Rafael Nadal: I Am Playing Worse Than I Was Two Years Ago
by Tom Gainey | September 5th, 2015, 11:38 am

For the first time in his career, Rafael Nadal blew a 2-set lead in a Grand Slam. That happened last night when the 2-time US Open champion couldn’t hold a 2-set and 3-1 lead in the third only to lose to new rival Fabio Fognini 36, 46, 64, 63, 64 in a 3-hour, 46-minute thrill ride Friday at the US Open.

“He play great,” he said about Fognini who has now beaten him three times this year. “It was not a match that I lost, even if I had opportunities. It’s a match that he wins. So accept. Not happy that he played better than me, but that’s what happened. He played better than me, no? I didn’t play bad at all. I played a normal match, but not enough. So not happy with that. But accept that he was better than me today.

“But the good thing is my mind allows me to fight until the end as I did during all my career. Sometimes this year I was not able to do that,” he added. “I tried to fight until the last ball. I believe I did, but was not enough today.”

Nadal finished with just 38 winners, to Fognini’s 70. And the Italian took advantage of Rafa’s second serve, finishing at just 38% of those service points won.

“He’s a player with a great talent, with huge shots, and he played amazing shots. But what I am doing worse is playing worse than what I used to do the last couple of years. That’s it.

“If you hit the ball a bit shorter, the opponent has more space. If you hit the ball with a little bit of less confidence, then there is not as much topspin like used to be. If you hit shorter, you will run slower. Is not you run slower, but the opponent take the ball earlier so it looks like you are slower.

“Is easy to understand, easy to explain, difficult to change, but I going to do it.”

For the first time since 2004, Nadal ends a season without a Grand Slam title much less a even semifinal. Just two quarterfinals, a third round and a second.

“The only thing that means is I played worse than the last 10 years,” Nadal said. “That’s the real thing. By the way, for me was amazing win 10 years in a row Grand Slam. I think nobody did. You can imagine how difficult is make that happen.

“Accept that was not my year and keep fighting till the end of the season to finish in a positive way for me. Finish the season with the feeling that I improved something from the beginning of the season. That’s something that I think I am doing.”

After a tough loss, Nadal now heads into the fall season with Davis Cup and then Beijing and Shanghai as he tries to now qualify for the year-end ATP Finals in London.

“I think I have a good base now,” he went on. “As I said, good thing is I am not playing terrible matches like I did at the beginning of the season. When I am losing, I am losing because the opponents beat me, not because I lose the match, as I did a lot of times at the beginning of the season. That’s an improvement for me, so I have a base now. That is a start. I know what I have to do and I going to work.”

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67 Comments for Rafael Nadal: I Am Playing Worse Than I Was Two Years Ago

Howard Says:

Whether you are his fan or not, and I am, there’s immense dignity in this guy. You just don’t see this in many athletes, at least insofar as they either speak in shallow or programmed ways.
Hemingway should be writing about Rafa in this stage. The battle ahead for him like The Old Man and the Sea.

kriket Says:

He’s respectful at least, not like Federer was in his 2011 SF loss to Novak, insulting him, talking like Novak threw lucky shots like junior newbies, and that he (Fed) was supposed to do “the other” press conference (the winner’s).

One could argue that Rafa in fact did lose that match, having 2-1, 3-1 lead, still he gives all credit to Fognini for the victory. That’s nice.

Markus Says:

What’s Nadal talking about? He lost that match in all angles. He played poorly. His second serve % points won was 37 for the whole match, 18 for the 5th set, and got broken 4 consecutive times in the 5th. He lost big time. He is in denial.

FedExpress Says:


did u play the match? he knows what he talks. and that return was a low percentage shot. all or nothing

brando Says:

Props to rafael to crediting fabios play but moreso for recognizing weaknesses in his game. The goal is simple now for year end: try qualify for WTF. That’s it.

Ben Pronin Says:

The return wasn’t low percentage.

