Did Rafa Nadal take his foot off the gas too early? - UBITENNIS
Connect with us

Focus

Did Rafa Nadal take his foot off the gas too early?

Novak Djokovic pulled off the upset in emphatic fashion, but that doesn’t mean he will get an easy win on Sunday against an inspired Tsitsipas

Avatar

Published

on

USTA league tennis has some of the same characteristics as big-time professional tennis. After all, both are real tennis.

 

Of course, the league tennis players aren’t getting rich while playing on several different teams at the same time. In fact, there are no financial rewards for the league players. Well, the USTA is a different situation. The USTA and different tennis organizations get a tidy sum of money from the millions of players’ registration fees.

SOME OF THE SAME SEMBLANCES

The tennis matches themselves have some of the same semblances. Just because a USTA league team wins the first set of a match doesn’t mean it can take its foot off the gas pedal. There is an avalanche of players/teams who dominate their opponents in the first set, then get dominated in the second set. Then comes the tie-breaker. And anything can happen because the first-set winner has lost much of its confidence and is no longer sharp for the decisive  tiebreaker

That’s about what happened to Rafa Nadal in Friday’s French Open semifinals. He looked unbeatable the first five games. Rafa then appeared to take his foot off the pedal, and he was lucky enough to survive Novak Djokovic’s late charge in the first set. But that was about it for Nadal in a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-2 loss.

NADAL WENT AWAY TOO EARLY

Nadal just wasn’t there for the second set. Serving became a problem and Nadal was broken in three of his four service games in the set. Nadal just simply hit too many first serves into the net. That allowed Djokovic to tee off too many times on Rafa’s second serves.

Then came the tiebreaker. Not the 10-point match tiebreaker the USTA leaguers use to decide matches that split the first two sets.

This one was the  one the pros use when a set other than the fifth set goes to 6-6. Rafa put up a good fight in the third set. He even had a set point in the 12th game. But basically the tiebreaker practically sealed the verdict when Djokovic got to Nadal’s drop shot on the 11th point and placed a return where Nadal couldn’t put the ball into play.

RAFA SHOULD HAVE KEPT HIS FOOT ON THE PEDAL

The 35-year-old Spanish legend wasted too much energy in holding off Djokovic late in the first set, playing too loosely in the second set and even while getting to the third-set tiebreaker. Nadal should have kept his foot on the gas pedal the way he normally does in beating everyone he faced in Paris for 13 years.

Rafa wasn’t back on his game in the third set. He had a chance to deadlock the tiebreaker at 4-4, but put an open-face racket on a sitting-duck volley, and the ball went up in the air a bit while sailing off the court. That left Djokovic with a 5-3 advantage.

Nadal didn’t recover. He won only one of the last three points in the tiebreaker, dropping the breaker and set on a 7-4 verdict for Novak. That might as well have been the match.

A TIRED NADAL WORE A HEAVY GRIMACE

 Rafa broke Djokovic in the first game of the fourth set and then held service for the last time in the match for a 2-0 lead. The damage was already done.

Nadal wore a heavy grimace on his face the rest of the way when he went to the service line. He appeared to be very tired of chasing Djokovic’s barrage of drop shots. After all, Rafa hasn’t faced many long matches the last couple of years, and maybe he wasn’t prepared to go five sets this time.

Rafa went out meekly, very un-Nadal like as he won a total of only six points in the last six games of the match.

Nadal hasn’t committed so many unforced errors in a long time. Of course, Djokovic played brilliantly the last three sets. He simply forced Nadal to hit too many backhands and chase too many drop shots.

DJOKOVIC MIGHT NOT HAVE A PICNIC ON SUNDAY

Perhaps it was time for Nadal to experience an off day. Of course, he’s still tied with Roger Federer at 20 for the most Grand Slam singles titles, with Djokovic trying to sneak up to No. 18 in Sunday’s final against Stefanos Tsitsipas.

But that one might not be a picnic for Djokovic. Tsitsipas will apply tremendous depth and power from start to finish, the way the talented Greek did in a 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3 win over Alexander Zverev in Friday’s other men’s semifinal.

Tsitsipas appeared to be fit enough to battle Djokovic for five sets. This final should be another barnburner.

WILL NADAL PLAY WIMBLEDON AND U.S. OPEN?

As for Nadal, hopefully he will play Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. He could pick up the title in either event with a little luck, and maybe help from the likes of Tsitsipas, Zverev, Daniil Medvedev, a few of the other young guns and old-timer Roger Federer.

Nadal may have made a major mistake in strategy by not attacking Djokovic relentlessly with  sizzling forehands. He played Novak’s cat-and-mouse game too often.

Nadal is fully capable of winning on grass and hard courts as his seven Grand Slam titles on those courts might indicate, including five on hard courts at the U.S. Open and Australian Open. He also has a hard-court title from the Olympics.

