7 Things I Think I Thought About Rafael Nadal’s Loss To Andy Murray In Madrid
by Sean Randall | May 11th, 2015, 3:41 pm
  • 75 Comments

After entering the month of May with zero career final appearances in clay events, Andy Murray now has TWO CLAY TITLES in the span of just six days! What the heck happened?

Let’s see.

Thanks to a relatively easy draw, Murray won Munich last Monday over Phil Kohlschreiber, a tough but winable finale. But then to destroy both of Madrid’s 2014 finalists this weekend like he did, culminating with yesterday’s 6-3, 6-2 romp over Rafael Nadal?

That’s pretty incredible, a run absolutely no one saw coming a week ago.

While Murray made a big move winning his biggest title in almost two years, the real story from Madrid was Rafa’s slump. So on to my thoughts on that and more.

1. Rafa back to square one?
I said in my final preview that win or lose it would be a positive week for both guys. I said that thinking no way Rafa would play one of the worst matches of his life in the final against Andy. Not with a Madrid title on the line, not after all the conjecture and questions of his demise leading into the event. Not after that beating he gave Tomas Berdych. And most certainly not in front of his home fans.

But for whatever reason, Rafa just didn’t answer the bell and that’s what happened – he played the worst clay match of his life. Credit to Andy, who slapped him silly, but a lot of guys would have beaten Rafa yesterday. A LOT!

So after a great performance over Berdych Saturday, it was just as bad of one against Murray. And now where is his confidence?

Back to square one.

2. What’s wrong with Rafa’s game?
- Confidence
- No depth of shot
- Errors
- Weak second serve

The short balls and head-scratching errors will correct itself with confidence. The serve??? Confidence will help, but maybe a different racquet?

3. French Open favorites, Rafa’s prospects
To me, that Madrid result makes Novak Djokovic an even a stronger favorite to win the French. And I almost wonder if Novak really needs to play Rome this week to prove anything. He’s in perfect shape right now and probably wouldn’t want to lose the upper hand by having Rafa beat him in the final and allowing him to regain some of that lost mojo.

Novak’s goal is to win Paris. So best case for him is he wins Rome and Rafa loses badly early on, slumping further. However, losing to Nadal might be problematic down the road as Rafa would restore some confidence for Paris and for the next meeting with Novak.

Meanwhile, Rafa has to play well, and at least get to the final. Heck, even losing to Novak in the final (or Murray or Roger) would be a positive. But an early loss would really be crushing at this stage.

And as these losses pile up, that locker room aura Rafa’s enjoyed on the clay for so long continues to fade – Rafa has just two Top 10 wins and one singles title since the French. Could Nadal get clipped in the third round by a Kohlschreiber type? Or in the fourth by maybe Gael Monfils? We never thought that before, but now…

4. Is Rafa’s dominance over? Should those Rafa fans panic?
Short answer: YES!

That’s four clay losses already this year. Of course he can get it back. He can say the right things, like he’s still returning from injury, that he’s working out the kinks, that he the racquet change (or return back to the old racquet) threw off his game, that everyone has down periods, etc., but there’s no hiding from the fact he’s about to be 29 and he’s had a lot of tennis already under the belt. That’s an old 29, not a Tomas Berdych 29. Or a John Isner 29.

And looking back to last year, we saw the signs in Monte Carlo and Barcelona after curious losses to his countrymen in each event. Then he should have lost to Kei Nishikori in Madrid, and did lose to Djokovic in Rome. And Novak had him early on in Paris.

And now it’s clearly not getting any better for Rafa, it’s getting worse. That’s how Father Time does business.

5. Rafa’s ranking drop
There’s nothing wrong with your eyes, Rafa really is out of the Top 5 for the first time in a decade, now down to No. 7 after his Madrid title points rolled off. The good news is he can make that back this week – swapping last year’s Madrid win/Rome F for a Madrid F and Rome win – but the odds are awfully long that he’ll win this Rome title with Novak hanging around.

And if he doesn’t get back into the Top 4 before Paris I don’t see it as a big deal really other than cosmetic. Listen, he’ll likely have to face Novak sooner or later anyway, so is there a big difference in playing him quarters vs semis vs finals. I’m not sure.

The big disadvantage would be having to play three Big 3 guys en route to the title as opposed to just two if he were a Top 4 seed with them. So if he doesn’t get back into the Top 4, there’s a 75% chance he’d be projected to meet a Big 3 in the quarters.

