Rafael Nadal: I’m Playing With Too Many Nerves At The Moment, And I Need To Fix It
by Staff | March 29th, 2015, 11:53 pm

Following his 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 third round loss today to countryman Fernando Verdasc, former World No. 1 Rafael Nadal said his nerves played a role in the defeat.

“It’s not the question of tennis, [It’s] the question of being relaxed enough to play well on court,” Nadal told reporters. “Today my game in general improved since a month and a half [ago]. But at the same time, [I’m] still playing with too many nerves for a lot of moments, in important moments.

“I have been able to control my emotions during 90 per cent, 95 per cent of my matches of my career… But I’m going to fix it,” he said. “I don’t know if [it’ll be] in one week, in six months, or in one year, but I’m going to do it.

“I need the help of my team, but especially I need the help of myself. That’s what I am trying to do. Nobody’s going to change the situation for you.”

Nadal, a 4-time finalist, has still never won in Miami. After returning from a series of ailments last year, his only title this season through three months came at the Buenos Aires Open In February.

He’ll still enter the clay season as the favorite again to win the French Open.

“At this point in my career, I’ve won enough things to say I don’t need to win more, but I want to do it,” said Nadal. “I want to keep competing well. I want to keep having the feeling that I can be competing for every tournament I’m going to play, and I have the motivation to do it. Obviously clay is [a] surface that I’ve had some success, and I hope to be ready for it again.”

Nadal had won 13 straight against Verdasco, but has since lost his last two to his fellow lefty.

“I was anxious on court,” Nadal added. “I wanted to be there. I tried in every point, but I was not able to relax myself, calm myself.”

The loss was his earliest at the event in nine years since 2006. He’ll will also drop 780 rankings points (adding just 225) and could slide out of the Top 4 next Monday.

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57 Comments for Rafael Nadal: I’m Playing With Too Many Nerves At The Moment, And I Need To Fix It

chris ford1 Says:

Interesting. Rafa is saying nothing physical is bothering him..it’s sorting things out and getting control of his emotions and nerves to a higher level. At the same time, Nadal added that he had already won enough in his career and doesn’t “need” to win anymore, but wants to.
Why did he add that?

Monte Carlo is going to have a lot of eyes on it.

Michael Says:

It is difficult to believe that a player like Rafa who has achieved so much glory in this Sport is saddled with nerves that constrains him in important moments of the match to execute his plan on the court. It is really an irony that a man who is credited so much tenacity, endurance and animal spirit throughout his career is claiming that he is becoming a victim of too much nerves haunting him during crucial moments of the match.

Margot Says:

He’s had so many physical issues, it’s bound to impact on him mentally.

Okiegal Says:

There is another website I go to which is strictly a Rafa site and a lot of his fans thinks he needs a new coach, I’ve read the same on here. But don’t know how a coach could help what’s going on between the ears. Maybe a new coach could get his game straightened out. A lot of tennis players on here thinks he’s too far behind the baseline, even the commentators say this……why does his coach not correct this if it’s detrimental to his game? This I don’t understand. This seems to be a flaw in his game according to almost everyone. Why doesn’t his Uncle see it too??

jane Says:

okie, this strategy works well for rafa on clay, certainly on the huge central court of roland garros, which he’s owned for such a super long time! but definitely on hard courts it can hurt him. the way i understand it, his spin doesn’t have the same trajectory and so too many balls are left short on the court, and thus attackable. i would be surprised if he and toni have not discussed this issue. but maybe when rafa is nervous, not focused, or whatever, he retreats into a more familiar positioning? as for coaching, it seems a bit late for rafa to change coaches don’t you think? it seems like he is set in his ways and for me it’s difficult to even imagine him with a different coach. anyhow all this seems like jumping the gun. let’s see how he does on clay. i suspect he’ll be fine once he reaches european clay! it should give him a boost, mentally, to be in places where he has ruled.

sienna Says:

he just not that good anymore outside clay.
out of peakyears when he did belong to top contenders on every sort of court.
but if he wants to stay on top different attitude is needed. his way of looking at these events is bad for him and for tennis.
I’d rather see him make excuses after aan loss then prior to it. So obvious he has been doing that last few years. insteat of seeking excuse or injurie he seeks it in advance.
Dontlike it and doesnt need it.

different coach? T will get him running his heart out for la decima. other coach is not his problem.