Okiegal Says:

I’m glad to see Rafa half way taking up for himself in the presses………”By the way, for me was amazing win 10 years in a row a grand slam. I think nobody did. You can imagine how difficult to make that happen”……Yes, Rafa, that would be rather difficult!
I think I saw the fight back when he broke Foggy those times……just couldn’t hold serve……go figure???? Shot placement iffy…..needs to work on that and more first serves need to be in and the second serve needs revamping, imho!!

Wog Boy Says:

“The return wasn’t low percentage.”

Thanks for that Ben, I was about say the same. Nole hits that return time and time again, he is just so good at it, he did it few times this year agains Roger, exactly the same as that one at USO.

madmax Says:

kriket Says:
He’s respectful at least, not like Federer was in his 2011 SF loss to Novak, insulting him, talking like Novak threw lucky shots like junior newbies, and that he (Fed) was supposed to do “the other” press conference (the winner’s).

One could argue that Rafa in fact did lose that match, having 2-1, 3-1 lead, still he gives all credit to Fognini for the victory. That’s nice.

September 5th, 2015 at 1:08 pm

Sure thing kriket.


Wog Boy Says:

kriket is right, that press conference was very disrespectful to Nole, only idi@t can argue opposite.

the DA Says:

“That’s the real thing. By the way, for me was amazing win 10 years in a row Grand Slam. I think nobody did.”

Yep, you’re right. Nobody has done it. And I like the fact that Maria Sharapova called out the US Open on her twitter today when it tweeted the following “This is the first time in 10 years that #Rafa will NOT win a Grand Slam”

A much more appropriate headline would be he HAS won a grand slam EVERY year in past 10 (TEN!!) years. #respect?

Classy Masha.

Brando Says:

@the DA:

Thanks for sharing that DA!

I think the current players (ATP, WTA) and past legends of the game know what a LEGEND Rafa is. As bummer a year he has had, one thing nice to see has been the unbelievable support everyone has shown towards him.

And Shazza was brilliant in standing up most vocally for Rafa at RG and even here. Never really saw anything about her and Rafa, so this support from her has been brilliant to see. Much respect for her for this!

Re Rafa: you are right:

THIS year is the FIRST TIME since age 18 Rafael Nadal has not lifted a Grand Slam title.

Just think about that astonishing record for a second. It’s a gobsmacking fact about Rafa.


The most consistent player of all time at the highest level ever the game has seen. Period.

Since in this game no stage is greater, no prize regarded higher than winning a Grand Slam. And NO ONE has won it consistently for a longer period of time than Rafa.

NO MATTER what the injury, his situation, the level of competition, state of the game etc:

This man has been in the winner’s circle for 10 years straight. since age 18!

Class of his own, and this fact should be celebrated!

chris ford1 Says:

Nadal is still playing well enough to beat almost anyone. It is just that besides Djoker on all courts, and Fed on fast hardcourts/indoors as it was 5 years back, he has slipped just enough that Muzz now in fine form on a decent day and anybody in Top 20 in a career day – has good prospects of beating Rafa now.
So he has regressed. His English has regressed. His hair may be receeding.
But he is still Rafa Nadal. He should bring in supplemental coaching….but his speed and shotmaking ability is still there. Be patient, the trophies will start happening again.

He and Nole will be playing an exhibition in Thailand Oct 2 and taking in the sights together before they hit China. Very different years in terms of performance. But that will not impact their off court relationship – which is one of mutual liking and respect – and exhos is where they have fun and make money together.

Ben Pronin Says:

At the end of a day, a poor loss or down year doesn’t undo everything that came before it. I like what Sharapova said, too. But no one’s taking Nadal’s records away from him. All of the questions surrounding him are about the present and especially the future.

He’s secured his spot in the top 3 or 5 of the best players to ever play. For that to change, someone will have to win more than him. His losses don’t remove wins or titles that he’s accumulated.

Brando Says:


It’s very interesting- to me atleast- how much Rafa’s career in the last few years mirrors another sporting legend who was in his box rooting for him last night:

Tiger Woods.

Both experience astonishing success from a early age. Both are said to be possible best ever of their sports. Both are/were seen as the toughest mentally in their sport. Then BOOM:

BOTH experience a sudden tailspin.

BOTH are now stuck on 14 majors apiece.

Wonder whether these 2 sporting colossal’s will regain their former glories at all.