That may not be a bad thing if he draws a Federer, who he can get some confidence before having to play a Murray and then Djokovic.

And as the TV commentators have said, this isn’t good news for Novak, Roger and Andy either. Do you think any of them want to face Rafa in the quarters?

6. Silver linings?
If you want to look for a silver linings, you could point to the fact Nadal played bad last spring also, losing early in Monte Carlo and Barcelona. And that he also should have lost in the Madrid final if not for an injury to Kei Nishikori.

Yet he still went on to win a ninth French Open, losing just two sets!

Also, Madrid is played at altitude. And there is still a few weeks to go before Paris, which, last I checked, is best-of-5. And where he’s 66-1 and Robin Soderling isn’t walking through that door and onto Chatrier anytime soon.

7. Marriage works!
I guess it does for Andy. For the Scot the French can’t begin soon enough. In fact, let’s just skip ahead and start Wimbledon right now because Murray’s confidence hasn’t been this high in almost two years. Why take a chance and lose the momentum playing Rome, just go right to Paris now!

That said, is he now a real, legitimate threat to win the French? I’m not sold yet. Let’s see how he backs it up in Rome because, like I said, a lot of yesterday had to do with Rafa just falling apart. And the Munich title, was “meh”.

But at least Murray’s got a Big 3 win and he should be a better player going forward.

As for Nadal, maybe Rafa should look into marrying Xisca?

There’s still time before Paris, and if nothing else is working…???


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75 Comments for 7 Things I Think I Thought About Rafael Nadal’s Loss To Andy Murray In Madrid

Ben Pronin Says:

The worst clay court match of his career? For sure. I’m trying to think when Nadal has ever played that bad on other surfaces. He rallied well, but when he tried to really go after a shot, he failed miserably. The only good forehands he hit were off short balls from Murray. But I’ve never in my life seen Nadal hit so many wild errors. Shots that weren’t even close, time and time again. Barely reaching the top of then net or out by miles, whether wide or long.

His game, for the first time probably ever, is completely off. It’s kind of bewildering.


Giles Says:

Sean Randall. It would be super if you wrote an article on Rafa’s dominance of the tour on clay for the last (how many years?) highlighting some of his more important victories along the way and the opponents. That would certainly be a good read and I suppose quite nostalgic as well.


Dan the Man Says:

I disagree that the ranking drop is only cosmetic, it will be important. The more matches Rafa gets on any surface, the better he plays, so he needs easier opponents earlier to build his game. If he faces tougher opponents early, he gets less time to improve. In 2013 he lost sets in his first two rounds and played a really tough 3rd round. As he gets older, he can be much shakier in early rounds, even on clay. With this being possibly his weakest clay court lead-up in a decade, that will make a difference for him for sure.


jane Says:

i did notice rafa hitting lots of forehands long ben. maybe it is the racquet switching: old, new, old – that takes a bit of adjusting.

rafa had almost twice as many errors as andy; andy played a very clean match. but maybe one of the more shocking things is that andy won 81% of his second serve points. that’s huge. is that due to a big improvement in that department or what? i’d be curious to hear what people think on that.

also neither player came to net much: andy 5 times and rafa 11 times. in the match between novak and rafa at monte carlo, novak came in 26 times and rafa did 18 times. so definitely different dynamics in that one.

the argument for rafa’s decline might work with the fact that he still plays really great matches but then he’ll have a less strong match here or there. but maybe he’s just not as consistent yet in coming back from injury?

it’s still seems so hard to tell or to predict. i feel like rafa could easily come back and win the french, for all the reasons sean points out in his article.


mat4 Says:

@jane:

Rafa returned the second serve very, very badly. He stood too far from the baseline, returned very short balls, and gave Andy a clear advantage to dictate the point.

What I saw is that Rafa was slow, and thinner than he ever was. He was most of the time too late on his FH. This shot was devastating when Andy played in the middle of the add side, right on Rafa’s FH. But when he hit his ball harder, with more angle, Rafa was helpless. Yet, he managed to play a lot of defensive shots, but he simply couldn’t do a lot with them.

