Rome: How do you solve a problem like Nole?

Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images


Another Masters 1000 final with Rafa and Nole in the final. This time? It was the rain delayed Rome Masters final. Would it go the way of their last 3 finals? Or was it time for a change?

It started out the slug fest we’d all grown used to: both players hitting deep, strong and working every angle on the court. Rafa blinked first and was broken in the 9th game. He went on to break Nole in the next game, but couldn’t hold in the 10th and the first set was Nole’s: 6-4.

A 10 minute plus game in the second set saw a full body Vamos! from Rafa and a tumble. Nole broke to go up 2-0. They each had break points on serve (many), but held until the 10th game. Rafa was serving to stay in the match. It took 4 championship points, but he did it. Nole defeats Rafa in their 4th final in a row: 6-4, 6-4.

Stats:

Nadal Djokovic
Statistics on Serve
Aces 2 0
Double Faults 1 1
1st Serve % 71% 75%
1st Serve Points Won 33/49 (67%) 31/46 (67%)
2nd Serve Points Won 5/20 (25%) 7/15 (47%)
Break Points Saved 7/11 (64%) 1/3 (33%)
Service Games Played 10 10
Statistics on Return
1st Return Points Won 15/46 (33%) 16/49 (33%)
Second Return Points Won 8/15 (53%) 15/20 (75%)
Break Points Won 2/3 (67%) 4/11 (36%)
Return Games Played 10 10
Statistics on Points
Total Service Points Won 38/69 (55%) 38/61 (62%)
Total Return Points Won 23/61 (38%) 31/69 (45%)
Total Points Won 61/130 (47%) 69/130 (53%)
Other Stats
Winners 15 26
Unforced errors 22 32
Net Approaches 9/10 (90%) 10/16 (63%)

As it happened blatherings:

Shiras’s voice already has me wanting to puncture my ear drums. Oh, thank goodness, he’s not actually calling the match.

bgtennisnation: i am going Rafa in 2 tight sets to end the streak,mrs G thinks Nole in 3 sets she says dont mess with the streak

Bernardes in the chair. Nole wins the toss and elects to serve.

RawUncutTennis: RAFOLE PREP: Laptop, comfy position, stress ball/teddy bear, pitcher of sangria. Ready. #neverready

Ataraxis00: I apologize in advance for any random outbursts that may or may not make sense or seem bitter during the course of this match. Thanks. :)

NeilHarmanTimes: It was terrific to see Rafa messing around with Uncle Toni’s two young sons, his cousins, in the lounge this afternoon #greatfamily

Nole pushing Rafa around until he draws an error: 15-0. Rafa nets a ball: 30-0. Why isn’t this on LiveScores yet? I needs my numbers. Calming or frazzling, I needs my numbers. Nole sends a ball long: 30-15. Nole comes in on a high floater from Rafa and smacks a winner: 40-15. Strong hold for Nole to start the match: 1-0.

Ataraxis00: 36 wins for Nole. 0 Losses. 36 wins for Rafa but 5 losses. Mind boggling isn’t it?

bgtennisnation: Nole’s throwing me for a loop today, going Wimbledon white, very confident start from the Djoker.

bgtennisnation: Really important today for Rafa to try and establish his fearhand more, running around when he can, definitely playing way more to ND’s FH

Nole steps in for a backhand, but nets it. Again, Nole goes for a backhand winner, but it goes wide: 30-0. That one worked and pulled Rafa wide; Rafa went down the line and Nole’s reply is long: 40-0. Nole nets a backhand and Rafa holds at love for 1-1.

Long rally – Rafa sends a low slice to Nole’s backhand; Nole tries a drop shot and it lands in the middle of the net: 0-15. Rafa nets a ball: 15-15. Rafa paints the line with a forehand winner: 15-30. He tries to put another one in the same spot, but it’s just out: 30-30. What the hell are Nole’s parents wearing? No wait, don’t answer that. Rafa misshits a ball off a bad bounce: 40-30. Nole holds.

