Rafael Nadal: To be happy, I need to be healthy

Rafael Nadal talks about his loss to Novak Djokovic in the final of the Australian Open.

Q. Was that the best that Novak has ever played against you?
RAFAEL NADAL: Difficult for me to have a clear opinion. I think, of course, he played I think fantastic. At the same time is true that when he’s playing that way, I think I needed something else. I was not able to have that extra thing tonight, being honest, no?

Yeah, was unbelievable the way that he played, no doubt about that. But at the same time is true that probably physically I was not able. I played fantastic tennis during both weeks, is true, but probably playing that well, I didn’t suffer much during the both weeks. Five months without competing, having that big challenge in front of me, I needed something else. That something else probably today, I don’t have it yet. That’s my feeling, to compete at this super high level.

I think I was playing great during the both weeks in offensive positions. In defensive positions, I practiced what I practiced. I practiced well, very well I think, but because of the things that happened to me in terms of surgery, then what happened in Abu Dhabi, I was not able to work that much the defensive game. I worked a lot on the offensive game, but not that much on the defensive game.

To play against a player like him, playing the way he played tonight, I needed that defensive game to finally have the chance to be offensive, no? When he was hitting, is true that maybe was difficult to beat him even if I was at my 100%. But probably will be a little bit more fight.

Q. When you’re talking about needing something else against him, is it the offensive game only or other things you need to do differently or better?
RAFAEL NADAL: We are 32. I am 32 and a half. Is not the first meeting that we had. Is not the first time that he beat me that way. The only thing that I said is even if I was playing so well and I had a great two weeks, being honest, I can’t be sad. Will be not fair to be sad. I played against a player that today was better than me. That’s no doubt about that. That’s all.

I have been lot of months without having the chance to practice, without having the chance to compete. And have been two positive weeks. The only thing probably that I need is time and more matches. You know, my feeling was I have been always in offensive position during two weeks, during six matches. Today I know that will not happen. Of course, he played better than what probably he played during the rest of the tournament. Being honest, I saw him the tournament more or less. He probably played the best match so far. Playing that well, is so difficult for everybody, for everyone, when he plays that level, is so difficult to fight for victories against him.

But if I am able to run 100% and to resist every ball, then you find ways. The things that looks easy for him become little bit more difficult when you have to do it one more time, one more time and one more time. I was not able to push him to do it one more, one more, one more every time. That’s my feeling.

What I need is I need time, I need work, and I need more weeks like this one. That’s really the only thing that I hope is to have the chance to keep practicing well and to have the chance to keep playing with healthy conditions. Like this, I believe the level of tennis have been great. Probably the only thing that remained a little bit more to me was normally the best thing that I have. Is something that I am not worried much. Only thing is about time.

Q. Can you explain how you feel against a player who has answers to everything? How is it to be there on that court on such a big day? You tried everything?
RAFAEL NADAL: I try what I had. No, no, is not what I feel. No, that’s the game. You go on court, you can win, you can lose when you face players that are playing that well. You accept that somebody is able to play that well.

Q. Stefanos felt destroyed against you.
RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, but Stefanos is so young. He don’t have been destroyed enough times to know that that can happen on a tennis court. I am not new on this. I know these kind of things happens. Even to the best players of the history happened. I don’t say I have been destroyed. I have been playing against a player that was at the highest level possible, in my opinion, tonight. A player playing like this is difficult to win.

He was better than me tonight. That’s the sport. We can talk a lot, but when the player did almost everything better than you, you can’t complain much. The only thing that you can say is congrats to the opponent, well done. For my side being very happy, big personal satisfaction about the two weeks, you can’t imagine — is nice and easy now playing the final here, looks always that. But I have been going through very tough moments. After the US Open, I didn’t had the chance to play for three weeks or four weeks for the knee. Then I came back, and two days or three days before Bercy, I felt the feet, that something going wrong. I went to Bercy, had a strain in the abdominal. Then I came back, had to do surgery to the feet because a small portion of the ankle was gone. Is all the time under a tough process of things.