We could also observe how much Rafa was vulnerable to high rebounding balls on his BH, especially when he doesn’t have time to play them on the rise, leaning on the ball. His strange technique showed its limitations.


chris ford1 Says:

Novak likes playing Rome. Likes Italian Players and the crowds and plays well there.
I’d be shocked if he ducked it, taking 0 points or claiming some bogus injury like Rafa does from time to time when hardcourt season is on.


lilayski Says:

the rafa errors were surprisingly atrocious. he doesnt commit those kind of errors ever and i see him shaking his head during the match while maybe thinking ‘what has happened to me’?


Ben Pronin Says:

Mat4, funny because I thought Rafa looked kinda flabby.


Wog Boy Says:

People, don’t be fooled, team Nadal goal is 10th FO and nothing else, he doesn’t really need anything else, does he? The man won everything, own everything including The Goat, no? He won GS title every year for the ten years in a row! He is the veteran in the real meaning of that word. he can not play full schedule any more but can do what he is doing now, to adjust his form for FO and doesn’t really care about the rest of the season, and why should he, I wish Nole has 14GS, but he might get them, you never know:))


Daniel Says:

Indeed the errora were astonishing. I recall one ball almost at the stands and there were a BH he hit in his on side of the court, not even reaching the net. Those were begginners mistakes, probably due to tension. He was just mistimung but a lot of the FH errors has to do with how powerfull Murray was driving his BH cross court deep. Murray painted the linea or close to baseline around 10 times. Also Murray’s return were super agressive, he return fast, inside the court and flat, different than Djoko who puts more spin but the ball always land deep center court (the basic Clay return).

Oddily Nadal didn’t have enough power to use this return, he almost didn’t push Murray back middle court and was returnig short, as most of hos shots. Maybe he was just tired and lacked power on hos strokes. Something easily explained by age and also he played the most matches this clay season so far: 4 in MC, 2 in Barcelona and 5 in Madrid, total of 11. Djoko has 5, Murray 9, Kei 9, Fed 7.


mat4 Says:

@Daniel:

Yes, indeed. Murray’s BH looked exceptionally good, and it’s no secret that it’s a very heavy, powerful shot. What was really impressive is the way Murphy changed direction and played DTL with his BH: he played very deep and very close to the lines.


jane Says:

mat4, any thoughts on andy’s second serve?


Muhammed Says:

Rafel is still no. 1 favourite to win RG. He had a bad day but at the same time did some strange things, like waiting so far off of the line for Andy’s 2nd serve like for Isner’s first? I don’t think that match was a good gauge where his form is right now at all.


jane Says:

“…waiting so far off of the line for Andy’s 2nd serve like for Isner’s first”

but why would he do this? i’d have to rewatch to see if this is the case; however when he was beating raonic at IW suddenly he backed way up and started to lose.


jalep Says:

I thought Rafa was brilliant how he handled Isner’s serves.

But Andy was serving out wide to Rafa’s forehand side quite a bit on 2nd serve. Not sure why but it was effective. Andy’s 2nd serve % was sort of unusually high. Had learned to think Andy’s 2nd serve was a weakness. But his placement and subsequent plan worked well.

Andy is getting scary good.


jane Says:

yes, i know he was using a kicker sometimes too jalep, which could explain why rafa backed up somewhat.


skeezer Says:

Funny how no rafafanatics are chimin’ in here about Rafa’s chances at RG. Its all…. he’s done, has no chances, et.v.. The smart posters here no better. Rafa IS the defending RG champ, like how many times in a row?. He’s no underdog, as much as his fans want to paint him so, until further notice.


Wog Boy Says:

jane, try to remember last year and way Rafa played until FO, once he reached FO his game suddenly clicked and all the shots were there and most importantly right tactic! We were all happy Nole won Rome, but do you remember how often Rafa used FDTL in Rome and prior to to Rome…just “trying”:) FO comes and there we go, everything is in place, serve, BH, court positioning, return game and “new” shot FDTL was working perfectly, Nole just didn’t have the answer and if I dare to say they were duped into believing that Rafa is not at his best. As much as it sound strange I wouldn’t be surprised, actually I wouldn’t mind if Nole goes out early in Rome, and please Nole fans, don’t go hard on me now, I had enough problems here already;)
My opinion is that team Nadal is saving their best for the FO, the great player like Nadal doesn’t start to miss the court by miles overnight. When I see him doing that in Paris then I will agree, Rafa is in decline, until then, he is the favorite.


