Rafael Nadal: It’s Been Tough For Me This Year Losing A Lot Of Finals [Video]
by Tom Gainey | October 10th, 2011, 10:43 am

In his bid to defend his first title off the clay courts, Rafael Nadal once again came up short Sunday in Tokyo as Andy Murray swept the Spaniard 36, 62, 60 in the Japan Open final.

“He played unbelievable,” Nadal said. “He didn’t make any mistakes in the third set. He played very aggressive and made no mistakes. When you are playing someone at that level, the only way is to try and get more free points on serve and for me it was impossible today because his return was very impressive.”

A dejected Nadal said it’s been a tough year for him with seven total runner-up finishes, six to Djokovic and now one to Murray. And maybe there are some signs that all these losses in the finals are getting to him.

“It’s been tough for me this year losing a lot of finals,” Nadal said. “But it’s been a fantastic year anyway. I just keep working and keep fighting every week.”

Nadal now travels to Shanghai where he’ll be the top seed at the Rolex Masters 1000 event. Murray is the No. 2 seed. Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are not playing.

And Rafa is already practicing.

“No day off, back to practice hard! Today at Qizhong Tennis Center in Shanghai! At the background you can see the old Masters Cup’s Stadium, spectacular!” Nadal posted on facebook.

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50 Comments for Rafael Nadal: It’s Been Tough For Me This Year Losing A Lot Of Finals [Video]

Brando Says:

I do think the losses are affecting him. I mean this must be the 1st year in which he has lost more finals than won them in what 7 years maybe? I think that would affect anyone. Good thing is he has made 11 finals and hopefully things shall fall into place for him if he keeps on making the finals.

jane Says:

“Rafael Nadal once again came up short” Literally perhaps? He needs to hit deeper on hard courts. Too many balls land mid court and guys like Muzza and Nole now seem to step in and put them away. Maybe guys were concerned about getting past before, not sure. But it seems that is one thing Rafa could do, hit deeper through the court, and work on making the serve more of a weapon.

Looked at the stats yesterday and Murray, Nole and Rafa are all still at the top w.r.t. Return games – they are the best, consistently. But it seems to me that in the past Rafa used to be the number one guy in *first serve percentage*. That has now dropped down to fifth. It is still excellent but it shows that maybe his serve is “off” somehow?

jane Says:

Getting “passed” not past…

Patty Says:

Of course the losses are getting to him and shaking his confidence big time. It’s only natural. He’s human. Good news is he has few points to defend the rest of the year other than WTF .
But next year things will certainly be intersting especially if Murray comes out strong at AO

Brando Says:

@jane: yep I think what you say I’d about right. Rafa’s serve needs working on- it just seems far too easy for one of the big boys to break him atm. And also play deep like you say. I think rafa’s level has dipped slightly, whilst nole’s (obviously) has improved. Andy was also playing as well as he possibly could yesterday. It is funny though how one person’s level goes down and the others pick up. Keeps things interesting and exciting I feel.

Brando Says:

@patty: I agree. I suspect things shall be different next year. I mean at the start of this year, less 9 months ago all the talk was of a rafa slam- and how no one is going to stop him doing so. Then boom, nole has one of the best seasons ever, andy is on the rise, fed and rafa seem more vulnerable than ever. I think there shall be a more back and forth kind of thing between the top 4 next year. But ultimately, who knows what is going to happen- that’s why it is fun 2 watch!

Flow Lesserd Says:

Another DISASTER for Nadal… and it’s not about head2head or scale of the tournament, it’s all about losing one final after the other – now 7!!!!!! – except for clay – though HE won the 1st set in a few ones.

Only on ‘red dirt’ HE wins something big – also not playing Djo’Devil’ his ARCH-NEMESIS. BODO’s (mud-king-of-biased-tennis-writings) ASTERICS waving hello. Nadal’s not able to win on any other surface in 2011 so far or defend any TITLE far from the sand in his entire career !!! Anyway,
concerning 2011…. there’s something in his head HAMMERED in there by D-’EVIL’ that seems to shatter his play-abilities(including tactics) in crucial matches… bad signs, I guess… and I don’t get the feeling that 2012 might be his year of redemption… most likely other will join the club of successful spanish-beast-hunters.