If not, it’s been a grand time for tennis fans to follow the exploits of Federer and Nadal for most of the last two decades.


See James Beck’s Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier columns at postandcourier.com (search on James Beck column). James Beck can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com

Focus

WIMBLEDON: Rafael Nadal Coy Over New Injury Speculation

After the foot problems in Paris, there is a strong possibility the Spaniard could be experiencing another injury issue.

Avatar

Published

on

image via twitter.com/atp

There are fresh concerns surrounding Rafael Nadal after he declined to go into the reason why he was wearing abdominal taping during his fourth round match at Wimbledon. 

 

The 22-time Grand Slam winner was seen wearing some kind of protection in the abdominal area after changing his t-shirt during one of the breaks. In recent weeks Nadal has been dealing with physical issues due to a long-term foot condition he has. At the French Open he revealed that he had to undergo injections in order for him to continue playing en route to winning the tournament for a 14th time.

Playing 21st seed Botic van de Zandschulp, Nadal battled his way to a 6-4, 6-2, 7-6(6), win. Speaking to reporters after his latest win at The All England Club, the Spaniard sidestepped a question about a potential abdominal problem he could be experiencing. 

“I am a little bit tired of talking about my body. It’s not that I don’t want to answer your question, but at the same time sometimes I am tired of myself, all the issues that I am having. I prefer to not talk about that now,” he replied.
“I am in the middle of the tournament and I have to keep going. All respect for the rest of the opponents. I am just trying my best every single day. For the moment I am healthy enough to keep going and fight for the things that I want.”

Continuing to stay coy about his form and health, Nadal offered an alternative perspective when asked if he was nearing his best level once again. He has dropped just two sets in four matches played so far at Wimbledon which is his first grass-court event since 2019. 

“It’s always the same here. It’s not about how close I am to the level or not. I don’t know that. I can’t predict what can happen.” He said.
“But the positive thing is the first two matches haven’t been good. Then two days ago I played at a high level for the first time. And today most of the matches, again, at a very positive level.”

The straight sets scoreline failed to tell the true story of Nadal’s roller-coaster win on Center Court. Taking on Zandschulp, a player who burst onto the main scene last year by reaching the US Open quarter-finals as a qualifier, the 22-time major champion engaged in a match of two halves. Nadal looked on the verge of an easy victory after breaking once in the first set, twice in the second and storming to a 5-2 in the third. However, the Dutchman refused to go down without a fight by displaying his best tennis of the match to draw level. 

Now engaged in his first real test, Nadal was under intense pressure to close it out in three. If he didn’t there would have been an inevitable delay for the roof to come on due to poor light. If that occurred, there would be less than two hours of play left before the 11pm curfew began.

Nevertheless, Nadal didn’t need the roof as he squeezed through the tiebreaker. After squandering three consecutive match points, he prevailed on his fourth with the help of a lob that triggered Zandschulp to smash the ball out. 

Nadal is through to his 47th major quarter-final and is only the third man in the Open Era to do so at Wimbledon after celebrating his 36th birthday. In total, he has won 309 main draw matches at Grand Slam tournaments.

In the last eight, the Spaniard has a shot of revenge when he takes on Taylor Fritz who ended his 20-match winning streak earlier this year in Indian Wells. During that match, Nadal had a rib injury and he had beaten the American earlier that month in Mexico. 

“That last match (in Indian Wells) was zero because I had a stress fracture on my rib, and it was difficult to learn many things because the pain was terrible playing that match.” He said. 

As for Fritz, he believes their upcoming clash will be at a higher standard given the form both players are currently in. Fritz is currently on a eight-match winning streak after recently claiming the Eastbourne Open title. 

“It’s going to be a lot different match obviously. Indian Wells was kind of crazy with both of us being extremely beaten up before the final. This time I think we’ll get healthier versions of both of us, we’ll see.” Fritz previewed.

The question for nadal, is how healthy is the current version of him really is? Only time will tell. 

Continue Reading

Focus

Wimbledon: Nick Kyrgios Shakes off Injury Trouble During Epic Clash To Reach Quarter-Finals

The Australian is through to the last eight but how will his body fair in the next round?

Avatar

Published

on

Nick Kyrgios has reached his first Wimbledon quarter-final in eight years but fresh concerns have risen over his current health. 

 

The world No.40 ousted America’s Brandon Nakashima 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(2), 3-6, 6-1, in a marathon last-16 encounter but at times looked to be in discomfort. Throughout the match, Kyrgios clinched his right shoulder on multiple occasions and required a medical timeout during the third set. The issue comes two days after his dramatic clash with Stefanos Tsitsipas who has since accused the tennis star of bullying. 