Fabio Says:

So many questions for Rafa, what are the questions for Djokovic? In 2011, it seemed he was poised to beat Rafa on the final, after arriving at RG undefeated, with 2 wins over Nadal on clay… and then he lost to Federer in the semis. In 2014, he was also in great shape to beat Nadal, only to find himself battling some stomach bug in the semis and in the final.

So assuming Rafa is really not going back to his top game ( very likely scenario). What is it going to be? Roger’s seizing his 2009 golden opportunity, or Novak wasting his like in `11 and `14?


Wog Boy Says:

I don’t think Nole wasted any of 2011&2014 years, Federer played perfect match, serving, painting the lines, one of those days when everything goes your way, Nole played great but that wasn’t enough on that day. 2014 was different story, it was few factors but Nadal won fairly and squarely.


Margot Says:

Isn’t there a saying, you only play as well as your opponent lets you?


skeezer Says:

Fabio brings up a fair point. everyone is questioning Rafa, but no one is questioning Fed nor Nole. History has proven to fear the underdog and the unpredictable. the Chaos Effect can come to front and center at any time.
Nole is having a great year so far, but Rafa’s issues are mental, nothing more. These things one can overcome quickly, not like a physical injury, unless of course, the mental thing is the Burnout syndrome. This is something one cannot overcome. You are done. (aka Borg).
Fed is the healthiest he has been in a long time, albeit older. And Murray is looking the strongest he has ever been on Clay.
To me Rafa is the fav, the one defending his all time greatness on Clay. But this year looks to be the most interesting competition in many years(except for the Sod beatdown)….THANKFULLY.
I just wonder when it all comes down to it if Nole and Rafa meet will Nole remember the 7 finals in a row that he handled Rafa? Betcha his fans hope so. Confidence is everything. Bring on the Dirt ridden season of red dustiness slithering slideness of filth. Can I get another change of socks please? Dude!


jane Says:

margot, definitely takes two to tango. and another thing i was thinking is that rafa and andy haven’t played for a year (other than in the exho) so maybe rafa was surprised by some of andy’s changes/tactics on the serve or with the backhand. when players meet more often then they (usually) know more or less what to expect.


Margot Says:

jane, Berd was surprised by Andy’s “new” tactics too.
Gr8 scouting from Amelie!
Because I remember Simon saying something like, he “knew how to beat Andy” and doing so.
You need to surprise your enemy…..;)


jane Says:

indeed: surprise attacks work well.


sienna Says:

these losses in masters and 500/250 are meaningless when he wins Garros.

he can lose every match as long as Slam holds.
the big picture is slam performance.
winning 9 masters in a year still doesnot compaire to winning 1 slam.

there are voices here who try despirately to swing that.


KatH Says:

Does anyone know if Andy is playing Rome or not? He said he would make up his mind when he got there – but surely he has to give some notice if he’s not…..


Nirmal Kumar Says:

But Andy was serving out wide to Rafa’s forehand side quite a bit on 2nd serve. Not sure why but it was effective.

Actualy Andy’s second serve was effective against Kei too. I would consider the match against Kei as a good measure to validate Murray’s stats. So it’s not just about Rafa backing off, but looks like it has more to do with Andy serving pretty good. For me his serve and return was a revelation against Kei.Except FH, Andy seems to be doing great in all other departments of his game.


brando Says:

Pmsl @ some of the theories on this thread. I gotta give it to rafa: one way or another he finds a way to get people so worked up they get their undies in a twist. Life would be a bore without him on tour since he brings the drama like no another. It’s amazing after 1 match all the various theories that it has generated all proclaiming to have the truth in complete. LOL.


@KTennisFan Says:

Rafa needs matches to build momentum. Prior to Murray he played well with confidence, took out Grigor, Berdych who made MC final. Racquet changes for sure could be a factor but since he played other matches well is questionable. Also his only night match may have been tough adjusting to lighting. He also seemed tired. I was told he did 2 practice sessions that day. Perhaps one too many. His grounders lacked depth on several points. Unusual for him. His serve was not on that day like earlier matches. Rafa will always be a treat on clay. Will he rise to the occasion in Paris? Well Rafa on clay for 5 sets is a statistically different story than best of three. Only Rafa knows…. Tennis is unpredictable & why I watch. If the outcome was certain it would be boring.

Rafa may not be #1 again but he already has achieved amazing things & owns a proud legacy.


Zozza Says:

Everyone should consider this
Paris clay is slow
The centre court is huge
When the sun is out
Nadal at 80% at his best will beat everyone !