Ben Pronin Says:

CF1, I don’t think the guys Nadal has lost to were having career days this year. Fognini yesterday? Sure. But the other 2 wins he has this year? I didn’t watch Rio but I watched Barcelona. It was a pretty standard match, nothing special from either guy. And by standard I mean the kind of match 2 guys in the lower end of the top 20 would play. That’s the weird thing about Nadal this year. His game has dipped to a point where he’s a solid player but nothing more than that. If his name was Fernando Verdasco instead you’d just say “well, ok, results look about right”.

Mitch Says:

So is it better to win more slams quicker, or to stretch them over a longer period? I’m not sure to understand why it should matter.

Ben Pronin Says:

“The most consistent player of all time at the highest level ever the game has seen. Period.”

No he isn’t.

Good comparison with Woods, though. Both guys had outside factors that caused turmoil in their games (Woods the cheating scandal and injuries and Nadal injuries) and their time off allowed the field to catch up and even surpass them. But I think Woods has like 50 years to win majors. Nadal doesn’t have quite that luxury.

Jock-KatH Says:

Don’t write Nadal off – he ain’t finished by far.

Brando Says:


Excellent post at 4.33.

‘No, he isn’t’: Each to their own. But for me when it comes to the art of winning majors: facts show he’s done it for the longest time. Overall he’s 2nd tied all time at winning majors. So for me personally he is:

But each to their own for sure.

Re Woods:

Yeah I see huge similarities between the 2. Granted the cause of their demise is different but I think the same thing has led to their woes: the loss of mental strength and aura. BOTH Rafa and Tiger where seen as the toughest ever under pressure and were genuinely feared by the pack.

BOTH of them now seem riddled with self doubt and the tour doesn’t really fear either.

– Re Rafa: I agree with Ben:

I think he’s way, way off the pace regarding the elite. This year, so far, the top 5 opponents he’s faced have been: Novak, Andy, Wawrinka and Kei.

He has not won a single set off them and barring set 1 v Wawa in Rome (which he really should won with I don’t know how many set points) he has not come close to winning the set.

He essentially get’s beatdown badly by them. BUT truth is: that’s to be expected and those guys are not the problem. In 8 plus months he’s ONLY lost a combined 5 matches to them.

The main problem is elsewhere:


That’s 10 matches lost to opponents he either should beat no matter what or had the chances to win against but completely capitulated.

THAT is where the problem is. BEFORE he can even begin thinking of competing with a Djokovic, Murray etc he needs to address the lesser competition since it’s complete and absolute folly to think he can win titles, beat the best when over 66% of his losses this year-truth be told:

Are losses to guys who ain’t even in the conversation for winning any major title of note let alone a Slam.

IF you every match you play v the lower tier players seems like a potential upset alert then how can you realistically be expected to challenge for titles when every match is a huge challenge?

It’s not a viable, logical expectation to have for such a player. Final point:

Adrian Marrino is probably the most average player I have ever seen on tour. Saw him for the time the other day.

He was 2-0 v a Andy Murray who clearly was struggling badly. Yet not even for a nano-second did i think Andy would lose. Now had that been Rafa: I would have thought match over.

So Rafa has ALOT of work to do to get his level upto a contender before he can say ‘yup, I can expect titles wins’.

Ben Pronin Says:

Brando, I don’t agree with this:
“BEFORE he can even begin thinking of competing with a Djokovic, Murray etc he needs to address the lesser competition since it’s complete…”

Not entirely, anyway. The other day we saw Sampras say that when he was struggling, he still felt like the best player in the world. Nadal, who happens to have the same number of slams as Sampras, is one of the greatest champions we’ve ever seen. He’s also a smart enough player to never underestimate his opponents. I still think he’s overly humble sometimes but it comes from the right line of thinking.

But I don’t think the mental process needs to be a step-by-step thing. He needs to get back to believing he’s the best. He needs to get back to believing that he can beat Djokovic anywhere anytime, like he did in 2013 when he beat him on hard courts twice. He needs to stop the whole “I played well but he just played unbelievable”. It’s no secret that professional players ranked in the top 100, top 50, top 20 are going to play some impressive tennis. But how can he believe that their “best” beat his own? He’s Rafa freaking Nadal. He can’t let himself believe that for a second.