Hippy Chick Says:

Michael why is it so difficult to believe a top sportstar would suffer with nerves?remember Novak who was shaking like a leaf in the IW final the other week against Roger?i dont know if you actually follow football,but remember Waddle,Hoddle,Southgate,Beckham,Vassel,Rooney etc etc taking and fluffing penalties for our England football team?….

Giles Says:

I would say all sports people suffer with nerves, they wouldn’t be human otherwise.
Here’s hoping Rafa fixes it soon.
Vamos Champ!
Proud to be your fan no matter what.

Ben Pronin Says:

I don’t find anything wrong with this assessment and I believe it’s 100% accurate.

Nadal’s at a point in his career where every match he plays for is history. And history has shown us that players have a harder time coping with those kind of expectations than just “beat the guy in front of you because you’re supposed to” kind. It happened to Federer at the same age and roughly the same point in his career. Nadal has been number 1, he’s got 14 slams, and he has over 60 titles overall. The only thing left for Nadal to do is overtake Federer historically. And he knows that. He doesn’t need a big win over any of his rivals or to win any particular tournaments again. He just has to do enough to overtake Federer. And I can’t imagine that it’s easy to do that no matter how good.

Add in the fact that, for a great champion like Nadal, or Federer, you’ve seen it all. You’ve played every type of match under every type of circumstance and you know exactly what can happen every time. For Verdasco, a habitual choke artist, all he knows is “if I blast enough forehands maybe I can close this one out.” It plays tricks on the mind, for Nadal.

Finally, I don’t think yesterday’s loss was such a big deal. Verdasco played some scintillating tennis at times, which we all know he’s more than capable of. I thought Nadal was a little off on both wings. Missed a couple of backhands just wide and a few forehands landed in the net uncharacteristically. He still extended the match to 3 sets. It wouldn’t surprise me if Nadal ends up sweeping the clay court tournaments regardless.

Hippy Chick Says:

Fantastic post Ben you nailed it….

Michael Says:

Margot @ 2.09 am,

True !! Come backs are always the most difficult part to execute in Tennis and Rafa has done that too often before and so he is becoming a victim of exaggerated expectations that puts too much pressure on him when he is on court upsetting the rythm and feel in his game. For me, he looks not bad on Court out there and I cannot decipher what is really his problem ? Is the law of averages working against him in close matches ? His first serve percentage also looks pretty good and that lethal forehand which gives nighmare to his opponents also appears pierce and sharper like before and yet he is losing the matches. It is hard to tell. May be as you said the ever haunting physical issues might be playing spoilsport.

Michael Says:

Alison @ 4.53 am,

Nerves catch up with every player without exception. You are right. But the problem for Rafa is that he is not reaching the final stages of tournament like he was regularly doing before. Against lesser players, nerves cannot be an issue for the top most. But of late, Rafa is losing frequently to players he would beat 10 out of 10 when he was ruling the Game. So, the problem appears deeper and as Margot said the frequent physical issues are taking a toll on his game. For me, on court he is looking fine except that he is making few more uncharacteristic errors than before, but he still ends up getting beaten. This is perplexing.

Hippy Chick Says:

Michael decline is inevitable,nothing lasts for ever….

Pete Says:

Even if he doesn’t realize it, this issue is age. Nadal is getting older, his body is slowing down, and psychologically his mind is throwing up all sorts of constructs to rationalize it. It took Federer, the king of flexible tennis, at least a couple years to get a handle on his aging body and make the proper adjustments. For Nadal, I’m not sure if he has it in him. He’s more of a “skid to the finish line in a burning wreck” kind of guy. I’m envisioning a retirement in the early 30s like Roddick.

Michael Says:

Ofcourse Alison. That is life. Nothing is permanent !!!

Emily Says:

I think Ben’s idea of chasing history is a really interesting idea and a question Rafa often avoids. They ask him about a 10th FO, he changes the subject. He has achieved so much during a period where he had to play Federer almost constantly at one point, and there are so many eyes on him in terms of whether he can come back from his injuries last year.

