Rafael Nadal: When I’m Not Going For My Shots I Become A Normal Player
by Tom Gainey | March 11th, 2014, 10:06 am

Defending champion and top seed Rafael Nadal suffered his earliest loss at Indian Wells in 10 years last night when the top seed was upset by Alexandr Dolgoplov 63, 36, 76(5) in the third round.

Nadal, who had been battling a bad back since the Australian Open final, didn’t blame the injury, he blamed his Ukrainian opponent for an incredible performance.

“Forget about the back. I don’t want to talk about the back anymore because my back is fine. The bad feelings were with my forehand and backhand,” Nadal said.

“When you are on the limit this thing can happen. You can lose, I lost today. Congratulate him. He played I think better than me. That’s it, life continues.”

Nadal went on to explain the difference in the match and his struggles this week.

“I had enough breaks to win the match, but I didn’t play enough well from the baseline then to be solid with my serve,” he said. “Is not a problem with my serve. Was more problem with my baseline shots. I didn’t go for the points. I played with too many mistakes.

“When you are playing a player like Dolgopolov, the way to stop him and the way that I really bother him is when I am solid all the time, playing long, playing high. When I play a high ball and the ball comes short, I go for the point and try to hit a winner and I open the court all the time.

“So he’s in trouble, no, if I play defensive, if I play short, if I hit good ball. But when the ball comes back short I am not able to have the winner or to play a shot that gonna give me that advantage. So then then I become a really normal player. I am not anymore a great player. I am a great player when I am doing these kind of things. These kind of things I am not doing the last two days.

“So when I am not doing these kind of things, I am not that good player. I become a normal player. That’s it.”

Life will continue for Nadal who will now prepare for Miami, a tournament he has never won.

“It’s impossible to be in the final of a tournament every single week. I did it for the first three tournaments of the year that I played.

“I’m going to try to rest for a few days and be fresh mentally, and I hope to be ready for Miami,” said Nadal.

Nadal has won 16 hardcourt titles in his career but has yet to defend any of them.


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28 Comments for Rafael Nadal: When I’m Not Going For My Shots I Become A Normal Player

Ben Pronin Says:

At least he’s dropping the humble act.

MMT Says:

But isn’t he just giving an accurate assessment of himself? He’s right, his game is to play with height and depth, and transition to attack when he gets a weak reply, but he wasn’t able to put away Dolgopolov’s short balls.

I would suggest that Dolgopolov is one of the few players on tour that can match him for spin, so his short balls are not like the short balls of others. Furthermore, Dolgopolov is very quick and has a very flat backhand, and that contrast between forehand and backhand makes it difficult to anticipate the short ball, which one would need to do to attack it.

But I think he’s just being honest here.

Ben Pronin Says:

It’s as accurate as can be. I don’t disagree with any of it.

Tennis Vagabond Says:

Rafa has already won a tournament since Oz, so it seems strange that people are making a big deal of his “2014 drop-off”. He made the Oz finals, that’s farther than Nole. He won his next tournament.

He’s correct in his assessment of the tactics of the game, but in addition he was making very un-Rafa like errors. Bad day at the office.
He is incorrect to say he is just a normal player when he’s not going for his shots. Rafa from 2006-2010 was not a normal player! He was the best defensive player of all time.

El_Flaco Says:

Nadal has to be consistently aggressive on hardcourt to get the results he wants, but on clay he doesn’t need to do that except against Djokovic.

Hippy Chic Says:

Tennis Vagabond great post,short and simple,but very much to the point,no emotional bias for or against a player,just telling it like it really is,simply putting things into perspective,so refreshing i really enjoy your posts.

Hippy Chic Says:

Also fair points and good anaylasis from Ben,MMT and EL-Flaco.

Hippy Chic Says:

Tennis Vagabond your very welcome :))..

James Says:

Dolgopolov really was the better player and deserved the victory.

Nadal came out trying to play aggressively like he did in the USO series. This time, however, every time he tried to hit deep, he’d hit long.

Rafa’s 2nd serve has also been very weak since AO final. I don’t know if it’s do with his back but he isn’t putting as much spin on it as he used to. Without much spin, his 80-86 mph 2nd serve was always going to be ordinary especially on slow hard courts of Indian Wells.

Credit also to Dolgopolov. Even a not in form Rafa is not easy to beat for most players on tour. Dolgo attacked Nadal’s backhand successfully. And his serve motion looks more effortless than anyone else’s on tour today. He was averaging 127mph with the 1st serve.

