Nadal Will Never be No. 1
by Guerry Smith | March 29th, 2008, 8:51 pm
  • 102 Comments

Rafael Nadal is the king of clay, but it is becoming increasingly clear he never will be on top of the throne in men’s tennis.

That means getting to No. 1 in the world, and even though Rafa is closer than ever on the computer rankings thanks to Roger Federer’s mysterious slump (fried by Fish: what gives?), his game is not good enough.

Sure, it’s a harsh assessment. We’re talking about a guy who became the first teenager to reach No. 2 since Boris Becker in 1986, a guy who has been No. 2 every week since July 25, 2005, and a guy who was a couple points and maybe one knee tweak away from stunning Federer in the Wimbledon final last year. Even off clay, Nadal has more than half the men’s field beaten before he steps on the court because of his superhuman effort level.

It’s also a realistic assessment. When Nadal cruised through Indian Wells without dropping a set last March, he and Federer appeared to be on a different planet from the rest of the tour and destined to duel in Grand Slam finals on all surfaces for years to come. Instead, the last 12 months have exposed his shortcomings, fittingly capped by his one-sided loss to the man who will be the next No. 1, Novak Djokovic, in an Indian Wells semifinal last week.

Nadal won five games in a numbingly familiar performance. He has not won a tournament off of clay since Indian Wells of 2007, and he has been shellacked repeatedly. In his last 12 hard-court events, he lost 6-3, 6-4 to Djokovic in the Key Biscayne semifinals, 7-5, 6-3 to Djokovic in the Montreal quarters, 7-6, 4-1 ret. to Juan Monaco in the second round at Cincinnati, 6-7, 6-4, 7-6, 6-2 to David Ferrer in the round of 16 at the U.S. Open, 6-1, 6-2 to David Nalbandian in the Madrid quarters, 6-4, 6-0 to Nalbandian in the Paris final, 6-4, 6-1 to Federer in the Masters’ Cup semifinals, 6-0, 6-1 to Mikhail Youzhny in the Chennai final, 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the Australian Open semifinals, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to Andreas Seppi in the round of 16 at Rotterdam, 7-6, 6-2 to Andy Roddick in the Dubai quarters and 6-3, 6-2 to Djokovic at Indian Wells.

Almost every one of them was a beat-down. Coach/uncle Tony Nadal almost certainly overstated the case last year when he said Nadal’s lingering foot problems were career threatening, but his results lend credence to the notion his body cannot hold up on hard surfaces. Witness his tank job against Youzhny in Chennai a day after playing a triple-tiebreak epic with good friend and fellow Mayorcan Carlos Moya – a predictable effort for a normal player, but not the supremely fit Nadal.

Those results are not No. 1 material and are a long way from the Nadal of 2005, when he won Montreal, Beijing and Madrid on hard courts. The prevailing wisdom was he would only get better as he gained more experience on faster surfaces, but opponents have figured out his forehand is attackable on hard courts while his backhand does little damage. He winds up just as far behind the baseline as he did when he arrived on the tour, and guys like Djokovic, Youzhny, James Blake and Thomas Berdych can overpower him.

Federer, who used to struggle against Nadal on any surface, has not lost to him on anything but clay since Dubai of 2006, winning twice at Wimbledon and twice at the Masters Cup.

Grass is Nadal’s last refuge away from clay because it is easier on his body, but he will be hardpressed to get back to the Wimbledon final. His sensational run there is reminiscent of Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario’s in 1995 and 1996, when she lost two consecutive finals to Steffi Graf, coming within a few points of winning one of them.

Sanchez-Vicario never got past the semifinals again. Nadal, who won four best-of-five-set matches in as many days to reach the final in an extraordinary effort last year, may face the same fate.

Robin Soderling almost beat him in the third round of Wimbledon last year but lacked the self-confidence. Youzhny waxed him for two sets before waning with a leg injury in the round of 16. Barely trying, Djokovic still won the first set of his Wimbledon semifinal with Nadal last year before retiring in the third set. Djokovic is much tougher mentally now and matches up extremely well with Rafa on grass with his serve, power and movement.

Without Wimbledon, Nadal would be a one-surface Grand Slam contender. He never has gone past the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open, and his destruction at the hands of Tsonga on the new Australian Open hard courts bode poorly for him there.

If he finally discards his No. 2 ranking, it will be in the wrong direction. At some point this year, Djokovic should pass him, and then he will be looking up at two players with more ability than he possesses, one of whom is a year younger.

Granted, Nadal is only 21. Normally, it would be absurd to consider someone that young a finished product, but he is an abnormal player. His game requires so much physical exertion that his body is older than his linear age.

With three Roland Garros titles in three appearances and a series of stupendous streaks, he is well on his way to becoming the best clay-court player in men’s tennis history. Just don’t count on that legacy including a single week as the top player in the world.


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102 Comments for Nadal Will Never be No. 1

yellowballspanker Says:

Fine analysis. Timing is a big factor here, Nadal has a similar game to Hewitt who made it to No. 1 more due the time he peaked rather than a dominating game. I would pick a prime Nadal over a prime Hewitt on any surface. Federer and Djoko, and indeed Tsonga, have more rounded elite level games.

But what is so interesting is that there is still no challenger to Nadal on clay. As his body wears out, he’ll reside himself to the dirt and the French each year, and could possibly still pull out two more titles. Muster comes to mind, he realized to win on clay, he had to skip the Hard Courts. Nadal is realizing this, and will follow suit. Winning the dirt tournaments and doing well at Wimby could keep Nadal at No. 2 for a couple more years.


AskFedereraboutNadal Says:

It seems very interesting to me that American’s love to put their “stars” on pedestals and then quickly knock them down. Is Nadal, (now only 21), just unable to surpass a sluggish Federer, or is it that he now has more competition as of late? Tsonga has been “arriving” with a multitude of injuries. Djokovic has retired or lost many matches and yet his star seems to keep rising (2nd round of Miami comes to mind). Federer doesn’t win everything he enters so of course he is falling from grace at a rapid pace. Nadal hasn’t won a hard court title yet this season and that makes him a has been? I think people give far to much importance on individual tournaments and not enough notice to the whole picture! Nadal won more tournaments than anyone else in 07, won the hardest grandslam in tennis 3 years running (ask Sampras and Federer), all the while beating Federer on clay and taking him to task unlike anyone else on grass. So what if he reached further in at the 08 Australian Open then in previous years, and that the US Open hasn’t seen Nadal at his best. Many great players have a “favorite” surface to play on and the”King of Clay” just happens to win a lot more than your giving him credit. I hope he does make number one, even if it is only for a short period, its obvious that he has the youth, tenacity and ability to prove your article wrong, or at least enjoy his reign at number 2 for many more years to come.


Kevin Says:

Most likely Nadal could not be Year-End No.1 as Kuerten, but he still get chance for few weeks No.1 as Muster, just if he could keep points on the dirt, reach quarter or semi for some games and play less for other surfaces to keep his body fit. Fed is not in top form this year and it seems he could not win as much games as last year. For Djokovic who needs 1 or 2 years for stable performance. I will pick Nadal will be next No.1, as he is mentally stronger than Djokovic, so he could reach more quarter and semi.


Maxi Says:

There is no doubt that at the moment Djokovic looks more likely to become No-1 player in the world, but you can not count out Rafa he is amazing player and he can gain enough points on clay to keep him on No-1 for a year. talking about Djokovic he is not mentally and physically fit enough to hold No-1 title for long and mind you he is still to beat Nadal and Federer and their best, only reason he has catched them is because of their poor form this year, but as they say Form is temprory but class is permanent, If Roger and Rafa regained their form then they will rule tennis again. Only reason guys are catching them up is because they are playing bad not rest are playing better. I also believe Rafa will regain his form in Clay Court Season. Where Roger needs a coach to improve his game


Kevin Says:

Sometimes coach may help, but a suitable one is not easy to find. Roddick, Safin and Hewitt (whose current coach, Tony Roche, is former coach of Fed) all have coach, but the results are not satisfacotry. I am not judging the ability of any coach, but the factors affect the performance of player are complicated. Fed may be need a good doctor more than coach, but who knows. Nevertheless, it is frustrated to see a game which the player loss his game due to playing badly rather than one of them plays it extremely good.


tennisballpenetrator Says:

Terrible prediction, I hope he proves you wrong.
If he really does want the #1 spot, he should play Buenos Aires and Acapulco instead of Rotterdam and Dubai, like he did in 2005. But no, he’d rather try and get better on hard courts rather than sweeping up the the clay tournaments in South America. What a cock… He could’ve earned 425 points, instead of 100.


rafa fan Says:

The topic is clearly the most disgusting thing i woulds see ever. it should have been RAFA WILL BE THE NEXT NO.1. Iam just amazed at the fact that how people forget the class and consistency he has shown over years and he is not playing that bad to loso it to djokovic. djokovic has a good run but it is temporary he can not stand it all.


Ollie Says:

Excellent article and very very accurate.

I only differ on one point. I don’t think either Rafa or Djokovic will be #1. Rafa for the reasons above. I don’t think he can repeat his Wimbledon achievements of the past two years, and also think he will go the way of Hewitt who plays a similair counterpunching game and had a limited stand on the top echelon.

Maybe its the benefit of the Ericsson open result today that makes me say this, but I dont think Djokovic will make it either. I think Federer is playing down to him, rather than he rising to Federers elite level. Also, I don’t think he has the temperament and image to remain cosistently motivated. He rubs me the wrong way – I’m not 100% sure what it is. Maybe I sense false bravado. Even though at times he says the right things, he’s never going to be popular because he seems to lack real grace. Just my opinion.

Federer on the other hand appears to me to have everyone fooled. People are mistaking his calm in losing for a lack of motivation. I call it cunning. Roger has been ill, as well documented, and he is likely just now getting close to 100%. For this reason I think he is accepting results as they happen right now, rely only on his instinct and natural ability in his play rather than trying to gut through it. There is simply no reason for him to battle. Any battling or extra effort just shortens his tennis longevity and he has eyes on the bigger stuff like the French and Wimbledon, and for many years to come.

He’s preserving himself for the big cheese.