I don’t think it was a terrible performance yesterday, he lost to the better player. Based on his positioning, it was obvious he was too far back, and I agree that if he was nervous, retreating to his instincts is understandable. Novak and Andy seem to love this mini-hard court swing, and Rafa is waiting for clay w/ a vengeance.

In terms of dropping Toni, I can’t imagine that. He’s his family and they’ve achieved a lot together, whether you like the guy or not (and he is definitely not the most likable coach on tour). The commentators were having an interesting discussion about how hard Toni is on Rafa and the fact that he could coach no-one else.

Hippy Chick Says:

Michael then why is it so perplexing that hes losing,when it inevitable sooner or later anyway?….

Hippy Chick Says:

Pete i think we get it weve had it rammed down our throats so often that Roger will still be playing when hes in his fourties due to his effortless style of play,and Rafa will be retired by the time hes thirty due to his gruelling style of play,maybe thats true but can we just enjoy them while they are here including Rafa,rather than pushing them off to retirement,all comes across as rather smug everytime i here that statement comparing Roger and Rafa….

brando Says:

@Ben: hitting that nail on the head once again! Spot on post!

Giles Says:

@Ben. I think maybe for once I agree with your post. I feel better already. Cheers. :)

RZ Says:

Glass half full view: Being nervous is a good thing because it shows that Rafa cares about his results and still wants to win.

Okiegal Says:

@Jane…..Thanks for the feed back. I appreciate the explanation about his position on the baseline. You are right, he would be more comfortable way behind it. That’s always been puzzling to me when so many experts out there thinks that’s a big mistake.

@Ben…..great post, I believe you nailed that one!

I still believe age has a lot to do with his nervousness. You know, when you’re young you think you’re invincible (sort of like Nick, Coric, and the other Aussie guy)……you have a lot of moxie, swagger and undying confidence. The older he’s getting, the body is physically wearing down and doubts start setting in……then come the nerves. His confidence is at an all time low and he’s admitted it. He knows he’s the only one who can fix it. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard a more honest interview in my life. Rafa doesn’t ever hide his feelings. This characteristic he has amazes me. He could just say I played like crap today and be done with it. All the questions he is asked he could answer with a simple I don’t really know why I played like I did and leave it at that. But he always gives an honest answer by telling his innermost thoughts. This is what’s perplexing. Are you telling your opponents that you are very vulnerable?? For me, way too much info!! Having said that, this characteristic is what I like best about him.

Okiegal Says:

@RZ 10:49…….You make a great point! I suppose when he stops caring one of two things might happen…#1 he might relax a little bit and play better or #2 he would more than likely retire…..sorry Chick, I mentioned the “r” word……strictly to make a point.

I would like to know about double fault percentage in the last few months of playing and at other times during his career. Those have picked up since 2014 Aussie open, imo.

Markus Says:

Nadal is a creature of habit and, as Okiegal previously intimated, may have OCD. A change of coach will constitute a drastic digression and I am not sure he would be able to cope with it well.

chris ford1 Says:

Disagree in some aspects with Ben Pronin. I would be very surprised if he swept clay. Djokovic’s the reason.
But past Djokovic, I think a lot of other players see possibilities. Ferrer could outgut him again as happened last year at MC. Rafa has been more vulnerable to a big power player and server than Federer or Djokovic in the last several years, as a very few lucky players have had success emulating Robin Soderling.
On “chasing history”, it isn’t tennis a la Sampras anymore when fans and journalists finally credited the AO as an equal Slam to the others and the mindset of only counting victories at 4 events mattered. It made the writers job a lot easier. Semis and RUPs at Slams meant nothing to “history”, Davis Cup was a minor sideshow, same with the Masters and WTC. And somehow the Olympics were not to be discussed other than “Oh, thats nice, X and Y and Z got medals in an event outside pro tennis. How special!” Roger’s racking up Slams in an 4 year stretch of easy pickings kept the talk on Slams.
But Davis Cup is coming back into importance, several of the Masters and the WTC are important, and every player wants to win an Olympic medal.