Despite the injury scare, Kyrgios still managed to produce a total of 35 aces and dropped serve only three times in the match. Overall, he hit a total of 78 winners against 42 unforced errors. 

“It was a hell of an effort by Brandon. He is a hell of a player. He is 20-years-old and he is going to do some special things (in the future), that’s for sure,” said Kyrgios.
“It wasn’t anywhere near my best performance but I’m super happy to get through. I fought really well today and the crowd was amazing. it was special stepping out here (on center court) once again.”

Kyrgios’ use of unorthodox antics was on display from the start. Besides a series of heavy-hitting, his first use of the underarm serve occurred just three games into the match. Although it was canceled out by a let call. It was soon after that when the alarm bells first began to ring with the Australian showing visible discomfort with his right shoulder. Appearing to clutch it after almost every point. At 5-4, Nakashima was the first to draw blood after a forehand shot from his rival landed beyond the baseline to hand him the break to clinch the opener.

Whilst Kyrgios initially looked to be far from his best, he was handed a lifeline at the start of the second frame. 20-year-old Nakashima produced a double fault followed by a forehand shank to hand Kyrgios an early break. The American was making his second main draw appearance at the tournament and sixth overall in a major.  Seizing the moment, Kyrgios consistently served around the 130 mph mark to close in on leveling the match. Doing so with a serve down the middle of the court his rival returned into the net. 

However, the shoulder still proved problematic for the 26-year-old who had to take a medical time out for treatment half-way through the third frame. Visibly bothered by the issue and shaking his head, he continued playing on Center Court and somehow managed to go ahead. During the third set tiebreak, a Nakashima double fault handed Kyrgios an early break as he worked his way to a 6-2 lead. He then sealed the set with a blistering forehand return.

The roller-coaster continued into the fourth frame with Kyrgios buckling after hitting back-to-back errors to go down a break. It was at this point that he fumed at a comment made by somebody in the crowd.

“It’s the same sh*t over and over again. I’m trying to obviously make my first serve. Stop saying that. Obviously, I’m trying to f**king make my first serve.” He was heard saying during the changeover.

Nakashima continued the momentum with a three-game winning run to force the encounter into a decider. 

Despite the blip, Kyrgios managed to find another level by storming through the decider by winning six out of the last eight games played.

“I’ve played a lot of tennis in the last month-and-a-half. I’m just proud of how I managed to steady the ship,” Kyrgios replied when asked about his shoulder. “He came out firing in the fourth set. My five-set record is pretty good and that is what I was thinking about.’
“I was like ‘I’ve been here before, I’ve done it before and I can come through again.’”

Kyrgios is the sixth Australian man in the Open Era to reach the last eight of Wimbledon on multiple occasions after also doing so in 2014. The run continues his fine form on the grass this season where he has already reached back-to-back semi-finals in Stuttgart and Halle.

In the next round, he will play Chilean underdog Christian Garin who edged out Alex de Minaur 2-6, 5-7, 7-6, 6-4, 7-6 in an epic clash to become only the fourth man from his country to ever reach the quarter-final stage. Garin saved two match points en route to victory after four hours and 34 minutes of play. 

“I was really excited to play de Minaur, to be honest. He has been flying the Aussie flag for so long. I came on the court when he was two sets to love up and I was expecting to play him but I’m not going to think about that,” said Kyrgios.
“I need a glass of wine for sure tonight.”

Continue Reading

Focus

Wimbledon Daily Preview: Former Champions Nadal, Halep Headline Monday’s Play

Avatar

Published

on

Simona Halep after her first round victory (twitter.com/wimbledon)

Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep are both currently on 10-match win streaks.  Nadal has won his last 10 matches overall, going back to his 22nd Major title run in Paris.  Halep has won her last 10 matches at Wimbledon, going back to her title run in 2019.  On Monday, both face seeded opposition on Centre Court.  Rafa takes on one of the sport’s fastest-rising players of the last 12 months, Botic van de Zandschulp, while Simona faces the No.4 seed Paula Badosa.

 

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s five most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule.  Monday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.


Nick Kyrgios vs. Brandon Nakashima – 1:30pm on Centre Court

Kyrgios helped create yet another circus during his four-set win over Stefanos Tsitsipas in the last round, in a match where both players behaved quite terribly.  But Nakashima is a player who will not fall for Nick’s theatrics, as he is extremely composed on court.  The 20-year-old American was ranked outside the top 100 a year ago, yet is projected to debut inside the top 50 with this result, his deepest run at a Major.  Brandon collected 45 match wins at all levels last season, with two Challenger titles and two ATP-level finals.  Nakashima is a consistent player, with strong groundstrokes off both sides.  But he does not possess the serving prowess of Kyrgios, nor the experience on big stages.  And there’s no bigger stage than Centre Court, Wimbledon.  Nick has fond memories on this court, as it’s where he made his Major breakthrough eight years ago with an upset over Rafael Nadal.  That remains only one of two Slam quarterfinals Kyrgios has achieved.  But in his first career meeting against Nakashima, he’s the favorite to reach that stage at a Major for the first time in over seven years.