Kevin Says:

I assume that every sportsman at Nadal’s age want to be no.1 rather than just for fun or enjoy the game. Can’t deny that Nadal improve his games in other surfaces last year and I hope he could better this year. Anyway I wish he could keep himself fit and not have injury call in future matches. as exciting matches like the French Open and Wimbledon 2007 are good for big tennis fan!


JD Says:

I hope Nadal will prove everyone wrong by dethrowning Fed from No.1 ranking before Wimbledon..He has better hardcourt results compare to his previous years. Hope he will continue to improve on his serve and will win more cheap points..

True..His physical style of play takes more toll from him, but I think he will eventually change that in coming years..


Aaron Says:

Is it not funny, that if he wins the French and Wimbledon (which he is capable of doing) that the media will call him one of the best ever? We are talking about a young man who has been # 2 for the last 3 years. This is an extraordinary feat. A man, who does not lose to qualifiers (like Djokovic did in the 2nd round of the Sony Ericsson, as well as pulling out of a Davis Cup match only to play in a singles match three days later) in the first or second round. Could it be that our expectations are a little high? The media is ready to name Djoker the next number 1. While I sincerely hope he is the next number 1, is it not premature to call someone whose light has shined only a few times as compared to Federer or Nadal, whose lights shine bright constantly.

We are talking about a rivalry that is as good as Borg- McEnroe, Sampras- Agassi. The media, including this writer, are quick to judge. Nadal is a competitor who will fight. Much more than we can say about Djoker, who bows out after a weeks worth of hard work.


zola Says:

Aaron,
great post.

These emotional and provocative articles are mostly written to to attract readers. so, I am not bothered by it at all.I rather not speculate and just watch this young man who has brought life and excitement to tennis. Rafa won his first GS a day or two after his 19th birthday. Imagine what this media would have done if Djoko did something like that and kept it up for 3 years.

Rafa has been improving his game . He may or may not be No 1 one day, but he is one of the greatest and will remain one. Both in his game and in his character.


johnnhoj Says:

I lean toward Ollie’s assessment of the Federer situation (the bigger picture / longrun). I find it best to forget about making predictions and simply sit back and watch the season unfold. Nothing gutsy or brave about my position, but it does delay the greying of the hair. I’m saving my adrenaline for the big stuff.


Lowe Says:

Thats funny. Calling a guy who just lost to a qualifier the next No.1? What a joke!


zer0 Says:

Each player has his own characteristic. If there’s a new Grand Slam in Clay and ATP adjust the Clay season more nicely (note that there’re 2 grand slams on hard and even Masters Cup is hard too), what we will say about Nadal. He’s just 21, he may face many difficults in hard court but don’t consider him as a loser. Many people see him as ridiculous because of his style on court. But the time will come, and Rafa will be the best


Tejuz Says:

yeah.. its too pre-mature to say Nadal will never be No 1. If he keeps producing the results on clay and if the hard-court titles are split between Fed, Djoker and the rest..he certainly has a great chance to become the No 1.. even if he fared on hard-courts as well as 2007. He still has a 1000 point cushion between himself and Djoker.. and Djoker certainly has quite a lot of points to defend after the clay season. So i would rather bet on Nadal to dethrone Fed.


Tejuz Says:

And somehow i dont see Djoker in the same league as Fed and Nadal.


roki Says:

Hi, i am reading this site for a year i guess but i never reply on any of the topics. But i am doing it right now :D Someone said that all loses Federer had were in matches his not been in top form, haha what a joke. He had lost to Novak at Montreal finals on his top form last year, then won Cincy and then in epic final at us open came away as a winner, but he was more lucky and experienced player than Novak at given point who held set points in both 1 and 2 set and just had stop playing at end of the 3rd set saying to himself on any of his chances during the match that he does not deserve to win if makes stupid mistakes like the ones he did.
Sure he needs consistency like Fed did, but lack of real competitors gave him easy money all these years. I am Serbian and Novak fan but i never liked Fed neither his game nor his personality on court, to lame for me…artificial. Nor i liked Sampras either as for the same reason. I bet that 99 % of people here would note give a credit for almost GOAT for me and that is Agassi as he is the last player who won all 4 GS, 17 Masters, and Olympic games, and his career lasted for almost 20 years, while wining titles from start to the end of his career, and his on court personality is to remarkable as his career. We never seen fed falling from top and getting back to top. His reign as a top player comes to an and and he would hardly get back as he is not used to be in that situation. Giving question upon his last 2 GS titles that he barely get trough. And for sure i think Rafa deserves to get himself to the top spot , and i think there should be more grass tournaments on atp and a few less hard court tournaments proportional.

Ohhh, dont take it to hard on me :D


Dr. Death Says:

Roki – you must be a young one! For the days of grass indeed. But that shall not come our away again. It is just too expensive to maintain etc. and grass was virtually destroyed in the U.S. when the the masters of the sport went first to Har Tru and then to the hard courts for the U.S. Open. Clubs like Westchester Country and Orange Lawn changed many of their courts. (Showing my age here; let’s see who remembers Orange Lawn.)

Anyone have any insights as to why Nadal is playing doubles? If he needs to save his body, playing doubles is contradictory. Perhaps this is his way of sharpening his serve and volley?


Zola Says:

Dr Death,
you got it right. He is trying to improve his net game. A year or two ago, he would play mainly from the baseline. Now he is very good at the net and does not fear to come forward when he can. In fact Robert Lansdorp in this month’s tennis magazine has demosntrated Rafa’s drop volley as one of the best.
I think the other reason is to get used to the court conditions.


Dr. Death Says:

Thanks for that, Zola. Doubles at that level can really beat up the knees.


Kevin Says:

It is pleasure to see good points and polite comments here. I think Nadal should play less doubles, it seems the disadvantage is over the advantage now.


roki Says:

Sorry for offtopic
ha ha :) i am not so young. I know that the grass courts are expensive but atp has enough money to cover that, or they could make some surface that is more flexible and injury free but fast enough like grass something like parquet, Astroturf or taraflex. Or maybe they could just mix it a bit more going from one surface to another because people get bored as each season gets to long. I like every surface but i never played on any other surface other than clay and simple concrete. Almost i forgot to say that they should change that violet color off Madrid masters in mens event it is so painful to watch dahhh…
As for Nadal sake he should not be so respectfull for federer and nice, more like my man Novak does :)
The whole thing just started and may the best player win :D


Voicemale Says:

If Nadal never reaches Number 1, it will be because of Federer, not Djokovic leapfrogging over him, especially any time this year. We saw again in Miami how easy it is for Djokovic to inexplicably crap out by losing his first match. And since he won Canada last summer it’s the third time losing far too early has happened to him on a hard court (Cincinnati, Marseille and now Miami). So come April 7th he’ll be another 495 points behind Federer & Nadal. Someone should tell Djokovic this isn’t the right direction to get where he wants to go.

All this post-Australian Open prognostication (which is essentially pro-Djokovic hysteria in disguise) is the basis for this newest wave of chants indicating the Professional Demise of Rafael Nadal (which has incidentally been wrongly chanted for 3 years now, and counting). These prognosticators, such as Guerry Smith, constantly refer to the latest “Hard Court” results as the precursor to this ineveitable Nadal slide down the rankings (and why this surface has become the be-all and end-all measurement of tennis prowess is another issue entirely). But in fact, let’s examine the Nadal/Djokovic results since last Wimbledon through today:

Djokovic: Won Cananda; Cincinnati 2nd Round loss; US Open Final; Won Vienna; Madrid Semi Final loss; Paris Quarterfinal loss; Shanghai Complete Loss (failing to win a single set from anyone); Won Australia; Marseille Round of 16 loss; Dubai Semi Final loss; Won Indian Wells; Miami 2nd Round Loss.

Nadal: Canada Semi Final loss; Cincinnati 2nd Round Retirement; US Open 4th Round Loss; Madrid Quarterfinal Loss; Paris Final loss; Shanghai Semi Final Loss; Chennai Final loss; Australian Open Semi Final loss; Rotterdam Round of 16 Loss; Dubai Quarterfinal loss; Indian Wells Semi Final loss; Miami – still in the tournament.

Laid out this way, the gap between them on hard courts isn’t all that wide in the last 8 months, especially considering it’s Nadal’s lesser effective surface. Djokovic won more tournaments, but also has two more 1st match exits than Nadal. This also shows a telling trend: Nadal demonstrates much more consistency on hard courts than Djokovic does on clay, which is his worst surface.

Djokovic won’t ever dominate the men’s game because he doesn’t have THE Shot, the “weapon” or bankable “go-to” shot that devastates opponents, such as a Sampras Serve or a Federer Forehand (that assessment comes from none other than Paul Annacone, among several others). Djokovic’s strokes are solid and steady (for now), which means his whole game has to hold up every time. He can’t afford any gaps to develop in any of his shots because he doesn’t have “the money shot” to dig him out of trouble. From the time he won the Canada event last summer, here’s the list of names he’s lost to on his favored hard court surface since: Moya, Federer, Nalbandian, Santoro, Ferrer, Gasquet, Nadal, Simon, Roddick, and now Anderson. That’s 10 losses in 9 months on a hard court surface that’s supposed to get him to Number 1 by the end of this year. Uh-huh, OK. To think none of these same guys will pose serious threats to him on hard courts for the rest of this year (or any other year) is wishful thinking, at best.

When you contrast that to Nadal on clay, you get an idea of what real dominance is. He’s played 87 matches on that surface in 3 years and lost 1 match to THE Man, Federer. THAT is dominance. Nadal can dominate on clay to this extent because he has a very serious “weapon”, his forehand. In fact, on clay I’d say his forehand is THE “weapon” in the game today, and that includes Federer. Given this comparison, it’s safe to say that Nadal will be able to consistently go deeper into clay court tournaments than Djokovic will consistently go into hard court tournaments. Nadal truly does dominate his best surface, and Djokovic comes nowhere close to that kind of status on his. Rafa will be able to hold onto the bulk of his ranking points far more consistently.