TENNIS is like jungle-land where beta-predators just will wait for mounting moments of frailness to get a good-’bloddy’-bite at their alpha-ones. And on whatever era you may look at in tennis history… this remains one self-repeating truth. And it doesn’t matter how ‘great’ you’ll be received in one particular time, if a pack-leading player’s going to lose his prime-belief the ‘cracks’ a getting bigger by every lost final… regardless important ones or not.

alison hodge Says:

it goes without saying hes obviously bitterly dissapointed,however he still manages to remain dignified in defeat as well as in victory,to his great credit hes made 11 finals this year and has only lost in those finals to a lights out playing nole and andy yesterday,if not for those guys he would have had another 2 slams,and 6 other titles,now how many players have had that sort of year this year,so still a year to be very proud of when alls said and done.

Kimmi Says:

i don’t think rafa is playing too different from the past, imo guys are starting to exploit his weaknesses. Nadal FH is his biggest weapon but it was always susceptible to hit short if his opponents can hit hard to it..

It happened to federer when rafa was able to beat him by exploiting his backhand..most players followed suit. It even gets difficult when they get older, the weaknesses are magnified as they become a little slower.

Kimmi Says:

ha ha, i though it was funny when rafa changed his shirt during trophy presentation and wear a shirt with caption “EVERYDAY IS A CHANCE FOR VICTORY”

alison hodge Says:

@kimmi i didnt notice that,but it sums rafa up,to take it on the chin, and move on to the next challenge.

alison hodge Says:

thanks kimmi nice picture of both men,nice to see rafa still smiling even in defeat.

alison hodge Says:

@flow lessord if its a disaster to make that many finals and only loose to two players,then im sure almost any other player on tour would kill for a disaster like that.

leo vixen Says:

@alison hodge: Well said and my sentiments exactly! Most players on the ATP tour would kill to have a disaster year like Nadal did. Unfortunately, Nadal has set the bar very high for himself and his fans that we can’t help but feel that if he loses in a final, it’s a disaster. He’s spoiled us by always winning even when he’s hanging on by a thread. He needs a mental rest and hopefully will block all these loses out and start fresh in 2012. I do think he needs to revamp his game a bit and play more aggressively on a regular basis because others are starting to read his game a bit too easily. Vamos Rafael!

jane Says:

Nice picture of Rafa Kimmi; the slogan is somewhat ironic given the circumstances but it is true. Also you are probably right that Rafa’s style hasn’t changed much but I do think his serve, particularly first serve, has been less consistent.

alison, very true. Not much of a disaster when you think about it, and still a solid number 2. In 2009, Nole lost five finals, and to different people: Muzza, Rafa, Haas, etc. So which is worse? Losing to the same one or two guys a lot or losing to a number of different guys? I guess you could make a case either way. But anyhow, Rafa is still “right there” if he is making the finals.

Dory Says:

I am not that excited for Shanghai with both Federer and Djokovic not playing. Maybe Murray will win this one too. He always wins Masters 1000s around this time of the year.

Humble Rafa Says:

Sure..Murray can win Shanghai.

That lady forehand has to be good for something. Right. Small or big, win when others are not playing.

alison hodge Says:

jane yeah exactly every time you get to a final is another chance at a title,and certainly no disgrace to loose to only one person,especially to one thats playing lights out tennis like nole this year,@leo vixen thanks i must admit to taking rafas victories for granted in the past,its a bit like life really when things are good you take it for granted that things will always be that way,instead of looking at the other side of the coin ,however i think like you say rafa needs a rest to work on a few things,im sure he will come back fighting rafa thrives on a challenge,2012 will be a very exciting year.

TENNIS 101 Says:

As a long time Federer fan I can only think Deja vu about Rafa´s year, its Federer 2008 all over again, Fed was winning everything except for Roland Garros prior to 2008 then came Nadal a change the whole dynamics of tennis, in 2009 Roger found his best tennis but still was top by Nadal in the AO.