I think Dolgo will beat Fognini again and go deep in the tournament. He’ll be a threat to Murray too who isn’t playing that good himself.

A Tango Lad Says:

Well put James. Even Nadal himself largely echoed this sentiment in his self assessments after his loss.

Dolgopolov really didn’t play better than normal for him. He had his ups and downs throughout the match but Nadal had far more downs than ups. His usual shots just weren’t working for him which I believe stems from a lack of confidence.

I think Roger will come out of this half now that Nadal is out.

metan Says:

Is he really going to Miami. IMO, he needs rest. I couldn’t believe that he made an error in tie break 5-5..it just like giving Dolgo a room to roll.
Rafa oh Rafa, I lost a lot of money yesterday…that’s enough for this month.

metan Says:

Hahahaha, Ben is OK with Rafa press. 👍♡♡

skeezer Says:

The 2nd serve in Tennis has always been an oversight for fans. “Isn’t that the serve you just get in to start the point because your 1rst serve didn’t go in?”
That attitude will leave a player vunerable, as well as hopeful fans.

This is why Sampras didn’t get his due imo in his service game. It wasn’t his first serve, but his second serve that backed him up so well.

In todays game players are taking note. You don’t have a great 2nd serve? Look out. They look to attack it.

Not to pick on Murray but he is a classic example. Although he has done better the last year or so, his second serve is his demise, and players know it. Other players the same. You better have a decent second serve!

metan Says:

MMT &TV is The best. 👍😄

Humble Rafa Says:

Bad day at work. Need to get the dog off my back and get back to work.

metan Says:

Skeezer at. 10.22pm. Good one, no. If this kind of comments coming frequently, I will love you more . 😄😄😄😄♥♥♥♥

Steve 27 Says:

The main focus for players like Rafa it has to be the majors. Sampras always put emphasis on peaking at GS. But to be numbrer 1 in this era that is not enough, and the Masters 1000 are essential to archieve that goal.

metan,an advice, never mix money with feelings, this is the worst thing a gambler can do.

skeezer Says:

“The main focus for players like Rafa it has to be the majors.”
And now the “cult” changes its views. Not what they were sayin just a week ago, but what I have been sayin all along for years. “Its all about the Majors”.
However, they …..have said;
“H2H is all that matters.” 23-10.
Posters, fans take note. The mask of it is all is unveiled.

metan Says:

Steve 27, .thanks for yr advice.

Steve 27 Says:

skeevy, I think Rafa can win 2, 3 more majors at most. Dont worry, cheerlader, Federers legacy is safe now. But, if in the near future the GS are reduced from 5 to 3 sets like people like Randall, Sharapova and company want, somebody in the future will break the record more rapidly.

Margot Says:

Last piece of Andy’s game to be fixed? But Lol how many years have his fans been saying that. In fact I have seen Andy use devastating placement with a slow second serve, but all too often it plops into the centre of the box and asks to be murdered.
Real problem at the mo. though, as his back op. has obviously impacted on his first serve, which was rubbish against versily. However, b4 op. his first serve had become devastating and he was able to use it to get himself out of a hole.
So, much to cheer.

Hippy Chic Says:

For me as a fan of Rafas it always was about the GS,i agree with Steve 27 in that i think he could win maybe 2 or maybe 3 more at a push,i think its unlikely he will pass Roger,but more likely he could pass Pete,ive never cared about H2Hs,holding the record for the most Masters is fantastic,but again its the GS you want,i am impressed with his record of winning a GS for 9 consecutive years years though,if he were to win anyone of the remaining GS this year he would be breaking his own record.

Hippy Chic Says:

As a fan i always derive more pleasure from his none CC titles and GS,as he seems to get more credit for those wins,as history for whatever reason thinks HCs and GCs are regarded as more of a worthy surface than clay,even though Rafa has 5 none CC GS,which are usually good enough for most players,for whayever reason that doesnt seem to be the case for Rafa?well not on this forum anyway?

Giles Says:

^^^ Just tell the naysayers that they are ALL legitimate surfaces.

Translated Age Says:

17-13 > 23-10

Well now that’s progress and shows real growth. You should be proud.

Prior to that, it was only majors that mattered for those that are now admitting otherwise.

Admission is a good first step.

You’re coming along.

skeezer Says:


I like Andy’s game. Probably why I am always picking on his serve. He has a great motion and a great first serve, so why not put some more umpth in that second? C’mon dude, smack that thing!

Patson Says:


Question: I see two posters, one as “skeezer” and the other one as “Skeezer”. I’m guessing that’s the same person, right ?

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