All of which will put Guerry Smith’s thesis to the test, especially this year. Djokovic is the one with it all to do to make any gains in 2008, simply because he’s put himself into a position of having to defend a lot of ranking points over a huge chunk of the calendar – his opportunities to make any gains are limited. He has some opportunities to gain during a part of the clay season, but it’s his worst surface. He’ll need to get past the Quarters in Monte Carlo, Rome and Hamburg – plus get past the Semis at the French (and Wimbledon) to pick up any points from 2007. If he doesn’t, he’ll only lose points.

And I disagree wholeheartedly with the assumption Nadal was somehow lucky to reach 2 Wimbledon Finals. He did so because the grass today is much different than when someone like Sampras dominated there. The ball now sits up much better and therefore doesn’t die on the dirt-patches like it used to, and it doesn’t whip through the court like it does on a slick US Open style hard court (and this state also explains why Federer doesn’t Serve & Volley on Wimby’s grass anymore – too many guys get a good shot at a pass precisely because the ball sits up more). Since Nadal is one of THE best movers out there, he’s able to get himself into a position to hit his forehand on offense rather than having to hit it on defense – which is what can happen to him on a fast hard court. His foes at Wimbledon have a tougher time “hitting through” his forehand with the consistency they can on a fast hard court. And his lefty serve is helped considerably by the grass. That’s why Rafa is so successful at SW19. But I digress…

Nadal in the post-Wimbledon season has only a handful of points to defend, and therefore has the most room to gain. He actually can be in the catbird seat come summer by turning into the tour’s Steady Eddie – just keep doing on hard courts what he has been doing for years. If he manages to go as deep into the clay season (which seems a real safe bet), and hold onto a solid run at Wimbledon (another good bet), the pressure on Federer & Djokovic to maintain their numerous post-Wimbledon points will be enormous, and far more so for Djokovic than Federer, given how many guys have taken down Djokovic on hard courts in the last 9 months. If Federer can get his physical health back to full speed by this point (which he should), then Number 1 should stay his for the near term future. Nadal WILL get to Number 1 one day, and it will be when Federer starts to lose more often (which can happen with more frequency these days). Nadal will have less to fear from Djokovic by the end of this year in terms of ranking points. If anything, Djokovic is far more likely fall further behind these two rather than make any serious gains on them.


jane Says:

Voicemale,

This is an interesting and balanced analysis. It’s tough to say who’ll get to no.1 next and frankly I’d like to see Rafa have some time there, as he deserves it, and Djoko too as I like them both.

You did say this, though: “Nadal demonstrates much more consistency on hard courts than Djokovic does on clay, which is his worst surface.”

And I’d just ask you to re-examine Djoko’s clay season last year:

M.Carlo 07 – R16
Estoril – champ
Rome – quarters
Hamburg – quarters
RG – semis

Out of 5 tournaments, he lost before the quarter finals only once, and I believe it was to Ferrer (not sure though). So if this is his “worst” surface, then he doesn’t do too badly on it! In fact, it’ll be interesting to see in he can maintain or better these results this year.

As you and others have already pointed out, consistency is key!


jane Says:

BTW, did you see the semi between Djoko and Rafa at IW? I think you were going down to the tournament, if I recall correctly. Any thoughts on that?


roki Says:

voicemale if you dont like someone you should be objective and not tell crap of it… for 1 st place at the and of the year you need about 6000 point so it is
4 GS + 4 masters and + 1 international atp tournament to make sure no1. so djoko is already 1500 points earned this year alone on big tournaments and last year he had rnd 16 AO SF Rotterdam qf Dubai and final IW and won Miami so he had 1000+ points last year including all turnament play… Do you really think he is not up to the pressure to go further on GS…ha ha let just wait and see, ill give him edge over Fed on clay not nadal but an edge over them both on grass if he finds some better shoes for grass that is :D

Week after week atp points is not relevant in seeing the big picture winning big and lossing early in some tournamets is expected to get some breath an prepare for clay where he can gain a lot points in MC ROME and HAMBURG and get at least in RG Final so… al this article is in seeing the big picture…


Voicemale1 Says:

Jane:

Yes, I was there. Neither of them played spectacularly, to be honest. Djokovic has played much better tennis before. Thing is he didn’t need to find it – even though he had it at the ready. Novak did have a few issues with the high topspin to his backhand, but he was able to counter with some great touch. I’ve never seen so many shots find the lines. It was terrific stuff. He was gonna win that match regardless.

Most striking was Nadal in both a good and odd way. Oddly, Rafa, the guy who keeps everone waiting for everything -serving, entering the court, even the coin toss at the net – deviated in behavior. Imagine this: here he was up and out of his chair BEFORE Ulrich called “time” to end every changeover. The sight of Nadal standing at the baseline waiting for a non-delyaing Djokovic was telling to me because it’s so unlike him. He played that match like he was either double parked or had a hot date he didn’t wanna miss. And his customary fighting spirit wa snowhere to be found. The “Vamos” I heard was of the half-hearted, phoned it variety – unlike when he played Tsonga & Blake For whatever reason, his body language said “I’m outta here”.

That said, I did see one thing from Nadal that was different. I was watching the Speed Gun in every Nadal service game. At least two, and often times three of his first serves craked the 115-120 MPH range, some were well over 120MPH, and 3 of them actually hit 130 MPH. Most of these missed by a 5-6 inches that day. But the more he keeps at it, these will start going in. It will take about 6-9 months before that becomes a bankable shot for him. But it was clear to me he decided to keep trying it, despite incurring the lopsided loss & having to hit more second serves than he’s used to (and even those seemed to have more depth on them).


Voicemale1 Says:

Jane:

By the way, the one who claimed clay was Djokovic’s worst surface was Djokovic himself. He said so in his press confernce after losing to Anderson. So you might wanna remind HIM rather than me about his clay courts stats :)


jane Says:

“So you might wanna remind HIM rather than me about his clay courts stats”

Touche Voicemale. :-)


jane Says:

“here he was up and out of his chair BEFORE Ulrich called “time” to end every changeover.”

Do you think he was trying to rush Djoko? Who is also known for taking his time between serves? Just a thought.

Yes, I think it Rafa can make that serve a real weapon it will help him. After that oh-so-close-coulda-gone-either-way Wimbledon final last year, Rafa acknowledged that the one difference might have been that Roger’s serve was stronger.

Recently I believe it was MMT who pointed out that Roger’s reliance on his serve of late may actually be a liability. MMT had sound reasoning to back this up but I can’t recall the particulars at the moment.

Anyhow, cheers and thanks for your analysis of the IW semi.


roki Says:

He was just joking :D, he grow up on clay as in Serbia we only have a few hard courts and they are crap. Results on hard court just show that he is better on hard courts but nevertheless his results on clay are good too, he lost to ferrer, nadal twice and moya last year on clay and he was not top 5 so he stumbled on nadal in qf in rome and the day he lost to to moya in hamburg he had to play 2 maches that day and lost to moya in 3rd set.


MALORIS Says:

How about Baghdatis reaching one day number 1! should he finds the right coach for him then its gonna be only a matter of time (2-3 years)! Ok, he lacks consistency, thts the only difference between him and the first 3 on the ranking but he will gain it with more exprience!


sensationalsafin Says:

I think Djokovic will be the NEXT number 1. As in he’ll pass Nadal and Federer. But that doesn’t mean Nadal won’t reach it later. Funny you bring up Baghdatis. The kid is so talented. The potential to be number 1 is undeniable but his head isn’t there. He’s in the same boat as Gasquet, Berdych, and Murray. I’m starting to forget the rest of the young guns as they are failing miserably to live up to their potentials.

Speaking of Murray. What a chump. Everyone foresaw greatness from him but I don’t see it anymore. Federer pegged this guy as his successor but he has been really bad this year.


Dr. Death Says:

Murray needs a tour of duty in the Royal Marines to harden up his mental attitude. He implied that he did not like Gilbert’s aggressive style of coaching and likes the gentle approach of his current coaches. He has a team if you recall. The only “team” that ever did accomplished anything for a tennis player was Agassi’s gang.

The LTA has made a big bet on this young man and indeed it is not paying off. Despite this financial support, he missed their Davis Cup round because of his knee only to play the following week in a tournament.

If I were he I would get out of their clutches. Murray is the darling of the Brit press and is still treated like the Next Big Thing. If he stays he will get the endorsements, press coverage, party hardy environment, etc. all of which will assist him in staying in the top 20 for a while.


Zola Says:

roki,
didn’t Djoko train outside of Serbia? Also as I heard many times from Ana, while in Serbia, they practiced in the olympic pool.

Dr. Death,
when Murray plays and is concentrated, he can beat anyone. The problem with him is that he wastes so much energy at being negative to himself and his team while on court. He is very respectful to others in his press conferences. He is just unneccessarily fiesty on the court. He needs to learn to control himself and channel his energy towards his game.

He IS a great player. He deserves to be on the top. What I always suspect is how much of this is related to his relatonship with his family. Jamie came out a couple of months ago, saying not very nice things about him. ….

Je also needs to set his priorities right. Winnig small tournaments and faulting in MS and GS is not good. He needs to conserve his energy for big events.

I like Ancic too and he played a great match. I am glad he won, but was sad to see Andy lose in yet another opener. I hope wherever he plays next he can go deeper.


MALORIS Says:

I agree about Baghdatis mental state. Thats his only problem right now. I think the loss of his childhood cost him too much. Being away from his family since he was 13 wasnt the best that it could happen to him. And then its his relationship with his father plus the lack of suitable coach. He definetely needs a psychologist, clinical psychoogist, not a sport’s one. He must solve this problem soon otherwise he wont be able to recover soon enough to be number one!


Von Says:

Dr. Death:

My gawd, are you dating yourself about Westchester. I lived in NY for about 12 years, but that Westchester/Orange bit was before my time, however, I do remember Forest Hills, if that’s any consolation. I lived about 3 miles from the new US Open home, Flushing meadows, and home of the NY Mets, a platform change on the NYC subway. Even though I love Florida I still miss NYC. Do you?


jane Says:

Zola,

Yes, he left when he was about 12, went to Germany I think.


kamret Says:

“Normally, it would be absurd to consider someone that young a finished product, but he is an abnormal player. His game requires so much physical exertion that his body is older than his linear age.”