If not for Djokovic, Rafa would have passed Federer in Slam Count. Nadal never played in an era of lessened competition.
His “history” and statement of greatness will depart from the Sampras/Federer Slam Count model. Djokovic might pass him in a few areas, but right now, Nadal has the most Masters trophies, the highest winning percentage ever, evaluation by peers that no one is tougher to play, and is the only player in history to have a positive H2H over each player in the Top 30.
And of course, and this will likely never change in his lifetime..King of Clay.
The only things left you know he wants are difficult as anything to get, but very few in number: The WTC, completing the Masters Sweep, a 2nd AO, a second gold medal. Somehow matching Fed’s number though maybe people credit Nadal Slam Count as an equal feat as Feds with him playing his whole career in a highly competitive era.

Daniel Says:


You ate rigt except the part that Nadal can do a clay sweep at 28/29 playing like this.

The only time he was able to do it was 2010 where he won 4 tourneys (MC, Madrid, Rome and RG) and din’t play Barcelona. 2010, when he was 23/24 on his best year to date.

All other years he lost 1 or 2 matches on clay (or 3, last year hos worst year in number of matches won / lost, 2009 is in fact his worst year on clay because he didn’t win RG).

To think he can sweep clay tornaments when he will most likelly begin clay season as #5 or #6 whoch jusy 1 final and 1 title on clay is a bit too much. I will be very surprised if he didn’t win a title or 2 in European Clay. But win all, can bet my liver, kidnet and lunga he won’t. He is just not in that state of his career (age, in form and confidence wise) to do that. All players will play him tough believing they can win and he will have more and more difficult matches.
His serve seems more attacable now and he doesn’t play a full macth with depth and accuracy anymore. His defense is still there but a player hot in the day could present him trouble.

Going just by his “name” and clay doesn’t hold true. The veredcit is on him next 2 months so we’ll know shortly.

Ben Pronin Says:

I’m just saying I wouldn’t be surprised. I personally think we’ll see similar results to last year. But if he manages to win 2 of the Masters and Barcelona and RG, I wouldn’t be surprised. At all. It’s Rafa Nadal.

Miles Nicholas Says:

Chris Ford – by the time Nadal had 1 major, Federer had 4. He’s still 3 ahead – so Federer has won as many as Nadal during the ‘competitive era’! And during that time, Federer was at world number 1 for many more weeks than Nadal. He might have the highest winning percentage at the moment, but certainly won’t if he plays to Federer’s current age. He’s clearly in decline – when he fails to retain RG, don’t be surprised to see him announce his retirement.

Oh, and if it hadn’t been for Djokovic, Federer would have 20 majors by now.

skeezer Says:


Okiegal Says:

Who thinks he would change coaches? Uncle Toni has youngsters coming up. I personally think it would be difficult as a father to put them aside when they’re probably into sports too. The Roig guy is still in the picture…..don’t know how much he knows. I honestly can’t see T continuing much longer. Maybe he should tell his nephew I’ve done all I know to be your coach you need to move on to someone else. There are tons of posters that believe Uncle T. is failing in some areas of his game. Just would like some thoughts from actual knowledgeable people who play. Thanks!

skeezer Says:

He should give the Maestro a call ;)

Haven’t seen too much Kei talk here, he is playing well this tourney, look out.

chris ford1 Says:

Miles – Convenient math, but hardly the full story. The “weak” era discussed is 2003-2007, where Federer had a free hand outside Roland Garros, a time when Nadal had yet to reach full form. 2008 Wimbledon is the mark most writers and fans go by in saying Rafa had arrived in full form – and was far more than a Spanish clay-only whiz.
In that “weak era” Federer capitalized – getting 12 Slams.
Rafa, superb only on clay and still learning other surfaces..grass first…had 3 Slams.
Since the start of 2008, 7 1/2 years ago, with each facing 2 true champions, Rafa has got 11 Slams, Fed 5.(None of Fed’s 5 wins came facing Rafa, or Djokovic) Federer’s Masters wins also tailed off significantly with Rafa and Nole on the scene.

Two of Fed’s 5 wins came in the aftermath of Nole and Rafa basically taking each other out with injury and loss of mental strength after their major clash in Madrid in 2009. It took both months to recover.

Felipe Says:

Ok….so the era became “strong” once Nadal “arrived in full form”…what a joke!.
I think that the era became strong in 2011 once Djokovic “arrived in full form”…in that time, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray were 24 / 25 at the peak of their Powers, Del potro was still relevant, Soderling was active and Federer was still making slams finals and 29 / 30 yeard old.
Since then, the slam counto goes:
Djokovic 7 / Nadal 5 / Murray 2 / Federer-Wawrinka-Cilic 1.