NeilHarmanTimes: Somehow I don’t think, from the look in his eye and the weight of his shot, that Nadal is going to lose today

bgtennisnation: Factoid No 1: The only player In Rafa’s ATP career that he’s lost 4x in a row to is Davydenko.

bgtennisnation: Looks like Rafa is attempting to be more aggressive out of the gate, but Djoker is hitting the ball just as big, especially the forehand

Nole nets a serve return: 15-0. Rafa takes control with a fierce forehand to Nole’s forehand and then hits to the open court: 30-0. Backhand down the line from Nole that Rafa can’t do a thing with: 30-15. Both guys run each other all over the place until Rafa’s forehand goes wide: 30-30. Low slice from Nole, but Rafa picks it up with his forehand and hits a winner into the open court – and yells Vamos! 40-30. Rafa stops play saying that Nole’s ball is long. Carlos gets out , checks the mark and declares it long: 2-2.

Nole pushes Rafa deep until he gets an error: 0-15. (The first part of that sounds naughtier than I meant it to.) Beautiful dipping passing shot from Rafa, but Nole digs it out, and lifts it back over the net…just over: 30-0. Nole’s shot is long: 30-15. Nole misses an overhead smash: 30-30. Defense keeps Rafa in a point beyond all reason, but it still catches up with him: 40-30. Rafa into the midcourt and nets a forehand. Nole holds for 3-2.

bgtennisnation: This is the first time I’ve ever seen somebody pushing Rafa on the dirt. We’re watching equal level of play here – fantastic tennis.

Rafa pouring water on his head on the changeover…it can’t be that hot there. People are bundled up in blankies.

Nole’s return of serve is long: 15-0. Beautiful forehand winner from Rafa: 30-0. Double fault: 30-15. Nole nets a backhand: 40-15. Nole attempts a drop shot and nets it. Rafa holds for 3-3.

bgtennisnation: Rafa looks like an angry boxer to me at the moment, got that scowl on like he’s in for a rough fight, deep down he’s enjoying the challenge.

Beautiful passing shot winner from Rafa: 15-15. Drop shot, Rafa hits a volley right back to Nole, Nole hits an angled volley winner, Rafa hops in frustration: 30-15. Pulled wide, but a short angled forehand winner from Nole: 40-15. Nole’s hitting strong and free. He holds for 4-3.

TheFanChild: geez these guys are covering so much ground. It’s crazy. Just plain crazy.

CraigHickman: @DjokerNole and #Nadal are playing trigonometry in #Rome tonight.

Rafa sends a backhand into the doubles alley: 0-15. Rafa, you can’t afford any errors today. Nole’s forehand is just out…and he’s pissed: 15-15. What the hell was that point? Rafa had an overhead smash to take it and…no. Point goes on and ends on a forced error from Rafa: 15-30. Rafa sends a forehand long: 15-40. Second serve. Rafa completely miss-hits a backhand and Nole breaks for a 5-3 lead.

Backhand cross-court winner from Nole: 15-0. Nole’s forehand is wide: 15-15. A long rally ends with Nole netting a backhand: 15-30. Nole sends a forehand wide: 15-40. Pulled wide, Rafa sends a forehand just long: 30-40. Nole nets a forehand, Rafa breaks and we are back on serve. 4-5, Rafa.

JamesLaRosa: Rafa & Novak are such spectacular athletes and tennis has them. We are all so stupid lucky right now.

Rafa still working the ice towel on the changeovers.

bgtennisnation: Nice reaction after the break back by Rafa, I liked how he put a little more air in his shots, can’t always force Nole – his D is outrageous

AliceMMaddocks: If I had nails I would be biting them. If I smoked I would be smoking. If I did pills – I would be taking Valium. Stressful

Nole nets a shot: 15-0. Rafa’s loopy forehand goes wide: 15-15. Smokin’ forehand from Rafa! 30-15. He follows that up with a forehand that’s way, way, way, way out: 30-30.

bluesunflwr: Oh for god’s sake, Rafa. Just pretend it’s Ferrer across the net from you.

Deep, fierce hitting from Nole and Rafa nets a ball: 30-40. Angled winner from Nole and the first set is his: 6-4.

69% 1st serves in; 72% won on 1st; 25 won on 2nd; 4 winners; 13 UFEs; 0/1 at net

NeilHarmanTimes: There’s that backhand crosscourt again from a curiously floated Rafa backhand. First set to Nole 6-4 and serving first in the 2nd

5livetennis: #goodgollymissmolly I need a lie down so much I AM AcTUALLY LYING DOWN as I type. #romefinal #almosttoomuch Djokovic 6-4. Stunning set.

Dropper works for Nole: 30-0. This time, Nole pulls Rafa in with a drop shot and Rafa replies: 30-15. Rafa sends a forehand well long: 40-15. Fierce forehand from Nole that Rafa can’t get to in time to do anything with. Nole holds to start set 2.