Then when you want to start the season, what happened for me in the thigh at the beginning of the season, is a lot of issues. Even if I always say that I am a positive, believing that the things can go better all the time, that’s tough. That’s mentally tough. It’s painful that you can’t do the things that you need to do to be 100% fit.

If we analyze all this stuff, have been probably better impossible two weeks for me, even if tonight was not my day, because the opponent played too good, and I was not ready to face that level tonight. But I believe that I can be ready in a couple of months if I am able to keep practicing and to keep competing at that level.

Q. You said you need more conditioning, more matches. What will you do with your schedule? Will you pack matches in?
RAFAEL NADAL: I need matches, but I can’t go crazy to play matches. I have my age. I have my calendar. I have my priorities. My priority now is come back home, have some rest. I played good tennis for couple of weeks. Now is the time to be back, to have a good physical work, keep working on the things that worked very well here. Step by step, working on the things that I need a little bit more. That’s the mobility, the defensive positions, the recovery from positions that are difficult to come back. That is something that I have naturally good, but I need to practice and need to be able to do it at that highest level.

Then my next step is Acapulco. That’s my goal. Is a tournament that I like to play. I had some success there. I am excited to come back to Acapulco. I have Acapulco, I have Indian Wells, and that’s my calendar today. The only thing I am sure I am not going to play something before these two events. That’s my calendar today. Then we see. Depend how things go, I keep going or I take a rest to play on clay.

I know that the season is long. My first priority at all, more than winning titles or not, is be happy. To be happy, I need to be healthy. I going to do the things that give me better chance to be healthy more than anything. That’s the priority. If I am healthy, I am competitive, I am happy, I have the chance to win tournaments. If not, things change 100%.

Q. Were you more nervous tonight at the start of the match than you normally are in a big match like this? You seemed to be making more mistakes than you usually make in the first few games.
RAFAEL NADAL: I make more mistakes because he pushed more. That’s all. Is not about being more nervous. I have been normal nerves, like final of Grand Slam. But the things started so quick (snapping fingers). He was pushing me to every ball.

What on other days have been a serve and a ball that I can have in offensive position, today have been in defensive position. That’s not nerves. That’s things that happened quicker than what happened the previous days.

I don’t like to say he played unbelievable well because looks like you find an excuse for yourself. The real thing is he played so well. He did a lot of things very difficult unbelievable well. He hit so long. His return was fantastic. He was super quick.

I really believe that he was able to work very hard on the off-season on his movement. He was moving unbelievable well. I felt that good shots came back with offensive position for me, after not a bad shot from me, I have been in the defensive position.

In my opinion, is all about have the chance to increase that step of intensity. As I said before, probably I was not able to make that happen tonight. But I have the confidence that I did a lot of things well this tournament. I have the confidence that I will reach this extra level of intensity in the future if I am able to practice well.

But answering what you say, I was not nerves, not more nerves than usual, no. That’s all.

Q. Does a match like this, the way it went, hurt mentally or is it one that you can forget quite quickly and get over?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, you come back home more proud of the level of Wimbledon than tonight, of course. But in terms of mental pain, is harder the semifinals of Wimbledon than this one. In the semifinals of Wimbledon, I was so close, and I was playing so well, having a lot of matches in a row, winning Roland Garros, playing so well on clay. I had that extra intensity in that moment.

For me, was a big chance lost to win another Wimbledon. Tonight I didn’t have that chance. Is easier to forget, yes. In terms of personal satisfaction, I have a better personal satisfaction about the match of Wimbledon. But overall probably was more difficult to do the tournament that I did here than the tournament I did in Wimbledon, because in Wimbledon I came back after winning Roland Garros with big confidence, winning a lot on clay, winning a lot of matches. Is much easier to play that well. If I am healthy, everybody knows I’m a good player on grass, no?

I have better personal satisfaction because my two weeks here have been more difficult than what I did in Wimbledon. But about the personal match, that’s what happened, that’s all.

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109 comments

  1. I blame toni nadal for this debacle. The change came in 2011. After novak starting to beat nadal a couple times in a row this should have been a warning sign for both rafa and toni nadal. There totally dismissed the problem since 2010 nadal has beaten novak two times on hard court in montreal the semifinal and the final of the us open in 2013

    There were also very stubborn and thought that is was not a big deal. They should have picked up the signs immediatly now nadal is 32 and will be 33.

