Let’s Hold Off On The Rafael Nadal Panic… For Now
by Sean Randall | April 8th, 2015, 5:15 pm

Oh no, Rafael Nadal is now No. 5 in the ATP Rankings. PANIC!! At least that’s what the internet’s been telling me, that his career is over. Even this site posted the note about the fall.

For the first time in a few years, Nadal has in fact dropped out of the Top 4 this week. But really, so what.

Unlike years past, this season Nadal can actually make up a lot of points on the clay leading up to the French Open. That’s because Rafa “only” has to defend a Madrid title, a Rome final and two quarterfinals in Monte Carlo and Barcelona. (Nadal normally wins all four or at least three.)

I’m sure many of you would agree that chances are good Rafa will do better than that this year. And for the record, I’ll say he’ll win three of the four starting next week in Monte Carlo.

And as far as his seeding, yes, it’s more than likely he won’t receive a Top 2 seeding at the French, but with the points he can earn and the fact that the guys he’s sandwiched around at the moment – Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic – aren’t major threats on clay (not to mention Nishikori is defending Barcelona title and Madrid final points, Raonic has Rome SF and Monte QF), Rafa’s going to get that No. 4 or maybe a 3 if he sweeps the three Masters events.

Plus, the seeding probably won’t matter before then anyway. Being a 5 is perilous because it could put him with Djokovic in a quarter. But that won’t happen in Monte Carlo because Andy Murray won’t be there, and I’ll guess Roger Federer will skip either Madrid or Rome and maybe Novak Djokovic passes up an event to rest. So again it won’t be a factor unless he loses early in Madrid.

Now, Rafa did have a shaky March, but on clay he’s still the man to beat. And if there’s one guy up to the task to beat him it’s Djokovic. Novak got him in Rome last year and he had him on the ropes in Paris, but couldn’t deliver the knock-out blow.

The Serb’s looked very strong thus far in 2015, not 2011 level strong but he’s the clear No. 1. Yet I wonder, how much energy is he willing to expend leading up that big goal of his in Paris. And how much does he have in the tank right now?

Djokovic has played a lot of tennis the six weeks (Dubai, DC, Indian Wells, Miami – 17 matches) and now he’s got Monte Carlo in less than a week. That’s very little time at all to recharge. And if you are curious, Novak’s never won IW-MIA-MC consecutively.

Meanwhile, Rafa’s fully rested and he has to be fuming having had to watch his rival clean up at Indian Wells and Miami. Of course the confidence probably isn’t there yet for Rafa and he’s clearly rattled, but I’m guessing after a few good early round wins on the red stuff next week and he’ll be back to his old self or close to it.

Clay is what Rafa does. Pure and simple.

That said, if Nadal doesn’t win either Monte Carlo or Barcelona, then by all means knock over your water bottles and… PANIC!

QF Monte Carlo – Ferrer (180 pts)
QF Barcelona – Almagro (90 pts)
W Madrid – Nishikori, ret. (1,000 pts)
RUP Rome – Djokovic (600 pts)

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54 Comments for Let’s Hold Off On The Rafael Nadal Panic… For Now

kg Says:

Rafa needs to get one close match against Novak before French. Win/loss does not matter but I think that will wake him up mentally and he will know what he needs to do to win French.

Daniel Says:


Nadal only once seep the 3 Masters event, that in 2010 his best year to date when he didn’t play Barcelona.

So actually he had never won 4 tourneys pre RG in his entire career. Can’t see him doing it now on the verge of 29, with the lowest on confidence he is and with his worst start to a season since 2005.

Agree that the Panic is BS as of now, but to hyperbole his results like this is too much. He is losing more matches on clay the last 2 years and he is perfectly capable of turning the tide, let’s see if he indeed will win 3 of the 4. I think winning 2 is more reasonable now, but MC will give a clear pucker: if he wins it he is good to go for 3, if he loses don’t seem him winning Barcelona Madrid and Rome almost back to back. Plus the confidence and mental aspect will be more harm if he loses MC.

Patson Says:

Nadal hasn’t won Monte Carlo for a few years now. This year though, it’s actually a very important tournament for him. Because he has spent more time on the dirt practicing in the last week or so, the natural expectation is that he should be back in the clay groove earlier than others. Also, he played on clay in February. For him, this then makes it all the more important to win Monte Carlo to get the confidence back.