A Federer´s fans we acknowledge the huge monster that Roger had become and you expected for him to win everything, he won 4 tournaments in 2008 and was a bad year for his standards but a great year for everyone else, Rafa 2011 is very similar to Rogers, getting to finals, winning 1GS, losing matches you regularly will win, Nadal is very young still at 25 years old you can suspect his is still at his prime and it seems that way but Djokovic has exposed him, similar from what Nadal did to Roger, expose the backhand (Both players have great backhands) but is the only part of their games you can attack, then Nadal hitting hard balls to his forehand creates opportunities for opponents, same thing with Roger.

Is all deja vu reading Rafas fans, I think Rafa will not be longer the alpha dog but the chaser, but no doubt he still has about 3 to 6 GS in his legs and mind.

Dan Martin Says:

I think Novak has laid out a game plan for playing Rafa. Murray has the tools to emulate that game plan. JMDP also had a game plan in 2009, but his revolved around hitting enough aces and service winners to deny Rafa rhythm and deny him the ability to wear JMDP down. So two game plans exist and players are going to try to execute one or the other vs. Rafa. Part of the hazard of being a top player I guess.

Adam Says:

Everyone is talking about how all this losing is getting to nadal. I agree, I do think it is getting to him. However, I don’t think that the fact that its getting to him is hurting his game at all. Sure it would affect a lot of player, just about any player, but not nadal. Nadal is with out a doubt the best competitor in the world. Adversity does not affect him, it motivates him. Its easy to see, every time he is gonig out there now he is more driven and determined than ever. The unfortunate thing for him right now is that he is being out played in these matches he’s losing. No matter how hard he tries and competes he just isn’t good enough to win these matches. thats the only way you lose 6 times in a row to one person. Everyone saw how hard he was trying in the USO. I never seen anyone fight and compete that hard. The loses are not bothering him, they’re motivating him. LIke i said, he is the best competitor in the world, any sport.

alison hodge Says:

tennis 101 loved reading your post,both roger and rafa are victims of there own success,anything less than perfect is seen as a disaster for them,even though they have both achieved so much,noles doing to rafa,what rafa did to roger,things move on a year or two from now i have no doubt the same thing could be happening to nole,for what its worth i still think roger has 1 or 2 more slams left in him yet even if he does not dominate anymore,also as a rafa fan thanks for saying that you have faith in rafa winning 3 to 6 more slams,to be honest id be chuffed to bits with another 2.

alison hodge Says:

sorry meant chuffed to bits wiyh 1 or2.

alison hodge Says:

@adam yeah i agree and thats what i love so much about rafa,hes such a fighter,never give up,never say die,not his style,not in his nature,no such thing as a lost cause,what he lacks in style of play,he makes up for in passion determination and sheer bloody mindedness.

Colin Says:

Adam, I DON’T agree! Whatever may have been the case at the USO, toward the end of that final in Tokyo Rafa looked pretty well resigned to losing.
Murray said years ago that it’s easy to work out how to beat Nadal, in theory, but the difficulty is executing it on court. On Sunday he managed it.
It’s worth remembering that several times this year Murray has looked like beating Rafa before collapsing mentally (or physically at Monte Carlo). Murray also had match points to be the first person to break Nole’s winning streak. If Andy can overcome his mental demons – and there are signs he may – he’ll be up there with Djokovic, and will beat him too, some of the time.

grendel Says:

Yes, I agree with that. One instance – Nadal is a very secure smasher, but he missed an easy one towards the end – the focus just wasn’t there.

I’ve seen Nadal like that before. Last year at the O2, he fought hard against Federer, and had his chance to break at the beginning of the 3rd. He didn’t – and the stuffing went out of him.

I think it is easy to mythologise a player like Nadal. We give him almost superhuman qualities, whereas in fact he is quite normal – to be very strong is one feature of normality, though only a select few have it, of course. It is said that every player has a kind of computer inside of him which calculates – making use of an extensive data base (matches played) – just what the possibilities are.

