This question is mostly for Rafa's fans, but anyone can offer their reasonable non-hater opinion of the status of his game, I hope.
Since coming back in the fall, he has only played 4 tournaments and 8 matches being knocked out of tournaments by players ranked 56, 21, 124, and 127.
To me he almost seems almost afraid to really extend himself and dig deep in the important moments, perhaps fearing to get re-injured or maybe because he doesn't think he can make the shot? Instead of him giving everything to chase a drop shot, or everything to run from side to side, I've seen him just shake his head and give up. When he plays players that give it their all on most shots, he seems particularly vulnerable, even on his normally stronger forehand side. It seems when he gets into a tight match, facing a losing position, he has crumbled instead of pushing harder. Where is that fighting spirit for which so many admire him?
In his comeback in 2013, he built tremendous confidence, starting on the clay, and then carried into the hard courts.
Did he make a mistake trying to come back on hard courts and has it deteriorated his confidence to the point he fears losing every match, even against relative nobodies? Should he have waited for the clay season to start in South America? I guess we might know that better after the Australian Open, but that would be in hindsight.
Maybe this is simply a question of him being healthy, winning and building confidence, but it's troubling that he has not won a 3rd round match in any of the 1 Masters 1000, 2 500's, and a 250 event since Wimbledon and lost in his 1st match in 2 of those tournaments.
I personally believe he needs to get on the clay as fast as possible to get his mojo back. If he keeps getting beaten like this he might not recover from the loss of confidence, even on clay.
"Clay is the wellspring from which he flows." - Clay Death