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Nadal: Is The End Nigh?

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Nadal: Is The End Nigh?

Post by ... on Tue Apr 29, 2014 10:42 am

Like him or not, we can all agree something is going on with The King of Clay.
Nadal has started losing matches he never used to.
On his beloved clay.
In his beloved Spain.
From his  beloved traditionally rolling out fellow Spaniards.

So what is happening with Rafael Nadal?

Some here think he has messed up and overused his cycling pattern.
Some think it's the lack of confidence.
Some think the rest of the field has closed the fitness gap and able to challenge Nadal with their tennis now.
His only departed fan from here thought he was done as he burnt out...

There is probably a some truth in all these reasons.

But how about "the champion's fatigue" as a possible cause of all this unexpected wobbliness from the once fiercely competitive Rafito?

An interesting read from P. Bodo:

"Everyone blinks. It’s a fact of life. The average person blinks 15 times a minute. But a tennis champion of the caliber of Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal can only blink half-a-dozen times in a career before critics and pundits begin to question the superiority that once made them giants among men—or at least men in short pants.

This is the boat Nadal finds himself in following his losses in back-to-back clay-court tournaments. The question “What’s wrong with Rafa?” first popped up in Miami after his desultory performance against Novak Djokovic. It picked up steam and a new urgency when he lost to countryman David Ferrer in Monte Carlo a little over a week ago. And now the question is broached even in better company, and at a higher pitch, because Nadal lost in Barcelona, a tournament he had won eight consecutive times, to Nicolas Almagro, a player he had never lost to in 10 career matches.

What’s wrong with Rafa is that he blinked. This was something that, while inevitable, isn’t predictable. You never know when it will happen in the back half of a champion’s career, though if you paid close attention during the two U.S. hard-court events (Miami, in particular) you were better prepared than some for this moment.

Nadal, who previously never met a break point he didn’t love or a set point that didn’t jump on, whether on defense or on the offensive, blinked. In Monte Carlo, Ferrer and Nadal each had 10 break points. Ferrer punched through to break four times; Nadal did so on just three chances.

In Barcelona, Nadal was able to capitalize on just five of a whopping 18 break points, providing Almagro with 13 hero moments. Meanwhile, Nadal was able to fend off just three of the seven break points Almagro accumulated. In situations where Nadal is expected to come up big, he came up small. He blinked.

More telling, perhaps, has been Nadal’s body language. Time was, one of the stock images of Nadal at a critical juncture had him receiving serve with his legs spread wide, leaning into the court and swaying slightly, chin nearly touching the ground and beads of perspiration trickling from his stringy hair to explode like crystals on the court.

Now, at some critical moments, Nadal is the slump-shouldered guy shuffling from one side of the court to the other after a blown chance, head hung to reveal a developing bald spot. If he looks up, it isn’t to meet the gaze of his opponent but to cast a fleeting glance of doubt toward his crew up in the player guest box.

Every great player goes through something like what Nadal is presently experiencing. As Steve Tignor wrote in his Racquet Reaction on the Nadal-Almagro match, Rafa may be going through the beginning stages of something like what Federer endured in 2010. Like Federer, Nadal set the bar awfully high for himself, back in what once seemed an endless succession of unblinking days. But things have changed, as they must. As they will.

There’s no doubt that at age 27, and with 13 Grand Slam titles under his belt, the timing of this tremor in Nadal’s confidence is—what’s the right word?—understandable.

Nadal has been awfully good for an awfully long time, and thus he’s subject to something that the Stanislas Wawrinkas and even Andy Murrays of this world may never know. Something I’ve always called “champion’s fatigue.”
If you’re familiar with the concept of “metal fatigue,” you’ll know what I mean. Bend a piece of metal often enough and at some point it grows weak and breaks. And that’s what happens to the focus of the greatest of champions. Their focus fails at unexpected times, much like a piece of metal that finally snaps after so much stress.

This isn’t a matter of technique or strategy. I don’t believe Nadal’s game has changed one iota, and it certainly hasn’t declined—how could it, in so short a period of time? What’s happened, it seems, is that at those moments when Nadal used to lift his game in a way that few players can, he’s been unable to rise with consistency above what might be called the norm.

It includes moments such as when Almagro served for the upset at 5-4 in the third. Nadal had an easy forehand putaway that would have converted a break point, but the ball smacked the tape and fell on his own side. Unforced error. Almagro goes on to hold for the win.

Champion’s fatigue is a little different from choking, or a simple loss of confidence. Winning and losing on the pro tour are learned experiences, and it’s no easier there as anywhere else to forget what you’ve absorbed.

I don’t believe Nadal was waiting to receive Almagro’s serve, thinking: Oh gosh, what if he beats me for the first time in 11 matches? What would Uncle Toni think? What would Barcelona think? It wasn’t so much a case of something holding Nadal back as a case of nothing pushing him forward. In some ways, it comes down to something really simple: How many times does a champion feel the need or desire to prove himself, and how long before each time no longer feels like the first time?