NeilHarmanTimes: Novak going through muscle-stretching routines as against AM yesterday, but a lot earlier in the match. Didn’t seem to bother him ysty

bgtennisnation: Strategy: Never seen anybody hurt Rafa especially on clay with the angles. really opening up the court nicely for Nole.

Nole nets a forehand: 15-0. Again: 30-0. Nole sends the serve return long this time: 40-0. Rafa sends a forehand long – had the whole court open to him – 40-15. Nole runs Rafa until he draws an error: 40-30. Forehand down the line winner from Nole: deuce. Deep shot from Rafa draws an error and he lets out a loud Vamos! game point. Return of serve winner from Nole: deuce. Deep shot from Rafa, but he fails to completely take over the point. Nole finishes it with a deep shot of his own: break point. Rafa into the net, gets a high floating defensive reply from Nole and he smashes a winner: deuce. Full body Vamos! Going back to get a deep shot from Nole, Rafa falls and Nole finishes the point: break point. Looks like he might have turned his ankle a bit? Rafa smashes a winner: deuce. Rafa sends a forehand well wide: break point. Rafa’s slice drifts wide and Nole breaks for a 2-0 lead in the 2nd.

5livetennis: Backhand slice wide to give #djokovic the break after an 11 min game. 64 20 #stilloutrageous #romefinal nadal looks completely mystified

Nole has stolen Rafa’s defense to offense game and Rafa needs to steal it back.

RawUncutTennis: Rafa seems like he’s all out of options. Not sure what to play ATM. Nole’s imposed his game mightily again.

Double fault: 0-15. Rafa pulls Nole in with a short ball (I’m going to pretend he meant it that way) , Nole sends a dropper back and Rafa fires off a winning volley: 0-30. Rafa nets an easy looking backhand: 15-30. Rafa sends a loopy forehand and Nole stomps all over it: 30-30. Nice return from Rafa – out wide and Nole can’t get his forehand back over the net: 30-40. Nole’s dropper is wide and Rafa breaks to put set 2 back on serve.

Ataraxis00: Yes. Thank you. That was as much of a gift as Rafa’s lame slice out wide.

Nole nets a forehand: 15-0. Pushed, Rafa nets a forehand: 15-15. Again, Nole pushes Rafa deep and wide until Rafa can do nothing: 15-30. Another error from Rafa: 15-40. Nole sends a forehand wide and Rafa lets out a Vamos: 30-40. Nole nets a backhand and another squawk from Rafa: deuce. Nole nets a forehand: game point. Rafa holds for 2-2.

MiguelSeabra: I’ve never seen #Nadal moonballing so much; #Djokovic is in the process of deconstructing myths: #Rafa’s clay invencibility, Rafa’s forehand

Forehand winner from Nole: 15-0. Rafa goes for a forehand winner, but it’s long: 40-0. Nole drop shot, Rafa flicks a beautiful cross-court volley winner: 40-15. Nole nets a backhand: 40-30. Again: deuce. Nole didn’t seem to move his feet on that last one. Nole pushes Rafa deep into the corner and finishes it off with a winner from mid-court: game point. Nole holds for 3-2.

Ice towel and banana on the changeover for Rafa.

Nole’s shot is long: 15-0. Rafa hits behind Nole and the reply is out: 30-0. Deep approach from Nole and he follows up with a winning volley: 30-15. Ace: 40-15. Aggressive return of serve, defensive reply from Rafa, Nole into the net to finish the point off: 40-30. Nole’s return ticks the tape and drops over into Rafa’s side of the court: deuce. The court counters the net and gives Nole a horrid bounce: game point. Nole nets a shot and Rafa holds for 3-3.

Nole tees off on a forehand, but it’s long: 0-15. Defensive return of serve from Rafa and Nole womps on it: 15-15. Nole’s forehand is wide: 15-30. Rafa hits short to Nole’s backhand. He clearly has a death wish: 30-30. Long rally ends with Nole’s shot being called out, but Carlos overrules (correctly): 40-30. Nole holds for 4-3.

Rafa follows up a deep forehand down the line with a cute drop shot winner: 15-0. Once again, the net cord shows Nole some love: 15-15. Nole nets a backhand, Rafa lets out a Vamos! 30-15. Ace (and a louder Vamos!): 40-15. Rafa wins a drop shot duel to hold for 4-4.

