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post #1 of 19 (permalink) Old 11-15-2006, 04:02 PM Thread Starter
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nadal article - interesting

Is mileage taking toll on Nadal?by: James Martin, TENNIS.com
posted: Wednesday, November 15, 2006 | Feedback | Print Entry
filed under: Tennis

Rafael Nadal has never been big on conserving energy. He sprints to the baseline to begin his warm-up as if he'd been locked in a cage for hours. Once the match starts, he spends an insane amount of fuel to run his opponent (and himself) around the court. Even during changeovers, the boy can't sit still, arranging his water bottles with the meticulous care of someone with OCD. But the fist-pumping, pirouetting Spaniard may be running out of gas, or worse, having a crisis in confidence. Back in the spring, he was the Red Menace, unbeatable on clay. Now, his shots don't seem to carry the same sting, and he appears uncertain of what to do on the faster hard courts of the summer and indoor seasons.
Don't believe it? Consider this stat: Since his surprising run to the Wimbledon final this summer, Nadal, the No. 2 player in the world, hasn't made it past the quarterfinals of a single tournament. The players who've beat him --Tomas Berdych, Joachim Johansson, Mikhail Youzhny and Juan Carlos Ferrero -- aren't bush league, but they aren't exactly a murderer's row either.

This week, Nadal lost to a quality opponent, James Blake, in his first round-robin match at the Masters Cup. It wasn't a shock. Blake had a 2-0 record against Nadal going into the match, and the hard court in Shanghai rewards Blake's high-risk, high-reward shots. But Nadal had plenty of chances. He was up a break in the first set, which he eventually lost, and he squandered a 4-0 lead in the second (a run that saw Blake win all of four points) before losing the tiebreaker at love.

You hate to bring up the "C" word, but this match had the markings of a choke.

Nadal's fans will slough off their boy's sub-par performance as merely a second-half slump. But it's a portent of potentially bigger problems for him.

Nadal is a grinder. Every one of his matches, and pretty much every one of his points, are incredibly hard fought. Unlike most top players, who cruise through an easy victory now and then, Nadal turns his matches into wars of attrition. The way he fights is admirable, even inspiring, but it's tough on the mind and body.

Nadal reminds me of another grinder, Jim Courier. Remember how J.C. dominated back in the early 1990s, especially during the first half of the season. But by the time the U.S. Open rolled round, he was typically toast. In 1993, he bagged the Australian Open, reach the French Open final, and, like Nadal, surprised everyone by showing up for Breakfast at Wimbledon. The effort left him so spent that he was reading Armistead Maupin's "Maybe the Moon" to keep from losing his mind during changeovers at the season-ending championships in November.

Courier never regained his edge. As forcefully as he became No. 1, he quickly fell out of the top spot and failed to reach another major final over the last six years of his career.

As for Nadal, I wonder if the emotional and physical toll of his game will be his ultimate undoing.

If Nadal is to compete at the highest level for years to come, he must find ways to shorten points. To that end, he can find inspiration in another Jimmy -- Jimmy Connors. He started his career as a grinder, but eventually learned how to take advantage of his penetrating shots by coming to the net and finishing points off. The ingredients are there for Nadal to follow suit: He can control a rally as good as anyone, he has a crafty lefty serve like Jimmy's, and he has far better touch at net.

It's not too early for Nadal to start thinking about retooling his game a little bit. Yes, he's only 20, but Courier was "only" 23 when his unraveling began. As he proved, it's not the years, it's the mileage.
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post #2 of 19 (permalink) Old 11-15-2006, 04:08 PM
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Re: nadal article - interesting

Did a MTFer write that article?

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post #3 of 19 (permalink) Old 11-15-2006, 04:11 PM
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Re: nadal article - interesting

Although Rafa said he was tired at the end of the season, he did have a huge break after Wimby, so I dunno what to say...

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post #4 of 19 (permalink) Old 11-15-2006, 04:14 PM
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Re: nadal article - interesting

I think it's a little early in the run to be talking about "unravelling." Nadal is only 20, and going through an ebb and flow in his career. It's a natural thing for a lot of people.

Instead of forcasting his possible doom, Mr. Martin needs to put his Magic 8 Ball down and wait to see what 2007 brings.
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post #5 of 19 (permalink) Old 11-15-2006, 04:17 PM
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Re: nadal article - interesting

TGS, I thought the same thing. The "Rafa will burn out very quickly with his high intensity style" has been said by more than a few here. And the comparison to Courier is also old news here.

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post #6 of 19 (permalink) Old 11-15-2006, 04:18 PM
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Re: nadal article - interesting

Too soon for this sort of thing.

I think everyone, not least Nadal, recognises the need to shorten his points and win more cheap points and he's working on that.

It's just a question of how well he can do that and when we'll start to see the new style of play emerge consistently.
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post #7 of 19 (permalink) Old 11-15-2006, 04:22 PM Thread Starter
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Re: nadal article - interesting

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Originally Posted by scoobsuk View Post
Too soon for this sort of thing.

