Rafael Nadal: I Need To Play With More Rhythm, Intensity And Stability [Video]
by Staff | April 25th, 2014, 6:30 pm

Following a second shock loss in as many weeks to a countryman, Rafael Nadal vowed to improve heading into the French Open, targeting three areas of his game he needs to do better.

“A little bit of rhythm, a little bit of intensity, playing a little bit more regular,” Nadal said today after the 2-hour, 47-minute match. “To play well on clay, I need to be more stable with my game.”

A week after losing to David Ferrer in the Monte Carlo quarterfinals, the 8-time champion Nadal fell in the same round this afternoon to Nicolas Almagro 26, 76, 64. Rafa had never lost to Almagro winning all 10 meetings and losing just one set.

“That’s sport,” said Nadal. “Obviously it’s not the happiest day for me, but obviously I never thought I would win here 70 matches in a row. It was not my day today. I felt I did a lot of things well today to win the match, but at the end, [there] remained a little bit. Just accept the situation and keep fighting.

“For two sets I was playing better than him, much more chances than him,” he said. “I was in advantage, in control, and I missed a lot of opportunities during the match. And playing against a good opponent like him, the normal thing is lose in the end and that’s what happened.”

Nadal finished just 5/18 on break chances (2/7 in the third set) and won just one point of nine on his second serve in the final set.

The win for Almagro was his first over a Top 10 player this season and the first over a Top 3 player in his career (was 0-18).

“I was lucky to play against Klizan and Verdasco this week, they are both left-handers,” said Almagro. “I had difficulties in the first set and struggled with Nadal’s shots. I started to hit harder and play more aggressively as the match continued, especially when I had the wind in my back.”

Entering the match today, Nadal had won 41 straight matches and 43 straight sets in Barcelona. Nadal hadn’t lost in Barcelona in 11 years since 2003 to Alex Corretja when Rafa was just 16.

Nadal will take a week off before returning in 10 days for the Madrid Masters.

In the semifinals tomorrow, Almagro faces Santiago Giraldo and Kei Nishikori meets Ernests Gulbis.

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32 Comments for Rafael Nadal: I Need To Play With More Rhythm, Intensity And Stability [Video]

Bad Knee Rules Says:

It’s so quiet on TX these days.

skeezer Says:

“For two sets I was playing better than him, much more chances than him,” he said. “I was in advantage, in control, and I missed a lot of opportunities during the match. And playing against a good opponent like him, the normal thing is lose in the end and that’s what happened.”
Can someone decipher this for me, thanks.

Okiegal Says:

C’mon Rafa, you can get back on track, you’re still the greatest clay courter ever. You’ve hit a few minor bumps lately. Nothing you can’t recover from.
Get back to work and figure out the next plan of attack…..if it’s a new coach, get one. Maybe
Uncle T. has contributed all he knows for the benefit of your game……just saying!

metan Says:

Rafa, you still can do it.
Don’t worry be happy. 😄😜

Steve 27 Says:

Well, betting for Almagro against the current Rafa is a very good business. Like the Ferrer the other day.
Keep fighting, keep believing, keep trusting, dont surrender, still dreaming, because it aint over.

Humble Rafa Says:

Can someone decipher this for me, thanks.

Let me explain this to you in Spanish.

I lost because my amigo Spanish Choker played better than me.

Humble Rafa Says:

Where is the injury when I need it?

This is getting ridiculous. No respect for me from my fellow country men anymore. It is embarrassing for me. Bad day for goats everywhere.

Michael Says:

Well this all happens to the Greatest of players when nothing goes right for them in the Court and they pile up a losing streak in a particular season losing to all and sundry. They stumble and fumble in the big points which cause their uncharacteristic demise. Tennis is the toughest of sport to maintain consistency. We probably do not realize the greatness of players like Roger, Rafa and Novak because we are used to winning them regularly most of their matches. So even a loss here and there come as a shocker and they get quizzed with the most uncomfortable questions to explain their loss. Rafa so far has almost been invincible on clay courts and particularly in this tournament, he has never lost. That goes to show the kind of domination he had all these years. But as all good things come to an end, so as this. Nevertheless, it is a bad augury for Rafa going into the clay court season and probably for the first time, he is losing his way in earlier matches. I am not sure whether this will reflect upon his performance going forward.

James Says:

Nadal wasted his BP chances in set 2. He was leading 3-1 in the decider and still lost!
The only good thing I take from this loss is that Rafa played better than he did at Monte Carlo. He did look like in control as he won more points than Nico. Won more on 1st and 2nd serves, had more breaks, 5 to Nico’s 4. But Nico played the big points better. No choke.