Nole runs Rafa, but Rafa hits a backhand down the line winner behind him: 0-15. Rafa sends a fluffy backhand that Nole smacks for a winner: 15-15. It’s raining. The net cord pops Nole’s ball over again, but Rafa tracks it down and ends up finishing the point with a smash: 15-30. Backhand winner from Nole: 30-30. Service winner: 40-30. Long rally ends with Nole netting a forehand: deuce. Forehand winner from Nole: game point. Nole holds for 4-5. Rafa has to hold to stay in it.

DrewLilley: Nole’s net clearance in first set was 56cm to Rafa’s 96cm. This set it’s been -10cm more often than not. Sign of fatigue, snatching at shots

Long rally ends with a backhand error from Rafa: 0-15. Again, Nole pushes Rafa deep: 0-30. 3 errors in a row and Nole has triple match point. Nole misshits a forehand and one match point saved. An excellent serve saves another: 30-40. Good serve, followed up with shot into other corner, Rafa into the net and Nole can’t pass him: deuce. Nole again moves Rafa and paints the line with a forehand that Rafa can’t do a thing with: match/championship point #4. Second serve. Bizarre point with multiple net cords and Nole is the champion.

226 Responses

  1. Alice says:

    Feeling much better about the whole thing now……not the end of the world for Rafa…….especially with Rafa’s take on it. Wouldn’t have known that if it hadn’t been for this site!!

  2. Darren says:

    Came across this site and just want to point out how biased the perceptions of most of the fans are here. of course, you are Rafa fans, but please, attempt to make comments based not on your emotional need to boost Rafa up a tennis God, but on the reality of tennis events the last 3 months. Nole has set the bar for the best tennis; it is not a case of Rafa not playing his best. he is not able to hit his trademark forehand winners, and run everything down, because Noles groundstrokes are so good, Rafa feels pressure that he is not used to on the tennis court. Rafa’s usual advantages (heavy topspin shots making his oppponent uncomfortable) are nullified by Noles solid baseline play and speed.

    I think we are seeing the limits of Rafa’s game now. His huge swing at the ball, which we all marvelled at when it was new and effective, is a detriment in the quick groundstroke exchanges with Nole, who has simpler, more technically correct strokes. Nadal just doesn;t have enough time to swing with the same abandon, he is being more rushed, and therefore cannot execute his groundstrokes like he has been able to against other players. This is the drawback of those huge topspin groundstrokes. Someone finally is playing the tennis that can expose this weakness, and I can imagine other players are taking note…….

    lets be real……

    • miri says:

      Your points are all valid and are definitely part of Rafa’s current problem with Nole (and the same problems he’s had in the past with players like Davydenko and Nalbadanian). So, please don’t undermine them with things like telling people how to comment and to get real.

    • JK says:

      We are being real 9 grand slams and counting …

      Vamos!

    • JC says:

      Excuse me, but I’ll comment any way I want… and miri allows ;-)

  3. Darren says:

    Nadal’s huge stroke on his forehand and backhand also is harder to replicate precisely, time after time, thus, he is slightly less consistent than Nole, who has easier to replicate groundstrokes. Thats another reason why Nole seems to be winning more long exchanges.

    As for my telling those how to respond, aren’t you, Miri, telling me how to respond in your comment? All I am trying to do is point out that the emotional discourse found here (and other fan websites) weakens whatever point or argument you are trying to make (if your trying to make any). but, to each his own…but, when I read some of the emotional drivel here, I can’t give much weight to the opinion of the person making the comment…..

    now, I know I am going to be scolded for making these comments…lol.

    • miri says:

      As for my telling those how to respond, aren’t you, Miri, telling me how to respond in your comment?

      It’s my site, I can do that. And yes, it is a fan site. Fan sites are, by definition, biased and probably not the best place to go if you are looking for non-biased commentary on player play.

      Nadal’s huge stroke on his forehand and backhand also is harder to replicate precisely, time after time, thus, he is slightly less consistent than Nole, who has easier to replicate groundstrokes.

      In theory this is true, but then why does Rafa have a reputation (backed by stats) for having very few unforced errors? If you mean they are less consistent under pressure of time (aka, when he’s being rushed), I agree. That’s been a problem for him for years, why he often stands so far back (to gain time), and why rushing him has been the #1 tactic mentioned in the “How to beat Rafa” chapter in the player’s manual. The tactics Nole is using aren’t new, he’s just pulling them off with amazing skill and consistency. It didn’t used to be this way. Used to be Rafa could depend on Nole to finish the point with an error. Rafa’s got to stop depending on that and figure out a way to finish rallies on his own agenda.

