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Slow boat to China .......

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Post by lags72 Tue 06 Oct 2015, 4:36 pm

First topic message reminder :

I see that a return to the competitive scene by both Djokovic and Nadal is not quite enough to wake 606 regulars from their state of forum hibernation. Maybe we will have to wait for Murray and/or OAP Federer for that to happen ...... chin

Meanwhile in Beijing itself, Rafa has been talking pre-tournament of his motivation to qualify for London, and his (understandable) fondness for this week's venue in the context of memories of Olympics success. And asked about his prospects for this current event, his response had a rather familiar ring to it when he described the field as "Very, very tough. From the 1st round, all the matches are tough"

Hmm. So I thought I'd check out who exactly Rafa's 'tough' first round opponent might be. It was apparently none other than the battle-hardened Di Wu. (yes, him !). Ranked 230 (although he did make 161 a coupe of years ago) and his best win this year to date was, I believe, over a 207-ranked Aussie at a Challenger event in An-Ning, China.

I didn't see the clash, so can't say just how 'tough' it was for Rafa. BUT .... Di Wu did seemingly acquit himself well in taking eight games off Rafa - so perhaps he was right to be wary ?! And eight games is, after all, six more than Bolelli managed against Novak.

We live in exciting times !

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Post by bogbrush Sun 11 Oct 2015, 2:57 pm

CaledonianCraig wrote:I'd say that was a morale boosting tournament for Rafa - a sort of base to build on for the rest of the season. Novak rumbles on unruffled in the meantime and is untouchable at present.
Really? Beating...... Jack Sock and Foggy (who hardly wins anything off clay) and getting hammered by Djokovic.

The game now ever more tenuously hanging on than ever. It wouldn't be so bad if Djojovic was a high risk player but he's completely dominating by playing great highly efficient tennis. Not his fault for sure, he needs a young rival.
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Post by kingraf Sun 11 Oct 2015, 3:15 pm

Thought it was an okayish performance from Rafa, made to look better by the shimmering shower of sh.it he's served up at times this year. Still Thought the first set was reasonably close. Think he had BPs at 2-3, and game points at 2*-4? Unfortunately it's been symptomatic of his year that he then proceeded to lose both games and get duffed up.
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Post by lags72 Sun 11 Oct 2015, 3:25 pm

Well he made a HC final for the first time this season at 500 or above level.

So, progress of sorts and perhaps something of a morale-booster ..... on the other hand not a whole lot to get excited about I guess.

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Post by Belovedluckyboy Sun 11 Oct 2015, 3:27 pm

Good match by Rafa. He fought hard and gave Novak a run for his money in set one. In set two he didnt make any changes but continued with his baseline rallying, not a winning formula against Novak; should move forward when things not working from the baseline. Hes not going to win so why not try something different and make it a bit more unpredictable? At least try out some new tricks and see how Novak handles them.

Rafa lacked precision in his shots, had some of them landed in, the match might be more competitive in its entirety. The way hes playing right now, clearly he has made some improvement so lets see how he handles the tough draw of Shsnghai.

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Post by CaledonianCraig Sun 11 Oct 2015, 3:28 pm

bogbrush wrote:
CaledonianCraig wrote:I'd say that was a morale boosting tournament for Rafa - a sort of base to build on for the rest of the season. Novak rumbles on unruffled in the meantime and is untouchable at present.
Really? Beating...... Jack Sock and Foggy (who hardly wins anything off clay) and getting hammered by Djokovic.

The game now ever more tenuously hanging on than ever. It wouldn't be so bad if Djojovic was a high risk player but he's completely dominating by playing great highly efficient tennis. Not his fault for sure, he needs a young rival.

A final appearance in an ATP500 event is a step up on much of what he has achieved this season. He strung some wins together and that can only help. Small steps and all that....
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Post by lags72 Sun 11 Oct 2015, 4:05 pm

bogbrush wrote:

.......................................................


It wouldn't be so bad if Djojovic was a high risk player but he's completely dominating by playing great highly efficient tennis. Not his fault for sure, he needs a young rival.

The sport of men's tennis needs a young rival (or, ideally, rivals) to Djokovic.

But Novak (and his ever-expanding bank accounts) are doing just fine !

Fixed that for you Wink

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Post by HM Murdock Sun 11 Oct 2015, 6:02 pm

bogbrush wrote:The game now ever more tenuously hanging on than ever. It wouldn't be so bad if Djokovic was a high risk player but he's completely dominating by playing great highly efficient tennis. Not his fault for sure, he needs a young rival.
In an ideal world, Novak would be the catalyst for something different.

His dominance at baseline rallying should be forcing players to find other ways to attack.

Sadly, the only player consistently competent at doing so is 34.

Respect to Novak for so thoroughly mastering an aspect of the game. Shame on most of the rest for not responding to this.