    I mentioned it a couple times now. Moya should realize that nadal will not win grandslams anymore as long as he hasnt figured out how to beat djokovic. He should have a chat with rafa and watch all the matches back. Rafa does not anymore on how to play novak its plain simple.

    Novak has found the key to beat rafa and the key is staying on the baseline and take the ball early also attacking rafa forehand and since rafa refuses to hit forehand down the line and instead using forehand cross court I think more losses wil come

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    • What utter nonsense and please avoid the Blame culture. . If you support Rafa and his team , , treat him and his team with respect . Maybe you should take up coaching as you appear to have all the answers 👎🏻

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      • Mjus and Bis, I agree with you both.

        WARNING to everyone else: Don’t say a word about Rafa, Toni and his team, because Elizabeth Howard believesyou can’t be a Rafa fan, if you say anything critical about them.
        Some of us are not a blinkered set of sheep. We watch Rafa’s matches, and if we see things that dismay us, why shoudn’t we say so?

        Nobody is perfect, Elizabeth. Those of us who don’t worship blindly are entitled to say what we think, without being sneered at for not being experts. His expert team don’t always get it right – what’s so “negative” about saying so? It’s not helping Rafa to just keep saying how wonderful he is, and everything’ s fine. The results show otherwise, and concerned fans are just voicing their fears.

        You don’t have to agree, but you don’t have to sneer or be sarcastic either. Have some respect for other people’s points of view.

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      • Thanks for your comment.We criticize Rafa ,because we love him and want him to get all credentials what he deserves….and to achieve that…changes are in need fast

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  2. Novak has been in Rafa’s head since 2011. Whether he and uncle Toni have been in denial or not I don’t know but nothing really has been done about changing style or tactuc or ……. . Very sad! As much as I love Rafa and always will I can’t be in denial either. Others have found out how to play him and others whom they have problems with but Rafa …… . Even Federer now knows how to play Rafa.
    I wonder even now if anything is going to change. So much time has been wasted already. It’s now or never.

    We’ll always be loyal to Rafa but we have to be honest about him too.

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  3. New episode of The Tennis Podcast with David Law and Catherine Whittaker is up. Interesting listening. Won’t make you feel any better, but is good to get a neutral perspective.

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  4. What can I say it’s all Been said
    As far as I am concerned rafermade mincemeat out of everyone he played for the two weeks and sadly he could not do that to Novak
    Well that’s tennis enjoy your break Rafa 😻🥰🎾😇🙉

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  5. also mats was talking about how nadal was keep going to djokovic backhand knowing that nole backhand is his strenght he can hit it down the line and cross court deep to nadal forehand and he was suprised that nadal was not using the forehand down the line more often exactly as i thought

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  6. Hi Lorna,

    In order to solve problem you have to acknowledge that there is one. Nadal has a problem and that is he doesnt know how to beat djokovic anymore.

    Rafa cant read nole game. Nole can read nadal game. I think that mats willander does know very well on how to unlock novak game

    Over the years the most difficult opponent for novak in a grandslam was wawrinka he did now how to unlock novak game. He did it in australia 2014 almost beat him in 2013 and beat a djokovic in his prime

    in the final of the french open and the us open.

    I was watching the french open final on youtube between wawrinka and djokovic. You know what wawrinka did very well when novak was serving returning deep to the middle also wawrinka was going for his shots and put djokovic the whole time on defensive.

    Perhaps carlos moya should go and have a chat with mats willander to analyze novak game and figure out in how to beat him. But to be honest he should have done that a long time ago. Especially in 2015 and 2016 but he was strongly in denial.

    I have to be honest i tought that rafa could won a double grandslam now its more likely that novak will win double slam and things will get more difficult for rafa because you have now thiem for the french open, djokovic but also federer

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    • Totally agreed
      He is in denial
      Its already become mental
      Djokovic can beat him at French if they meet in final and maybe then Rafa will wake up ,but it will be to late
      Actually it’s too late already. He lost so much time….