It’s as if a player as successful as Nadal ultimately comes up against a wall, a breaking point. He can’t keep doing what he’s been doing, because even excellence reaches a point of diminishing returns. There are stirrings of rebellion in the spirit: Tell me again, why exactly do I need to keep doing this?

And, because a champion is above all such a self-interested creature, this fatigue also has a useful function. A break in unrelenting excellence serves to shake things up. It reminds people not to take things for granted. It takes a story that has come to a dead end and gives it a twist that opens up an entirely new narrative.

The story of Nadal’s excellence suddenly becomes the story of Nadal’s frailty, and if he’s truly a champion it will just as surely morph into a tale of newfound strength and a glorious resurgence. All sports stories are ultimately clichés, and none as mortifyingly so as that of a champion who gets up off the mat to dust himself off and go on to win the fight.

Nadal will get up off that mat.

Also, keep in mind that Nadal has to make things interesting for himself, as well as for us. And there’s nothing like a bloody nose to ratchet up your fighting spirit.

Well, we’re getting a step or three ahead of ourselves here. For all I know, Nadal will rip through the fields at Madrid, Rome, and Paris, and all will be well again in Rafaland.

Maybe he’s already at that point. If you doubt that these recent losses are sufficiently painful to effect a transformation somewhere in Nadal’s psyche, keep in mind that to the Spanish, Barcelona is an event of enormous importance and prestige. If it weren’t, Nadal might not have put it on his schedule so consistently, nor and performed so impeccable (eight titles in 10 tries) on its storied clay courts.

This helps explain why Almagro went ballistic with joy after beating Nadal; Paris is the only place on earth where taking down Rafa is a more impressive, resonant feat. Nadal is as aware of that as anyone, which is why he’s likely to get over his bout of champion’s fatigue. The great ones always do, and that usually means hell amongst the yearlings."



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Re: Nadal: Is The End Nigh?

Post by Tenez on Tue Apr 29, 2014 11:10 am

I don’t believe Nadal’s game has changed one iota, and it certainly hasn’t declined—

Completely agree to that. The difference is those BPs...but whether it is simply mental fatigue or bad luck, it was bound to happen sooner or later. Nadal kept saving so many BPs in past years I always thought he was the luckiest guy on earth.

I do think the opposition is getting better at handling those high spiny shots. And I doubt he will win the 3 remaining clay titles if Djoko is fit but of course Djoko might lose before getting there.

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Re: Nadal: Is The End Nigh?

Post by ... on Tue Apr 29, 2014 11:34 am

I also think both his game and fitness are unchanged.

The first time I noticed BP oddity was when Stan served for the first set in AO.
I think Nadal was 00:40 up and managed to blow all three, I couldn't believe it....

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Re: Nadal: Is The End Nigh?

Post by ... on Tue Apr 29, 2014 12:14 pm

Tenez wrote:

Completely agree to that. The difference is those BPs...but whether it is simply mental fatigue or bad luck, it was bound to happen sooner or later. Nadal kept saving so many BPs in past years I always thought he was the luckiest guy on earth.
.

I came across this clip recently, it sums up what a lot of people have felt over the years.
At one stage I remember seriously thinking he was into occult stuff...


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Re: Nadal: Is The End Nigh?

Post by truffin1 on Tue Apr 29, 2014 4:58 pm

Well written article that could be applied to any champion in any sport.

It all ties in together- just a big combination of things.. What Bodo talks about then dents the confidence which then the other players see and become emboldened. The top of the mountain is a house of cards, as each little card falls, the rest starts to crumble.

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Re: Nadal: Is The End Nigh?

Post by Daniel on Tue Apr 29, 2014 6:33 pm

Yes, it is. He is entering decline years, and as predicted, he does not have the ability to compensate for physical degradation. He has 2 years left at most.

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Re: Nadal: Is The End Nigh?

Post by ... on Tue Apr 29, 2014 6:40 pm

FedererKing wrote:Yes, it is.  He is entering decline years, and as predicted, he does not have the ability to compensate for physical degradation.  He has 2 years left at most.

That reminded me of an old thread, looks quite relevant again!

http://www.606v2.com/t18165-who-will-retire-first-federer-or-nadal

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Re: Nadal: Is The End Nigh?

Post by ... on Tue Apr 29, 2014 6:44 pm

truffin1 wrote:Well written article that could be applied to any champion in any sport.

It all ties in together- just a big combination of things.. What Bodo talks about then dents the confidence which then the other players see and become emboldened. The top of the mountain is a house of cards, as each little card falls, the rest starts to crumble.