Brando Says:


Great post and I agree with what you are entirely saying. I wish dearly Rafa would think like that. But I think you, people, we need to realize who Rafael Nadal the person is. The following:

Pete Sampras is probably the greatest lone wolf not just in Tennis but sports ever. The guy was not a social mingler, a big personality but someone who backed himself 110% in a insular way unlike any other.

Roger Federer- think last year- said he believes outside clay the match is on his racquet against anyone on any surface. Now some thought that OTT from Fed, but what it showed is what we know about Fed: he’s probably the most naturally confident Tennis player of all time. His confident in his game is just ever present.

Rafa’s slam count put’s him in that kinda category, mention. But really his personality is completely different to theirs.

Some accuse Rafa of being overly humble, or even faking it but when you look at the FACTS of his life you actually realize he’s a extremely shy guy:

1. Oncourt: Blatant OCD: His obvious OCD is a major sign of a anxious personality.

2. Rafa is still such a childlike personality that he has to leave the light on when going to sleep due to fears.

3. He still lives with his parents, family despite all that $$$ in the bank. He’s very much a sensitive type personality.

4. Despite all these years, millions, success, fame etc: he still lives in the same home, with the same people, has the same friends, girlfriend, life routine, same habits as he did when a young teenager. Essentially: he’s NEVER really changed from the same sensitive, family orientated youngster we saw.

4. His MOTHER: She’s publicly said she does not recognise the oncourt Rafa, from the child she knows since it’s 2 different personalities. The Rafa she knows at home is extremely shy, anxiety, fear ridden. Where the oncourt Nadal who some call beast emerges from as a personality she does not recognize from the Rafa she knows.

5. Rafa stated in his biography that before EVERY match he has a routine, ritual that he has to go through as a morphing into the competitor we know. A break from who is, to the guy we know on court.

All of this makes me think:

Rafa has been exposed.

It sounds craxy possibly but I think the persona Rafa has created for himself has been pierced and the REAL NADAL has come to the fore. With that all the anxiety, fears, panics have now come to the forefront.

Hence: because of this I don’t think it will be easy for Rafa. I don’t think he can pull a Sampras/Federer and say: I’m a tennis legend, 14 majors winner etc. I should be whupping these guys.

Nope. I think his personality is completely different. Despite his success, I don’t think Rafa has too high a opinion of himself as a player. I think he regards many, many more ahead of himself and it doesn’t help either when your coach- Uncle Toni- has always taught and told you:

You need to play 110% on every match since you yourself: ARE NOTHING.

When you have something like that in your ear from day 1: it’s hard to develop that Federer, Sampras confidence.

Ben Pronin Says:

That’s a really solid analysis. Can’t really add much. I never thought about that, 2 Rafa’s. And the idea that the real Rafa is being brought out. I guess the question is what happened to the unflappable competitor version of Rafa? The guy who’ll hit the craziest forehand at 5-5 30-40 in the fifth set? That’s what’s been different about him. Perhaps it will be a longer process.

If that’s the case then he really does need to keep playing as much as possible, even as many rinky dink tournaments that he needs. He’s gotta build himself up somehow. He did it in 2013 with the South American clay swing and he got back real fast. This time it’s taking longer. Perhaps we’ll never really know why. I’m not sure Nadal does. But, yeah, we just gotta wait and see what happens.

I know for Rafa and his fans, the goal was to catch or surpass Federer. Maybe that won’t happen now. Or maybe it will. Either way, as I said before, there’s no taking away what he’s already accomplished.

Brando Says:


Thanks and great post. I completely agree with yourself: he’s got to just start from scratch, build himself up from zero and try to push on from there. The Federer thing? I think Rafa once said that for him Roger will always be no.1 not because of his records because of his game. I think Rafa admires him deeply. He probably looks at his skill level and thinks ‘wow, wish I had it like that?’ It’s probably why he’s been the labelled as the hardest worker: he knows he has to do the most work in order to bridge that gap between him and a Federer.