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  7. Who can solve a problem named Novak? Mats Wilander called this match before the start. He said Novak would win and the only chance Rafa had to win was if he came out of his comfort zone, played risky tennis and went for his shots, especially down the line. He went on to say that this would be very difficult to keep it up throughout the match. I’ve just watched Wilander’s post match analysis on Game Schett and Mats and he’s spot on. I just wish that somehow Rafa could see it.

    A lot of focus has been on how Rafa has improved his game, but we mustn’t forget that Novak is very confident against everyone and he’s got all bases covered. It’ll be hard but not impossible to break through the wall named Novak right now, but i’m confident that Rafa will be up for that challenge. Meanwhile Rafa, rest, regroup and work on solving that problem.

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  8. I wonder whether Rafa uses all those runner up trophies as serving trays in his house:) At least he could do something useful with what he got today! Can’t say the same for the Djoker though! What are you gonna do with the huge awkward cup thingy eh? Rafa 1 – Djoker 0, in the practical use of their respective trophies. Rafa wins:)

    I’ve seriously gotten over this loss. Like Alex said I shall view this in isolation to the other matches of the AO. Rafa played an outstanding tournament other than the final of course.

    It’s the headlines and news articles in the coming days that will be annoying. I wish I could avoid all that. Also, it’ll creep me out to see Djoker stand next to the wonderful Naomi Osaka. Sorry Naomi that Rafa couldn’t protect you this time:):)

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  9. That was painful. I was all geared up for a 5-set stress-out: I really didn’t expect that. I don’t think anyone could have beaten Nole today, but I’m sad that Rafa was obviously very nervy and not able to play his best.

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  10. Vamos had a terrible start where his serve was broken immediately after Djoker held serve in about I minute . The confidence game shifted immediately and Djoker took charge for the rest of the match . Rafa’s service game abandoned him from the outset and his return game was surprisingly not up to snuff . This was a humiliating and humbling defeat for Rafa and a big statement for Nole’s dominance on the hard court against Rafa .
    I would hope Rafa plays alot and has the dominant clay season he had last year . This would be Rafa’s revenge against Dvokovitch . Vamos Rafa !

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  11. I don’t think Rafa played well today at all. I couldn’t believe the number of short balls he was hitting to Djkovic. He just didn’t look competitive out there on court. But I do agree with him that he didn’t have hard enough matches leading up to this final. I also worry that Nole gets into Rafa’s head, that on some level Rafa doesn’t think he can beat him especially on hard courts and it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. I think he and his team are going to have a really different game plan to have a chance against Nole this season.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes. I think there is no excuse this time. He has two day off instead of one like 2017 against Federer.
      Pretty cakewalk route to the final as Federer crashed out early. But what he exhibited in the final was disapointing, very disappointing. I can’t believe Rafa could lose that fast. He was DESTROYED.

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  12. I admit its more likeable to nole wil win a double slam then rafa because rafa refuse to learn from his losses and refuse to admit that his strategy against nole is the wrong one he hasnt won a set from nole on hardcourt in six years that is really embarrasing

    I hope that carlos moya will take his responsibility as coach and unlike toni nadal refuses to surrender to the dominance of nole against rafa

    Carlos needs to analyze a the losses and find why his pupil keeps losing against nole. I give carlos credit for improving his serve

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    • Correct…he and Tony were in denial for many years to accept he needs drastic changes if he wants to beat Djokovic again. And it’s not upto hard court either….if Rafa continue with his inferiority complex toward Novak mindset…Djokovic will beat him up in Paris too…unfortunately

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    • Moya did try but it seems too late. You can change Rafa into a completely player at 30s. It’s impossible.
      Djokovic on the other hand just tries to be…himself. Flat backhand against Rafa’s cross-court forehand, returning aggressively, big serve. That was Djoker since 2011 when he was 24 .

      It’s late way too late mate! We won’t see Rafa wins Double Career Granslam.

