Most of the
time, when a player is confronted by Rafael Nadal, it appears to me as if he
has no strategy and as if he's not giving his all to succeed.
he already knows he's going to lose, is resigned to defeat and, worst of all, is
helping Nadal's best abilities to shine through.
But even if
very few of his opponents seem to believe it, Nadal isn't unbeatable and it
annoys me to see the behaviour of his opponents.
a human being, with strengths and weaknesses. He's not forever immune from a
bad day either. Don't get me wrong; I'm fully aware of Nadal's great abilities
in the game, of his fighting spirit and of him being a true champion.
But I want
to see him confronted by players who are really going to make him struggle.
Like a Robin Soderling at the French Open 2009, like an Ernests Gulbis in Rome
this season, even if he lost, or like an Andy Murray at the Australian Open
earlier this year.
There are a
lot of tactics to explore against Nadal.
Nadal is already like climbing Mount Everest, so heading into the match without
weapons and being too shy to fight is pure recklessness. As I've said before
there are very few flaws in the Spaniard's game, and on top of that he is
improving month after month.
I want to
see players pushing Nadal to his last defence. I want to see him struggling. If
his opponents could push him to his limits, he'd improve even more because he'd
have no choice in order to go on winning.
And we can
always trust Rafa to find the answers he needs to remain the best player in the
If most players
battled him with this kind of spirit, they would also improve a lot and would
believe even more in their own abilities, as they would be more involved.
recently talking with a top 10 player who was complaining about Roger and
Rafa's level of play, which was causing a loss of hope and was making them feel
like they have lost before they even step on the court.
He was conceding
to those two giants' superiority. The issue is that thinking this way means
you're resigned to lose. It kills the fight before it has even started. At the
end of the day, tennis is the biggest loser.
has all it takes to become a real rival of the Spaniard.
one of those who, in the years to come, could threaten, providing some
adjustments, to dethrone Nadal.
He's one of
the main contenders for Rafa because his game is one of the most complete. He's
got a lot of weapons to oppose the Spaniard's domination.
that may even be his biggest issue; too many options are killing the choice,
and ruining his best laid plans because everything is always possible.
needs a guideline. He has a huge technical background though; he knows how to
speed up the game, and he can take the ball very early. He's a wonderful
counterpuncher and can defend better than pretty much anyone else.
needs to add a very good serve and an outstanding return. And in order to
challenge Nadal in the Grand Slams, he's still going to have to improve,
something he hasn't done for two years now.
he is able to beat Nadal in big tournaments, but he still hasn't done it in the
Grand Slams. With no other choice than playing very aggressive, inspired
tennis, with a great diversity, he often ends up playing his best. But only
when he's forced to.
he's capable of playing this kind of game. But he doesn't always play that way.
He often tries to push his opponent into making mistakes and he rarely dictates
the game. When he does, it's in a really shy way. All those matches are messing
up his game and don't let him grow into a naturally offensive player, one who
hits the ball each time with the clear goal of being the boss on the court.
challenge Rafa he has to build this game all year long, in all his matches. He
has to train with this mindset, one of a player whose aim is to win the point
and not to make his opponent lose it.
won a lot of matches by sitting on the fence. He keeps hesitating and fighting with
himself when choosing between defending or attacking. His game has no clear
issue is that when you face Nadal in a Grand Slam, you need to be confident
enough in yourself, in your own game and your own style.
game isn't sufficient anymore because Nadal is stronger than him in this cat and
mouse kind of game. Andy must now change his gameplan and prevent Nadal from
getting into the baseline rhythm that he likes so much. Andy should try to
serve and volley way more, to take the ball earlier and to hit harder. He
should take his chances on all Nadal's second serves.
If he hopes
to baet Nadal, he will have to master all of these areas of the game. Maybe
even for five sets.
Andy has reached
the limit with his current gameplan and if he is to improve, this is the road
he should now follow.