But I agree with yourself: he’s already accomplished a tremendous amount that has many placing him in all time top 3. So he has his respect intact. The likes of Federer, Sampras and many greats admire him so he’s got that already: something significant.

Wish for?

I think Rafa and his fans just hope he can improve from his present situation. This video here sums up his present reality.

It’s 18 seconds long, no tennis involved but it sums up how he feels more than anything else:


Rafa and his fans just want him to improve from THAT STATE. And I think most fans of tennis want him to since it’s a really sad sight seeing a truly great player, a legend of the game in such despair because his game isn’t at the level it used to be.

Okiegal Says:


I’m enjoying your conversation….Hope you all don’t mind me eavesdropping…….. :) lol

Okiegal Says:

Rafa has something he didn’t used to have to be concerned about……anxiety….

Daniel Says:

Federer also won Slam from a spam of 10 year from 2003 to 2012 and s still around. Nadal won from 2005 to 2014 with the difference that he won every year at least 1 while Federer missed 2011. But in this Spam Federer amassed 17 and Nadal 14, so Fed is more consistent in majors by the amount. Sampras won in a spam of 13 years, from 1990 to 2002 which is harder than Fed and Nadal, the longer the spam, the harder it gets even tough he didn’t won in 1991, 1992 and 2001. So this are all different aspects of looking at consistency.

Another aspects is Federer is reaching finals this last two years, so reached finals in Grand Slam from 2003 to 2015, bar 2013. Sampras reached finals from 1990 to 2002 missing 1991.

Fed and Nadal are still writing their resumes but if he doesn’t reach another final in his career, Federer and Sampras would be more consistent in majors. Maybe Djoko will surpass them all consistency wise, as he has finals or titles since 2008 bar 2009 (no finals) and is on the top of the world.

mat4 Says:


This question could be treated even in more details: % of wins, ranking, etc. If we remain solely with the slams: number of title, number of finals, of semi, of QF, of matches won…

BTW, although this days I usually don’t reply, I read your posts. But most of the time, there isn’t much to add.

Josh Says:

Rafa needs to consider a change with uncle Tony, he won’t but needs to in order to contend in this season of his career.

thark Says:

Biggest difference between Tiger and Rafa is the nature of the sport. Tiger isn’t playing against the clock. He could have a whole new career in the next decade despite his age – golf allows for that.

thark Says:

It’s also important to consider how much passion someone like Rafa is bringing to the table. He is sticking it out through a difficult period. How many would do the same, if they already had his titles, his wealth, etc?

skeezer Says:

^passion. You mean like Fed?

All this Nadal talk, dudes!…he’s out of the tournament as usual! WTF? In his prime years? Maybe he can find some new juice to give him the stamina and strength he needs nowadays. Whatevers.
There are players still in, and it’s time to pay attention to the players at hand who have earned their way this far, including another Rafa beater the now fabulous, Fabio Fognini. An Italian especial!
Murray, Stanimal, Djoker and the GOAT in @ the USO. Bring it!

cheat nadal Says:


excuse cheater

sienna Says:

fognini is fun to watch but not really slam material.
All the more shocking Nadal lost3 sets against an imploding and exploding player.
No body in top 10 loses to the Fog best of 5.
Nadal is not working enough on his fysique. lazy and no good introspect about his current situation.
Lacking confidence? that must be a joke. Clearly his confidence is high enough to enter these slams. They keep saying they do the right things etc so what is lacking
is self critic.

jane Says:

this is an almost perfect write up on the fab-io and rafa match. i highly recommend it, esp if you didnt get to watch. this clearly describes the kind of crazy tennis on display but it also addresses rafa’s game.


Margot Says:

Ah jane, Steve Tignor, just the best.

Michael Says:

A very candid assessment as usual by Rafa wherein he also showed his sporting qualities when he praised his opponent for beating him fair and square with his brilliant play. But, I thought having won the first two sets and also secured a break in the third set, it was definitely Rafa’s match to lose no matter how well his opponent played at the other end. I think Rafa got too timid in the third set and didn’t go aggressive as he needed to and allowed himself to be intimidated by Fognini who just let him loose and fired all cylinders upsetting the rythm of Rafa who just wasn’t able to match Fognini’s aggression and just fell apart.