However watching the Murray game … What might’ve happened if Nadal broke back in the first set ?
Sure Murray thrashed him but in the first set the match would’ve been totally different had Nadal broken back !

Rome then Paris ???
Time will tell
Personally I think it’s time Djokovic won first French open
Even though I want Nadal to get 10 French opens 😍…….
I feel it’s time for another player to win

Hope Murray wins it


Giles Says:

Some articles out today proclaiming Murphy as the new King of Clay!! Couldn’t stop laughing!! What on earth is wrong with the media and press? They have to create drama don’t they?
Still in hysterics. Last but not least Greg Rusedski has Murphy down as 2nd favourite to win the FO!!
In hysterics now! Nothing like a good laugh, eh?


Giles Says:

I see Zozzaaa is still rambling on. She obviously gets a kick out of her posts!


Zozza Says:

Giles

I understand tennis more than you do so zozza is no she !!!

Zozza is he !!!

Zozza has met Nadal in Melbourne at the Australian open
Nadal has never truly recovered from that night he hurt his back … That’s one reason he is playing so poorly right now

Gilles stick to rugby


SL Says:

I think @ Zozza (he, him) has a point.

Nadal has never really been the same player since that AO final loss against Stan. His decline has been slow but steady. I know Rafa fans will roll out the injuries excuse again, and say that he won the French last year.

Yes, yes ! He did win the French, but that was like one last amazing mental effort rather than him playing really well. And let’s be honest, Novak did lose it a bit towards the end of that final.

The injuries have not helped Rafa, true. But it was coming anyway, nobody can withstand 10 years + of the pummeling he gave that body of his. I know its tough for the Rafanatics to accept, but hey.. even cowboys have to ride into the sunset someday…


Lesego Says:

No doubt Nadal is in decline however, on his best day he is as good as ever, if not better. The thing about being in decline though is that he is not always on his best that often. No shame in that.


Lynn Says:

I’m a HUGE Rafa fan, so sad to say, he is DONE.


st4r5 Says:

Why did Nadal fail to win against Murray? The answer is simple, it is the beard. What is on Murray’s caveman face was simply distracting Nadal’s view. It was ripping apart Nadal’s confidence.


RZ Says:

@KatH – I read that Murray would make a decision whether to play Rome after practice today.


SG1 Says:

While Fortess Rafa has some chinks in the foundation, and as Sean accurately stated, Father time inevitably wins out, I see Rafa generating some magical tennis at RG. I don’t think he wins it as I think this is Novak’s year but I do think Rafa gets deep into the 2nd week and goes down fighting while playing some great tennis. I think that more than anything, Rafa needs some wars to battle harden him again…win or lose.


SG1 Says:

“Fortress Rafa”…


SG1 Says:

If Rafa goes out of RG with a whimper, I will be deeply surprised but I still don’t think he’s done. Definitely not on clay. Rafa is really good at bouncing back from adversity. I suspect that even at 29 or 30, he’ll have a few tricks left up his sleeve…unless other health issues crop up.


Brando Says:

@SG1:

Good posts. Time will tell all ultimately.


Gordon Says:

Wow! Everyone knows so much in here and are so bold in their predictions. How much of that is due to the fact that these posts get buried and what we write is all speculative at best… who knows?

But let me get in on this! 😝

Remember 2010? Federer had just lost his 2nd Wimbledon in two years and he was being written off and told to reture in here. Well, the wall at the All England Lawn Tennis Club shows that he won again in 2012.

Nadal is not the same as he was in the past, but he is still the King of Clay; there is no one who can challenge him for that. He may not win the title at Roland Garros this year but to count him out from winning at least another French Open is very foolhardy in my opinion.


ABerg Says:

Nadal is the King of Clay the same way Bill Clinton is the President. And he is.


Karthick Says:

May 12 2015 – everyone is doubting Rafa. Fast forward 6 months, everyone will be questioning is it the same Rafa we were talking 6 months back.


Markus Says:

Not me, Karthick. I have always maintained that Nadal will get his 10th French this year. After that, he may loosen his stranglehold on it and allow somebody else to win.


jatt Says:

It would be fun to see the reactions, if rafa easily wins the french open.
Rafa is a completely different animal on the roland garros clay and i am expecting the same rafa this year also regardless of this performance so far.


