WTF: Smiling into the semis

AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth

Photo by AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth

Another day in London, another solid match by Rafa. He defeated Murray 6-4, 6-1.

Due to Ferrer’s subsequent loss to Wawrinka, Rafa has won the group and will play in the semifinal on Saturday when his most likely opponent will be Djokovic (scenarios). Before that, however, he’ll play Ferrer in the early singles match on Friday.

Nadal Murray
Statistics on Serve
Aces 1 2
Double Faults 0 4
1st Serve % 51% 43%
1st Serve Points Won 18/27 (67%) 14/22 (64%)
2nd Serve Points Won 16/26 (62%) 10/29 (34%)
Break Points Saved 0/1 (0%) 5/9 (56%)
Service Games Played 9 8
Statistics on Return
1st Return Points Won 8/22 (36%) 9/27 (33%)
Second Return Points Won 19/29 (66%) 10/26 (38%)
Break Points Won 4/9 (44%) 1/1 (100%)
Return Games Played 8 9
Statistics on Points
Total Service Points Won 34/53 (64%) 24/51 (47%)
Total Return Points Won 27/51 (53%) 19/53 (36%)
Total Points Won 61/104 (59%) 43/104 (41%)
Other Stats
Winners 12 15
Unforced errors 12 29
Net Approaches 11/13 (85%) 9/14 (64%)

23 Responses

  1. mallorcanchamp says:

    Rafa is really fresh and in form. The only one of the eight participants that has both things right now.

    Both Stan and Andy recognized this very soon and kind of threw in the towel in despair at the start of their 2nd sets. Tennis season is just too long and tiring, but Rafa’s had a strange season so he’s now starting to peak on his form…and he’s not even close to his best yet.

    In his first match, Rafa didn’t need to do much, just be solid. In today’s match, he really put pressure on Murray’s second serves, unceasingly attacking his FH. It was for all to see a great display of aggressive returns, in tune with some good serving games (not many, but it’s improving) and good net play.

    Murray sure didn’t play his best but it’s Rafa (when he’s executing his gameplan) that has this puzzling ability to make his opponent look like he’s playing below par.

    When Rafa is in good form to execute his plan (attack Murray’s FH) there’s no possible response from Andy. It’s always been like that. 16-6 between these two it is just as clear as 23-11 against Fed. Rafa/Toni masterplans dominate these 2 matchups. Djokovic is a whole different story.

    If you are Rafa you just don’t overlook Ferrer’s match. Go have another great perfomance and get the points. Keep gaining confidence on court. Not even think about facing this or that player in the SFs. No pressure/expectations, just go day by day.

  2. Rob says:

    I think they were both tired but Rafa handled it much better, taking the aggressive attacking tennis to Murray. A very professional and disciplined performance. The sort of work that has won him so many matches and silverware during his career.

  3. dhartk says:

    Great to be able to tune in and out of match at work, with an occasional cheer causing my students to glance, without having to worry about the outcome!

    I never had any doubt that Rafa’s level would return. This is the first year I can remember that he wasn’t so drained after so many matches that he had the opportunity to practice several hours a day on this less familiar surface and adjust so he could master it.
    Rafa is a champion, he and his team are obviously capable of understanding what he needs to do-stepping into the court and taking the ball on the rise, being more aggressive, more net play, etc. Now that the confidence is coming back, he is able to carry out what he’s been practicing.
    Ironic that the one match Djoker loses after all this time may likely cause Rafa to meet him in the SF. It should be an interesting match. Let’s keep up the forward progress!!!

    • I was just thinking along those lines. When has Rafa ever been able to really focus on the WTF? Either he’s tired and hurting or he’s got a Davis Cup final coming up this time of year. Or both. Ironic that this year, when he really is focusing on changing his game and preparing for the coming year he’s making one of his better WTF runs. He’ll be very happy to play Djokovic whenever. For Rafa this week has been a chance to play the best and see where he is. (And why has Rafa never caught a break from the commies when he’s got DC coming up?)