The good thing for him is that he has been in this sort of situation (in 2010) before albeit with a younger body. One thing that helped that time was that the 2010 Novak wasn’t the force he would turn into in 2011. Things are a bit more complicated this time around.

Ben Pronin Says:

How close are we to panic time with Nadal, anyway?

Last year he didn’t win Barcelona or Monte Carlo. And had it not been for a Nishikori choke/injury, he would’ve gone into the French with 0 titles. And what if he does lose the French this year? What if it’s in the quarters, semis, or finals? Is that it? Is that the end of his career?

If Nadal ends the year outside the top 8, it’s time to panic. Until then, we watch tennis.

Rich Says:

I would wager that Nadal himself doesn’t even know what Nadal will do this clay court season. His health continues to be an issue, his legs look weaker than in year’s past, his balance now is suspect, which is showing up on volleying misses, of all things, and, as a result, his confidence is low, like mine with singing outside of the shower.

Plus, I wonder if he takes the court every day worrying about an injury recurrence. I do (for my old body).

I’m guessing that Nadal cares not about ranking points, meeting Djokovic in a QF, or even about winning the clay court tuneups, but instead solely is targeting his 10th French Open, and history.

Regarding seeding, the French Open should seed him 1 or 2. Basing seeding strictly on ranking is ridiculous, like making Kuerten a 1 seed at Wimbledon or Becker a 1 seed in Rome.

Given what I’ve seen of Nadal this year, I’d see he’s 50/50 to achieve that goal at best. Not only can Djokovic handle him, but many of the clay court specialists also could surprise him.

Club Fed to upset Nadal??? No.

Markus Says:

Just like a duck takes to water, Nadal will be fine once he feels that clay beneath his feet.

Daniel Says:


Guga was not #1 seed for Wimbledon hence he didn’t even play that year.

mat4 Says:

Federer once said that he created a monster, by winning everything. The same is with Rafa. We are so accustomed to see Rafa winning every clay court tournament that we have troubles to understand that time is passing by, injuries took their toll, and it isn’t always easy to find the top level again.

But while his results are, in my opinion, worrying, his game seems OK. He was the better player for most of the match against Raonic. Now, he has to find his focus and his famed ferocity on the court. Can he do it? Most probably.

Then, we will see. He still is the favourite to win the FO. I still don’t see how he can lose a five setter, and I was very surprised, I admit, when he lost to Berdych at the AO.

He won’t play against Novak in the QF of MC, because he will land in the other side of the draw. If they meet in Paris, form, weather and luck will decide the winner. The pressure will be exceptional for both.

Wog Boy Says:

Actually I think Roger senses that this year might be his good chance to win FO, he matches well with everybody but Rafa and if somebody else takes Rafa out Roger will have a good shot at FO. He skipped Miami on purpose and hit the clay courts immediately after IW.
Everybody talks about Nole and Rafa and I don’t know why people are taking for granted that they will make final, Nole struggled last year and year before, Roger is keeping low profile, but he knows he can do it this year.

mat4 Says:


I don’t take it for granted. That’s why I wrote “if they meet”.

kjb Says:


I agree. Fed is the clear 3rd favorite. I would take him against anyone on clay except Nadal, and at this point in time, Djokovic. I would love to see Fed lift another French title. But he will need a little luck, ie. Nadal not being in his half of the draw.

Patson Says:


Having a bad day ?

Wog Boy Says:


I know you don’t, can you imagine nightmare scenario, Nole is beating Rafa on the way to final, Roger is waiting for Nole in the final and…I can’t even finish the sentence..

jane Says:

of course there is no need to panic. even last year he won the french and he’d not done so great on hard or clay leading up to it. with rafa it seems like it’s best to assume he’ll be fine – most definitely on clay anyhow – until he isn’t.

Jaran Nirsi Says:

Nadal winning depends most if all whether Djokovic is playing, because he can’t beat him right now, both playing on current form. I expect Djokovic to play either Madrid or Rome, specially if he wins MC. In which case Nadal has a chance of winning that one, in addition to Barcelona. Whether these will be enough to prop his mind up at RG, we shall have to see. There are also others who can take him down on clay: Nishikori, Wawrinka, Ferrer, Almagro, and others. It’s going to be an interesting lead up to RG.

danica Says:

“Rafa’s fully rested and he has to be fuming having had to watch his rival clean up at Indian Wells and Miami”

I simply don’t believe that Rafa was/is “fuming”. Someone with a lesser character maybe, but not Rafa. There is a good reason why he underperformed on HC of IW/Miami, but his time of the season is coming. No one, Nole included, likes to see him in their quarter/half of the draw no matter his current form. So, no, no need to panic.