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  13. Only I can sey is vamosssssssss Rafa we love ❤️ loosing or wining we are with you all the way you are a human have good day and bad day too .💪💪💪🎾🎾🎾😘😘😘❤️❤️❤️🇺🇸🇺🇸🌍🌍

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  14. What is wrong today that Rafa can’t push Djokovic like US Open 2013. That is the only way that you can beat Djokovic on hard court!
    Rafa did try to attack at the beginning but somehow his mental strength is nowhere to be found? He made many silly errors which costed him the first set. The second and the third was like a humiliation. Rafa stood far from baseline and gave Djoker the chance to wrack it up. That was suicidable!
    Carlos Moya needs to sharpen his serve and returning of serve. Rafa was struggling a lot when he was on serve.

    Overall, my heart is broken into piecces again.
    Goodbye Double Career Grandslam! It’s NEVER gonna happen. So sad..

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  15. Rafa, tu sabes que como una admiradora tuya, Novak jugó un super buen partido, Yo creo que debes cambiar un poco tu juego y no ir a mucho peloteo. Just go for the point. I am with you. and I am very sorry. Mucho ánimo.

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  16. Somehow I feel that apart from Novak Rafa was just too nervous to bring in all the changes. His serves were not at all like in the rest of the matches. With such a humiliating defeat i don’t think Rafa could say much else even though a bit of what he said is true. His previous matches were not hard enough for to prepare him for this final.

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  17. Congratulations to Rafa for reaching the final injury free. And he still earned a trophy.

    Rafa sure had me fooled though. Tomorrow I will have to pay my librarian, a Djokovic fan, for my losing bet. Not looking forward to that.

    Rafa said he needs more time. I am more than willing to give him as much time as he needs. I still believe he will win at least 2 slams in 2019.

    So glad he was sort of upbeat and not a grumpy loser. That says a lot. And without a doubt Team Rafa will fly back to Mallorca to deconstruct this final and answer the questions that are on everyone’s mind, “Why did Rafa lose this match?”

    Carlos hinted at a lighter schedule in 2019 for Rafa. We all love when he is in competition but if a lighter schedule keeps Rafa free of injury I am all for it.

    RAFA IS STILL THE ONE TO BEAT

    RAFA ROCKS

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    • Margo, as a die hard Rafa fan, I don’t believe this theory of not being prepared. Rafa has lost to many times to Djoker outside clay in the last 5 years… It’s clearly a pattern!

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  18. To me it is extremely sad to see how Rafa wasted a golden opportunity to be above all tennis players. How can a genius player fight during two weeks and not lose even a set and play a final without winning even a set? If that is not a mental defeat then what is it? Unless Rafa and his team do not address that mental deficiency Rafa will remain a wasted talent. It is even more annoying that instead of being autoritical, Rafa declares he is content with what he achieved. That is not humility, it is lack of self)respect.
    Sorry all Rafa co-fans much as for me he will always be “wamos Rafa you are the best” I do need to share my frustration.

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    • “How can a genius player fight during two weeks and not lose even a set and play a final without winning even a set?”

      Rafa explained this in his press conference. There’s a lot more that goes into a Finals performance than meets the eye. The reality is that he wasn’t ready. It doesn’t mean that his preparatory work was wasted. It’s all a process and he’s part-way through it. He’s a sportsman, not a magician.

      Remember that when Novak was coming back into form he suffered uncharacteristic losses from far less threatening players, and was really deflated about it. Novak’s not a magician, either. He’s just on an upswing right now. That’s tennis. There are so many variables, and one of them is timing. This final was too soon for Rafa; he would have done better with more preparation.

      Let’s not catastrophise!

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      • Welcome back Alex and thanks so much for your insightful words. Yes, I’m upset that Rafa lost and I understand what he is now telling us. I really thought he was ready. Carlos also said they are working on consistency.

        What the heck. I’m a Nadal fan and looking forward I do believe he will win at least two Slams this tennis season.

        RAFA ROCKS

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    • Totally agreed with you…that’s so painful for me. Such a great talent wasted numerous opportunity to become the greatest…because he didn’t accept and work on his mental block playing Djokovic…nothing will change if he doesn’t change his mindset

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  19. I watch his press conference. He is saying due to lack of defensive skills he lost today. I am very sorry but he is complety in denial and is making excuses

    Someone from his team should talk common sence to him and force to watch the final back. He got humiliated and destroyed by novak and i dont like saying this.