      • Aero says:

        I honestly think Djokovic is the last player he wants to play. While I think he is happy with his progression and performance and happy to reach the semi’s, I don’t think he really wants to meet Djokovic in the semi’s, I think he’d prefer Fed based on how close their last indoors match was. Rafa still doesn’t have answers when it comes to his match up against Djokovic, even more so on an indoor low bounce surface. But I guess to get back to the top, he needs to eventually face him regardless!

  4. markandeya says:

    Hi,

    Could someone please explain how did Rafa win his group? If say in a worst case hypothetical situation Rafa loses to Ferrer 0-6;0-6, and Stan beats Andy by the same score, the Rafa will have win-loss ratio 2-1 and games 24-22 (he is 24-10 now, so he would lose 12 games and gain none). Stan will also have 2-1 and games 30-19 (he is 18-19 now, so if he wins all 12 games then that would be 18+12=30). So shouldn’t Stan be the winner of that group based on the game difference or that is not how it is calculated?

  5. JayDee50 says:

    Once again I had the pleasure and privilege to be sitting courtside for this match. I don’t know how it came across on TV, but Rafa’s play was exceptional, the way he was making use of full court coverage, the angles he was generating with some of his shots, the way he was running Murray from side to side and up to net…..it’s absolutely no wonder that Murray grew tired and frustrated from trying to chase down everything. What stood out for me was how Murray was far too happy to simply engage in baseline rallies back and forth, he didn’t take the initiative much in trying to change the direction of the ball, just simply traded groundstrokes giving Rafa full control and able to dictate play.

    I’ve heard commies were saying that Andy wasn’t at his best, well, they said the same about Stan too. Oh please, really, two top-4 players who by coincidence couldn’t bring their best tennis against a player (Rafa) known to dislike these indoor hard court conditions? Come on commies, time to credit Rafa with a much higher level of play than we’ve seen from him previously this year.

    I can vouch for how hard he’s working in practice, too, having spent the last 3 days at the O2 watching him on the practice courts, repeating the same drills over and over. Yesterday he was specifically working on return of serve for a while. I didn’t recognise his practice partner but I can assure you he had a fine serve full of pace.

    It’s so good to see Rafa playing like this again, I for one never doubted that he would eventually return to top form, even if he’s not quite there yet. It’s only a year since the appendix surgery, which can take a lot out of a person who’s required to be at peak physical condition to compete in a sport like tennis and be successful.

    • Roxitova says:

      Everything you write rings true to what i saw on TV. What a thrill to have been there!

    • Aero says:

      Must be an awesome experience to watch him in both matches and practice. He did play very well, thanks for the insight on practice sessions. He does tactically seem to standing in closer to the service line and taking the ball earlier especially on second serves, probably just one of several adjustments he is working on. Great to see his confidence returning.

    • Tina says:

      I agree, Jay Dee, commies always tend to find excuses for Rafa´s opponents, not giving Rafa the credit, he deserves. It has been a constant puzzle to me throughout the years, but a puzzle that I somehow accept. What to do? Rafa lets his racket do the talking, and we, his fans know better:-) Enjoy! Must be great to be there! VAMOS

    • john f says:

      thanks for the comments JayDee
      What a delight to be able to attend the matches and feel the energy/power/emotions on the court. That doesn’t come across on TV.

    • Caprice says:

      Thanks Jaydee, it is always interesting to know insights of someone who watched the actual match and practices because there are things that are not visible while watching on tv.

      Especially glad you told us that Rafa had been practising on his return of serve, because in the Murray match I was surprised and delighted at the noticeable improvement!

      That, plus his solid backhand, were the 2 shots that stood out for me.

      I am feeling confident about 2016. At this stage in his comeback, if he can beat the world no 2 and 4 on indoor hard, then if he continues to improve and stays injury free, he will be back to where he was in 2013 and then anything can happen.

    • poh123 says:

      This is entirely true. Entirely. I am glad I am not the only one that notices this from the commentators. Paul Anacone made a fascinating analysis of how Rafa beat Stan and how he frustrated him into submission. He is doing things he has not done before. That is how he beat Murray, as well.
      He has a tough SF but I think he has a shot.