Markus Says:

Do most people really honestly believe that Nadal is not going to win the French this year or do they only wish that? It’s 5 sets. I don’t know anybody who can beat him in the first week. In the second week of a major, Nadal gets more formidable while his opponents get more anxious about facing him especially on clay. Djokovic has not been exactly supersteady in majors finals/ semifinals outside of the French.


Markus Says:

Oops! Australian, not French.


mat4 Says:

I do. I honestly believe that Rafa won’t win the FO this year. Why? Because I’ve seen the following in his last matches:

- he’s slower, and just doesn’t manage to make all those incredible gets he used to;

- he complained a few times about been tired in matches in best of three;

- he seems very nervous in clutch situations;

- he looks lighter, with less muscles; he isn’t as ripe as he used to be;

- a lot of players know how to play against him

- he lost twice against Fognini, once against Djokovic, he lost against Murray, etc.

I don’t exclude the possibility that Rafa could find his range and his confidence, and play much better. But all the signs are here that he can lose at the French, despite the court that suits him very much. In the first week, players like Verdasco or Klizan could pose him problems, or a French player, like Tsonga, Monfils. Then he could play Murray, Federer, Djokovic or Nishikori, three of them, in a row. Perhaps he can do it — he has won many times against the odds, but there is a good chance he won’t.


mat4 Says:

Anyway, it’s too soon to think about the French. Rome has just started, and a lot of things can change until the FO.


Markus Says:

All these clay court events prior to the French don’t really mean much. They’re all just appetizers to the main course.(But Murray’s first clay Masters 1000 is a highlight and a great addition to his resume.) If Nadal loses, it would be nowhere near the disapponiment that a Djokivic loss will bring considering all the hype that Nadal is not good enough to win and that Djokovic is predestined to win his first French.


mat4 Says:

“If Nadal loses, it would be nowhere near the disapponiment that a Djokivic loss will bring”

If Rafa loses, I won’t be disappointed, but you will. If Novak loses, you won’t, I will. For the fans, it just depends who they root for.

But in the great scheme of things, a Rafa loss would make it clear that his time at the top is probably over.

He complained about his back last year, then he had other health problems, but nonetheless, he seems to be in a real physical decline. He certainly is a step slower. He can’t find his game, because he just can’t defend the way he used to.

With less speed, all his vulnerabilities are made more obvious, and his peculiar technique makes changes in his game more difficult. The story of the changes of his serve in 2009 and 2010 is telling about his mindset.

He still is an exceptional player on clay, but the writing is on the wall.


Markus Says:

It is immaterial to me whoever wins the French but in the grand scheme of things, I just feel that a Nadal loss, considering how “poorly” he has been playing recently and the fact that he has already won the French 9 times, a loss would not be so devastating. On the other hand, Djokovic has been on a quest to win the French, needs it to complete his slam collection, needs it to get closer to the two guys he has been trying to catch up with, and being that he is many slams behind them, an incomplete set would keep the gap by which he lags behind even more obvious, and will all the consistently great form he has been displaying recently coupled with Nadal’s seemingly poor play even in his favorite surface, a Djokovic failure to win the French this year will be a devastating loss for him. Without a French, he will never be mentioned in the same breath as Federer and Nadal.


jane Says:

i agree with you mat4. it simply depends on who you root for.

“Without a French, he will never be mentioned in the same breath as Federer and Nadal.”

lol, and yet he doesn’t have one now and he’s mentioned in the same breath as them all the time. go figure!


mat4 Says:

He disagree on all the points mentioned in your post. It just look like sour grapes.

Both Novak and Rafa have shown that they can cope with defeat and deception.

And an objective assessment of Novak’s place among the greats would take in account more than the number of slams won.

Finally, there is a lot of time until the FO. Let’s wait and see. They haven’t lost yet, nor won. It is still too early to be certain of anything.


mat4 Says:

@jane:

We basically wrote about different things, Markus and I. He tried to guess what a loss would mean for the players on a mental side (I guess that here my English is awkward), while I tried to assess what it would mean game wise.

You can’t really know how they would feel. My opinion is that Novak is more resilient, but it is just an opinion. I can’t know for sure.

And you’re right: you can’t really dissociate Fed, Rafa and Novak. Their rivalries make their legacies greater.


jane Says:

mat4, novak is very resilient. two times after tough losses at the french (one to fed in 2011 and one to rafa in 2014) he turned around and won wimbledon. so he’ll be fine. with regards to the big 3, as you say, their rivalries speak for volumes and in fact novak and fed (38) and novak and rafa (43) have played more times than federer and nadal (33).


mat4 Says:

@jane:

For Nolefans, it’s good to see him play so well and still improve.