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Post by HM Murdock Sun 11 Oct 2015, 6:13 pm

Further to my mini-moan above: which baseliner in the last couple of years appears to have worked hardest at moving beyond his comfort zone and improving his skills in the forecourt?

Djokovic himself.

If only others would show the same ambition.

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Post by Guest Sun 11 Oct 2015, 6:54 pm

Rafa Nadal doesn't need defending.  His record speaks for itself.  But he is not the same player he was five years ago.  He is ranked 8th in the world and that is about right.  His dominance on clay was the last part of his game to go.  He was so far ahead of everybody on clay that it was only this year that his game has fallen to a level that others are able to beat him on the clay.  His drop off was first noticeable on the grass, then the fast hard courts, then moderate paced hard courts, then slow hard courts and finally the clay.  He is still having ups and downs which go with his fitness and physical condition of his joints but his average level has been in decline for about five years.

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Post by LuvSports! Sun 11 Oct 2015, 7:01 pm

He started declining at 24? Nonsense.

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Post by Belovedluckyboy Sun 11 Oct 2015, 7:08 pm

I guess he means Rafa peak at 24 and then gradually moves downwards these past five years.

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Post by LuvSports! Sun 11 Oct 2015, 7:40 pm

Peak and when you are most successful can be different things.
Rafa's 2013 hard court run was something rafa '10 didn't do.

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Post by summerblues Sun 11 Oct 2015, 7:47 pm

Rafa had an excellent 2013 HC summer, but I would also agree that the overall most impressive tennis from him was 2008-2010, and it has been somewhat downhill since then. Sure, it is downhill with some peaks and valleys but overall it has been downhill. 2013 results notwithstanding.

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Post by It Must Be Love Sun 11 Oct 2015, 8:21 pm

summerblues wrote:Rafa had an excellent 2013 HC summer, but I would also agree that the overall most impressive tennis from him was 2008-2010, and it has been somewhat downhill since then.  Sure, it is downhill with some peaks and valleys but overall it has been downhill.  2013 results notwithstanding.
He played quite well in 2011 and first half of 2012 too SB.

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Post by It Must Be Love Sun 11 Oct 2015, 8:24 pm

Nadal played ok today; really lacked confidence in the big points. Djokovic was simply 2 levels up, and very solid with great depth.
Both Nadal fans and Nadal haters, I would not write him off totally just yet. I believe he can improve with some more confidence from his current level, but he obviously won't reach the level of his peak years.

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Post by socal1976 Sun 11 Oct 2015, 9:19 pm

To me this is a scary harbinger for the rest of the top guys. I mean nadal played about as well as he has at any point in the last 18 months or so and he was very easily handled. If Novak maintains this current form he could very easily pull a repeat of 2011 or 2015 next year. The problem for Nadal is that his forehand and that spin is not getting the kind of impact it used to on his opponents, more and more players are able to handle it. Novak is really playing well and of a top guy just playing a blinder and Novak being a bit off himself he can't lose. His baseline level is higher than the top gear of almost everyone else with the exception of Stan let's say when he is firing. To beat him you got to play your A game while he can still cruise to wins.

I don't know if it is fair this criticism that he just plays safe tennis and makes his opponents make errors. He is hitting a lot of winners and using variety in his attack. But at the same time he knows the value of maintaining constant pressure on his opponents by using his legs and making it hard for them to get easy points. It is a very well rounded and balanced approach where he doesn't just rely on his attack game or his defensive qualities, he can beat you with both. And I think it is the fact that he can play both styles very well that allows him the consistency of results on all surfaces and all types of opponents.

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Post by Belovedluckyboy Sun 11 Oct 2015, 9:50 pm

Rafa's FH is not the same anymore, not because his opponents could handle his spins but rather because he lacks precision and power these days. A few of them landing in and we would have a more competitive match; the difference was Novak had a few which barely touched the lines whilst Rafa had a few which barely went over the lines.

Novak now is like Fed in 2006, looks unbeatable but still has to fight hard at times, like at MC final, AO final, and also some where he outlast his opponents to win.

PS. Beating Rafa is not a good gauge of his level for Rafa is no longer the same player he used to be.

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Post by paulcz Sun 11 Oct 2015, 9:55 pm

socal1976 wrote:To me this is a scary harbinger for the rest of the top guys. I mean nadal  played about as well as he has at any point in the last 18 months or so and he was very easily handled. If Novak maintains this current form he could very easily pull a repeat of 2011 or 2015 next year. The problem for Nadal is that his forehand and that spin is not getting the kind of impact it used to on his opponents, more and more players are able to handle it. Novak is really playing well and of a top guy just playing a blinder and Novak being a bit off himself he can't lose. His baseline level is higher than the top gear of almost everyone else with the exception of Stan let's say when he is firing. To beat him you got to play your A game while he can still cruise to wins.

