Rafa Roundup: ‘Nadal will get back to where he once was,’ says Sampras

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Getty Images


“It just seems like anxiety is creeping in, he seems a little bit nervous, he’s hitting a lot of short balls,” Sampras told “The Tennis Podcast”. “Guys don’t fear him as much and it’s tough to play defence out there. Mentally and physically he’s been out there a while and it’s taking its toll.”

“I think he is still working hard. He is doing all the right things, he is just not playing as well. When Rafa struggles, I think he feels like his career is over. But he’ll be fine, he’ll get back to where he once was.”

“Without a doubt he was better than me today,” said Nadal. “So just congratulate him. I think in the first six or seven games of the match, I should have been level, but it was 5-1. When this happens, it’s tough against a player like Kei. I had a chance for 2-0, then I had a tough game on serve, which I finally lost.

“I know it’s at the beginning of the match and the result was clear, but when you’re playing a player like Kei and in the situation I’m in today, it would have been easier if I’d started the match a little bit better. Because that would have given me confidence.”

“I mean, he’s still not maybe 100 per cent, but he’s Rafa. I never beat him before, so I knew I have play 100 per cent to beat Rafa,” Nishikori said. “I knew I have to be aggressive, so I have to change some tactics to play against Rafa.”

With the loss, Nadal fell to 41-13 in 2015 (10-5 on hard courts). The Spaniard has won a Masters 1000 title in each of the last ten seasons, but he has yet to manage one in his first six chances of the season. Nadal will only have three more opportunities in 2015, with Cincinnati, Shanghai and Paris still on the schedule.

Roger Federer faces a tough path in his quest to successfully defend his Western & Southern Open crown, with Rafael Nadal in his quarter, while top seed Novak Djokovic has Stan Wawrinka as a potential quarter-final opponent in his quest to claim the Career Golden Masters.

AUDIO: Sampras’ thoughts on Rafa’s struggles (via The Tennis Podcast)


Photo: Western & Southern Open, Cincinnati
Photo: Western & Southern Open, Cincinnati




  1. He has to become more aggressive a the net his sweeping ground strokes can let him move in.Dokovick started doing this after Becker became his coach he must add a new coach to his team or his present situation will never change

  2. “It just seems like anxiety is creeping in, he seems a little bit nervous, he’s hitting a lot of short balls.” ~ Pete Sampras

    That’s an excellent point by Pistol Pete, but what he fails to mention is that ALL players – even the best of the best – get anxious and nervous during their matches, especially close ones. What separates the men from the boys is their COMMITMENT to going for their shots regardless of their anxiety and nerves.

    Rafa used to excel at that before his current slump. He played more aggressively in big matches, more aggressively on big points, because he was mentally committed to doing so. Now, he plays less aggressively in those situations because he’s lost that mental commitment to playing the right way, and instead, reverts to his comfort zone of playing ultra conservative tennis, which is good enough to beat most opponents, but NOT good enough to beat the very best.

    That’s where strategy, tactics & coaching come into play – BIG TIME. Pete Sampras certainly knows all this, but – for whatever reason – just doesn’t want to say it.


    • well-said. Tennis is not just a physical game, it is mental and needs a coach with a good head on his shoulder and good eyes to analyze and provide an effective game plan. This is what Wawrinka’s coach did in FO 2015.

    • Please stop offering here your grim and ongoing fault finding – enough…. It is all so obnoxious & absurd w tactless timing, writing it here on Rafa fan site…. it seems no one wishes to read your pitiful pessimism !

  3. VAMOS DEAR RAFA!!!!!!! : ) : ) : ) Great to watch your interviews & practice photos….Have a great time & enjoy everything moving forward!!!!!: ) You are doing everything just right….God bless you !!!!! : ) Beautiful to see you preparing & bring your entire focus & interest onto the next tournament. VAMOS!!!!!! : ) Cincinnati Open will be lots of fun and you are as competitive as any of the top players!!!!: ) it will be great and with extra hour or two of night sleep for you…. (AND your strong team) and with some restful good few minutes of refreshing meditation before matches, everything works optimally well. I am still excited and very happy for you by your Montreal run….how great you played….how close you were to winning the Doubles & how amazing your efforts are under ALL conditions …….. VAMOS Rafa….keep smiling, enjoying, & best wishes moving forward!!!!!!! : ) : )

    • “I am still excited and very happy for you by your Montreal run….how great you played….” Holy mother of Jesus. He got blown of the court by a player he used to own. Get real.

  4. Rafa you certainly do not have to win for anyone but yourself.. I have had years of enjoyment watching you play. You have been a shell of your old self. Be patient the magic will return.

  5. Let us support this great champion. He will return to his best,he usually figures out things well.

    • exactely. Uncle Toni has said bringing new coach is expensive. Can you believe that. How somebody can be that stupid. Rafa has lost tons of money by losing in early rounds and by keep losing I doubt sponsors would be willing to work with him.

      • Excellent point Sosa. That comment by Uncle Toni about a new coach being “too expensive” is beyond ridiculous. It’s PENNY-WISE AND POUND-FOOLISH to the nth degree. It also speaks volumes about his tennis IQ and judgement.

  6. Does it really matter he’s one of the two best ever players sometime it has to end but look at what he has achieved and that’s only playing a third of his career the other third he spent injured .you can’t compare Djokovic with Fed and Nadal he’s there now because they are in decline him and Murray have been around just has long as those two so why weren’t they doing it then .only trouble is Djokovic might eclipse nadal on slams which is a pity he hasn’t anybody to push him Murray ain’t good enough never was still it’s been a pleasure watching nadal and fed over the years . But you never can tell maybe it ain’t over yet 😀

    • it matters a lot since he’s throwing the opportunity to do the last step and become the undisputed GOAT away. If it was injuries ending his career now, fans would accept it. But Nadal is healthy and shows a mental decline that should have been tackled immediately when it started, more than 18 months ago. But no, Nadal treats the problem like an amateur, and has let it taken over his entire persona. He is not a shade of himself anymore, not on the court, and not off the court. It’s a waste of talent and it is actually 100% against the attitude that he himself writes in his bio that he should have. He’s the first player in a long time who takes a nose dive so extreme.

      • J Beer Xtreme: I agree with your comment. There is deep sadness in Rafa’s eyes. something deep down bothering him. Uncle Toni’s reverse psychology was effective for a while but it inevitably fired back. Mental strength is very important to play a good game. I don’t understand why his team let that aspect of Rafa’s game unattended for so long. Rafa needs to bring a smart coach plus consulting a sport psychologist (psychiatrist) ASAP.

      • Ditto to both comments above. Rafa’s 23-month decline is all about the mental aspect of his game, which has gone from being extra-aggressive in big situations to being extra-cautious in those situations. As so many coaches and former players have explained, “when you play not to miss shots, that’s when you miss the most — when you play not to lose, that’s when you lose the most.” That’s why hiring a new coach with new strategies and tactics is so necessary for Rafa if he is truly committed to regaining his old form and regaining his old winning ways.

  7. well Rafa, those words from Sampras must have lifted you up. just have faith in yourself and all will be ok go for it in Cinn:WHICH I KNOW YOU WILL . GOD BLESSXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

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