Between 2008 and 2010

Nadal 6 / Federer 4 / Djokovic 1 / Del Potro 1

Interesting fact is that, since 2011, Nadal has won just 1 slam outside clay, going 1-4 in slams finals (1-3 against Djokovic / 0-1 Wawrinka), and has lost against 3 journeyman at wimbledon (Rosol / Darcis / Kyrgios), while during 2008-2010 he went 4-0 in salms finals outside clay (Wimbledon 2008/2010 – Aussie open 2009 – Usopen 2010)

So to me, if we are going to declare a “so called weak era”, lets say that that era is from 2002 to 2010, slam count:

Federer 15 / Nadal 9 / Del Potro-Djokovic-Safin-Gaudio-Roddick-Ferrero-Agassi-Sampras-Hewitt-Costa-Johansson 1

Okiegal Says:

Why does Martina always talk about Fed playing during a weak era. I think this is odd coming from a former champion……What does she base her opinion on? I’ve always been intrigued by this comment coming from a supposedly knowledgeable player……

Daniel Says:

chris ford1,

the Same can be said of your selective approach whereas Fed was not in his peak years after 2008. That year was the end of the Federer golden age and the second part of his career. Now we are on his third path.

He won because he was that good and we would never know how they will play if they were all 1 year apart.
Nadal was an early prodigy, Djoko also but took a little longer to blossom. Fed is older than they are and no matter how you try to spin it to favor Djoko or Nadal cause, age will always be there. The fact h+that he is #2, still playing great tennis after 33* is an indication of how good he actually is. He won Slams after 30, reached #1 after 30. The jury is yet on the others to see if they will deliver as well.

No mattar how we spin it, everybody is chasing Federer and he is setting the bench mark for the future, again and again.

Let’s see if Nadal and Djoko will win Slams after 30 and be #1 after 30.

Sirius Says:

“None of Fed’s 5 wins came facing Rafa or Nole”

Right. In USO 2008 and Wimbledon 2012 federer got byes in the semis.

Skeezer Says:

Slam dunk post.👍

Markus Says:

Good observation there and so astute, Sirius: “In USO 2008 and Wimbledon 2012 federer got byes in the semis.”

Somebody didn’t do his homework and just shot himself in the mouth. That nullifies all his faux-rhetorics about the “weak era”.

chris ford1 Says:

None of the 5 wins came facing Rafa (in the Finals).

Happy now, Marcus??
I guess not.
Feds fans have not been super happy since 2008. Since then, with the Weak Era closed, we entered the “Rafa’s Ownership of Fed Era.” 15-4 H2H.

And it gets worse. 2 Fed wins came on indoor fast hardcourt where Rafa never does well. And another came in 2009 in Madrid when Djokovic and Nadal trashed each other in the semis and spent months shaking off the effects, Roger swooped in and got a win over the exhausted and battered Nadal.

Daniel Says:

Maybe Nadal and Djoko are facing weak era as neither of them have to face a 5-6 year younger future tennis great with multiple Slams to deal with. They may finish their career without ever having to face what Fed did. Call that lucky!!

The only player younger than they are with a single Slam win is DelPo (who is 1 and half year young than Djoko and 2 and a half from Nadal). And he, who could challenge this both had 3 wrist injuries.

Perspective much please…

No player in the history of the game played so well for so long as Fed did and facing multiple generations as he is. Only senior great he played was Agassi, because both Pete and Kuerten, were in their final years.

Is pretty easy to use only Djoko’s and Nadal peak years as a measure of greatness when Fed was after 29. We don’t even know how well Nadal and Djoko will play after 29 to have a slight fair comparison.

Markus Says:

CF1: Too late to modify your belligerent post. You’ve already been caught napping as you twist facts to suit your needs. By the way, I am not a Federer fan. I just want comments to be supported by facts. Your credibility is suspect.

Hippy Chick Says:

Markus who are you a fan of,youve never said your posts are always very fair to all the players,so its quite hard to tell?….

Daniel Says:

Actually Cilic is younger than Rafole but don’t know how much younger. My guess is he isolder than DelPo.