James Says:

Now, with Rafa out of the tournament, I hope Nishikori wins his 1st clay title. He defeated Cilic yesterday for his 20th win of the year. He’s lost just 4 times so far this year. I think he can do some damage at RG as long as he doesn’t face Rafa Nadal.

metan Says:

If Kei lifts the trophy, that’s consolation for me.

James Says:

Strong start from Nishikori. Gulbis is serving well but Kei found a way to break, and now leads 4-2 in 1st set.

James Says:

Kei broke twice and takes the 1st set in 27 minutes.

contador Says:

Gulbis was not hitting winners – Kei just outplayed the big Latvian. Sparking match from Kei Nishikori.

Go Kei ! you got this.

James Says:

Kei schooled Gulbis today. If Kei plays this well tomorrow, he should win his first title on clay.

lylenubbins Says:

I watched some of Rafa’s match. He totally should have won, was up a break in the third. Definitely a mental thing. Maybe a little burn out, plus the AO loss really hurt emotionally.

Margot Says:

Yay! God’s gift Gulbis got a gigantic going over!
Come on Kei :)

Colin Says:

These are indeed strange times in the top ten. Some players clearly have problems, and some (well, Stan Wawrinka, anyway) have, to quote Ian Dury, Reasons to be Cheerful. There’s a first – me quoting pop music!

As I said before, I think Andy could do well at the FO, and get some valuable points, but I hope he doesn’t hurt his back in the process. On grass and hard he is very much in the mix if his head is right. Some windy weather at the US Open would be nice.

The man about whom it’s easiest to predict this season,is poor Delpo. Nobody could blame him if he decided to call it a day in the next couple of years. He’s certainly suffered for tennis.

Giles Says:

And that is the curse of beating Rafa! Almagro out!!

Ben Pronin Says:

It’s not a curse of beating Rafa, it’s a letdown after scoring a big win. Happens too often, imo.

Voicemale1 Says:

Miguel Seabra, who runs the tournament in Portugal, is a rather wily guy who had a strange take on the Almagro win over Nadal (and by suggestion, also the Ferrer win in Monte Carlo). Simply put, Seabra posted on twitter after the Barcelona loss, he claimed Nadal is now trying to incorporate different “positional and technical elements to his game to deal with Djokovic, and those changes (not solidified as yet) are hurting him now against other players”. If that’s true, and he’s trying to make changes in matches, then it would help to explain the one thing we almost never see from Nadal, especially on clay: massive numbers of Unforced Errors.

In his loss to Ferrer in MC, Nadal coughed up 44 UFE’s – in two sets no less. That’s 11 full games donated to Ferrer in Nadal Errors. I dare say Nadal has gone through entire clay tournaments and not registered 44 Errors in 5 whole matches. Same thing against Almagro. Towards the end of his match, the errors piled up, pushing 30 UFE’s. Since Nadal has made a whole career out of keeping his own error count to a minimum and thereby force rivals to create an even higher ratio of Winners/Errors to beat him, the UFE count of his going off the charts. In last year’s USO Final, Nadal committed a mere 20 UFE’s – and that was over 4 sets. That’s 5 per set, and I don’t care who you are, that’s just too tough to overcome when you’re only getting 5 points per set from your opponent. The Unforced Error count of Nadal’s 2014 is something far from what we traditionally see from him. So I’m wondering if Seabra doesn’t have a valid point.

skeezer Says:

“positional and technical elements to his game to deal with Djokovic”

I dunno ;\

Saw too many short FH from Rafa in those two losses. Don’t see how technique had anything to do with it. Did see however some positional mistakes or changes.
You can always tell which way a match is going to go when one of the players is consistently hitting deep near the BL. Short balls just beyond the service line will in most all cases be attacked with force.

skeezer Says:

It is interesting that Rafa’s team is making public they are accepting Nole has got his number nowadays, as changes are needed? There next matchup will be “very” interesting indeed.

Okiegal Says:


You can’t get anything past me……..I didn’t think you ever stooped so low to watch Rafa……..Lucy, you got some splainin’ to do!! Tee hee…..

Voicemale1 Says:

“Saw too many short FH from Rafa in those two losses. Don’t see how technique had anything to do with it.”

Hmm..I wasn’t referring to technique. Nadal’s technique on the FH is essentially the same. He might be trying to actually play BH’s from his BH corner and stop running around it so much. I think that’s what Seabra was getting at. Running around leaves too much ground to cover nowadays, so it looks like he’s trying to amp up his BH to hit it more authoritatively, so that leaves him closer to the center of the court for the next shot. That’s what I did notice. In fact, it’s when he’s had to hit his FH by running around it that he’s coughed up the most errors on that side. So something is definitely different.