I think disappointment wrung hugely on the face of Rafa even when he went for that customary hand shake with Fognini in a half hearted manner. Also, when he went to the player’s lounge box, the body language of Rafa was definitely not encouraging and he almost cried but he controlled his tears.

What this loss would have done is to completely shatter his morale and confidence especially when he is already lying low unable to give a good account of himself after his come back as he did in the past.

I only hope he recovers from the anguish of this huge loss and turn a new leaf. For that to happen, he has to desparately win atleast a Master series tournament pretty soon beating one of the top players.

That said, I agree with Rafa that there is just no point in changing the coach and he is squarely responsible for what is happening to him on court. It is only with the guidance of Tony that Rafa set such mind blowing records which have become envy for every aspiring Tennis player !!

RogNadFan Says:

Tho who are bringing up fed comments on nole in 2011. Nole WAS LUCKY. Even he accepted that. On a match point he closed his eyes and swung the racket and luckily that became one of his best shots ? Gimme a break.go back and look his on court interview. That was the luck he won that match.

Markus Says:

The tone of Nadal’s comments about his game is quite different from his usual ones. Since he started losing to just about anybody, he has been psyching himself up prior to each tournament, always talking about his confidence improving, his game getting back to where he wants it, the desire still burning as it ever did. Unfortunately, each tournament ends the same way with him losing, sometimes much earlier than expected. Then he starts his self-psychology all over again. It has become rather sad listening to him. He needs help from outside himself and his entourage.

Markus Says:

Regarding that shot by Nole on Roger’s match point has a much higher probability of missing rather than hitting the best spot. Therefore, luck was what made it happen. Lucky shot. Accept it gladly and with humility. That’s what one should do when Lady Luck smiles on you.

kriket Says:

No, it wasn’t luck dude, it’s hard work and training. You are naive if you believe you can beat Federer playing on his highest lvl relying on luck.

And btw it wasn.t the first nor the last time that he made that shot. Plus it wasn’t like it was the end of the match. They played 2 more games after those match points, so I guess you claim all of that was just sheer luck and no skill.

Pfff. Get real dude.

kriket Says:

Regardless of what Novak said after the match, I still stand by my claim that it wasn’t luck. He was just trying to be humble, but he couldn’t have beaten Federer saving match points 2 years in a row based on luck. That would be impossible.

brando Says:

Look: when a player is 2-0 up they got to choke in order to lose and for me just because it’s rafael does not mean a different judgment should be made. He choked: plain and simple. He was 2-0 up. He was a break up in set 3. He was a breakup in set 4. I mean what does a guy need to close the match? He simply had it and he blew it. But: it’s off no surprise to me. Even in the Schwartzman match-a very average player- it was clear to see rafa was anxiety ridden, very passive and cedes control easily of point, a match. Fognini is talented but: he’s ALWAYS been talented. And rafa ALWAYS beat him prior to this year. 5-0 up. Fabio hasn’t done anything new or different. It’s nadal who’s changed. From his choke job in Rio. His nadir in passiveness in Barcelona. And now his 2-0 plus many chances being blown loss here in NY. Sure: on the surface Fognini played well. But IF nadal believes “oh well i lost the match because opponent played well” privately then he’s kidding himself since this is another match in a long list of them that rafa could have won, should have won easily but he CHOKED, collapsed MENTALLY so EASILY that he lost. I’ll post a tweet which perfectly sums up rafa for me this year.

brando Says:

This just sums it up completely for me: “Man walks on court, waves to crowd, suffers public nervous breakdown for about four hours. Pretty much every Rafael Nadal match this year”.

Tennis Vagabond Says:

brando, before the USO, I wondered how much of the problem was mental, and how much might be physical FIRST. After all, his short groundstrokes and weak serving indicated a lack of leg power. Seeing him here at USO, his body seemed to EXUDE power. And he still lost early. So I’ve become a convert to the “mostly mental” team. For a player that was one of the mentally toughest I’ve ever seen, that is quite a story. I hope he can shake it.

jalep Says:

jane, thanks for posting that Tignor piece – it’s a must read for anyone unable to watch the match.