Purcell Says:

chris ford……minus 1 for the introduction of a weak era in posting. Stick to rhapsodising about the lovely Djokovic and 0.5 may be reinstated. Add another 0.5 if you can learn to respect the opinions of posters and achievements of players.

Markus Says:

Hippy Chick, my favorite is a basket case. Has been one almost from the get do. I don’t even want to watch him play anymore. So, I should say, “was my favorite”.

Being that I suck at playing the game of tennis. I am very impressed by all these professionals especially the top 3 plus Murray. That’s why I get annoyed when somebody downplays, belittles or mocks any of their achievements. I could never understand why some people think they can elevate their own favorites not by their own merits but by diminishing others in all kinds of imaginary scenarios (all this fictitious “ifs” and “weak era” shenanigans). If you are great, you will remain great regardless who is standing beside you. Federer, Nadal, Djokovic: each one is great with or without the others.

Markus Says:

…add Murray there. I think he too is great.

Hippy Chick Says:

Markus so whos the basket case then Gulbis me thinks?,mind you theres plenty of them out there TBH lol….

Michael Says:


Why it is so perplexing, he is losing ?

Well he is just 28 and has two more good years to go.

Miles Nicholas Says:

Chris Ford – I happen to think that the weak era began in 2008, after Federer had his glandular fever. His reduction in physical ability that was a consequence of this allowed Nadal to win slams he would otherwise have lost.

Still, Nadal will in all likelihood be retiring this year as his decline is that evident. He won’t want to hang around much longer getting beaten by the likes of Berrer!

Miles Nicholas Says:

Chris Ford – oh, and Federer has won slams after beating Nadal – Wimbledon ring any bells?

Emily Says:

Interesting reading all the stats referenced in this debate of weak vs. strong era (though some are definitely suspect). This is another around and around Fedal argument, but I would say that tennis changed in 2008 when Rafa won Wimbledon and there was now someone who could challenge Roger on a regular basis. Then, in 2011, Novak became a player who could challenge both of them.

I think someone’s definition of a significant year in tennis seems to depend on which player’s side you fall, but I would say that Agassi achieved a lot post 30, which we so quickly forget.

Giles Says:

And here comes Miles Nicholas, a newbie I believe. Another fed fanatic. I don’t believe Nadal has made any retirement plans, at least not just yet. Fed hung around after getting beaten by the likes of Stakhovsky and Souza and ….
So, not so fast!!

Markus Says:

Oh, these poor players. They can beat other players but not the spectators who merely watch but are too damn hard to impress. Win a lot and you get relegated into a “weak” era. These stupid players should really be picky about the year they are born. Federer is the biggest opportunist, getting born and playing in a weak era and mostly when Nadal was just beginning to walk. Djokovic, the not so talented one, is another opportunist. The nerve of that guy fixing the timing of his career prime to that period when Federer is old and Nadal is battling physical and psychological demons and the next generation of players are all still breastfeeding.

jane Says:

markus, i think you make a valid point; what is the purpose of the “weak era” argument but to devalue a player’s accomplishments? i’ve heard it said about all of federer (b.n – before nadal there was no one), nadal (no real clay specialists – no clay competition), and novak (this one is in decline, that one is in decline).

we all know roddick would’ve likely won 4-5 slams more were it not for his bad match up with fed. and safin would’ve probably won more – maybe even on grass-is-for-cows.

nadal would’ve beaten anyone on clay and novak and fed have repeatedly be denied by him at roland garros.

novak got to number 1 by climbing OVER nadal and roger in 2011. nadal’s 2011 was a fabulous year. did he ever make more finals in one year? federer played great in 2012 and 2014 and still in playing great.

and all of them had to contend with andy and many other upstart groups – delpo, cillic, gulbis; nishikori, raonic, dimitrov – and yet they’ve still remained at the top. why? weak era? maybe not. maybe they’re just great.

skeezer Says:

+1 Markus.

Thought Nole’s year of 2011 was one for the ages. Phenomenal run.

Hippy Chick Says:

Michael as most people here say Rafa has alot of mileage on those legs,i wouldnt say hes just 28 i would say hes 28 nearly 29,traditionally as most posters here also say that a player falls off their perches,Rafa is an amazing player and an all time great,and no different to most other all time greats that go into an inevitable decline at the same age JMO….

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