Sivaji Says:

The only i could see in Rafa from last year is his confidence. From now, he should add at least 2 clay titles in his kitty before FO and also should beat at least 2 top10 guys. Since FO 2014 final, he hasn’t beaten a top10 Player.
Anyway 2015 clay session is interesting.

Sivaji Says:

The only difference i could see in Rafa

Zozza Says:

Djokovic will win his first french open
Then US open

Grand slam 4 in one year !

Djokovic is playing 2011 level
Nadal is finished
For the record I am big nadal fan
I know he is finished
The evidence is out there for everyone to see
His speedy movement is gone his serve is sharapova speed & most of all his confidence is shot !
After losing to berdych at AO … I could see his time at the top is over !

Nadal 2013 was the best tennis I ever saw him play
Djokovic is lucky that nadal is past his prime otherwise he would never ever beat him at FO … I doubt the two will play ferrer will take nadal out at FO if they should meet ?

Nadal federer djokovic are the best players I have seen !!!

TennisVagabond.com Says:

“the fact that the guys he’s sandwiched around at the moment – Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic – aren’t major threats on clay (not to mention Nishikori is defending Barcelona title and Madrid final points, Raonic has Rome SF and Monte QF)”

Paraphrase: “Not only are Raonic and Nishikori not good on clay, but thing of the points they have to defend because last year they did so great on clay.”

This is what we call cognitive dissonance.

Ben Pronin Says:

Patson, what do you mean?

El_Flaco Says:

French seeding won’t matter to Nadal. His only threat is Djokovic and it doesn’t matter if he plays him in the quarters, semis or final. It’s not like he could end up facing him in the 2nd round when he hasn’t peaked yet for the tournament. Geez

Daniel Says:


Last year Nadal won Doha, coming back from finals in WTF, finals in AO and finalist in Miami. He was reaching HC finals. now he can’t pass semis since more than a year.
The situation is a bit different from him now and he only won on clay in Buenos Aires after 4 matches in the slowest clay court on the planet (never saw so many dirt in a court before:-)

We’ll know soon, but he definitely needs a clay title.

But the thing is, even if he doesn’t win a single title, come French Open he’ll still be the favorite. That’s the “Monster” he created, until someone beats him there he will be the favorite regardless. The other will only have more chances depending on how he perform in the next 4 events.

jane Says:

i guess he did do better on hard last year, that’s true daniel. but i still picture him with the bad back in the AO final. anyhow i agree with you about the french, and for me, he’s the favourite at any clay tournament he enters.

Giles Says:

Zozza. If you are a Nadal fan I will eat my hat! Just be quiet and watch how things unfold!!

Giles Says:

Is this what you are all fighting and squabbling about? Lol
Rafa has NINE a feat never to be repeated.
Vamos Champ!

jane Says:

monte carlo draw is saturday morning.

jane Says:

fed’s been training with thiem; apparently he invited him to do so:

jalep Says:

Kyrios, Delpo, and Gasquet are out for Monte Carlo.

Rafa will come out swinging. Not worried about that. But I hope Nole will get the opportunity to play him.

jalep Says:

Sad about Depo’s injury woes. Always thought he could have made competition more interesting on clay.

Hippy Chick Says:

I hope he kicks starts his season with a good showing on clay,but if he doesnt so be it,ill watch him play tennis win or lose,whether hes ranked 5 or 500,just none of the tiresome retirement talk if he does go into a continual decline,please just let the guy bloody play,he enjoys tennis and has no intention of retiring and has stated as much,we let the other players play regardless of their results or injuries,so let the same standard apply to Rafa?….

rogerafa Says:

There is no need to panic if Rafa is fine physically. He seems pretty good from what I have seen. He will find his groove on clay sooner than later. Even though he appears close to the end of his prime, he is still going to be tough to beat at RG. I think Novak is the only realistic challenger. I can not see anyone else beating even a weakened Rafa in Paris.