At 28, and no serious career threatening injury, Nadal is too young to start declining.
I can understand him losing finals to Djokovic, but QFs at masters 500 events on clay is a bit sudden.
Decline is usually gradual and hardly perceptible in a player's game, with Nadal, he looks like half the man he used to be. Without his trademark competitiveness, his game is becoming toothless. The power is there, but the spirit looks broken.  Opposite from Federer.
Would be interesting to know what kind of conversation goes on between Toni and him. Toni probably telling him to keep trying his best, Nadal just sick at the thought of it.
I don't think his ego would be able to bear no titles on clay this year (that Mickey Mouse one in SA doesn't count).
His press conference post Almagro match was quite telling.

Can't wait to see what happens in Madrid!

Any news on whether Federer is playing it or not?

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Re: Nadal: Is The End Nigh?

Post by truffin1 on Tue Apr 29, 2014 9:04 pm

I'm glad he mentions the bald spot in the artcle.. amazing how rapidly the thinning accelerated after his amazing year last year.... there's those side effects for not properly cylicng down...  smh.

There is literly zero word out of the Federer camp right now.  My guess is the baby,babies have been born and they are waiting for some private time to pass before announcing.  I believe it was a week or so after the twins were born that anyone knew about it.. Money can buy privacy.

At least I hope they have...  he's running into the part of the schedule through Wimbledon where from a tennis standpoint- you hate for him to miss out.

I would hope he plays no matter what..  dads all over the world celebrate the birth of a child, then go back to work.  Of course, his decision and certainly shouldn't miss the birth- but some of these thoughts out there that an athlete is a "bad husband and father" if they don't take time off after the birth is silly.

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Re: Nadal: Is The End Nigh?

Post by laverfan on Tue Apr 29, 2014 10:52 pm

noleisthebest wrote:At 28, and no serious career threatening injury, Nadal is too young to start declining.

2005 – Captured a teenage record 11 titles, including his first Grand Slam crown and four ATP Masters Series shields...His titles won mark broke Mats Wilander's previous teenage record of nine in 1983

Started young, will end career earlier than others. Not very surprising, is it?

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Re: Nadal: Is The End Nigh?

Post by bluenose on Wed Apr 30, 2014 12:36 am

Wow, it seems this forum is mired in the 19th century!  Is there any youngish man out there who would care to share with us how he would explain to the mother of his child that the day after the child's birth he needs to return to the "Real World"?

The hormonal havoc of plastics and the birth control revolution irrevocably changed human reproductive strategies and patterns in the 1970's.  And the psycho-social worm has turned as well - mothers used to get the blame for everything, now it's fathers.  Fathers who don't engage, bond, respect and participate.

Not to mention that fathers are now celebrated for being loving and nurturing parents.  Times have changed, expectations have changed.  Doesn't anyone remember Gilles Simon tanking his US Open to get back for his child's birth?  It's not about how the women see men but about how they see themselves in the decades we'll never see.

Plus Roger was very open about Mirka having given over so much to his career and her turn would come.  He recognizes that she created the luxury brand, and he has achieved so much in tennis because she grounds him.  She probably has made them more money from recognizing the commercial potential in the spotty gawky pony-tailed tennis nut and turning him into the epitome of elegance than he has made from tennis itself.  They are a great partnership.

I've been away at my son's wedding (not one nitb would approve of, but Barack and Michelle sent a lovely letter) so I've missed all the drama of the start of the clay season.  Is it not likely that Federer has set his sights on the Davis Cup and sees a primary goal of boosting Stan?  It was such a dodgy quarterfinal, maybe he wants to pep up Stan?

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Re: Nadal: Is The End Nigh?

Post by ... on Wed Apr 30, 2014 11:33 am

laverfan wrote:
noleisthebest wrote:At 28, and no serious career threatening injury, Nadal is too young to start declining.
2005 – Captured a teenage record 11 titles, including his first Grand Slam crown and four ATP Masters Series shields...His titles won mark broke Mats Wilander's previous teenage record of nine in 1983

Started young, will end career earlier than others. Not very surprising, is it?
I have just checked: Nole turned pro at the same age as Nadal:

"In April 2002, at 15 years and 10 months, the world No. 762 Nadal won his first ATP match, defeating Ramón Delgado, and became the ninth player in the Open Era to do so before the age of 16. The following year, Nadal won two Challenger titles and finished the year in the top 50. At his Wimbledon debut in 2003, Nadal became the youngest man to reach the third round since Boris Becker in 1984."


"Djokovic became a professional in 2003. At the beginning of his professional career, he mainly played in Futures and Challenger tournaments, winning three of each type from 2003 to 2005. His first tour-level tournament was Umag in 2004, where he lost to Filippo Volandri in the round of 32."

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Re: Nadal: Is The End Nigh?