      • Darren says:

        To finish rallies on his own agenda means he has to be the agressor. There are several problems for him with this plan;

        1. Aggression is not his natural game, and under pressure, players tend to fall back to their natural games and instincts.

        2. The aggressor is taking bigger risks, and therefore potentially putting pressure on themself to execute shots. Groundstrokes that are technically more complex are more difficult to execute in these circimstances, and just get harder as pressure mounts. Rafa is not often put in this situation, because he has often played defence under pressure, but when he is, he often misses.

        Your right, in the past, players have not been able to expose his weaknesses well, or his mental edge has been such an advantage that other players didn’t believe they could execute the game plan that could beat him, but these things are changing. Bigger, more consistent hitters are now able to rush him, and his losses have weakened his aura. Players will now feel like they have a real shot, just like they have had with Federer for the last few years, and this makes a huge difference.

        My point is, it may be more complex than just a strategy change needed by Nadal to continue to be dominant. Has the game finally caught up with him, like it did with Federer 3 years ago? I think these weaknesses in Nadal’s game will be exposed more and more by the newer younger more powerful players, and his aura of invincibility will no longer give him the advantage he has had to help him overcome opponents in the past. Major mechanical changes to his groundstrokes may be needed, but can such a fundamental change be made at this stage in a players evolution? I don’t think so. I think we will see him loose to players he didn’t in the past, and struggle with ups and downs, like Federer has. When you are at the top, your game doesn’t improve at the same rate as those trying to catch you, and before you know it, they have eclipsed you. Some fundamental mechanical flaws, or a game too reliant on physical exertion, have accelerated this process with Nadal, in my opinion. That is the natural evolution of professional tennis.

        • An says:

          Well, we will see won’t we?

          Roger, Rafa, Nole and i can name a few more are all fantastic tennis players who have, had and will have theire ups and downs, now, in the past and in the future!

          Nothing we can do but watch and see what happens. I know one thing is for sure tough. Rafa loves a good challenge!

        • miri says:

          Bigger, more consistent hitters are now able to rush him, and his losses have weakened his aura.

          Aside from matches played when injured or sick, he’s lost to one person this year. Does it help that two of those losses where on his “unbeatable” surface? No. It does put a huge dent in his aura and he’s showing his nerves and frustration more than he did in the past. But…so far, it’s just one person who’s done it. Might there be more on the horizon? Yep. But so far… (And I’ve never seen a top player look more “aura-less” and beatable than Rafa in the 2009 WTF and he came back from that.)

          In general, I’m not disagreeing with you (especially about the aggression and risk taking not being natural to Rafa) – this is the way of competition: one person tends to leap forward and then people catch up. Rafa’s got a lot of work to do if he wants to keep winning and stay at the top of the field. That’s his job. As a fan, it’s my job to have faith that he will do all he can to do so. Will he accomplish it? I don’t know. Is what he needs to do possible? I don’t know. Whatever happens, it’s not going to change the way I feel about him or what he’s accomplished so far in his career.

          • JK says:

            the uncertainty and the guessing game is why we all follow sports and that is why there is a huge bookie business as well.
            whats the point if it were all too predictable?

          • An says:

            Exactly! And as a fan i choose to have and keep having faith in him and support him in what he’s doing.

            Is that biased, am i “sticking my head in the sand” ( if that expression even exist in English ), could be, but he proved me right so many times before and in the end it makes me feel happier!

            Your analyses are correct but no mather what you say i choose to believe in Rafa!

          • JC says:

            “As a fan, it’s my job to have faith that he will do all he can to do so. Will he accomplish it? I don’t know. Is what he needs to do possible? I don’t know. Whatever happens, it’s not going to change the way I feel about him or what he’s accomplished so far in his career”.

            So perfectly expressed, miri! Exactly how I feel :-)

        • JK says:

          I agree with what you say – but it is easier said than done. To be able to implement the blue print on how to beat Rafa is not all too easy over the course of 3 or 5 sets as the case maybe.

          Nole is in the form of his life and hence he is able to do it again and again and consistently.

          Soderling and Delpotro exploited Rafa’s weaknesses in 2009 – where have they gone since then?

