The Queen's tournament was a very pleasant surprise for me because I thought Rafa didn't have enough time to adjust, even though he had the will. Do you know that before the Fish match he had practised for only 2.5 hours?
Talk about a quick learner! Yes, he was lucky in the Verdasco match (although he couldn't take full advantage
) - Nando is a big hitter and had a very good chance of beating Rafa. The key, apart from Nando's injury, was their H2H (4-0 now), I think Rafa always felt he had a chance, even on grass. In the QF against Lleyton Rafa was actually very good, and even though I didn't give him much of a chance before the match, I changed my mind during the first set and actually thought he'd win it in two.
Grass being Rafa's weakest surface, the match-up issue will be more significant than on the other surfaces. Like stebs, I think a big flat hitter a la Blake (if on) would give Rafa no chance and just blow him off the court. However, a big server does not necessarily mean an automatic defeat as long as Rafa's serve is on; he has a great TB record and the best-of-five format gives him an advantage because he's stronger and more consistent than virtually anyone else.
He could serve much better than he does but even now the serve is not bad. His ace count per match is very inconsistent, but I've seen him serve three aces in a row, so he's getting better.
His volleys, when he's focused, are very good and he's not afraid of coming to the net, although s&v will never be his game (OT: he's also got a lovely drop shot with incredible sidespin, I've seen him play it three times in the last couple of weeks, it's a beauty
), his PSs (especially on the run) are great, and he's movement hasn't been bad at all.
There's also a key difference compared to last year - Rafa's really put his mind to improving. He doesn't have the pressure of either expectations or defending points. The two and a half
wins at Queen's have given him confidence, so provided he's fit (which looks likely at this point) and doesn't have a very nasty draw he could actually win a few matches.
The signs are promising, but I think we'll have to wait a little longer before he can be considered a serious contender at Wimbledon.