The “What’s up with Nadal?” questions hit the double-digit mark this week, after his latest loss to a lesser-ranked player—on clay, no less. This time it was Pablo Cuevas, the kind of journeymen Nadal would dispatch 6–2, 6–2 not long ago.
We want easy solutions and explanations. Fire Toni! Take a year off! Quit now! But this doesn’t lend itself to hot takes. We are, undeniably, witnessing an athlete in decline. And tennis is both the cruelest of sports and the most accommodating…
Nadal is not yet 30. His body, improbably, is holding up. Nadal may never win a 15th major. But I don’t see how you flatly write off a player of his caliber. The first step is regaining that self-belief and translating that on the court. Taking more risks on the serve, in the rallies and on big points. Playing closer to the baseline. Finishing off third sets. Right now, he doesn’t need a new coach so much as needs Stuart Smalley reminding him of who he is.
- Rise and Fall | tennis.com
“Descent,” of course, is a relative term when it comes to Rafa on dirt. He reached the semis in both Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro, and lost by razor-thin margins both times. For the most part, aside from his serve, I thought he played pretty well. Still, this is Nadal we’re talking about. No player has ever come as close to invincibility on a single surface. Making the semis at a clay-court event is never going to be a satisfying result for him.
Once upon a time, Nadal didn’t lose these types of rallies when he needed them. On match point, the opponent’s desperation forehand would sail long. When Rafa had the other player out of position, he would put the ball away and stride back to the baseline with his fist in the air.
AUDIO: The Tennis Podcast: Will Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal ever win another grand slam title? | The Telegraph
Roger Federer has won more Grand Slam singles titles (17), and spent more weeks as World No 1 than anyone in history. Rafael Nadal has won 14 major wins, including nine French Open crowns, and Olympic singles gold. But is that it? Will either win another major title in their careers?
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