          Sure Rafa may not be a dominant force but to say that others will exploit him and that too consistently is a little premature.

          • Darren says:

            DelPotro was injured and didn’t play for nearly a year. Rafa was lucky not to have to play him in the first match in Rome due to hip injury. I was expecting an upset if Rafa had to play DelPo then.

            • Stf says:

              Do you mean Madrid? Because Delpo pulled out of Rome.

              • Darren says:

                Yes, your right, I meant Madrid. The tournaments were so close together, the whole period almost seems to mesh into one…

            • JK says:

              Rafa played DelPo on HC earlier this spring and beat DelPo fair and square.

              • Darren says:

                JK, your comments (below) are saturated with the hate you feel for me for pointing out some flaws in Nadal, lol.

                So, when Nadal beats someone it is fair and square, (ignoring that DelPo was and still is on the start of his comeback) but when it is close or Nadal losses he is not playing his best?

                Yeah, that’s objective…lol

                • miri says:

                  I called him out on his bad behavior. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

                • Stf says:

                  Hate is a strong word, Darren. It’s the opinions of different people, of course they’ll be subjective. Same goes for your opinion, too.

                • JK says:

                  No hatred at all. I dont even know you. I am just stating the obvious, just as you are i.e. no one stays dominant forever. what goes up must come down.

                • JK says:

                  Oh and btw – USO 2009 even Nadal was on a comeback from injury trail and had a abdominal muscle tear.

      • L says:

        Agree Miri,

        Many said that Rafa could never win a hardcourt major, the surface was too quick so he wouldn’t have enough time to set up his strokes. But he’s won the OZ open, US open and Tokyo, one the fastest indoor surfaces. So Rafa knows how to play aggressive tennis. The problem for him right now is changing his mindset on clay to one of an aggressive nature especially when against Djokovic and maintaining that aggressive mindset throughout the match. Right now Djokovic is a better defender and it’s easier for him to go from defence to offence so maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea if Rafa could play his hardcourt game on clay, flatten out his strokes and shorten the rallies. Of course we’re seeing a lot more errors from him righ now cause he’s not 100 % confident in his game and even more so against Djokovic. Also Djokovic seems to know Rafa’s game inside out and right now on clay he’s the best at getting the ball onto Rafa’s backhand even when he’s on the defence. So it’s up to Rafa to find a way to mix up his patterns of play, which he was only able to do a couple of times when he went with his backhand up the line instead of CC, and using the FH up the line.

  4. Stf says:

    And all this talk for a guy who has only lost to three people in this entire season and has reached six consecutive finals? Hm. Sure, there is a way to beat Rafa. The point is that the only person who has been able to execute that strategy to perfection is a guy that has been playing the tennis of his life the past few months. The other players may have been taking notes on that but I don’t see how many of these players have the consistency to beat Rafa’s consistency. At this point, Rafa’s beating everyone except Nole, who’s been having a crazy year and is more consistent, indeed. But this means that Rafa’s “inconsistency” is still better than other players’ relative consistency.

  5. Darren says:

    One final comment. Yes, it is true that Nadal has only lost to Djokovic, and that many have not been able to exploit the dynamic we have discussed long enough to beat him. However, we can look at how many close matches Nadal typically has, and how often it seems he is about to be upset, but manages to win. Credit to him for being mentally tough, but his aura of invicibility has also had a lot to do with these wins. I’m thinking Wimbledon, last year. He was way down to Peshner, and another player, eventually winning both in 5, when he really was being beaten up, and i felt outplayed. There are numerous other matches like this I remember as well, so I do not think it is correct to say that others have not been able to execute the game plan; they just haven’t had the belief that they could pull it off all the way to a win. Perhaps now they will.

    I agree that it is premature to write the guy off. Heck, I hated it when these things started to happen to Federer, and I didn’t want to accept it either, and tried to rationalise everything, and tried to maintain faith that he would regain his former dominance, but, he didn’t, hasn’t, and in all likelihood, won’t. When I look back at the approximate time this happened to him, I remember I was in denial, however, now I can see it was the beginning of the decline.

    Nadal is at the initial stages of seeing his dominance eclipsed, so, we can still hold hope he will make adjustments, and regain his position, but, looking at the history of tennis, the former dominant player almost never does regain a position similar to that when he was at the top of the sport.

