Rafael Nadal- In and out of form: An analysis for Tennis fans
I am not an avid tennis fan, but one fine day, when I was surfing the tube, I was struck by the appeal of a sweating hot animal, sporting a bandana beating the blues off his opponent, who I later learnt was the great Roger Federer. Since that day--which was the semi-final of the French Open- 2005-- I've tried to follow his matches most eagerly always waiting to witness him perform with the same alacrity and charming ruthlessness with which he devastated Federer that fateful day. However, I've never seen him slide, run, pounce, or even (famously) punch with the same ferocity as he did then. Of course, he's only twenty.
I later learnt that clay was his most natural surface which is why he could outplay just about anyone in it. Yet, Nadal has managed to secure victories outside claycourts and even managed to runner- up behind Federer in the Wimbledon final last year. What really bothers me is his inconsistent patch after that lawn tennis last year.
Rafael Nadal is quite entirely, a different player. Here's a man who can win against Roger Federer when it is least expected, and falter against somebody ranked in the hundreds. Most recently, at the Chennai Open, which was the first tournament of 2007 for Nadal, he lost the semi final to Xavier Malisse in straight sets (that is not to suggest that Malisse played bad). But Nadal was never there. There was no leap, no joy, perhaps even no peace of mind (something he complained about, in the US open last year after his loss to Younzhy). Something was missing in his game.
Cut to the 2007 opening grand slam- The Australian Open. Nadal struggled to sustain himself against German Phillip Kohlshriber ranked 62 (who actually played well) but amazingly, went past rising star, Andy Murray to find himself a berth in the QF. Then sensationally, he lost to Fernando Gonzalez in straight sets! There was no fight! In all the cases, Nadal has never looked the same, and the reason for it is definitely not age, nor exhaustion, and in his case certainly not too many tournaments (because he's quite an energy drink himself); but something else: A worry. A concern. Something that 'takes away his peace of mind'. It is particularly annoying to see something unstable happen to a player of potential class, but on looking at the issue objectively, one figures that it must be just a doubt nagging in the back of his mind: because of the expectations, because of all this noise being made in the world of tennis and outside about him, his style etc, which has distracted his from the ball to outside the court: his image. I am sure it must be very blinding to recieve love from people, and believe it is love, when what they actually adore about you is your game, and removed from that, they might love you as a human being but not adore you as a talent.
Of course, in Nadal's case, talent is not something most people associate him with (I certainly do). For them, he represents brute force, but in any case, it is the result that matters at the end of the match, and with his present form, that is difficult to predict. All I can say is that I sure hope this one leaves fast, and the other fellow returns soon enough; you know- the other one- the one who loved his tennis, that same fellow who could rip his opponents with ease, as that is the job nature sculpted him to do without feeling shame or guilt...I make some sense, no?