  6. Cowboyal says:

    Well done Nadal – that was unexpected! Well played:-)

    I can now sit and watch the Ferrer match totally relaxed knowing that he had qualified:-)

    I just hope he doesn’t do his usual and kill himself to win the Ferrer match. The semi-final is the next day and his opponent would have had the day before off.

    So take it easy Nadal and save your energy for the semi-final!!!!!

  7. Roxitova says:

    I thought he’d beat Andy and he did, easily.
    Rafa’s newfound beleif and confidence were too much for Andy or Stan to surmount, and they crumbled fast.

    I feel confident saying Rafa is finally back–step by step all fall improving–you can see it on his face and on his FH and his willingness to redirect more. He played Andy with tremendous intelligence and patience–using his BH to Andy’s FH as the working formula.

    The only thing still missing is the serve. That will still have to improve (more 1rst serves!) to beat Fed or Djok.

    I have been over the moon since yesterday, have waited so long to see Rafa restored to himself, and to us.

    Is it too much to ask to beat Djok? And would i rather see him play Fed? I didn’t see the Djok/Fed match but I understand Djok was not himself. Try to imagine the confidence it would give Rafa were he able to beat Djok.

    Beating Stan that easily gave Rafa the additional confidence needed to beat Andy. Doubters say both Stan adn Andy played like crap, but they didn’t start out that way, did they? Rafa subdued them fast, and neither had the fight.

    OK Vamos, etc! So happy about this …

    • Aero says:

      Yes Fed and Djoker are the only real challenges left and I honestly don’t think his game is there yet (not in this environment, it never has been, it’s his kryptonite ). Outdoors I think he has his game back to a level were he can beat Fed. Djokovic is still on another level though, just hope he can find answers before the AO.

      • Rob says:

        Joker is a bad match up for rafa.

        Fed has a type of tennis that works much better against him on hard indoor even more so. For Rafa it is a struggle to beat Mr D. So all the more fun when he does!

        • Aero says:

          While Rafa doesn’t have Feds serve, I wonder does his team study matches like the Fed/Djokovic one in order to see if he can borrow anything from Feds game that might help him against Djokovic. Djokovic knows Rafa’s game so well it no longer bothers him and can exploit his weaknesses. Rafa needs to mix things up like Fed did, his first serve needs to be solid, consistent and well placed, and he can’t be landing short balls or it will be a straight set win for Djoker.

          • Roxitova says:

            All Fed has against Djok that Rafa doesn’t is that huge serve, and when Djok neutralizes it with his incredible return, Fed is shut down.
            Watching Berd, I see he has more to bring against Djok than almost anyone but Waw fully on (a rare thing). The only thing that bothers Djok it seems is power, hitting through him.
            Djok is better now than he’s been since 2011. I am hoping something gets into his head, or even his body. I don’t dislike him–I prefer him to Fed actually– but i find his extreme dominance boring. And not nice for Rafa!

      • Roxitova says:

        Yes, the indoor has always favoured Fed; with Djok surface doesn’t really matter that much. Gulp.
        I thought Rafa came close in Basel against Fed, a few points here and there made the difference.
        I think Rafa would beat Fed on clay now, easily, and maybe outdoor HC with a high bounce.
        Anyway, we’ll see.
        Not sure who I prefer he meets on Sat.

        • Aero says:

          Agreed, I don’t think he’d have a problem now in beating Fed outdoors, on either hard or clay. His style matches up better against Fed than Djokovic. The Basel final was indeed too close to call, so his level now might be able to push Fed all the way and possibly beat him here if they meet. I’m just glad Fed beat Djokovic and showed us that this guy is still beatable so who knows! Anyhow regardless of how he does in the semi’s I’m just happy to see him make it out of his group in such convincing style, these wins will do wonders for his confidence going into 2016.

  8. Roxitova says:

    Agree back re Fed beating Djok–someone’s got to do it! Otherwise Djok’s confidence goes off the ARicter scale. Every player who beats Djok at this point chips away at his aura of invincibility.
    Well as it turns out Rafa plays Djok tomorrow and Ferrer today, in a match that makes no difference for either Ferrer or Rafa. Hope Rafa spends no extra energy on it.