Lately I’ve become convinced there is something wrong with world number one Rafael Nadal the same way I was convinced there was something wrong with him in 2009 when he left Miami. Things just haven’t seemed right for the Spaniard and I’m ignoring the virus and the adductor tear that he started the year with.
In Miami he talked about Novak Djokovic superseding him as world number one. Then he lost the final in a tie break and complained of being very tired despite recently having four weeks off to recover from the virus and the adductor tear. Now he’s hitting horribly short balls again, the same way he did before Robin Soderling got the best of him at Roland Garros.
Last night I was up until 3.00am Australian time watching what seemed like (to me) a very unusual Nadal. He came out of the gates appearing to be shell shocked by Murray’s will he play, wont he play delay and dropped his opening service game meekly. He hit terribly shot balls throughout the match, most notably in the second set when his serve seemed to completely abandon him. Normally reliable shots missed, some by a significant distance and he was making gross errors on smashes.
Nadal double faulted under pressure, seemed unable to hold serve in the second set and seemed to lack the competitive fire in his belly. He reminded me of the jaded Rafa who showed up and fell against Roger Federer in the 2009 Madrid final. I just have this horrible feeling somethings wrong with him.
Rafael is known as The King of Clay but his side to side movement lacked it’s normal agility and the consistent lack of depth on his shots rang alarm bells for me. The fact that he has also talked about it being impossible to win the Rafa Slam (that came true) and now impossible to repeat last years clay court glory (holding my breath) seems to indicate maybe there are also some mental issues in his game at the moment – either that or he’s unnecessarily playing down his chances to take the pressure off.
The fact that this is only the first tournament of the clay court season and Nadal is already complaining of being “really, really tired” is a cause for concern. He intends to return to Barcelona this year before Madrid and Rome which I think is a mistake. The extra few days of rest in this jam packed section of the season seemed to do him well last year and no doubt his body would appreciate it.
For a man known for his epic endurance the statement “I am sure he was tired, too, but at the end of the second set, I was dead” is surely reason enough to be concerned – mostly because he did look dead. He looked uninspired, sub par and like he was heading home until he fired up slightly in the third set.
Let’s just say I’m officially opening Nadal Body Watch.