Tignor covers the match well from both Rafa’s side and Fognini’s.

Best description I’ve ever read in English on Fognini. If I could have one wish it would be to have been there with the Italian press.

But caution to anyone thinking Fognini will make a habit of such a performance. After something like that, as a Fabio fan, a walkover for Feliciano Lopez isn’t out of the question.

jane Says:

no problem jalep – i think one of my favourite bits in that article is how he descibres the italian press, bug-eyed and dancing.

jalep Says:

Lots of favorite bits in that article, jane!

His insight on Rafa and having been there himself –witnessing how it all went down – loved it.

jane Says:

whether or not novak’s return back in 2011 was lucky doesn’t really matter. it only got him to 30-40 in that game. he still had to fight off a good body serve from roger on another match point, then he had to get to break point, then win that, then hold his own serve, then break roger’s again to win the match. so it took a lot more effort on novak’s part that did not involve luck. :) he ended a match vs tsonga at wimbledon 2014 with a similar return, in fact, except from the backhand side. he does hit them from time to time. it wasn’t a one-off in the fed match. it’s just *when* he hit it that made it so notable.

jane Says:

yes jalep, i found this to be a very balanced article from tignor. he can be almost poetic at times, which is what i’ve always liked about him – maybe margot too? – but he can be a little bit biased one way or another too. not this time; he gave us a thorough look at both perspectives, and he added the alien tennis spaceship part too. :D

Ben Pronin Says:

Djokovic didn’t close his eyes. He’s hit that return so many times over the years. It just happened to be a stand out moment. He hit the exact same return off the exact same serve against Federer in Rome this year. It wasn’t luck. He’s the greatest returner of all time.

Nadal did choke. He had the lead and tightened up and started making mistakes he normally doesn’t make and wasn’t really making up till that point.

Just because it’s not technical doesn’t mean it would hurt him to get another opinion. Djokovic picked up Becker to help him with his confidence (although Becker has helped with the technical aspects a lot). I’m not saying Nadal needs a new full time coach, but it couldn’t hurt to try.

kriket Says:

People who think that such things are sheer luck are fooling themselves. It’s years of hard work and training paying off. It’s a skill shot not a lucky shot.

ATP rankings aren’t just the rankings of the luckiest players around at a time.

kriket Says:

Re: Nadal. If it’s all psychological, as brando wrote earlier, then it’s much more serious than it seems from an outsider’s point of view.

Brando painted a truly grim picture of a mentally disturbed person, a troubled, emotionally immature and unstabile individual.

Now, the only thing that makes it sound a little bit better is the fact that he’s able to maintain a relatively stabile relationship with his girlfriend, because a person brando described in his Dr. Jackyll and Mr. Hyde post would have trouble having any kind of lasting emotional commitment to another person (and vice versa, very few women would be able to be with such a person for long, and have enough love nad patience to withstand all those issues).

Really, a 30 year old man, living in the same fashion, circumstances, and mental state, as when he was a teenager, mentally dependant on his parents/mother whoever, sleeping with the lights on, struggling with OCD and irrational fears/phobias, not really growing in any meaningful way, is not someone you would want to be around for long.
I wonder if it’s really that serious as brando described, I didn’t know anything about that. I knew Rafa was a shy guy, and has some obsessive/compulsive quirks, but nothing about his living arrangements, his night fears and double personality (bipolar?).
It sounds somewhat true when you think about it, but as I said, him having that girlfriend of his, who seems to be a normal person, makes it all sound a little bit less serious.
Anyway, if it’s true, Rafa has some growing up to do and whether he manages to return to champion tennis form remains to be seen. I have faith that he can, because he’s shown time and time again that he has the abilities. Question is whether his abilities can overcome his mental issues, and I guess noone can really answer that question but the passage of time.

Okiegal Says:

He’s afraid of dogs too. I’m not OCD or anything but I dont like them either……I got bit once and that did it for me!!

His book “Rafa” made everyone privy to his persona. Explanation of why he is who he is…. Interesting read…..

