A Star is Born ‘Rafael Nadal’
First of all, a great deal of his success had to do with Nadal’s unquenchable, and unquestioning, belief in himself when playing against any player, on any court, at any time. Nadal backed himself to win, every single time.
Even when the pressure was truly on, such as when defending his claycourt titles against other highly ranked players such as Novak Djokovic, Nadal remained rock solid mentally and physically.
Much like Federer during his own unbeatable years of 2002-2007, he builtup a powerful level of mental intimidation within his opponents, even before they walked out onto court against him – and that is worth its weight in gold. Just as with Federer before him, opponents were beginning to walk out onto court, feeling already beaten, even before they started.
This invincibility wavered from time with Nadal’s injuries causing him to lose confidence and vital matchplay.
For Isner, what makes Nadal a once in a lifetime talent is the tenacity and energy he brings in every single match he plays. Throughout his career, the Mallorcan Bull built reputation not only as a champion but arguably the most entertaining player of all time with his all-out style of play. Isner believes this particular quality in Nadal separates him from his peers.
How the Mighty Have Fallen
There is one aspect of his decline that is often ignored: opponents have figured out Nadal’s game. It is a surprising criticism for the former world No. 1, but many experts are in agreement over the fact that Nada has become predictable.
What made the Spaniard stand out from the rest was his incredible stamina and movement speed. Rallies were long and at the baseline, and opponents were required to jump and run to counter Nadal’s booming topspin shots. This was particularly effective at the Roland Garros where the clay court had a ‘bite’ that resulted in higher bounce. The surface directly complemented Nadal’s style of play, thus it is no surprise that he holds a 49-2 record at the tournament.
However, this has been affected due to his injuries last year. There has been an increase in unforced errors by the Spaniard, and although his movement speed is still unmatched, he is unable to maintain the long rallies that fit his game from years before.
This was painfully evident in his loss against Dustin Brown at Wimbledon. Rafa was unable to get in a rhythm and Brown capitalized on it at every opportunity. By attacking Nadal as early as possible, Brown kept rallies short and forced Nadal to make mistakes that he normally would not. Rafa never recovered after dropping the first set and went on to get eliminated from the tournament early on for the second year in a row. His opponents have neutralized his baseline game, thus affecting Nadal’s natural playstyle.
Bottom- Line For Nadal
So, what can Rafa do to regain his former glory? While he may be aching physically and mentally, it would be foolish to assume that the end is near. Nadal has been the king at bouncing back from impossible odds and his recent struggles do not diminish this fact; however, he cannot fall back on the same formula that has given him success before. That is why Nadal must consider a coaching change as soon as possible.