        “Everybody talks about ‘is Rafa back?’ or ‘Rafa is not back’,” he said. “I was here all the time; I never went. I lost in the semi-finals a few times and I lost in one final [to Nikolay Davydenko at the Shanghai Masters].“Sometimes I think you really don’t know how difficult it is to win every time. I didn’t have bad losses: I only lost to one of the best players in the world. I was very consistent – after the injury I had a good second part to the season.”

        On another note, I’m glad he’s making changes to his equipment. The new setup by Babolat is supposed to be softer and easier on then body. I think the Babolat folks were after Rafa to try it, who hitherto was resistant to any change. Perhaps the shoulder injury prompted the change. Anyway, I’m glad that he’s not being a old mustache Pete any more :) (assuming the strings info in the original article is correct).

        • miri says:

          I agree – if he keeps it up, I’m going to have to stop using my “he’s allergic to change” line.

          I remember a documentary that was done one year he made the year end finals (when they were in Shanghai). He didn’t end up playing, but a camera crew followed him there and got “behind the scenes” footage. There was one scene where he’s talking to a racket stringer and all I remember is him saying some number and they stringer saying, “You’ve CHANGED?” and Rafa repeating the number, ignoring the question and acting like, “no, it’s always been that way” while smiling. The guy asked again and Rafa repeating the number again…while smiling. Ah…good times.

          • jimmy says:

            That’s very interesting. That number probably was the tension in the racquet string. Rafa uses the 1st gen Polyester Duralast and get his racquets strung at 50-55 which is medium-low range.( Players like Roddick, Blake go in 60-70s, but they use hybrids.) I guess even if he changed (I doubt that), he wouldn’t admit it. He’s stubborn for sure :)

            • miri says:

              Yep, I knew it was the tension, but I couldn’t remember the number. And, my memory altered how disingenuous Rafa was, but not how shocked the stringer was. :) Here’s the vid – about 9:30 into it.

              • jimmy says:

                Thanks. Good catch. He’s asked for 25 Kg on the strings mains, which is the normal range 52-57 lbs (23-25 kg) for Rafa. Dunno why the stringer was so surprised!

                Actually there is theory that Nadal has his racquets strung at multiple tension pts. Since his Duralast loses tension so fast, he changes it every set or earlier. I’ve literally seen him down a couple of breaks with most of his groundies landing short without too much spin. Then he changes his racquet, starts hitting the ball with more spin and proceeds to reel of the next few games and win the set! Quite extraordinary. Most of the normal folks would break their arms and shoulders trying to swing/spin the ball the way he does :) Hopefully the new strings will have slightly more power (compared to duralast) without compromising the spin too much.

                • miri says:

                  Maybe that’s normal now…but this was a while ago. Or the stringer was on crack and that’s why Rafa was “ummming”

    • sia says:

      That is interesting news jimmy. I actually think Rafa could play well with a cardboard cut-out of a racquet … but I’m happy to hear he doesn’t mind a few changes.

    • Ch F says:

      Thanks for that, jimmy. I love it that he wants the French Open back. That would be just great. For some reason I believe him when he says he doesn’t care about the No1 spot that much. How touching of him to say he has always been there! You are so right to cheer that, miri! Shows how he never stopped believing even though he doubted himself.

    • Rafangel says:

      “Nadal was not at his best in 2008” – lol!! Not pedantically accurate ;) But thanks for the post Jimmy – interesting to find evidence to support previous speculation (and i don’t see how that quote could be inaccurate – where would they have got it from, without just inventing it which’d be weird). Glad you’re pleased- let’s hope it does him good!

  4. k says:

    In this article it says Nadal said he had shoulder problems last month..

    so maybe not only problems in the head..or the article is incorrect, which may also happen..

    • k says:

      ..and I guess he refers to season end by saying last month..Not like he had those problems in World Tour Finals..

    • miri says:

      I’m starting to think he (and most tennis players) is held together by duct tape.

      • k says:

        Duct tape is the best invention ever..:)

      • k says:

        By the way when you said duct tape, it made me remember all that Maymo and the tape thing..:)


      • aRafaelite says:

        Good to know he’s using duct tape ;) if you’ve ever seen the Mythbusters episode on duct tape you’ll know it’s up to anything Rafa can throw at it ;) !!!

    • sia says:

      k, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rafa had had another injury and hadn’t said anything about it until now (he does get hounded about such things, no?). It would also explain his tentative play at the WTF.

      • k says:

        I couldn’t understand if he was referring WTF or December by saying last month. But i wish he didn’t say anything at all..Now some people will say he is creating excuses for his losses..Not that i care about what they say but it is still a little annoying..

        • miri says:

          Yeah, it’s confusing because he often says things like “last week in X tournament” when X tournament was a few weeks ago. I think Rafa lives in his own time zone.

          • k says:

            Ofcourse he is..:)..His explanation to being late everywhere is “time being faster than him..”..:)

        • Rafangel says:

          I think I remember snarling at a commentator at the WTF who wondered if something was wrong with Rafa’s shoulder cos his serve was so lame… But that could be a memory from paris or somewhere – at the time I thought they were being paranoid and I didn’t need any more worry than I was already enduring!

    • mary says:

      I’m wondering if he meant his back but somehow it travelled to the shoulder. lol

  5. Alison says:

    Interesting comments about a possible injury when playing in the WTF…do you remember the back massage during the Djokovic match and then in the Ferrer match vid he seemed to be showing a member of his Davis cup team a possible injury when he pulled up his top and pointed to his side. Plus the mysterious back pain in some of the DC matches or am I just imagining things. It would explain a few things about his level of play at the finals tho!
    Thankfully he seems on great form now. Go for it Rafa!

  6. faeaki7 says:

    Interesting, I hope all his injuries are behind him, he was making some sloppy mistakes today, so was Federer though, shame Rafa didn’t get better tested he needs a good challenge, tommorow will be tougher for sure.

  7. Atch2 says:

    You guys that are more technical than me. Have you noticed any changes in Rafa’s service action so far this yr? And does it take a lot of time to adapt and get use to new strings?

    Rafa turned 24 already?

  8. CC says:

    Heh, reading everyone’s comments and it really seems we’re completely obsessed with Rafa being injured! I think any athlete at his level goes through a lot of physical pain every, single week.
    To me, Rafa’s physical problems last year were always about the “problems in the head”. Nothing else.

    • Necitas says:

      That crack me up CC! :)

      • CC says:

        Why? It wasn’t meant to be funny! :)

        • An says:

          Yes CC youre right, when you are playing tennis ( and no doubt when you are doing other sports too ) a lot, there is always some nagging pain here or there. No doubt when you play at a top level there will be even more of that…

          In tennis it is a fact that you need 200% focus to play at youre best level. If you have problems in the head youre focus is off and youre game is off, if youre game is off you’ll start “doobting” youreself even more and you’ll start feeling pain more, if you start feeling pain more, you’ll start “doobting” the body, and so on and so on.
          That is why tennis is such a difficult sport, imo. Its not only the tehcnical skills wich, once you have them you’ll have them always, but its all about concentration, focus and mental strenght and its human that that varies a lot!

          Rafa has shown that he has a lot off mental strenght, it dropped a little last year, due to all the problems ( that where realy there and not only existing in the head, no? ) but i always had faith that he will overgrow them again.
          At the moment it seems that he is getting there and i enjoy watching it happen!
          I tend to panic a little when his body language show signs off something not being 100% right because i soooooo want all to go right for him from now on… but i’ll never loose faith!

          • Necitas says:

            I still feel that there’s a lot of humour the way CC put it and I don’t mean to offend her in any way. But of course what Rafa went through last season, be it physical or mental pain wasn’t funny. As a fan, along with him I also felt all the pain he was feeling… Things are looking better now and as a fan maybe we can manage a sigh of relief. I only hope the best for Rafa and that all these problems will somehow be vanish or drastically be reduce.

          • CC says:

            Yes, An. I agree with all you say. And to me it was so obvious that last year the mental side of things affected Rafa more than anything else.