The same thing was said about Connors 30 years ago. (His game was very physical and demanding – similar to Nadal’s but with flat strokes instead of topspin.) And yet he lasted longer than anyone else on the tour!

I do agree with most of the things you mentioned in your article. However, just imagine how this whole article could look silly if Nadal ends up winning Key Biscayne next weekend.


roki Says:

Partly yes, Nole went to Pilic academy at the age of about 13 to 14 and train there for a few years yes, but until then he only had a few hard courts in Serbia that is, and the story about swimming pool is correct and it is on carpet not concrete, but I don’t know if you know Djoković family bought 2 properties. One in Belgrade and one in Kragujevac where they planing to build tennis academies so talents don’t need anymore to go abroad to train and develop their games.

About that tennis court in swimming pool i think that you have noticed that Ana had great problems using whole court outside the lines becouse that swimming pool walls are pretty close to the lines of the court.


Samprazzz Says:

Rafa can make number one if he wins the French and Wimbledon. I don’t think that possibility is that far-fetched. He’s favored to win the French, and if Fed crashes out at Wimbledon, he’s the favorite there. Nadal’s serve is the problem on hard courts. On clay and on grass, he can use his left-handed spin to a great advantage. On hard-courts, it sits up there too much. Still, he’s going to have to keep developing his game. He’s got great hands, unlike Rocky (Roddick), he’s not a clutz, and he could quickly learn to approach the net. On hard-courts, he’s going to have to learn how to stand on the baseline, and flatten out his forehand somewhat. He’s a great athlete, I have no doubt that he can learn. However, he would have to get new coaching to be successful at it. I don’t think that the coaching staff that he’s got at the moment have got the skills to teach him how to play on hard-courts at the top level. Rafa needs a new coach. If he keeps trying to win matches on hard-court by running down every ball, his knees are going to give out before he gets to age 25.


Graham Says:

Nadal is poetry in motion on clay whatever you say about his game on other surfaces. I dont think he gets enough appreciation for it either. This guy is the best clay court player thats ever walked the earth. The fact that he can also reach 2 Wimbledon finals and very nearly win one of them is even more incredible.

He was basically one break point away from winning the French and Wimbledon in the same year and now you’re crabbing him because he loses a few matches on hard? Nadal will never perform that well at the US Open as firstly he hates the venue and secondly hes always exhausted after his exploits in the spring. If he ever does decide to focus on winning at Flushing Meadow you can bet he will go very close to doing it.


Bernard Says:

How can your opening 2 lines assert:
1) He is the king of clay,
2) Closer than ever to number 1
3) and then claim his game is not good enough to become No. 1

I would have thought the opposite: with the clay season right around the corner, the King of clay, ever so close to No.1, with the world Number 1 more vulnerable than ever, would provide a great opportunity for Nadal to displace Federer – at least until the clay season ends!!


Zola Says:

I don’t kow if Nadal will be No 1 or not. I certainly hope to see him as No 1 and as dominant on hard courts as he is on clay. But I prefer not to speculate right now.

I just watched his match with Kiefer and I hope to see him play like that. Agressive and confident. As long as he is doing his best, I am happy to watch and follow him.


Dr. Death Says:

Von: Went to school in NY shortly after the Indians sold it.

Dont miss it. Westchester CC is a beautiful club. Orange Lawn (in N J) was a tune up for the U S Open when it was on grass. All the names showed up to get grass ready and one was very close to the action. Fond memories of that indeed.

Zola: I respect your comments on many players that you have posted here. Therefore, I will keep an open mind on Mr. Murray and perhaps he will win a major or more than one if he lives up to your expectations. Still think the Royal Marines would do wonders for him.


Shital Green Says:

Quiz time:
How is the ATP ranking point spread in the Beijing Olympics this year? In other words, how much does a participant can add to his ranking points at each round?

The question is also for Tennis X staff.


Zola Says:

Dr. Death,
I do respect your comments too and I am glad that you are so open-minded. I started liking Andy after his match with Rafa in AO. he was defeated, but was very gracious. The more I followed him, the more I liked him. But he has all these things that distracts him during a match and i think parting from Gilbert was a mistake.

He is certainly very talented, but he doesn’t look spoiled to me ( Jamie does!). He needs to take charge of his game and do what is best for him. He needs to find a way to concentrate and don’t waste so much energy. Actually studying Rafa or Ancic could be good for him.

Shital,
great quiz. I am dying to know the answer. I even went on the ITF homepage. they said it is the same amount as awarded in Sydney olympics! some sort of a puzzle I think!


Questions Says:

I’m no expert on tennis, having only played for a few years long ago… but I have been watching Nadal for 3 years now. I’ve been wondering whether the fact that he switched to using his left hand, granted that this was long ago, is a good part of the reason why it is taking him a long time to get his (various styles of) serve to (hopefully) a world-class level. Are the different types of serves not the most subtle of the different strokes you need to perfect in tennis? If so, then for a natural right-handed person it may indeed take this long …


Questions Says:

Regarding the Olympics … there are reports that there is a concern for the health of olympiads whose sport requires more than an hour or so of competition, due to the level of polution. This has me worried about the tennis players. (And this adds another layer to Roddick’s decision to save himself for the US Open.)


Angela Says:

NADAL iz a great player…

i know he’ll be #1.

he’s got everything 2 be #1 in the world for the coming years…

;)


bobby Says:

I hope that you will be forced to eat your own words.Nadal is one of the most graceful and humble guys on tour.You may be underestimating the popularity Nadal.He is ver popular all over the world.I am sure that Nadal will be the one who will displace federer as no 1.And shame one you for the insensitive article about ever graceful nadal.


Denise Summers Says:

Wow, very interesting reading. I have to say, I am stunned to read so many have written Mr. Nadal off already. At the tender age of 21, looks very much to me, if what I am reading can be believed he is already a ‘has been’ and can only win on Clay.

Let us see what transpires as the year unfolds. I think he should be number 1, given the head to head statistics of the reigning number 1, Mr. Federer. If anybody deserves to be Number 1, it is Mr. Nadal. I daresay there are few that can disagree.

As for Mr. Djokovic, “Good luck” to him, let’s see how he does in the consistency stakes. In any event, tennis is competition, the BEST man will win on the day!!!!

Good luck to them all, I say because for sure, ALL the players provide fantastic entertainment. Personally, for me, Mr. Nadal is the best, the most exciting player to watch, to watch and ALWAYS, ALWAYS goes that extra mile. Good Luck Rafa, ‘try your best’, as you always do….


Denise Summers Says:

Oh, I forgot to mention, Mr. Nadal, is the most gentle, considerate, humble guy on the tour, and a crowd favourite. I too think you will eat your words…..We shall see.


Glenn Says:

Djokovic has talent, but he has no class. Until such time as a he displays the class necessary to be a champion, I will always be glad to see him lose. I used to not like the both Williams sisters for the same reason. But at least Venus has grown up, so to speak, and I cheer her on all the time now. I believe that tennis, moreso than any other sport, is a sport for people with good sportsmanship. Djokovic does not have that. He’s still a baby who cries when he doesn’t get what he wants. Tennis does not need a champion like that, and until he grows up, he will never be champion.


Elize Collins Says:

From FEDFANFOREVER

I have also not ever posted a comment before. But I feel the need to say thank goodness for ALL the players mentioned already. If it were not for them we would not be able to enjoy all the TENNIS that we do. They bring many different qualities to the game. Much as I marvel at the beauty of Feds game it does Not blind me to the raw power of Rafa’s game or the brilliance of some of Berdych’s shots or the potential that Gasquet has or the charm of Baghdatis on court.

Tennis has had a true role model and ambassador in Roger. It is however inevitable that he will start losing more games in future and that someone else will take over the #1 spot. What saddens me is that he will not be allowed to “fall from grace???” with the dignity he deserves, as I already observe some Fed-bashing.

Who ever gets to the # 1 spot will DESERVE to be there as it is no mean feat!!! I find some of the analyses and comments above quite self- gratifying but knowledgeable so you all obviously watch tennis matches often.

Is it not possible to just ENJOY the FINE men’s tennis being dished up for us to watch????


SONJA, GO ROGER! Says:

I’m a huge fan of Roger! I think he will come back stronger than ever… I think he will be no.1 for a couple of years more… But I think if someone deserves to be a no.1 that’s RAFA. He’s very, very good player… And for Nole he has played very well this year, but he’s not the best yet, maybe he will be someday, but not for long. He’s not as good as Federer and he will never be that good. ROGER is the best tennis player in the history of tennis!


roki Says:

Glenn Says:

Djokovic has talent, but he has no class. Until such time as a he displays the class necessary to be a champion, I will always be glad to see him lose. I used to not like the both Williams sisters for the same reason. But at least Venus has grown up, so to speak, and I cheer her on all the time now. I believe that tennis, more so than any other sport, is a sport for people with good sportsmanship. Djokovic does not have that. He’s still a baby who cries when he doesn’t get what he wants. Tennis does not need a champion like that, and until he grows up, he will never be champion.

Please excuse me but wtf are you talking about, Fed is the greatest crybaby ever when he losses, about SW and VW i don’t even want to talk about i think they never accepted any loss they had it was always like i played bad so my opponent won, haha, and rogers revealing of illness when he got beaten by murray is exeptional why did he even say that after he lost. Rafa on other hand is very Gracious in defeat as well as Novak. The time he said he could beat nadal at RG 2006 was just remark and his English was not so good. But it was funny match because he wrote vamos nole on his sneakers :D He is just funny and people dont like him couse he is natural. One thing I dont like in Rafas game is that he always celebrates every point, and even double faults of the opponent which is not gracious at all i never seen Nole done that and even Fed. It is understandable in sf or finals but on 3rd round match like yesterday against kiefer was just to much even from rafa.
About bouncing the ball, hmm turn the stopwatch and don’t count bounces you will see that he is between 15 to 20 sec and the time that counts for starting the stopwatch is when opponent is ready for serve not before and he has 25 sec to serve not 20.


rafa fan Says:

This is an absolutely ridiculous article. Rafa’s won 3 grand slams and been in 2 wimbledon finals, as well as winning numerous other titles, and you’re writing him off?
So what if Rafa’s specialty happens to be on clay? does this make him less of a player than djokovic, who’s only managed to achieve anything notable on hardcourt?
and I totally agree with other posters about Rafa’s class, grace, humbless, all qualities which djokovic lacks.
let’s also not forget Rafa’s willpower, and determination. If anyone can improve and be no.1, it should and hopefully will be Rafa!!


lpauly Says:

I agree with Bjorn Borg: Rafa will be our next numero uno del mundo. VAMOS RAFA!