Heather-Flower Says:

Oh god, yawn, Zzzzz!…the Rafa saga continues…let’s hope he doesn’t turn into an Andy Murray!….eg: doing all the hard slog, but not being quite able to finish as the victor!…Rafa’s done his bit, he’s an old warhorse (in body) and he sure doesn’t need the money!…but he’s like a musician, addicted to the applause and adoration, a performing thoroughbred show-pony…but sooner or later he will run out of steam, and the younger, stronger, leaner and meaner take over….it’s natural selection……H x

Rich Says:

I’m not a clay court fan by any stretch, but any opinions out there about which clay court specialists are the best, and therefore could challenge Nadal in Paris, especially since top ranked players like Nishikori and Raounic cannot??


Jaran Nirsi Says:

Nadal’s best chances are at Barcelona, and then MC or Rome. With his present competition, it’s quite likely that he will win all four. Unless, of course Djokovic and a few others are not playing those. I don’t think he can beat Djokovic anywhere, except perhaps at RG.

sienna Says:

I am truly amazed that time after time Nadal is being made second favorite to win slam.
He is on the brink of taking slamcount lead.
I remember when Sampras or Federer got to that stage. The media where not if but when they would eclipse. Pressure was on and questions about record where all over.

With Nadal not the case. Media is almost gifting him underdog role at Garros.

Zozza Says:

Nadal cannot beat djokovic on current level not on any surface
Seems to me that nadal is getting tired very early in matches also which isn’t good for the FRENCH OPEN !
Djokovic is going to win everything this year & nothing or no one will stop him ….

Hippy Chick Says:

I dont actually know why i even bother watching tennis?evidentally Novak will win eveything all year so theres no point anybody else even playing?funny how posters state their opinions/predictions as bona fide facts,i wish these people that know so much about the future would tell me the winning lottery numbers as i could surely use a few million im broke HELP PLEASE….

Hippy Chick Says:

Zozza im a Rafa fan too and im not saying you should fawn over everything he does as i dont either,but have some faith in our guy please Novak is beatable….

Hippy Chick Says:

Rich i think its down to those players to beat Rafa not the other way around,i just keep on scratching my head when reading these posts and wondering what exactly is it that Rafa has got left to prove anymore when it comes to clay?…

Zozza Says:

Happy chick

I haven’t seen nadal play this poorly in longtime
For sure we need to have faith in our heroes but I see the writing on the wall … He is no longer the rabbit as SAFIN once called him !
His movement has slowed bigtime … You can see how he struggles on his fearsome forehand side .
But onething I will say is that CLAY is the only surface that he feels most comfortable on so his form might improve .
However we will never see the nadal of 2013 on hardcourts beating everyone ….

Hippy Chick Says:

Zozza fair enough,but i think Novak is still beatable although it seems absolute sacrilege to even think such as thing on this forum ATM,we dont know what the future will bring,did anyone think Stan would beat Novak and then Rafa to win the AO last year,everyone thought Novak was a shoo for the USO and he lost to Nishikori who knew?granted Rafa isnt at his best,and Novak is at his best,but the guy is beatable by Rafa and other players too,so unlike yourself and Michael im not penciling him in for every title and GS from now till the end of the year,now hes the best tomorrow might well be a very different story who knows,domination can be a today thing but not always a tomorrow thing,lets just wait and see eh?….

zozza Says:

Onething that everyone should agree on is should nadal make the FO final no one can stop him from winning 10 !
However whats most important for now is monte carlo …. lets see what the kong of clay can produce to get some confidence back ?
Nothing will make me more happy than to see nadal back to his best …only time will tell ?

jane Says:

sienna, do you think he’s the underdog? have you read that somewhere? can you give links?

i actually agree that one would think nadal would be fielding lots of questions about number 10 at the french, and thus number 15 overall, putting him 2 away from fed.

but yet he doesn’t seem to be, or we don’t hear about it. instead we’re hearing more about confidence and form. i wonder why that is? you’d think the media would want to build on the GOAT story all the could. it seems to get people’s attention.

Fairplay Says:

Rafa will fight tooth and nail at the FO. And it won’t even matter – he’s won it 9 times! What more must he do to prove how great he is .. he’s won all the biggies – Wimbledon, US Open, AO and countless others and his name is already up there with the legends.