Post by ... on Wed Apr 30, 2014 1:01 pm

Apparently, potential explanation for Nadal's recent lack of success is that

1) he had a row with Toni after his loss in MC to which he replied that their relationship is fine and that thet are getting ready to conquer Roland Garros).
2) he split up with his long-term girlfriend, which he refused to comment on.

Has Radek gone international? Yikes 

http://www.kurir-info.rs/strogo-cuvana-tajna-nadal-se-posvadao-sa-stricem-i-devojkom-clanak-1345643

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Re: Nadal: Is The End Nigh?

Post by Tenez on Wed Apr 30, 2014 1:08 pm

Stepanek charm knows no boundary. Rafa's girlfriend next!

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Re: Nadal: Is The End Nigh?

Post by ... on Wed Apr 30, 2014 1:21 pm

Tenez wrote:Stepanek charm knows no boundary. Rafa's girlfriend next!

He did look like Rafa when he was young Winking




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Re: Nadal: Is The End Nigh?

Post by laverfan on Wed Apr 30, 2014 11:29 pm

noleisthebest wrote:I have just checked: Nole turned pro at the same age as Nadal

At least he [Djokovic] is still going strong, unlike the much-prophesied imminent demise of Nadal's Tennis career. Winking

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Re: Nadal: Is The End Nigh?

Post by Tenez on Thu May 01, 2014 9:46 am

I think Nadal is just tired of hitting the same ball without any creativity. It gets at you after a while, like he did to Borg, Wilander and Chang.
 
If the sport is not approached like a game and an art it can quickly become boring.


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Re: Nadal: Is The End Nigh?

Post by ... on Thu May 01, 2014 10:15 am

Very true.
It could also be the added frustration of wanting to play better/properly but not being able to.
He may have just hit the brick wall of understanding the need for talent more than ever now that after the years of hard grind and punishing the body (and mind).
Still, should be happy with what he has achieved. Over-achived.

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Re: Nadal: Is The End Nigh?

Post by Tenez on Thu May 01, 2014 11:22 am

Yes the main change we are aware of is trying to play closer to the baseline though this is not a choice but a must, yet it does not change anything else and the added weight on the racquet which once again does not change anything for him.

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Re: Nadal: Is The End Nigh?

Post by ... on Thu May 01, 2014 1:10 pm

I actually saw him hit a really good CC FH from the base-line during Barcelona, forgot who he was playing. Of course, it had plenty of topspin, but the trajectory was a lot lower than his standard moonball.
As expected, it was a safe shot, and he looked so scared hitting it, running back to his comfort 4m behind the baseline zone immediately after it.
It was such an unusual and strange sight.

I really can't imagine Nadal actually playing on the base-line. Same as I can't imagine Fed moonballing from 4m behind it.

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Re: Nadal: Is The End Nigh?

Post by Tenez on Thu May 01, 2014 2:37 pm

noleisthebest wrote:I actually saw him hit a really good CC FH from the base-line during Barcelona, forgot who he was playing. Of course, it had plenty of topspin, but the trajectory was a lot lower than his standard moonball.
As expected, it was a safe shot, and he looked so scared hitting it, running back to his comfort 4m behind the baseline zone immediately after it.
It was such an unusual and strange sight.

I really can't imagine Nadal actually playing on the base-line. Same as I can't imagine Fed moonballing from 4m behind it.
He does sometimes but it really looks weird.

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Re: Nadal: Is The End Nigh?

Post by ... on Thu May 01, 2014 3:18 pm

The lasso FH?
Yes, I saw him do it twice, it was weird indeed, and funnily I think those were defensive shots...
Murray is the one to watch. He has been trying to do it "properly".
It didn't look weird, just plain ugly.

He too doesn't seem to know what to do with all that muscle mass any more these days.

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Re: Nadal: Is The End Nigh?

Post by Tenez on Thu May 01, 2014 4:27 pm

They all do (spin) to break the rhythm. You know I have always said that Djoko has some of the most loopyangled shots. He uses his wrist a lot. you recognise those because the forearm makes a sharp angle with the racquet on impact.

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Re: Nadal: Is The End Nigh?

Post by ... on Thu May 01, 2014 4:47 pm

Yes, he does use wrist on his rallying FH. It's not a clean strike.
I saw it well in Boodles last year.
Very unique motion, in fact: snappy, twisty movement, unusual "badminton" sound, but generates surprising pace.
I must admit, not very entertaining to watch. I'd love him to eradicate that part of his game, those first few shots he opens his rallies with.  I have no idea why he does it, I suppose to secure the length of a few safe ones before releasing flatter CC.
But I suppose that's his strength, the deep balls with which he can control most of players and keep them on the back foot.
I didn't notice the loop much at all, I think that becomes exaggerated on TV.
Dimi's FH had similar trajectory, more bite, though.

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Re: Nadal: Is The End Nigh?

Post by summerblues on Fri May 02, 2014 5:28 am

It must be the whirlpool thing with Rafa.

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