I see this morning that Xavier Malisse took out Rafael Nadal in straight sets 64 76 in Chennai today. Not a good sign for World No. 2 Nadal, who still has yet to win a title since the French or reach a final since Wimbledon.
The loss also adds further fuel on the fire that maybe the guy’s on the tour are starting to figure him out.
I didn’t watch the match in Chennai (go figure, it’s not on the tube here in the Midwest!), so I can’t really say what happened with any fact. But going into the match Malisse actually matches up well against Nadal. As I wrote back in November, players who have big games with rock-solid backhands (like Malisse) are starting to give Nadal more and more trouble. (Congrats to Malisse for the win!)
Nadal’s No. 1 shot is that heavy topspin forehand to the opponent’s weaker side, often their backhand wing. But players who can crush winners off their backhands can step and take advantage of that shot, even hitting their reply at Nadal’s forehand forcing the Spaniard to chip return. Guys like James Blake, Tomas Berdych, Mikhail Youzhny have that ability, whereas maybe a Tommy Robredo, Andy Roddick, David Nalbandian cannot.
And then there’s the issue of Nadal’s second serve, which, unfortunately for him, probably isn’t much better than it was a year ago so I’m guessing it’s still sitting up nicely for guys who can hammer big returns, like Malisse.
Now I’m not here bashing the kid – he’s still The Man on clay. And Nadal is still among the quickest (I’d put Federer No. 1), fiercest and fittest players on the circuit, and he’s still very young, so he’s got time to work out the bugs. But it will be interesting to see how he does in Australia where everyone talks about how his spin-heavy game is tailor made for the rubbery courts Down Under.
Just to add, the draw in Sydney doesn’t look good for Nadal as he’s seeded to meet Berdych in the quarters and then Blake or Dmitry Tursunov in the semifinals. He opens with the red-hot serve/volley machine Chris Guiccione who I see is in the Adelaide finale.
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