    • Stf says:

      Don’t go too far, Murray in MC. Not playing his best tennis but he still managed to pull it off. All that while he had just lost two finals in a row to Nole and obviously his confidence wasn’t at his highest level. And with Murray being a player who always gives Rafa trouble. It’s just how Rafa is, he will always play close matches and because he’s used to that kind of situation, he is able to pull these victories off. Just because he can’t beat Nole at this point doesn’t mean that he’s choking against other players, too. And also, he’s just 24. I’m sure he has enough time in his career to adjust his game and improve even more.

      • Darren says:

        The opponent has a lot to do with how well a player is playing. There is a dynamic there, and often a player seems like they are not playing well, but in reality he hasn’t been allowed to play well because of the opponent’s excellent play pressuring him, not becasue of some lack of form. So, your comment about him not playing well against Murray, to me, doesn’t have a lot of credibility. It may be true, but it also may not have more to do with Murray’s excellent play. Nadal certainly seemed to be playing well in the first set there….

        • Darren says:

          “It may be true, but it also may not have more to do with Murray’s excellent play”

          I meant:

          “It may be true, but it also may have had more to do with Murray’s excellent play”

        • Stf says:

          Murray’s got a game of his own and it’s traditionally given Rafa a lot of trouble. I’m thinking the level of play in WTF and MC. London’s surface is one that does not suit Rafa, yet his level of play was higher than MC, in my opinion. Had Rafa played the way he played in MC this year, he would’ve lost that match, I think. Murray has the same strategy with Rafa in each match but Rafa was able to win both times. Which makes me think that no matter the level of play, he is able to win difficult matches with a player who’s always given him trouble, even when he is not 100%.

    • JC says:

      You compare Rafa’s current situation with Federer’s. I think the following quote from Tignor’s brilliant article on the IW tournament 2009 perfectly sums up the fallacy in this argument:

      “Nadal practices his forehand over the first weekend of the tournament. He’s working on snapping up on it with less backswing and more flick. In his next match, he seems to have it mastered, and it does look a little different and more abbreviated than I remember it. While Federer sticks with what works and maintains a deep belief in his innate ability, Nadal is about the process. He’s a tinkerer who doesn’t believe he was born to be the best; he concentrates on how he can improve himself enough to get there. He’s there, but he’s still tinkering.”

      And a little “emotional drivel” to sum it up: Rafa finds ways to win!

      • Darren says:

        I think this misses my point. I am not arguing that Nadal can not or will not make adjustments. I also think it is untrue to claim that Federer has not tried to make adjustments as well.

        However, adjustments are just that; adjustments. Slight variations to an exisiting game that has been developing since the player was a child. There is only so much a player can change before it starts to become counterproductive by destabilising the foundation of the game that got them to where they are. Are adjustments enough, or are more fundamental changes needed, and even possible? Can Nadal truly flatten out his groundstrokes?

        We also don’t know his mental state. Borg was burned out at a very young age because he gave so much on the court to win. Who gives more than Nadal? Many have predicted his physical exertions would shorten his career. What about his mental exertions? Are we already seeing signs of this?

    • JK says:

      “Heck, I hated it when these things started to happen to Federer, and I didn’t want to accept it either, and tried to rationalise everything….
      Ok so you are some sorry Federer fan lost on a Rafa website..

      What you are saying is common sense and its not some conclusion derived by a rocket scientist.

      Nothing lasts forever and that ‘nothing’ includes dominance on tennis court.

      • miri says:

        Ok so you are some sorry Federer fan lost on a Rafa website..

        People can be fans of both. It is possible. I’ve seen it. No need to be snide or call Federer fans sorry.

        • Darren says:

          I’m a tennis fan, I appreciate many players, including Nadal; I am not a Nadal hater. I am (I think) presenting an analysis of Nadal’s current challenge, and an attempt at an objective opinion about his ability to overcome this challenge.

        • JK says:

          I love Federer as well.. I think he is a GOAT although I love Rafa..
          But I am not making odd comments and stating the obvious.

          • Darren says:

            I hope after everything I wrote there is more useful observation there than the oversimplified interpretation that I was simply stating the obvious lol.

            • miri says:

              You guys can’t help it with the passhole-agresshole swipes at each other, can you? Fine. I’m not on the mood and this comment thread is far too long and it’s clogging up the database. Locked.

          • Karen says:

            Maybe Darren is Darren Cahill! You never know who may appear on this site. Hope you all see the funny side. I’m fed up with dissecting Rafa & his game. Looking forward to RG. Vamos Rafa!!!