Alize Cornet vs. Ajla Tomljanovic – Second on No.2 Court

Cornet became the player to end Iga Swiatek’s 37-match win streak, and she did so with a comprehensive straight-set win.  This is the Frenchwoman’s 18th season of Grand Slam play, and she finally achieved her first Major quarterfinal six months ago in Australia, where she took out both Garbine Muguruza and Simona Halep.  Tomljanovic achieved the same milestone a year ago at this event, when she defeated Emma Raducanu, Jelena Ostapenko, and Cornet.  On that day, Ajla prevailed over Alize 6-3 in the third.  Overall they have split four previous meetings.  Neither player was having a stellar season prior to this tournament, with both owning losing records on the year.  But on this surface, and in a highly-important matchup, I give the spunky competitive spirit of Cornet the slight edge.


Paula Badosa (4) vs. Simona Halep (16) – Second on Centre Court

Their only prior encounter occurred earlier this season in Madrid, where Halep was easily victorious by a score of 6-3, 6-1.  And while Badosa possesses the better ranking at this time, Halep actually has a better record on the year.  And Simona is now 9-1 on grass in 2022, which was the same record she had on grass in 2019, when she last played on this surface.  The two-time Major champion missed this event last year, as well Roland Garros and the Tokyo Olympics, due to a calf injury.  Neither player has dropped a set this fortnight, with Badosa taking out another two-time Slam champ, Petra Kvitova, in the last round.  That was a high-quality affair, with both Paula and Petra effectively applying their aggressive nature on this surface.  While Halep is the much more accomplished grass court player, I favor Badosa’s strong baseline game to again be rewarded on Monday, and to even her head-to-head with Halep.


Amanda Anisimova (20) vs. Harmony Tan – Third on No.1 Court

Both of these players already achieved phenomenal wins during the first week.  Anisimova came back from a set down to defeat Coco Gauff, while Tan prevailed over Serena Williams after over three hours of play.  Tan had never advanced beyond the second round of a Major, but followed up the biggest win of her career with two straight-set victories.  Anisimova is vying for her best result at a Slam since her 2019 run to the Roland Garros semifinals.  And it was during that run when her only previous matchup with Tan took place, with Amanda prevailing 6-3, 6-1.  Anisimova is in the midst of a strong season, with a record of 28-10.  Her outstanding backhand should allow her to dictate play and earn another win over Tan, despite Harmony’s diverse game filled with guile, drop shots, and tweeners.


Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Botic van de Zandschulp (21) – Third on Centre Court

This is a rematch from the third round of the last Major, when Nadal won in straight sets at his beloved Roland Garros.  Rafa did not look his best during his first two rounds here, but upped his level significantly in a comfortable victory over Lorenzo Sonego on Saturday.  Van de Zandschulp’s rise the last 12 months in his mid-20’s has been remarkable.  He reached the US Open quarterfinals as a qualifier, and has now advanced to the third round or better at the last four Slams.  And just a few weeks ago on grass at Queen’s Club, Botic was a semifinalist.  He may provide Nadal with his sternest test of this tournament yet, but defeating the 22-time Major champion, and ending Rafa’s bid for the calendar-year Grand Slam, would be extremely surprising.


Other Notable Matches on Monday:

Alex de Minaur (19) vs. Cristian Garin – De Minaur has only dropped one set to this stage, though he’s yet to face opposition ranked higher than 80th in the world.  Garin is into the fourth here for the second straight year, and also has only lost one set.  Alex leads their head-to-head 3-0, which includes a grass court contest right before this event in Eastbourne.

Elena Rybakina (17) vs. Petra Martic – Every set Rybakina has played in these Championships has been a tight one, but she’s yet to lose one.  Martic has also claimed all her sets thus far, which includes a victory over the eighth seed, Jessica Pegula.  Both players are vying for their second Major quarterfinal.  Elena is 1-0 against Petra, as she prevailed in two tiebreak sets a couple years ago in Dubai.

Taylor Fritz (11) vs. Jason Kubler (Q) – Fritz is on a seven-matchwin streak, dating back to his title run a week ago in Eastbourne.  Across the last two weeks, his serve has only been broken four times.  Kubler is a 29-year-old Australian who has been plagued by a heredity knee condition throughout his career.  He was 2-6 in the main draws of Slams prior to this fortnight.  At the 2018 US Open, Fritz was up two-sets-to-one over Kubler when Jason was forced to retire.


Monday’s full Order of Play is here.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending