A Long Way To Go For Rafael Nadal

Anyone who thinks two finals in two weeks means that Rafa Nadal is close to his normal form is delusional or not watching carefully.

Nadal, ignoring the tennis, seems currently to be deprived of one of his greatest gifts – his ferocious focus and intensity. He simply seems like a flat version of himself.

Sure this one legged (to say he has two functioning legs is a stretch) version of the Spaniard is still winning and making finals but he’s got nothing on the King of Clay he used to be and it seems to be finding Rafa a long time to get in touch with that person.

The fact that Rafa dropped a set to a man who’s never previously won an ATP match before this week – and he did so on clay – is an indicator of just how woeful Nadal’s game is right now.

Rafa did step it up in the third set to take a 3-0 lead after an abysmal tie break but he seemed unable, or unwilling, to maintain a high level of play throughout the match.

Alund put in a solid effort and produced some great shots and made an effort, particularly in the second set, to force Rafa to slide – something the Spaniard seemed determined to avoid.

The fact that the Sao Paolo court is not in the best condition seems to be causing Nadal far more grief than the other players and it looks to be more that his ability to slide has been severely effected by his knee issues and time off. He still looks unbalanced and like he’d prefer to keep his weight off that leg. One can only hope his right leg manages well with the extra load and that his left leg starts to adapt.

Rafa’s greatest underrated talent was his ability to slide beautifully to the right and left owing to the fact he plays left handed but is a natural right hander. Most players slide best to their dominant side. Rafa used to be good to both sides. Rafa used to be imposing on clay and now everyone thinks they have a chance and they’re having a good crack at him and being rewarded for it.

Nadal’s game is just not pretty right now and once he starts playing higher quality players that’s going to become even more obvious unless he starts putting the pieces back together faster.

Rafa simply doesn’t appear to be as connected and driven as he used to. He doesn’t look as inspired and he still looks like he doesn’t trust his left knee and as a result he can’t seem to shake the rust from his game.

“I’m lacking speed in my reactions. I’m lacking energy when I need it. I’m lacking power in my legs to be able to hit the ball long. I’m missing all these things that make me competitive and give me physical confidence, something I’ve had for my whole career and that right now, given the circumstances, I don’t have. I’m playing with what I’ve got and I hope to get stronger every day”

At least he’s not making as many horrendous shot choices as he did last week!

 

Nadal beat Martin Alund 6-3, 6-7, 6-1 and will face David Nalbandian in the final.

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