He steadily improves his serve, his FH too. It’s a bit painful to watch how difficult it is to progress just a little at this age, but the overall physiognomy of his game slowly changes for the better.

He said that he feels he can play 5 of 6 more years, so, let’s hope so.


jane Says:

yes, knock on wood mat4, because we never know. i just enjoy watching him a lot, and the success is a bonus. :)


Margot Says:

Just listened to a journo who suggested Nole might be putting “too much” pressure on himself re RG.
What do you NOLE fans feel?


jane Says:

margot i’d say the pressure often comes from outside, from external forces. take andy with wimbledon for example. i am sure he wanted to win it, of course, but the pressure builds and builds from the outside. ironically novak won it before him in part due to a great 2011 but maybe because he didnt have pressure to win it? it’s the same with fed and the french. it was the only slam he was missing and so therefore it created this push, almost, for him to get it. novak wants to win the french, he’s tried hard to win it, but i don’t think he puts too much pressure “on himself” to win it. he’s said before, if he wins it, great; if he doesn’t, oh well. he says he prioritizes all the slams in general, and that seems true based on his scheduling.


Margot Says:

Cheers jane :) You are so right about “external pressure.” And last Wimbledon there was HUGE pressure on Andy for a repeat performance.
One can hope, but with not much expectation, that it’s less this year.


SL Says:

“Do most people really honestly believe that Nadal is not going to win the French this year or do they only wish that? “

@ Marcus. I honestly believe he is not. I also thought the same last year, and I was wrong. I may be wrong this year.

I admire Nadal as much as any other tennis player on the planet, and all your logic is valid. However, the decline in his game in terms of consistency is difficult to ignore. Rafa’s success, his mental strength, has largely been based on extraordinary control, which allowed him to execute strategies his brain worked out to perfection. Without that, everything else falls apart. Which is probably why he is so nervous on key points. He cannot trust his game any more.


James Says:

Congratulations Margot and other Murray fans :)
I didn’t see the Madrid final but I’m told Murray was very impressive the entire match and tournament.

In 2013 when Murray won Wimbledon, I posted here that I could see Andy winning the French Open at some point. I still think he can do it.


Margot Says:

Cheers James and thanks for the thumbs up for Andy :)
Had a run of stress free Murray matches. WTFs going on?


Markus Says:

SL: I have noticed Nadal’s decline but I just can’t picture him not winning the French in spite of all that. It has become a habit that’s hard to shake. That’s why I am very interested in the French so much more than these event preceding it. So hopefully, people will excuse me for talking about the French so much instead of focusing of the current (Rome) tournament. This French will be very significant for Nadal. It may mark his end as a dominant player or his continuation as the king of clay.


Giles Says:

^^^ Far too dramatic!!


SG1 Says:

This is a really different set of circumstances for Nadal. Not since 2004 has he been seeded so low. It will be a very tough title defense to say the least. But, if anyone can find the magic on red dirt, it’s Rafa. Rafa is better on clay than anyone has ever been on any surface. But I still won’t pick him to win this title :) (…even though I’d like him to).


Markus Says:

Giles, you are so unhappy with everything.


Markus Says:

This baby Fed has turned out to be retarded.


peter Says:

Rafa played a C game and lost. Murray played as well as he could on clay.

Rafa is having a lot more off days than he used to. He cant afford any of that at RG.


SL Says:

@ Markus. “It may mark his end as a dominant player or his continuation as the king of clay.”

Completely agree. The French is key to Rafa’s confidence for the future. If he can pull it out like he did last year, he could see more good results ahead, as long as he stays injury free.

He will perhaps never be the dominant player of his prime, slightly slower and probably less consistent, but he could still be a handful.

Do you think he is playing too far back in the court ? If his reactions and speed are slightly less than before, should he perhaps move up a yard or two to cover for that. He may let a few more balls past him, but he should be able to get better depth on his returns and groundies, which on balance should win him more points as he can dominate more with his forehand. I thought he was playing a little further up against Berdych at Madrid, probably because he was not as worried about Berdych’s depth as he was of Andy’s in the final.

I understand amateur analysis like this can never even begin to fathom the real strategies of top class pros, but its a thought.

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