Rafael Nadal, the king of spin, was far from his best today, Bernard Tomic, on the other hand, showed that he knows how to play intelligent tennis. He used huge changes in pace to confuse the Spaniard and not allow him to find a rhythm.
Nadal struggled to find a first serve throughout the match and from inside the stadium the sound of the ball off his racquet didn’t sound right. When he go a first serve in and finally hit the ball properly Tomic struggled to match him. The young Australian read Rafa’s second serve well as the world number one looked more and more frustrated with the state of his game and the variety in Tomic’s game.
The crowd were so heavily pro Tomic that it felt like no one was applauding Nadal’s successes. After he took the first set 6-2 he fell behind 0-4 in the second to the overwhelming delight of the crowd. Tomic, who looked casual and comfortable throughout the match, started flicking his racquet around and putting his hands on his hips like an impatient child waiting for Nadal between points. Rafa already made him wait a few minutes alone in the tunnel before coming out onto the court.
At times Tomic seemed to pick ridiculous times to try and change the pace and other times Nadal looked like he had no timing at all. At one point a person near me commented that Nadal should phone a friend, Federer, and ask what to do with the young gun. It’s true Rafa seemed to be lolly-popping balls back in and seemed to struggle to generate any real power. Something simply looked off for the work number one and I kept expecting to see the trainer called.
Lleyton Hewitt’s heir started the first set giving Nadal no pace at all and then completely confused him in the second when he came out hitting the ball hard and flat, keeping it impressively low and making Nadal constantly squat to overload his knees.
After some high tension Nadal finally closed out the match 6-2, 7-5, 6-3. For the whole match Nadal made only 58% of first serves (felt like a lot less) and won only 54% of points on his second serve.
Tomic, who at times was accused by the crowd (that I could hear) of being too cocky, was pleased with himself after the match.
If Tomic can improve his fitness, work on his net skills, improve his ability to handle media and reputation he will be a difficult player in the future. For now he’s a talented youngster who was taught a few lessons by a sub-standard world number one.
Rafael produced an incredible amount of sweat in the match, seemingly changing shirts every 5 games. He said after the match he’d lost 2.5kg which is huge for anyone, particularly Rafa who is very careful to control his hydration. He said “Seems like after that my body is still not perfect. I am sweating more than usual. I am more tired than usual when I’m playing. That’s what happen right now. That’s the true.” It always seemed ridiculous that he didn’t rest as soon as he got sick in Doha.
Q. Looked pretty encouraging. How did it look for you?
BERNARD TOMIC: Great. Played a wonderful match. The experience that I had, it was great today. You know, I played really good in that second set, felt really good. But overall the way I played
I’m happy with where my level was and where I need to improve.
Q. What did you learn about what you need to improve specifically?
BERNARD TOMIC: Definitely when I get up 4 Love. That’s one (laughter).
But he’s a very competitive player. You know, I thought it was over at 4 Love. You know, just shows how much he can come back. Against these guys, especially in the top 10, you can’t afford to lose concentration. That’s the important part.
You know, physically wise he’s a machine. He just wears you down. That’s where, you know, I’m going to need to improve on in the next few years. I’m improving on that since the last year and the year before. It’s getting better for me physical wise. I think there’s a lot more to improve on like that.
The way I’m hitting the ball, I can’t say I’m not hitting it good, I’m hitting it really good.