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nadal article - interesting

megadeth
11-15-2006, 04:02 PM
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.

Black Adam
11-15-2006, 04:08 PM
Did a MTFer write that article?

Pfloyd
11-15-2006, 04:11 PM
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...

Katastrophe
11-15-2006, 04:14 PM
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.

R.Federer
11-15-2006, 04:17 PM
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.

Who did it? Stand up now MTFer! Admit it!

scoobs
11-15-2006, 04:18 PM
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.

megadeth
11-15-2006, 04:22 PM
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...

scoobs
11-15-2006, 04:26 PM
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.

CmonAussie
11-15-2006, 04:27 PM
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...
:wavey:
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:sad:

JustmeUK
11-15-2006, 04:27 PM
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

Cervantes
11-15-2006, 04:52 PM
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.

megadeth
11-15-2006, 05:01 PM
yea, rafa really just had a good draw in wimby that's why... i don't see him repeating that achievement on grass...

DrJules
11-15-2006, 05:44 PM
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.

vesanto
11-15-2006, 06:03 PM
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...

jasmin
11-15-2006, 06:19 PM
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.

sawan66278
11-15-2006, 06:46 PM
The article makes some salient points....Rafa does need to shorten his points...even today against Robredo, time and time again, Rafa hit shots where Robredo returned a weak reply, but because Rafa was so far back (in a defensive, grinding position), the point continued...

Three things he needs to start doing:

1. Coming to the net and finishing the points earlier following his punishing groundies...Yes, he will be passed at the net, but he cannot be afraid to face the onslaught...more times than not it will work...

2. Mix up the serves, but take a little off...Why, lower first percentages off after going after big first serves invariably lead to tougher second serve points...Take a book out of Roger's or Andre's books...placement, not pace, is more important...and

3. Mix in slice backhands instead of simply going for the two-hander...Look at how effective this was when Gonzo used it against Berdych...Look at Mats Wilander...the slice allowed him to become #1 and take wear and tear off of him that comes from hitting top spin...

Rafa will adapt...so I'm not worried...After all, he is the third youngest #2 player in the history of the rankings...after Boris and Bjorn...not too shabby....so that alone should take him out of the Coria category

kronus12
11-15-2006, 09:16 PM
The article is spot on, nadal needs to change his game or adjust a bit so he can shorten the points instead of having rallies for about 20 shots to win a point.
I thought the way nadal played in wimby was awesome he came to the net and flatten out alot of his forehand shot. So why did he go back to the grinder style when his game at wimbledon was excellent.
Hopefully next year uncle toni would have implemented the new style of play he's been talking about into nadal game which hopefully will shorten the points and less strain on his body.

Sunset of Age
11-15-2006, 09:26 PM
I thought the way nadal played in wimby was awesome he came to the net and flatten out alot of his forehand shot. So why did he go back to the grinder style when his game at wimbledon was excellent.

That's exactly what I've been wondering about for the past five months or so.
He did so well at Wimbly... and thereafter? Back to grinder style... :rolleyes:

It may even come to the point where he'll have to find a different trainer, if uncle Toni doesn't manage to help him adapt his game anymore. I gather that will be a very difficult decision for Rafa, as Tio Toni has been coaching him for the past 15 years or so. But it may well be inevitable, if he really wants to improve. The way he's playing now may well be too much of a strain on his body anyways.
We'll see what happens.

DDrago2
11-15-2006, 11:10 PM
It's as Federer said: Nadal may need to totaly change his game for succes outside of clay