So if Nadal thinks there is a possibility of winning, even though the situation seems loaded against him, then he’ll go for it. This demands tremendous strength,no doubt, but it is also rational. Nadal knows what he is capable of,none better, and you can bet he has a damn good idea of what the other fellow has to offer ON THE DAY. If that onboard computer calculates there is no coming back then, like the rational being he is, Nadal will at some level call it a day.

As a matter of fact, at the US Open, he certainly did fight all the way – but then he had seen the cracks in Djokovic’s game. He must have known his chances were not big, but they were undoubtedly there. It was absolutely worth going all out for it. There is no way Djokovic’s victory was a given. On the other hand, he was well beaten by Murray some time before the end.

jane Says:

As for the USO, Nole was serving for it in the third, and perhaps with his back acting up and maybe nerves, he choked and let Rafa back in. Rafa rose to the occasion, as you say, sensing the moment, and won the tiebreak. However, in the fourth set, it was all Nole, and Rafa capitulated. After a while it seemed like he was resigned, even though the stakes were higher given he was defending a slam. But just like in the final set with Murray, imo, there was nothing, really, Rafa could do on both occasions. He was being outhit.

grendel Says:

I wondered if someone would catch me out on that one. One up to you, jane, on this occasion. After I’d written that, I realised I’d meant Wimbledon. Djokovic played the big tennis there, the brilliant tennis – but Nadal was definitely in with a chance of winning; he could easily have given up, many would, but he didn’t. And he was right not to – Djokovic was vulnerable.

So far as the US Open is concerned, the comparison with the Murray match doesn’t hold imo. Nadal was done – it was a tremendous battle to win the 3rd, and he was just done. I agree he couldn’t have won, he didn’t have the tools. But I don’t think he capitulated – he did against Murray – he was exhausted. That, anyway, was my impression.

jane Says:

Agree with you about Wimbledon grendel. I don’t know, perhaps it was just exhaustion at the USO. Nadal and Nole had battled hard. But I actually recently rewatched that match, and to me the final sets were similar. In the USO, at times Rafa didn’t run to shots he normally would try to. Nole was hitting corner after corner, clearly trying to keep points short, and there was nothing Rafa could do. Even if he had the energy – and you are correct it was more depleted in USO and Tokyo due to rain delays, maybe that is the difference you see – there were, nevertheless, several balls he just could not have gotten to. Nole was dictating. That is the similarity I see with the Muzza final set. Andy dictated. But he didn’t overhit. He just controlled the point, ended it more often than not. Sure, there are differencee, but that is what I meant in terms of similarity.

Brando Says:

I agree with Grendel here re Wimbledon. Rafa was definately in with a chance in both set 1 and 4, it’s just- like rafa has said- he collapsed on his serve at 4-4 thinking back to the previous 4 losses. If you see rafa’s service game at these moments the errors he produced, especially in the 4th set, were very uncharacteristic. Mainly due to nervousness as opposed to nole putting rafa on the backfoot. Nole was brilliant in set 2, BUT rafa returned in kind in set 3. As for USO final, I think in the 4th after the MTO rafa’s momentum was affected, fatigue crept in after 3 ridiculously long sets and nole put rafa and himself out of their misery by finishing things off asap. Nole knew if it went to 5 he moat likely would lose due to his injury- whilst rafa just didn’t have anything left to take it to 5.

jane Says:

I do see what you mean, grendel. Nadal couldn’t have been exhausted at Tokyo vs. Murray the way he was at USO, for obvious reasons. By capitulated, I meant,Rafa just stopped even trying to win at the USO, it seemed, after it was 3-1, for sure 4-1, he didn’t run as much as he would, and he was hitting the ball short so Nole was coming in for put aways Rafa just could not have gotten to even with fresh legs.

How do you see it versus Muzza; At what point did Nadal “call it a day” or give up the ghost? Second break in the third? Surely he fought all the way through the second set and to begin the third. But also there is no doubt Murray’s level was stratospheric, he was in the zone.