Jonno Says:

Despite a poor show last week – classic up period then down – I would bet that Nalbandian will pose the greatest threat to Nadal on clay this year. His wins over Rafael have been the most emphatic of anyone. Nadal very rarely offers even a hint that he doesn’t expect to win. For the first time ever he appeared to be lacking belief when he faced Nalbandian. I would say he is the one player Rafael would genuinely not like to meet in a draw. Though we know full well DN takes vacations some weeks he surely has the toughest mindset and is more confident than most when he faces the top three. He knows he will be beat them when all his guns are firing and I think they know that too. Oh for consistency!


Viknus Says:

This article is a load of crap, of course Nadal can be no.1. Rafa is only 21 and already has three grand slams in the bag, his hard court game has completely improved, so to say he wont make it to number one in the world is nothing but stupid. He has everything he needs to do so.


sensationalsafin Says:

Questions, you make an excellent point and you are 100% correct. Nadal’s got huge muscles, he’s tall, very athletic. If you’ve never seen the guy play you’d think he has a huge serve. But the reason for it not being as big as it could be is because his left hand isn’t his natural hand. The motion your arm makes on a serve is almost identical to the way you’d throw a ball. And being a righty, he probably throws with his right hand. So it must feel awkward for him to be “throwing” with his left hand. It’s can be overcome though. I’m a lefty but I feel more comfortable throwing with my right hand. But I can serve pretty big when I need to. So Nadal has plenty of work to do. But he’s getting there. For him it’s mainly because he’s a clay courter. I play mostly on hard courts where you need a big serve. But on the clay his serve is perfect. But I don’t doubt his ability to adapt.


Von Says:

Dr. Death Says:

“Von: Went to school in NY shortly after the Indians sold it.”

Were you the person who jumped up at the auction and said “I’ll take, Mahnattan, The Bronx and Staten Island too”? Why did you leave out Queens and Brwooklyn.? Play on spelling on Brooklyn, but isn’t that how they say it.) And, if you’re thinking I was old enough to know that song, the answer is NO. My Mom, used to sing that for me. So, in view of that fact, one can assume, I’m not Methuselah’s Aunt. I like Westchester CC and the pinkie fingered tea drinkers, but the snow was not my cup of tea.


jane Says:

Von,

Speaking of Brooklyn, did you hear about Andy?


FoT Says:

Oh lord… I can’t believe people are still putting Nalbandian in the mix! lol!


Glenn Says:

Roki wrote:
Please excuse me but wtf are you talking about, Fed is the greatest crybaby ever when he losses.

Fed used to do that, and at that time he was not champion material. He does not do that anymore, which is one of the reasons he deserves to be champion. A true champion can keep his emotions in check, and not let that affect his/her game, which is why Djokovic is not champion material.

Roki wrote:
about SW and VW i don’t even want to talk about i think they never accepted any loss they had it was always like i played bad so my opponent won, haha.

Venus has not done that in a while. Stop being prejudiced.

Roki wrote:
and rogers revealing of illness when he got beaten by murray is exeptional why did he even say that after he lost.

Because it’s true? Duh!

Roki wrote:
Rafa on other hand is very Gracious.

True enough.

Roki wrote:
…as well as Novak. The time he said he could beat nadal at RG 2006 was just remark and his English was not so good. But it was funny match because he wrote vamos nole on his sneakers He is just funny and people dont like him couse he is natural.

Excuses, excuses. There is no excuse giving officials dirty looks. And he’s the only one who takes sarcastic jabs at other players. Djokovic’s on-court behavior does not match his post-match “graciousness,” which makes me think his “graciousness” is just for show. Deep down, Djokovic is a baby still. He has a lot of growing up to do before he can be champion. What you call “funny” is evidence of prideful unsportsmanlike behavior.

Roki wrote:
One thing I dont like in Rafas game is that he always celebrates every point, and even double faults of the opponent which is not gracious at all i never seen Nole done that and even Fed. It is understandable in sf or finals but on 3rd round match like yesterday against kiefer was just to much even from rafa.

There’s a big difference between celebrating a point gained versus celebrating when an opponent does badly. I would give Rafa the benefit of the doubt because he is so humble in many other instances. On the other hand, there is NO mistaking that giving dirty looks to officials is deliberate and unsportsmanlike behavior.

Roki wrote:
About bouncing the ball, hmm turn the stopwatch and don’t count bounces you will see that he is between 15 to 20 sec and the time that counts for starting the stopwatch is when opponent is ready for serve not before and he has 25 sec to serve not 20.

Even sports commentators on TV who like Djokovic have noticed that he takes longer on the big points and tries to break the rhythm of the game by his delaying tactics. It doesn’t matter how much time actually elapses. When there is a noticeable difference in time that could break the rhythm of the game, and when it happens so often especially at crucial times of the game or match, then one has to believe Djokovic is not being sportsmanlike.

I like what someone else stated earlier – that humility goes a long way in determining the soul of a champion. Djokovic does not have that. Maybe one day he will.


Von Says:

jane:

“Von, Speaking of Brooklyn, did you hear about Andy?”

Just read that on the ATP website. I don’t get this — she’s only 20. Reminds me of another Brooke and Agassi. I hope he has a pre-nup in place. :) I wish them well, but it’s been so little time. Why the rush little one? Fed has been with Mirka for 8 years and still can’t seem to muster the courage to take the next step. Andy just bypassed all of that in 8 months. I have to have a good talk with this guy.


Dr. Death Says:

Roddick must be listening to that sentimental music alluded to earlier. Now we can blame his poor performances on agassiitis.

She seems rather mature for her age though.


jane Says:

Yes, and I mentioned on another thread that engagement seems to be working to Mardy’s advantage so maybe Andy thought “what the heck?!” LOL.


Von Says:

Dr. Death:

“Roddick must be listening to that sentimental music alluded to earlier. Now we can blame his poor performances on agassiitis.”

An inflammatory condition of the NYC Boroughs, especially Bwrooklyn? But, considering I was a baby at 19 when I got married, would it be appropos’ for me to question their hearts. More power the Big Apple. :)

Jane:

“Yes, and I mentioned on another thread that engagement seems to be working to Mardy’s advantage so maybe Andy thought “what the heck?!” LOL.” Yeah, I mean, what the heck. Go for it! :)


Sandip George Says:

A very well put article!However I must say,it sounds a little bit biased against the King of clay. While Mr.Smith has put across his points very effective with examples I must say, the article has grossly undermined his Hard court abilities. True,he may not be the bes on Hard Courts,but it is unfair to just push him aside as such. At one point or another Rafa has shown he can beat any hard court specialist. The effort at last week’s Indian wells tournament is just an example where he beat his long time nemesis Blake, and the Australian Open finalist, Tsonga. It is hard to point out any player,other maybe Djokovic who has the potential to beat the Spanish youngster. While it is hard to classify Rafa as the best hard courter around, it must be admitted he is ONE of the best. That when added along with an impeccable clay court record and an impressive Wimbledon performance,will probably sum upto the top spot in the ATP rankings.


Skorocel Says:

Interesting article. It’s maybe a bit premature to say he will never reach the No. 1 spot, but what we need to take into consideration is his immense physical game – which clearly is a burden for him on hard courts… What I mean? When you look at his post-Wimbledon results in these last 2 seasons, the guy’s been without a title – if we don’t count Stuttgart on clay, that is… Why? Simply because all that grinding which he does year after year on clay (winning all those trophies) just takes its toll in the 2nd half of the season… You just don’t see the same Nadal when the US hardcourts arrive – you only see a tired and injured guy, who can be very susceptible to even mediocre players (remember Alun Jones at the USO last year?)…

It’s not that long ago when everyone used to say how Rafa will be this or that much stronger within the next 3-4 years (i.e. at the time when he should reach his “physical peak”), but in my opinion, with his current game (which is unbelievably demanding on his body to say the least) he won’t get better – instead, he’ll start to wane…

That being said, it’s clearly not impossible for him to reach that No. 1 spot. In my opinion, he’ll still defend at least 80 % of his clay points in 2008 (provided he stays healthy), and if he can do well in Miami and Fed loses early in Hamburg or RG, then who knows? Bottom line – it’s still more likely to see Nadal defending his clay points than to see Fed defending his…


Skorocel Says:

Jonno said: “Despite a poor show last week – classic up period then down – I would bet that Nalbandian will pose the greatest threat to Nadal on clay this year. His wins over Rafael have been the most emphatic of anyone. Nadal very rarely offers even a hint that he doesn’t expect to win. For the first time ever he appeared to be lacking belief when he faced Nalbandian. I would say he is the one player Rafael would genuinely not like to meet in a draw. Though we know full well DN takes vacations some weeks he surely has the toughest mindset and is more confident than most when he faces the top three. He knows he will be beat them when all his guns are firing and I think they know that too. Oh for consistency!”

Agree with almost everything. Nadal was just clueless when he faced Nalby last year… Though it would be totally different on clay, I bet Rafa can only be happy he only met him twice so far… Don’t know about you, but for me, a Nadal vs Nalby match on clay (preferably at RG) would be a dream come true – no doubt about that!

—————————–

questions said: “…but I have been watching Nadal for 3 years now. I’ve been wondering whether the fact that he switched to using his left hand, granted that this was long ago, is a good part of the reason why it is taking him a long time to get his (various styles of) serve to (hopefully) a world-class level.”

Very interesting! To be honest, even though I was often wondering if it’s indeed that big of an advantage for Nadal to play both of his strokes (virtually) as “forehands”, I didn’t even pay attention to this…


Gjanney Says:

Good analysis, even if you forgot that Nadal not only got clobbered by Federer at Shanghai but also lost to Ferrer there.
It’s amazing how people like AskFedererAboutNadal can blithely state that “Nadal won more tournaments than anyone in 2007″ when of course it was Federer, with 8 tournament wins, who had that distinction.
I’ve said it before: If getting annihilated in the later rounds of 12 tournaments in a row makes one a Number 1 contender in tennis, tennis is in trouble.