Okiegal Says:

@Jane….You pose a good question and will have to wonder that myself?? He elaborated on the confidence thing in his last presser big time. It’s reminiscent of the time your Novak was beating him time and again. Rafa turned it around…..but this between the ears stuff is more demanding on your body than an injury. That injury can be healed over time, for the most part, but the mind, a whole other story. I wonder if Rafa’s openness about this is the best way to approach the problem. I’ve always heard, dont let them see you sweat! The underdog thingy, I haven’t read anything that points to that, lots out there about the seeding situation. The main thing for me is the law of average! This run will come to an end some day……but I do want number 10 and you want the first win at the frenchie for your guy…..totally understand! We love who we love!!

Rich Says:

Djokovic and Nadal currently are co-favorites to win the 2015 French Open, each about 3/2:


Daniel Says:

Just noticed something interesting about Nadal. Every since 2009 he makes at least 1 HC Slam final evey year: 2009 won AO, 2010 won USO, 2011 Rup USO, 2012 Rup AO, 2013 won USO, 2014 Rup AO. So he is good to make finals in US 15′ once again😉

Also he made at least 2 Slam finals in all years after 2009 from 2010 onwards.

So unless his Slams resulta drops this year: not winning French or not making 2 Slam finals then we can talk about panic. Right now he is just going through a bad phase. He can turn it around or not. Remains to be seen, but clay can give us a good indication where he is at, if he will keep having this strange defeats in close matches or most likely turn it around.

Hippy Chick Says:

Daniel well if he keeps on putting himself into contention then he will always have a chance,the scales will tip one way or the other,he might still have a great year without winning a GS who knows time will tell?….

JOhn de la souza Says:

No need to panic about Rafa… If he fails to win on clay so be it, he’ll probably try everything to get back in form before he decides to retire.

People should start to panic if he loses his confidence and especially his hope that he can still be the man to beat on clay. If that recognition shifts to someone else, such as Novak, Nishikori or Federer, he’ll probably stick around like Sampras did so he can retire with one final slam victory.

His expectations about himself will naturally change with his results, but he’ll go for the realistic goals he sets himself to achieve, and thus will become a sentimental favorite as opposed to the animal everyone expected to win.

But that time will come only if he fails to win the FO at least 2 years in a row. If that happens, he’ll need some time to adjust to reality and humbly accept where he stands. However no need to panic for Rafa, the public will love him even more if they see an aging champion still trying his best.

Look at Federer, no one is used to see him win every tournament anymore, yet he’s adjusted well to not being the man to beat at every event. As long as a player still loves the game and shows his vintage tennis from time to time, he won’t appear washed up… Let’s hope Nadal is humble enough to keep going despite not being the Vamos Rafa we all knew…

Annie Nadal Says:

RAFAEL said a while ago…when asked…he will not duplicate his performance of ’13 ever again….it won’t happen. That was then & this is now.

So many of you w/crystal balls…do you have a CB Convention once a year? No one knows what will unfold…upsets can happen out of the blue. Injuries as well…a player just feels poorly on any given day OR plays their worst tennis while some unknown plays the best match of their career then promptly loses the next match!
As for RAFAEL “Fuming” about some other player???
He doesn’t waste his energy on stuff he has no control over…he focuses on what HE has to do, that’s why he plays point by point…game by game etc He focuses on the present.
Why would a player waste his time predicting the outcome of a match when until he is serving match point…that is not a sure thing!
If you are a true RAFA fan you would be there for him & stop all the trash talkin & stop judging him on past performances…they are over…just go w/the current tourney & see how it goes. Unless of course you are a fair-weather fan…only backing your fav player when he wins & complaining about him when he loses. VAMOS RAFA! Luv U Babe : )

sienna Says:


they all play point for point game for game. rafa got nothing to do with that. it is the way of the tennis lords. Rafa just one of them. not one player champion has ever claimed differently.

some do have more confidence and speak their mind accordingly.Not false modesty portrayed so well by first Tony and Nadal.
He doesnot deserve #17 nor la decima.
but I feel it might be inevitable.
bringing Nadal the false champion within 2 and odds on to equal at least TMF.

Giles Says:

@Annie Nadal . Excellent post.
Vamos Champ!

sienna Says:

you wondered about links to prove underdog role.

arent you satisfied yet with Tony and Nadal releasing numerous interviews claiming the underdog role?


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