And that is another difference. Nole wasn’t even playing his best in the 4th in NYC because he couldn’t serve; he was just trying to place the serve, and lost a lot of speed as a result. But he was dictating, ending points with winners, and keeping points short.

grendel Says:

then we are in agreement. Even if Nadal had had the energy (you say), he could not have got to many of Djokovic’s balls. I implied as much in saying he didn’t have the tools to win.

I don’t know about depletion of energy thru rain delays – it was just a much more ferocious match, and longer too. By the way, towards the end of the recent Tokyo final, Murray started to hit with real abandon. He sensed his man was down and out, and this seemed to give him a freedom to really unleash. It’s all about relaxation, I guess. If you’re relaxed, you can’t overhit – not if you have the skill of an Andy Murray.

jane Says:

Yes, his backhand has always been stellar, but what I noticed with Murray in that final set was how he was letting his forehand rip! For sure, when a player has a sizable lead, he can ay freely and sometimes the best comes out. Maybe against lesser competitors that is when Murray takes his foot off the gas instead of just going for it, with pedal to the metal, the way he did the other day.

grendel Says:

“At what point did Nadal “call it a day” or give up the ghost?” Sorry, I’d need to look at the last set again to answer that. But I doubt if there is a point as such,more a kind of drip drip. I think Nadal’s confidence was pretty shaken by Murray coming from 0-40 down to hold and maintain his lead (he had broken in the previous game, and his going down 0-40 was pure complacency, Nadal did little to earn the position) – and that was in the second set. Damage was done there, so doubt must have accumulated in Nadal’s mind.

jane Says:

That hold for Murray seemed very crucial indeed: it was a turning point in the match, maybe even in their rivalry, though that could be overstating the case. It said “I am not going away”. Clearly he wasn’t.

skeezerweezer Says:

Rafa’s BH is the weak link, just like Feds vs Rafa. However Feds BH, excluding the anomaly to Rafa’s outrageous topspin FH to Feds BH, is mechanically a much better stroke, with better variety. Rafa again got his BH exploited( against Murray), and has resorted to chipping the BH a lot more nowadays. Unlike Fed, his BH chip-slice(it’s really a chop), is not an offensive weapon. Nole, and Murray as of late, have capitalized on this. Meanwhile, Rafa fans are focusing in on his serve, which is in folly, His serve isn’t any different when he won all those Clays court titles and really ( the new serve ) only earned him 1 GS title on the HC.

Why is he using the chop more and a weaker BH? Movement. His movement IMHO has noticeably changed for the worse. He is Robot-ing around more than ever on those legs, and the flexibility of the early years is gone. If you know you can attack the BH it opens up the court, ask Fed.

That said, I don’t know why some are putting a fork in Rafa already. In Fed? I can see the argument ( AGE ). But Rafa? C’mon he is only 26 and as someone pointed out earlier got to 7 finals this year. He has some years yet to change things, however I don’t ever see his strokes changing, and guys are getting used to it now…..

Brando Says:

@ skeezerweezer: big respect. An accurate analysis from someone who isn’t a nadal fan like myself or others, and one who is calling a spade a spade. Only thing I would argue is that rafa is thankfully 25 not 26, lol! But yes going forward, thing shall get harder for rafa than before but the good news is he is at the right age/ time in his career to deal with it. He’s 25 atm and is it realistic to see him winning another 4 slams over the course of 3 years till career end for him? ABSOLUTELY I say. And that would put him level 2nd on the alltime list. 1 more and he is level with Borg and laver on 11 slams- and who on earth would not be happy to be level with them at the end of their career if that is your worst case secenario? NO ONE. Rafa’s fine, he is in a fantastic postion at this stage of his career. Close to the top with great motivation to work hard and achieve more going forward!

jamie Says:

Time for Oldal and Olderer to retire. Buh-bye.

skeezerweezer Says:

Respect back Brando……missed a year…..a big 25 not 26….in tennis that is like dog like years ;-) 1 year can equal 3?