Voicemale Says:

Skorocel:

I hear all that “conventional wisdom” about Nadal and his grinding style compromising him physically. I don’t predict whether it will happen or not, but I do know that the more he does his best on clay and grass he’ll be around a lot longer than people think. I don’t know how old you are, but that’s exactly what they used to say about Jimmy Connors: his relentless grinding would take its toll and finish his career early. He played on the tour until was in his late 30′s, winning more ATP titles than anyone else.

What I never hear about though is the grinding style of Djokovic ever taking it’s toll on him. And he does grind – he’s not an attacking player with an attacking game (and that comes from people like Matt Cronin & Andre Agassi in describing the Djokovic game). He’s not one to play extremely short points either. He defends and scrambles extremely well, so why aren’t his beloved cement courts gonna chew him up too?? You think it’s a coincidence that he has a great run in one tournament then craps out in his next one? His IW Final was a case in point. Lost his serve twice in the 2nd Set after being 2 points from the match and had to go to a 3rd Set, where he was blessed with Fish managing only a 22% First Serve Percentage in his first two service games. Being there to see it, it was clear he was running on empty by the 3rd Set, and escaped because of his opponent’s awful serving. My prediction is that Djokovic, unless he starts finding a way to shorten HIS points, will start to feel the effects of ATP Hard Court Tennis in his feet, ankles, knees and back before too long.


Voicemale Says:

“Despite a poor show last week – classic up period then down – I would bet that Nalbandian will pose the greatest threat to Nadal on clay this year. His wins over Rafael have been the most emphatic of anyone. Nadal very rarely offers even a hint that he doesn’t expect to win. For the first time ever he appeared to be lacking belief when he faced Nalbandian.”

Nalbandian beat Nadal twice on what is basically the fastest surface there is these days, indoor carpet. And he did it using the same formula: open up the court on Nadal’s backhand and hit through his forehand with enormous pace. This leaves either Nadal watching a winner go by, or he has to hit his forehand defensively, which he does poorly. It makes Nadal cough up the ball short in the court allowing Nalbandian to tee off on it. And all of this is almost exclusively due to the nature and speed of the indoor court.

Donut Dave Nalbandian will have no such luxury anywhere near as often on clay. The slower rhythm of play will give Nadal ample time to hit his forehand offensively, which is when it does the most damage. The court won’t allow for anyone to consistently overpower Nadal on the forehand side. He moves too well, so well in fact that he can even afford to run around his backhand just about anytime he wants. The second issue Nalbandian would face is having to hit his two handed backhand from around his ears rather than near his waist, as he does against Nadal on a hard court. And since Nadal has been playing much deeper shots on clay in the last 12 months, Nalbandian will have to hit many of those ear-height backhands from about 6-8 feet behind the baseline to boot.

Good luck to him.

I do think, however, that Nalbandian could pose a serious threat Federer, given that he did take a set from Roger at the French in their 2006 Semi Final before he retired in that match.


Branimir Says:

Again Djokovic haters taking things to serious. :)
I am not going to comment on a lot of comments here, but I will just tell you that Federer at Djokovic’s age was nowhere near Djokovic, and he had far less points than Djokovic has now. At the end of 2003 Federer was ranked second with only 4375 points. That’s Federer 22 years of age. Novak still has to get to 21.
I have all respect for Nadal, but Novak Djokovic is far more talented player and has more variety than Nadal. He also play attacking/aggressive tennis which works great on hard courts, and hopefully on grass. Djokovic has talent to dominate on 3 different surfaces, Nadal has talent to dominate only 1 surface. He can also be good on grass but not to dominate it. I can’t see how defensively minded player can dominate grass court.
As for loss to Kevin Anderson. It happens to the best when they are at their best, so it can also happen to Novak who is (I believe) not at his best.
Mighty Federer last year lost in first rounds of both IW and Miami… It happens.
You will see real Djokovic in 2009. He is still adjusting his game. :)


Zola Says:

Branimir,
In 2009, the real Djoko will be 22-23.
You said yourself that Fed was second in the world at the age of 22. Not much difference to me agewise.

But I would like to see how many Slams Djoko will hold when he is 21 ( Rafa has 3 at the age of 21) and 26 ( Fed has 12 till now).

As for dominance on all surfaces, Rafa has two wimbledon finals at ages 20 and 21. Djoko yet to reach a final on any surface other than hard courts. He may or may not. So this is a premature judgement.


Branimir Says:

Zola, I consider you pathetic, blind, disgraceful, dishonest and jelous Nole hater, so I wont comment on your idiotic remarks.

(I already told you that after AO 2008 in case you forgot, after you showed your hatred toward Serbia and Serbs just because you don’t like Djokovic)


Zola Says:

Branimir,
your words are enough evidence to show your charachter. My remarks were genuine. Show me how many Slams Djoko has when he is 21 and 26 and then I will be able to compare him to Nadal or Federer. If you think cursing me will earn Djoko more slams, go ahead!

Voicemale,

great posts at 10:28 and 1:54!
In fact the hard courts take a toll on many players and the ATP back to back tournaments is not helping at all. As you said, Rafa has the luxury of being able to get lots of points on clay. But Djoko has to play more on hard courts and his style can be hard on him too. I think this is a general problem that ATP has to address.

About Nalbandian, the other problem is that he plays when he wants to play. He may or may not show up on clay. So far he has not looked “in” the tournaments.

Anyway, I liked both of your posts a lot.


roki Says:

Well Fed didn’t even had finals at 21 nor i think he had even sf at any slam at all so mind me for saying that he was crap player at that age. Rafa has 3 slams and 2 finals and 1 sf at 22 and nole has 2 sf, 1 f and 1 slam at age of 21.

Everybody laughing at him when he said he was going to be No1. Only Mr Mac saying the kid got it right. Know everybody is saying he is genuine contender for 1st place. So he will say it an prove it on the court. No more and no less. It is up only to him not Fed nor Nadal because Feds time is running out and Rafa has to slow things down on hard courts down a bit and his forehand spin is not a weapon on fast courts and he has to flatten it out more by just a bit, he has power on it but only spin he puts on the ball makes the ball in court, the other way it would probably go out wide.
Noles game is not quite perfect but is more complete than Rafas demanding game and Feds slicing and slice return is boooooring, quite effective against almost everybody because low bounce and reverse spin but boooring and his T line serve too…

Well I can only say one more thing GO JANKO :D


jane Says:

Branimir, There is no need to resort to name-calling. Zola is a fair commentator at this site and is free to write opinions at will.

Djokovic is one of my favorite players, too, and I hope he’ll one day be number 1, but that doesn’t preclude Rafa from getting there either before or after him.

Rafa is an awesome & consistent player who works hard at improving his game. His results speak for themselves, as do Novak’s. I do think maybe an additional team member to work with Rafa on hardcourts might be a not bad idea, but he seems to have a great relationship with Toni.

We’re talking about the top three players in the world, who hold ranking points far and above the other top ten players; they’re all excellent and complete players.


Voicemale Says:

Branimir:

It’s not so much anyone here is a Djokovic hater. It’s you who are a Djokovic Apologist, basically ready to defend anything he does, anywhere, any time – but you do so at the expense of every other player as a result. That’s the real story here. You’re one of those people who lives vicariously through whoever they choose as their “idol”. We get what you’re all about: you’re ready and willing to drink “Nole’s” bath water. But try not to let your slavish devotion to a “comrade” Serb cloud your sensibility about what people say here.

And just so you know, Djokovic does NOT have an attacking game. He’s a grinder – grinding away from the back of the court, like Safin in his hey day, or even Agassi. He’s a baseliner, but doesn’t have a real serious weapon the devastates opponents. His serve can break down (like it did in the IW Final); his backhand can break down (US Open Final). If he’s gonna live up to YOUR expectations he better get a real weapon soon. Federer has one – his forehand. Nadal’s forehand on clay is THE best forehand in the game (that’s why he’s lost just 1 match in 3 years on that surface). As of today, Djokovic doesn’t have one of those weapons, and it’s THE reason why 10 different guys have beaten him on his best surface in the last 9 months (including 3 first round losses, like in Miami). Like the rest of us here, we’ll be waiting to see if he gets one.


jane Says:

Voicemale,

One thing about Djokovic and attacking: you’re right that he’s a baseliner but he has been adding the net to his repertoire. In the final at the AO he all but took the net away from Tsonga in part by keeping the ball deep but also by coming into the net, and he was successful at it too – off the top of my head I remember something like 17 out of 22 net plays going his way. If he can add more net play to his game, he will be able to shorten points. He’s already done well to shorten matches this year, with the IW final being a blip. He won through to the finals at AO & IW without dropping a set, which says something.

But his serve, which is in some ways a weapon (not ace wise but placement and direction wise), can, I agree, break down. As, I would add, can Federer’s forehand and Rafa’s court positioning (on hardcourts he falls into a rut of staying too far behind the baseline – sometimes!). Certain commentators say Djokovic’s forehand is also a weapon, others say his backhand. Maybe the reason for his success is that he has very good shots all-round. Does he have to have one “weapon” in particular? I know conventional wisdom says “yes,” but I’m not sure. His weakness at the moment is endurance and/or consistency. He also can lose focus,as we’ve seen in Miami, although at big moments in big matches (at the AO semi & final as well as the IW final), he has been able to regroup and pull through. I suspect he’ll improve in both consistency, fitness and focus, at least if he wants to be number 1. But only time will tell.


Voicemale Says:

Jane:

When I say the word “weapon”, I mean that Offensive shot that leaves your opponents devastated much more often than not. I don’t mean a shot that just is what it ought to be. I mean it as a player’s Money Shot – the one they have in their arsenal that leaves your foes almost helpless, that you can crank up at anytime to rescue you when things aren’t going well, and as such it allows you to truly dominate. Sampras’s serve was such a weapon. Federer’s forehand and movement are such weapons (Nadal has both of those on clay). Graf’s forehand was one, as was Navratilova’s volley. Even Lendl’s forehand in his day allowed him to dominate for 3 years because back then, no one hit it as hard & accurately as Ivan.