I think everyone, not least Nadal, recognises the need to shorten his points and win more cheap points and he's working on that.

It's just a question of how well he can do that and when we'll start to see the new style of play emerge consistently.
or if he can even do that in the first place... changing styles will mean that his fans would have to be patient with his lackluster results for now... but in truth, besides his serve, i don't really see him changing the rest of his game for now...

once a grinder, always a grinder... take hewitt for example...
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post #8 of 19 (permalink) Old 11-15-2006, 04:26 PM
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Re: nadal article - interesting

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Originally Posted by megadeth View Post
or if he can even do that in the first place... changing styles will mean that his fans would have to be patient with his lackluster results for now... but in truth, besides his serve, i don't really see him changing the rest of his game for now...

once a grinder, always a grinder... take hewitt for example...
Well I don't think he has a lot of choice if he wants a long career relatively injury-free and a good record at Wimbledon and the US Open and so on.

You only have to look at French Open winners for the last 15 years or so to see a trend that is rarely broken - most of them have 2 or 3 good years and then diminish - still dangerous but no longer dominant. Courier, Bruguera, Muster, Kuerten, Ferrero, Gaudio...the list goes on.

If Nadal wants to buck that trend he has to get his butt up the court and shorten points. It's really the only way.
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post #9 of 19 (permalink) Old 11-15-2006, 04:27 PM
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Re: nadal article - interesting

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Originally Posted by megadeth View Post
or if he can even do that in the first place... changing styles will mean that his fans would have to be patient with his lackluster results for now... but in truth, besides his serve, i don't really see him changing the rest of his game for now...

once a grinder, always a grinder... take hewitt for example...

Yes Hewitt is a grinder but he did play to the best of his potential ~> hopefully a few more career highlights to follow

Difference with Nadal & Hewitt is that Rafa is much bigger~ both in terms of his forehand sheer machismo & his height .. Therefore Nadal should be capable of playing a more aggressive/dominant style of play, whereas Hewitt never had the physical ability to hit top players off the court
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post #10 of 19 (permalink) Old 11-15-2006, 04:27 PM
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Re: nadal article - interesting

not a fan of comparisons between players. courier is courier. nadal is not courier. whilst there may be similarities in their game, their desires and motivations are not comparable. each person is unique in this respect and this is what will ultimately be what defines nadal's career. yes it is true that most grinders don't have a long period of success dominating at number 1. the classic examples aside from courier would be hewitt and wilander (to a lesser extent chang). each of these had very different careers and achivements from their years on tour.

as for jimbo, he played tennis in an era where everyone had to grind. you weren't going to hit flashy winners from the back of the court as the guys today do. sure some had more powerful shots that allowed them to dictate the game but they still had to build the points to get into the position to unleash that winner. on top of which, connor's game of slice is perhaps the furthest removed from nadal's game of heavy topspin :P

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post #11 of 19 (permalink) Old 11-15-2006, 04:52 PM
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Re: nadal article - interesting

Recent history has shown us that grinders have a tough time staying on top for a long period of time. Ferrero and Coria have already fallen off the charts after dominating (clay) for a couple of years. Although Nadal is obviously on another level, it wouldn't surprise me if he runs out of gas in couple of years time.

Having said that I wouldn't read into his run after Wimbledon too much. Actually he's only had the 2 bad losses (Ferrero in Cincinnati and Youzhny at the US Open) and that is bound to happen over the course of a season.

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post #12 of 19 (permalink) Old 11-15-2006, 05:01 PM Thread Starter
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Re: nadal article - interesting

yea, rafa really just had a good draw in wimby that's why... i don't see him repeating that achievement on grass...
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post #13 of 19 (permalink) Old 11-15-2006, 05:44 PM
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Re: nadal article - interesting

Nadal is still the dominant world number 2. Possibly, Roddick could challenge for that position if he continues to play the way he did against Federer all year. However, the most likely result is that for the foreseable future Nadal will comfortably remain number 2.
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post #14 of 19 (permalink) Old 11-15-2006, 06:03 PM
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Re: nadal article - interesting

Well, that was an interesting read...to be honest I am very surprised that Nadal hasn't got a serious injury so far because his style of play is so susceptible to that kind of problems...
It is indeed to soon to talk about this and 2007 will be a great demonstration of what can we expect from Nadal in the future... I think that his mental strength is so strong that will keep in on top but we never know, looking back (and I know the stories are completely different), I would never imagined to see a Williams sister losing that mental edge and the fact is that they lost it...
In the end of next year we can discuss this again and even at that time Nadal will be only 21 years old...
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post #15 of 19 (permalink) Old 11-15-2006, 06:19 PM
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Re: nadal article - interesting

Well I think he's going to need to change his game a little and I'm sure he's going to try. I hope he doesn't burn out but I do see the changes. It's not going to get easier as he gets older.

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