    If i was a reporter in that room i would have absoluty challenge him on that and if that makes him angry too bad.

    Nadal will never beat novak again or roger if he refuses to change tactic against them.

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    • Alex,

      The guy (Nadal) doesn;t care!

      He believes so much in his French Open records – What a shame!!!!!!!

      But where the hell is Margo, the world- renowned sooth sayer who said he saw a vision of Nadal lifting the trophy, eh? Where is Margo hiding?

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      • Hey Maria,

        Apologies, but I can’t engage properly with your comment, because I couldn’t really understand it. Sorry if English isn’t your first language :-/ Try again and I’ll see if I can understand what you’re trying to say 🙂

        Alex

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    • What have you achieved ? You sound arrogant . Rafa said that he was beaten by a better player to day . He told the truth . He didn’t make excuses .

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    • Mjus – my head agrees with you, but my heart can’t.

      The Wimbledon SF was bad enough, but this one, just cruel. I so hope you are wrong, tennis will be over for me otherwise.

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  20. I am encouraged by this press conference. Pragmatic, honest, realistic. He doesn’t seem devastated. It seems like he knows he wasn’t ready for this test, and is not surprised. The loss was a bad one, but he knows why. He has it in perspective. Interesting to hear him say Wimbledon hurt more; that was always my feeling too. Novak stole that from him. But tonight, Novak won fairly. He was ready, and Rafa was not. He gave us an interesting glimpse into the realities of sport; a lot of the work is done in the weeks leading up to a big match. That’s where the foundations are laid for the win. Rafa didn’t have time. Fair enough. Give the guy the credit he deserves, because the main thing is that he now has evidence that this adjusted game brings him huge benefits. This was only his first tournament of the year, and he smashed it!

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  21. Yes. Novak certainly did play a major part in Rafa’s defeat today, despite Rafa saying that he wasn’t more nervous than usual. However, he did acknowledge that the way Novak played prevented him from executing his game. i’m happy to see that he was philosophical, upbeat and positive in the press interview. Rafa has a dilemma because he said he needed to have more match practice leading up to the AO, but he’s also prone to injuries and can’t push his body too hard. He was a step slow today, but he seems to think that going toe to toe with Novak in a defensive running game would have given him a better chance and I disagree. That’s dangerous talk because we all know that Novak is the best defender in tennis.

    The fact that Rafa had an easy passage through the tornament’ up until the final, plus the extra day off, didn’t do him any favours as he wasn’t battled hardened enough to face Novak. One thing’s for sure is that Rafa will work hard to final solutions to beat Novak, but time will be the limiting factor.

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    • Heya Lorna,

      “Rafa has a dilemma because he said he needed to have more match practice leading up to the AO, but he’s also prone to injuries and can’t push his body too hard.”
      Yes and I’m feeling positive because this new aspect of his game means he can keep up the consistent practice without having to push his body too hard. He can play consistently, without having to overplay. I think that’s what he’s talking about here: consistent challenges.

      “he seems to think that going toe to toe with Novak in a defensive running game would have given him a better chance”
      I interpreted that as meaning he needed honed defensive skills *as well* as his new more explosive offence. And that unless he can pressure Novak’s play, he can’t make him wobble or find the chinks. It made sense to me.

      Hope you’re feeling okay :-/

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  22. Can’t believe that in the last 7 hard court matches against Novak Rafa hasn’t won even 1 set. That alone should be/ have been a wake up call.
    Somehow Rafa doesn’t think he played badly – just not good enough.

    Also in an article – Rafa played with his changed game all throughout the open but in the last match he brought in his clay court game. Why why why????

    Sorry guys just so gutted and deviated.

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  23. Novak broke him mentally years ago. Rafa needs to find solutions or he will never beat him again. Sad but true. Always with you. Vamos Rafa ❤

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    • Absolutely true. My thoughts too. He get mental block playing Novak and it’s nothing to do with…he was not ready this time..Come on…He beat you up constantly for years. Wake up,Rafa…change starts with acceptance of the problem and you are not there yet. Love you, but I am very disappointed

      Like

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