Michael Says:

Your analysis of Rafa’s weakness is spot on. His double handed back hand is the villian and today out of desperation he is giving many moon balls to opponents. It is Djokovic who is exploiting Rafa’s weakness to the core. Moreover, now-a-days what is more disturbing I notice is that Nadal is getting tired very early in a match even in three setters. I am wondering if this is the same Nadal who fought a hard five hour match against Verdasco only to come back and win against Federer in the finals again in a five setter. What happened to the famed Stamina and he is still only 25. Imagine if he is of Federer’s age ?

tennisfansince76 Says:

@Michael i agree. Rafa gassing out at the USO was a big thing. i’ve never seen that happen to him in a big match.

Wog boy Says:

In Miami Nadal could hardly stand at the end of the match and those were conditions that Nole usualy couldn’t handle.

Little Wing Says:

Rafa was at Nike event in Shanghai were they measured his arm circumferences, grip strength and lung capacity. What was really surprising was that they found that when they measured his lung capacity it came to 3439 which was lower than the average adult(they stated a 3500 for the average male adult). Here’s the link:


I don’t know about the validity of these tests but that’s worrying. Lung capacity correlates to stamina and athletes usually have a higher lung capacity than you and I. Since Rafa got sick in the beginning of the year his fitness just hasn’t been the same.

alison hodge Says:

@brando to be honest as a fan of rafa im already delighted he has 10 grand slams,any more is an added bonus now,at 25 he still has plenty of time to win many more slams too,and like you say the next one he wins would equal borg and laver,and who wouldnt be happy with that,another would be equal to emmerson,plenty of time to do either,still pretty doable whatever way you look at it,although i love muzza and im sure hes delighted to beat rafa in tokoyo,im sure he and nole would both cut of there right arms to be in the position rafas in with 10 slams,with nothing left to proove now anyway.

alison hodge Says:

jamie please stop talking about roger and rafa retiring,its getting rather boring now,even if there dominance is over and they are not the players they once were,they remain at the pinacle of mens tennis and alot of us still love watching them.

Brando Says:

@ skeez: lol, I would only wish so that 1 year equal 3. Can’t wait for 2012 to see what rafa tries in order to help his cause. Also your guy fed, I genuinely think what’s happenend in the last 2 slams has p****d him off and he shall be very dangerous next year. He’ll win a slam I think. One thing about roger is that he loves to prove people wrong and he can very much do that. Also I’m looking forward to del potro next year. I’m somewhat no one has mentioned him but I see him as a GENUINE slam contender next year. Top 13 after a year off, troubling nole at FO, rafa at wimby- promising signs for next year I say for the big man.

CW Says:

Only thing I want to say is that I’m astonished and proud of the civility in this debate. That’s all :)

Kam Retnasami Says:

I am worried about Nadal. I don’t think he is the same player anymore. He doesn’t scare his rivals anymore. The intimidating factor is gone. Just look at the way he has been losing lately. He was crushed (6-1) in the 4th set by Djokovic at the US Open. He was again crushed (6-2, 6-0) in the last two sets this past weekend by Murray. If no one has noticed it yet, something is wrong here. This is the same guy who was still # 1 in the world just three months ago and who has won 10 Grand Slam titles. He has no right to lose by such scores against anyone, unless something is really wrong. Most of us thought Djokovic was his main problem and got into his head. I don’t think it’s entirely Djokovic. It’s his own mental state, too. He has lost confidence in himself and maybe even his thirst for victory or his killer instinct. I don’t expect a lot of changes this fall as he as always been a NO factor after the US Open. He almost never wins tournaments after September and we have seen this for many years now. It will be interesting to see if he can regain his confidence and his thirst for victory early next year if he is to win more Grand Slam titles. This is a big question mark right now! We could either witness the end of Nadal as the dominant player he once was, or a new beginning for him. Let’s hope for the latter.

Michael Says:

Kam, I agree. Nadal’s level of play has gone down a bit. His problem today frankly speaking is his low level of stamina and energy. He is just not able to withstand the body pressure of even a tough three setter. Just forget about five setter. Yet, he is still only 25 but is giving an impression of being a veteran on the Court after just two sets. Probably, his taxing Tennis is now giving him all the trouble later in his career. As he ages more with time, his position is only going to get worse.

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