Djokovic at this point doesn’t have one of those – and that assessment comes from people who know a thing or two about tennis like Paul Annacone, among others. And it shows in his results – he loses too often on his best surface precisely because he doesn’t have such a “weapon” in the sense I characterize the term. Novak has a very good serve, but it’s not a Sampras serve; he has a very good forehand, but it’s not a Federer forehand (I think it was Laver, and later Lendl, that said Fed’s forehand might be the best there has ever been period). At this stage, Djokovic’s game today looks almost identical to Marat Safin when he played his best: big serving, power on both the forehand and backhand side, and a terrific ability to scramble. Safin won a couple of Majors when all of his assets were working in sync (in fact, was Sampras ever beaten so comprehensively in a Grand Slam Final than when Safin dusted him at the US Open in 2000?). That said, Safin’s solid strokes in every department needed to hold up every time in order for him to succeed at the Grand Slam level with long term consistency. And they didin’t. Once a hole developed in one of his shots, he also was not immune to going out in first or second round matches. Marat had no Money Shot to dig him out of trouble. Djokovic still has some time to tweak the shots he has, but in tennis history, any player’s break out year is usually a breakout year because of the game you have at that time. It can be refined and honed, but once a player hits the Big Time, it’s rare that someone adds a Weapon/Money Shot they didn’t have before they made it big.


roki Says:

Well Jane You are quite right about everything but it seems that many people here are talking crap about Novak and his family too which is quite unnecessary. Looking at Mirka bitting her nails when fed is loosing and smiling when he gets a paycheck more than a trophy at usopen last year or Don Nadal Family at this years Miami looking like a mob family for Nole haters is noting special. Minding that Tony or any other Nadal never state that Nadal is here to overtake the No1 ranking from Fed as he was the untouchable one, the promised one…So when somebody has the nerve and courage to say something like that automatically is considered arrogant and incompetent to say something like that. THE KID HAS THE NERVE AND HE HAS COURAGE AND HE IS BRAVE ENOUGH TO BE NO1. Rafa never said such thing couse he himself did not believe in that but when Nole came close to them he is starting now to heat things up and try more. If there was not Nole now coming so close, Fed would just rest for a month or two and probably would let Rafa take over the no1 spot which he would overtake easily when hard court season and grass comes up again. Believe me i stooped watching tennis when Fed came up, He was never interesting to me like Sampras Aggasi era with a lot more contenders to fight off.


roki Says:

Voicemale Says:

Jane:

When I say the word “weapon”, I mean that Offensive shot that leaves your opponents devastated much more often than not. I don’t mean a shot that just is what it ought to be. I mean it as a player’s Money Shot – the one they have in their arsenal that leaves your foes almost helpless, that you can crank up at anytime to rescue you when things aren’t going well, and as such it allows you to truly dominate. Sampras’s serve was such a weapon. Federer’s forehand and movement are such weapons (Nadal has both of those on clay). Graf’s forehand was one, as was Navratilova’s volley. Even Lendl’s forehand in his day allowed him to dominate for 3 years because back then, no one hit it as hard & accurately as Ivan.

Djokovic at this point doesn’t have one of those – and that assessment comes from people who know a thing or two about tennis like Paul Annacone, among others. And it shows in his results – he loses too often on his best surface precisely because he doesn’t have such a “weapon” in the sense I characterize the term. Novak has a very good serve, but it’s not a Sampras serve; he has a very good forehand, but it’s not a Federer forehand (I think it was Laver, and later Lendl, that said Fed’s forehand might be the best there has ever been period). At this stage, Djokovic’s game today looks almost identical to Marat Safin when he played his best: big serving, power on both the forehand and backhand side, and a terrific ability to scramble. Safin won a couple of Majors when all of his assets were working in sync (in fact, was Sampras ever beaten so comprehensively in a Grand Slam Final than when Safin dusted him at the US Open in 2000?). That said, Safin’s solid strokes in every department needed to hold up every time in order for him to succeed at the Grand Slam level with long term consistency. And they didin’t. Once a hole developed in one of his shots, he also was not immune to going out in first or second round matches. Marat had no Money Shot to dig him out of trouble. Djokovic still has some time to tweak the shots he has, but in tennis history, any player’s break out year is usually a breakout year because of the game you have at that time. It can be refined and honed, but once a player hits the Big Time, it’s rare that someone adds a Weapon/Money Shot they didn’t have before they made it big.

Hmmm
You said Serve 0-40 IW finals 3rd set Nole serves all aces wins it… it is not a weapon you said it. I guess you did not watch the match.

SF at IW winers score after the match against rafa is double on Nole side. Well i guess you skipped that to.

Look i don’t find anything too special at Nole game, but i find it special at points of game plan and smart play… By his age he cant be any idol for me but he can be considered by far most complete player on tour right now. That said, i think most matches Fed play are won before the match as most players don’t believe they can win the thing actually.

But Hey! I like better one hand backhand more than two handed, but hey they both work just the same if you use it well.


jane Says:

roki you raise a point about Djokovic that other experts in the field have too – John McEnroe, before Djokovic won in Montreal last year, tipped Djokovic to be the guy to step up and challenge the top two players, in part because Djokovic is “smart” on the court. Pilic also commends Djokovic’s mental acumen.

Some experts say his best shot is his backhand, off both sides, down-the-line. but his serve has to be considered somewhat of a weapon as he definitely saves a lot of break points when he needs to; he’s ahead of both Federer and Nadal this year in “break points saved” and “service games won”, granted he’s played more matches than Federer.

Anyway, I am no tennis expert and can’t profess to know what Djokovic’s biggest weapon is or even if he has one, but something has to be exceptional about his game for him to get to where he’s gotten.


roki Says:

Well I think it is his arrogance :D since everybody taking the notice about that and not his game :D

I think Fed and Rafa are going crazy with his attitude :P :)


Skorocel Says:

To Voicemale:

Djokovic NOT an attacking player? Huh? If Djoker’s game isn’t an attacking one, then seriously, what do you think of Nadal’s? A guy, who constantly stays 2-3 m behind the baseline and literally DESTRUCTS everything what the opponent tries to create… That’s an attacking game? Or do you really consider playing that 5000 rpm forehand to opponent’s backhand only to force an error from the opponent as THE best forehand on the tour? Come on! It may be the MOST EFFECTIVE forehand (on clay, that is), but certainly NOT the best! After watching tennis since the Connors’ era, I guess you should have known that the ONLY reason why Nadal is so successful with this shot is because he’s LEFTY – nothing more… On clay, he can play those crazy topspin forehands to opponent’s backhand ad nauseum, and thus win the rallies (mostly) on countless opponent’s errors, but luckily (even though he can still impose this ugly game on vast majority of his opponent’s outside the clay), there are several players who won’t afford him to do that and make him look ordinary (Tsonga or Youzhny, for example). And that’s how it should be played on hardcourts – to win the point with a winner, not with an opponent’s error!

I must say, though, that I somehow agree with your opinion re: Djoker’s weapons. Except his movement, which I personally consider as even quicker than that of Fed (but that’s quite logical because of the age difference), I can’t see anything that extra special on his game… But to call him only as a “grinder”? Just watch again that AO semi vs Fed, and you’ll end up with at least 15 CLEAN baseline winners (i.e. shots, which Fed didn’t even have a chance to touch), not to mention those serves which Djoker came up with when it really mattered… Another example – Indian Wells final. I guess we all know what happened when Mardy led 40-0 in that very first game of the 3rd (and deciding) set… Those were 3 breakpoints in a row and Djoker saved them all with an ACE! Now can you imagine something like this with the “greatest offensive player of all-times” (a.k.a. Rafael Nadal)?

As for Safin, well, I guess you don’t need to be a tennis expert to realize that his main problem WASN’T a lack of serious weapon but his HEAD. He was talented enough to rule the tennis world for quite some time, but unfortunately, his temper (and to a certain extent also his injuries) usually got better of him. As for his weapons, well, when we compare him with the Djoker, he certainly has a better serve (which could bring him aces or service winners wnenever he wanted), not to mention his double-handed backhand, which (if on song) is still one of the best… Yes, his forehand often tended to go off a bit, but still, he could compensate that with his booming serve I guess…

As for the question whether Nadal’s play will be too much for his body or not, well, wait for another 3-4 years and you’ll see for yourself… The guy’s only 21, but has already had to deal with some pretty serious injuries… His post-Wimbledon results in the last 2 years (where the fatigue set in) also speak for itself… Comparing Nadal to Connors doesn’t make any sense – simply because the game today is (physically) as demanding as never… Or can you imagine someone like Connors TODAY playing 20-25 tourneys per year (whilst winning 10-15 of them)? Look at Hewitt or Ferrero – comparing to Djoker or Safin, those were THE grinders, but all of them were done already by the age 25…

Finally, as for Nalby vs Nadal on clay, I strongly believe the Argentine would at least make it an interesting match. Of course, clay is a totally different story… It’s simply impossible for ANY opponent (including Nalby or Fed) to outplay Nadal with winners on this surface. If you have problems to do that on hard-courts or grass, then how on earth on clay? As Gaudio once said, the guy’s simply a beast on this surface!

I’m sure it would be VERY difficult for Nalby, but still, I would at least give the Argentine the edge over Fed there – mainly because of his double-handed backhand, which I think would deal much better with the most fundamental problem which Fed faces when playing Nadal on clay – that is Nadal’s 5000 rpm forehand to Fed’s one-handed backhand. As you may know, one-handed backhand requires a much more precise footwork and racquet control, which is very hard to achieve when a ball kicks as high as off that Nadal’s wicked topspin forehand… Therefore, virtually all of Fed’s backhands in his matches vs Nadal on clay are either misses, defensive shots, or shots that can’t do any damage to the Spaniard, but I guess it wouldn’t be the case with Nalby – simply because his double-hander (which I personally consider clearly as the best among the current players) would certainly handle that Nadal’s forehand better – that’s at least how I see it… Anyway, the fact is these two haven’t played on clay yet, so it remains to be seen…


Voicemale1 Says:

Hmmm
You said Serve 0-40 IW finals 3rd set Nole serves all aces wins it… it is not a weapon you said it. I guess you did not watch the match.