Markus Says:

…therefore, all shots are premeditated, planned and go where they are targeted to go because it is praticed interminably. Nobody should lose any point then…unless the other player is so well trained and so good that he can direct all his shots where he wants it to go…like Djokovic perhaps.

jane Says:

of course sometimes shots are overhit and go out, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t practiced or intended.

jane Says:

okie, same here. once bit, twice shy.

kriket Says:

making the important shots, the ones that count the most, more often than the man on the other side of the net is what it takes to win.

Each shot is 90-99% skill and 1-10% luck, 10% being the shots that hit the cord yet land on the other side.

If Novak made that shot only to lose the match in the next point, then you could call it a “lucky shot”. Winning that game, holding the next and breaking the last for the match – not luck, skill.

Brando Says:

Re Djokovic shot:

Who cares whether it was fluke or not? What does it matter?

All we know is:

He went for the shot. It went in. He won the match. Went on to win the title. End off.


I thought it was a ‘f-ck it, may as well go for it’ shot. Goes in: I win the point for sure. Misses? Meh the guy across me is all time 1 and has a legendary serve.

He went for similar thing with Andy in 2012 final but then his shot went long.

I think it’s one of those-obviously- high risk shots that many players play in such a scenario since the match seems done so: what have you got to lose? May as well swing for it. You win the point, the server will get nervous.

But like I said:

It matters not at all what his intention, capacity is since he: won the point. And that’s all that matters to the players: win the point, even a net cord lucky drop is as good as a winner.

Markus Says:

let’s just not apply the word lucky to Djokovic because he is so good.

Daniel Says:

Brando agree with you entirely anout that shot and Djoko’s state of mind on it.

Regardless of he lost the match or not later what matters in that point was the shot he made. And even tough he hit it similar many times after. In a MP it always takes luck. Maybe it wasn’t lucky for Djoko but it sure was bad luck for Federer😜

The Fognini match, Nadal made only 3 unforced errors in fifth set and two were in the last game alone. 1 FH long and BH error wide on MP. He played basically 9 games with 1 error and 2 went to deuce. Foggy had 20 winners in that set alone, 10 games.

Rafa choke the match in sets 3 and 4 but overall Foggy won it in the end with remarkable play

Margot Says:

I don’t think Rafa’s problems are entirely due to his OCD but I do think his OCD make it harder for him to cope/compensate for the inevitable physical changes that getting older and being on the circuit so long, bring.
Most people don’t like change and some people find it harder to cope than others.

Wog Boy Says:

Unfortunately most of you dont understand Serbian but in the vide that I will give you, Nole’s late coach Jelena Gencic is talking about the shot with Nole. I’ll translate for you their conversation:
Jelena Gencic says:
“In the match against Roger you hit one of the most impossible shots.”
Nole answers:
” What do mean by “impossible ” when we use to practice that shot day in day out?!”
Jelena Gencic says:
That’s what I mean, you went for the hardest shot (meaning you knew you have that shot in you).”

To conclude, it is not, it never was lucky shot since you were practicing that shot for the years and you have it in your mind and in your arm. It is very hard (hardest) shot but just becouse you don’t use it as often as the other shots (you either don’t have a reason, or often chance) doesn’t mean nor it is lucky, here is the video link:

Daniel Says:

The problem ia “when” he used. You don’t just don’t go for that kind of shot on MP. If they hit a magic shot in the middle of the rally is one thing, hit the moment. But right from the return risking rhit the net or send out. it’s just not how almost 99,99% of other players go. But Djoko has that shot and maybe instinctivaly he was able to put it of. And you have to adapt the return because is not just practicing to hit the shot, if the serve is flater or kick higher you have to use wrist to flick and adjust. So, a bunch of things was in place for that shot to happen out of that particular serve from Roger in that moment of the match. And that involce luck.

Regardless of if his made that shot before or after. Same thing with the volley Roddick missed in Wimbedon 2009 second set 6-2 up. That was an “unlucky” shor because he would made that shot 9 out of 10, but in that moment he didn’t.

Bob Lewis Says:

Rough few days for Nadal. Tough loss on the court, followed by the loss of his grandfather (based on reports).

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