My brother coaches tennis to kids, and was on the ATP Satellite Tour in his youth. He told me that at the pro level, coaching and playing is mostly all about geometry. Not only the court, but even the ball – meaning the almost exact sq. millimeter of where they intend to strike it. He said different sections of the court from where you make contact necessitate different length of take-backs on the swing, etc. It makes sense. Your position on the court is what dictates the shot you need to hit. In his own history, when Nadal hits short, it’s all about his lack of confidence. Since he has no reason to feel panic against guys like Ferrer and Almagro on clay, something is off. Again, it’s Nadal’s staggering number of UFE’s on his best surface. That alone tells a lot because it’s so far removed from his nature as a player. Seabra was weighing in on what he thinks that fact tells us. I have respect for Miguel, because he took a lot of heat in the height of the Fedal rivalry a few years back by basically saying then what we know now to be essentially true. Back then, Seabra analyzed simply the Break Point stats between Fedal. He said when you analyze that alone, looking at the sheer number of BP’s Nadal saves against Federer, it’s Federer who basically chokes against Nadal at those crucial moments. This was heresy at the time. But it’s basically the truth. Djokovic doesn’t choke against Nadal anymore, since his 2011 breakout. That’s why he’s beaten Nadal more often than Federer has.

skeezer Says:

ok, yeah I get that now you explained further. Thanks and good read.

“Nadal hits short, it’s all about his lack of confidence.” And this is what I was going after here, that his FH has not lacked technique, but confidence.
RE BP’s:
“Djokovic doesn’t choke against Nadal anymore, since his 2011 breakout. That’s why he’s beaten Nadal more often than Federer has.”
Agreed. But Nole also has a better return game than Fed, no?

Nice to hear about your bothers insight. I hear also that the Satellite guys usually lack a big weapon they can rely upon, otherwise they hit the ball just as cleanly as the Tour level.

skeezer Says:

Lol…well….a few points here and there ;).
TG for DVR/Youtube.
Everything all ok in your part of the woods? re: Weather.

Okiegal Says:

LOL……Skeezer…..you realize my posts are all in fun……I hope?

Weather wise in Oklahoma……..not good for folks in Quapaw, Ok, a tornado hit in the center of town, lots of damage. I think there were some fatalities.
I hate springtime in Oklahoma…..I have lots of sleepless nights. My area of the state got some rain, which was needed. You do get used to the uncertainty of Oklahoma weather, it rates up there with the uncertainty of tennis matches these days…..tennis is getting crazy imo! What is gonna happen next will be anybody’s guess!

Voicemale1 Says:


Thanks. Djokovic a better Return than Federer? Hmm. Federer’s Return was maybe the most underrated part of his phenomenal game. After all, you can’t win 7 Wimbledon’s without a Return Game that’s extraordinary. I remember Chris Evert saying that too about Wimbledon: she said “You need a Return Game to win there”. Let’s also remember, even Federer has a winning H2H vs. Djokovic, for the time being.

For the Satellite players, I’d say it’s true about a weapon lacking amongst most of them. But it’s more than that, according to little brother. It’s about consistency more than a Kill Shot. Even at the challenger level, it’s more a game of making fewer errors than hitting more winners. In fact he said even in the Top 100 guys, when you see them on practice courts at tournaments, they hit the ball every bit as beautifully as anyone. The difference between the Top two or four guys vs. the rest is that they can hit those fantastic shots when the actual money is on the line. It’s really all about your mental state in pro tennis. Everybody in the top 100 in the world hits the ball really well. The issue is who can do it when it really counts. That’s what separates players in the rankings, according to lil bro :).

contador Says:

Oh good, okay, Okiegal. Did not know what part of Oklahoma you are in but definitely good to hear that it missed you. I guess it was in NE Oklahoma.

For a nurse, it is exciting, in a weird way, to have a tornado or emergency drill. Puts life in perspective and focuses the mind, for sure. It would be very unusual to have a tornado in Idaho. We have fresh snow in the mountains today – I’m sending it your way. ; )

Okiegal Says:


Ada is about 90 miles southeast of OKC….the tornado was in the NE area of the state. Never been to Idaho but hubby has when he was in construction. What would we do w/o the great state of Idaho? Got to love those good old Irish potatoes……the staple of every meal! LOL

I am ready for tennis to get back to normal……that would be for Rafa to win all the clay tournaments…….just saying……lol!

Okiegal Says:


Good reads, enjoyed little brother’s take on all of the Fedal dynamics….interesting.

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