I was there, and saw that – in the 3rd Set. My question was, since I’m told endlessly about his serve, why he had a 2-Break lead in the SECOND Set, gave both of those back getting broken twice and then lost the set 7-5.

Guess you didn’t that, huh?


jane Says:

Skorocel,

Thanks for putting into proper tennis lingo some of the points I wanted to make about Djoker’s (sometimes?) attacking style; I saw those winners at the AO and figured they were pretty pure “offensive” winners. Surely those down-the-line shots he’s able to hit off both sides are close to a weapon?

It seems your guy Fed is back on track; I hope the match with Andy is at least a close one and not a rout.


jane Says:

Voicemale,

I agree Djokovic’s serve can break down; but is it the shot itself that breaks down or is it that he loses his focus or is fatigued? I am not sure, but I’ve wondered this myself.

Here’s what he said about that 2nd set fumble at IW which speaks to focus (or maybe fatigue? heat?) issues rather than the shot itself failing him. You were there so maybe you have some thoughts on his serve.

“And I knew before the match that he is a big server and he’s going to go for the shots and I just need to calm down, be patient and wait for my chances, which I did well in the first set and start of the second, but then suddenly I was nervous in the moments when I needed to keep my focus and calm down, and of course the result was unforced errors which would be crucial for me throughout the match.”
————–
On another topic, Rafa just won the second set, so this one is going three, not surprisingly. Something about Blake and Rafa makes for an intriguing match up every time.


Von Says:

Branimir:

Zola, is one of the very best posters on Tennis.X. She is fair-minded and gives praise where parise is due.

Speaking as one who has endured several extremely unfair attacks from you because I voiced my opinion about Djoko at the AO, I can only say that even though the rest of us have moved on, you are still stuck in your single-mindedness and have been unable to move forwrd in your thinking. Your arguments are baseless, childish, rhetorical and devoid of an adult’s analytical intelligence. Berating a fellow poster does not make that person appear stupid or unworthy of respect, on the contrary, it just apprises all and sundry of the shallowness of your grey matter, and even though you might claim to be an adult, your writing betrays the magnitude of your stupidity and irrational thinking. Do yourself and all of us posters, a favor, rise from the mire of your displaced anger and hatred and make a concerted effort to find a healthy outlet for this very destructible pollution that has infected your grey matter. And, I mean that in the nicest, possible way. goodluck! :)


Von Says:

Voicemale:

“That said, Safin’s solid strokes in every department needed to hold up every time in order for him to succeed at the Grand Slam level with long term consistency. And they didin’t. Once a hole developed in one of his shots, he also was not immune to going out in first or second round matches. Marat had no Money Shot to dig him out of trouble.”

I beg to differ with you regarding Marat’s shotmaking, etc., and holes in his shots. Unfortuntely for Marat, from 2005, when he won his last major, to the present time, he has been plagued with kneee problems, and then within the last year, his wrist. HIS PROBLEMS ARE NOT THE RESULT OF HOLES IN HIS SHOTS. Irregardless, of how many great shots an athlethe has in his arsenal, if his knees and wrist are not healthy, then, it’s bye, bye time. Marat is now at that stage, but kudos to him for swallowing the criticisms and media digs. To show up at tournaments knowing that your body parts are not working 100 percent, is a huge deficit in itself, but he does it anyway. He is what a true champion is made of – true grit. GO SAFIN!!


Voicemale Says:

Skorocel said:

“Another example – Indian Wells final. I guess we all know what happened when Mardy led 40-0 in that very first game of the 3rd (and deciding) set… Those were 3 breakpoints in a row and Djoker saved them all with an ACE! Now can you imagine something like this with the “greatest offensive player of all-times”

Again, having been there to see the IW Final, I’ll ask you what I asked Roki when he brought up that same 1st Game of the 3rd Set: If the Djokovic serve is such an awesome weapon that you cite this game as proof of it, the explain to me how such an awesome weapon completely disappeared in the SECOND set of that same match against Fish? Djokovic was up in that second set at 5-2, was two points from the match at 15-30. And yet the Awesome Weapon Djokovic Serve was well, lets’ just be kind and say “lacking” at 5-3, and again at 5-6, when his Awesome Weapon Serve was broken TWICE losing that set 7-5. That he even needed a 3rd Set should tell anybody with eyes that this guys serve is good, but unmistakably inconsistent. That kind of shaky inconsistency does not a weapon make. See?

And, if you’re gonna wax on about this guys serve as a weapon, then answer me this also: why is it then his “weapon serve” couldn’t get him through his 2nd match in Marseille or his first match in Miami? And you can throw in a First Match loss in Cincinnati too And his total crap out in Shanghai, where he not only didn’t win a single match, he didn’t win a single SET in any of his three matches.

Yeah. A “weapon”. Uh-huh. Very Good Serve – but nothing near devastating. And I’ll bet you this: after all his inconsistent results in the last 9 months, no one on the tour is lying awake at night trembling because they gotta play Djokovic. On any surface. He’s proven he can just as easily lose his first match as he can lose no match in any tournament any day.


Nishit Says:

all this talk is trash…..nadal will be the next no.1 in mens tennis,and have ever seen a pro who is such a dominant force on clay,c’mon who has the capability of having 84 straight wins on a single surface,that shows his credibity and his super-human effort you all are talking about…..abt djokovic,yes he is a good player but he is definitely not the next no.1…..for all that there is….its only the raging bull,the king of clay,RAFAEL NADAL(RAFA)


Questions Says:

sensationalsafin and skorocel,

Thank you for your reply regarding Nadal’s work on improving his serve with his left hand while being a natural righty.


Questions Says:

Regarding Nadal’s changing his game on hardcourt:

I was glad to read his interview post his 2nd victory over Blake last night. He talked about the need to change his strategy, esp. on hardcourt, from running 6 feet behind the baseline to attacking in the court more often. He mentioned that doing this is risky but that this is the way he has to play to win, esp. against certain players. He seems to have done that very well last night. His serve stats were very strong. I believe that they have been getting better since Fall 2006, overall, on hardcourt.

Some have written that he plays doubles on hardcourt in part to work on his net approaches.

He also said not too long ago at another tourney that he needs to try and shorten more points, to run less.

So it seems that Nadal’s overall strategy to improve on hardcourt is similar to comments various professionals have made about his game. That he needs to improve his serve as much as possible, and play aggressive on hardcourt. Both to win more matches and so get deeper into the various tournaments – which he has been doing lately – and for his body’s professional tennis longevity.

It was worrisome to me to read in an interview he gave in December (in Spain) that he has not been able to include running as part of his routine workouts for a year or two now, and that he had to play the final at RG last year without feeling in his feet due to painkillers.

Just over the last two weeks both Federer and Blake have independently mentioned how much Nadal’s game on harcourt has improved. I would believe them before believing many amateur viewers (like myself).

As for aspects of his game other than what his usually praised for (athleticism, endurance, mental toughness and so on), I believe that he is not always given credit for his excellent strokes, precision and variety. This was seen for example at last year’s Wimbledon’s final. I thought that he played more-or-less at the same level as Federer during the five sets… they demonstrated many textbook executions of every possible stroke… I think that many of us enjoyed that match as much for their incredible level of playing and variety as for the unrelenting suspense to see which of the two was going to write history that day.

So only time will tell how Nadal will do with shifting his hardcourt game more to the aggressive style – he’s doing that better now – and with managing the health of his joints and ligaments. There have been many predictions on this, but I don’t think you can predict this with any certainty.

These three things: his serve, his net game and his health will be important factors in whether he might be ranked as number one some day and if so for how long.

As for Federer, it’s much to early to talk about a strong decline. When the mono and the few recent defeats are completely behind him he will play again as the number one player. The one important difference is that there will be many more tournaments each year where winning will be harder for him than it has been in 2004-2007. This is the first year no-one thinks that he will almost certainly win Wimbledon or the US Open. He might and he might not. And I think that most of us wouldn’t rate his chances of winning RG higher than during the last three attempts, esp. if Nadal does not get injured prior to the final. There again he has a chance to win but a smaller one. I think that Federer will still win more slams but no longer as (relatively) easily and nor as often as before. And is he going to remain hungry enough to play to his best ability through his early to mid-thirties? (I write about his thirties only because last year Federer first mentioned wanting to play the 2012 Olympics and then a couple of months later mentioned that he wanted to play another 9 years or so.)

So in conclusion:
1) The jury is still out on Djokovic’s abilities to become and remain number one,
2) Federer will not easily relinquish his number one spot and is likely to get it back again if he does,
3) and Nadal has the desire and at least a fighting chance to continue to improve his hardcourt game and to keep his body match-ready. He has a decent chance to hold the number one position some day. He may or may not make it. But in any case, so long as he keeps his body healthy, he will still make much history.


jane Says:

Questions,

It seems you have a lot of the answers too! Thanks for the nice post and good summing up of a lot of the thoughts here.


Nadal No Slouch on Hard Courts; FSN Bows Out Says:

[...] I read the story on this blog that Rafa will never get to No. 1, but I don’t buy that. The guy’s too close, too determined and I think with Fed languishing for the moment, he smells the blood in the water. Djokovic does too, but on clay Rafa’s ahead of the Serb. And while Roger remains in control, the way he’s been hitting his forehand and with the fear factor in freefall, it’s hard to envision him reaching multiple clay finals, so the door for No. 1 could be very well open. [...]

Top story: Serena Williams And Simona Halep Clash For The WTA Finals Title
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Rankings
ATP - Oct 20 WTA - Oct 20
1 Novak Djokovic1 Serena Williams
2 Roger Federer2 Maria Sharapova
3 Rafael Nadal3 Simona Halep
4 Stan Wawrinka4 Petra Kvitova
5 David Ferrer5 Na Li
6 Tomas Berdych6 Agnieszka Radwanska
7 Kei Nishikori7 Eugenie Bouchard
8 Marin Cilic8 Ana Ivanovic
9 Milos Raonic9 Caroline Wozniacki
10 Andy Murray10 Angelique Kerber
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