I don't know if it is fair this criticism that he just plays safe tennis and makes his opponents make errors. He is hitting a lot of winners and using variety in his attack. But at the same time he knows the value of maintaining constant pressure on his opponents by using his legs and making it hard for them to get easy points. It is a very well rounded and balanced approach where he doesn't just rely on his attack game or his defensive qualities, he can beat you with both. And I think it is the fact that he can play both styles very well that allows him the consistency of results on all surfaces and all types of opponents.

Well said. Novak is a reall allrounder, so he can choose what a game to play against his opponents. An exception is playing on really fast courts against big servers. He seems to have that he can adjust his game to everything possible, that can happen on the court.
What I appreciate, that he still try new things as a net transition, volleying, smashes, serving, basic hitting, just every single hit is going to be improved by him. Amazing job from him and his team.

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Post by laverfan Sun 11 Oct 2015, 10:37 pm

There is no young guy who can do this to Djokovic.



The older players could, but they are getting old and fading and cannot do this in every final. Murray can, but he is AWOL. Wawrinka, on a good day, on Clay can be Soderling v2.0.

It is good to see Djokovic add to his trophy cabinet. clap

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Post by Guest Sun 11 Oct 2015, 11:33 pm

Juan Martín del Potro peaked aged 20 in the year 2009. In early 2010 he suffered a right wrist injury and was never quite the same again, although he did make it back into the top ten in 2012 - 2013. But he had a left wrist injury early 2014 and hasn't yet recovered from it.

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Post by socal1976 Sun 11 Oct 2015, 11:35 pm

Yes, paulcz we have to acknowledge his ability not only to run and defend but to make the other guy spend his time running and defending. In both Wimbledon and USO we saw how in those finals even Fed had to run more than Novak. That is because of the quality Novak's ball striking and his ability to change direction. Well nadal did better than Berdych last year who lost in the final 1 and 2.

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Post by Belovedluckyboy Mon 12 Oct 2015, 1:18 am

^Sounded like the younger Rafa of 2008-2010, who made Fed (and others) ran and defend, sometimes even more than Rafa (eg AO2009 final and Wim 2008 final). Those were the glorious days of Rafa! Novak not the first player who made his opponents run and defend.

Berdych was beaten 6-0 and 6-2 last year and Berdych wasn't in a slump last year, unlike Rafa this year. Novak has been beating Rafa in straight sets in BO3 HC matches since their second such meetings on the HCs way back in 2007. There were only two exceptions where Novak needed to go the distance, i.e. iW/Miami in 2011, so Rafa getting beaten in straight sets is not surprising in a season like this for him and for Novak.

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Post by bogbrush Mon 12 Oct 2015, 7:56 am

I can't see where Nadal gets a set from Djokovic again. It's not that he's so awful, but that his game plan is so inappropriate since the ability to rally long with power has diminished. He can still win matches where keeping it long can pay off but it doesn't against Djokovic - the only way to beat him is to attack.

When he turned it around in 2013 it was with power hitting. That facility just doesn't exist any more, the ball doesn't have sufficient zip or kick and the errors spray amidst a few winners when he presses. It's nasty to watch because it looks like he fully realises he's on a hiding to nothing.
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Post by Guest Mon 12 Oct 2015, 8:25 am

Watching yesterday, I know many including myself clung to the idea that confidence would kickstart his game and he will start firing on all cylinders again. Watching yesterday, I have re-thought that how notion.

If the power is something that is going to be missing from Nadal's game going forward, what is he going to do to fill that shortfall?? He needs an extra dimension and many who foresaw the struggles if the base of his game evaporated, are certainly rubbing their hands knowing that prediction so far seems proven. That's what makes it tragic viewing at the moment.

If Nadal is to evolve his game, I think Toni needs to step aside and I know that can't be an easy decision for Rafa to make. What is clear to me is Rafa needs new input and where and who that comes from is anyone's guess.

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Post by bogbrush Mon 12 Oct 2015, 8:41 am

Nobody can replace the one of the bases of their game. Think Federer without disguise on the serve; Djokovic without reach; Murray without the 2nd serve (sorry, couldn't resist!) or passing shots.

Nadal either has no choice but to regain the power. But what took it away?
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Post by Belovedluckyboy Mon 12 Oct 2015, 10:26 am

What took his power away? His back issue. Rafa has another dimension to his game, that of moving forward into the fore court and makes use of his deft touches at the net. He just needs to make it a point to do that more often instead of ocasionally. Im surprised he didnt do that in this match in set two, but preferred to stay at the baseline all day. Perhaps he's testing his baseline game vs Novak's and see how much difference there was.

Hes capable of sneaking to the net as often as possible, as evident in his match vs Ferrer on clay at Rome 2013 for example. Its a matter of willingness to do so when he comes to terms with the fact that his baseline game is no longer that effective vs certain players.

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Post by Belovedluckyboy Mon 12 Oct 2015, 10:38 am

Also, hes slowly regaining his power as he hit some of his shots with depth and power. Whats missing is his precision.

Rafa since passing his peak form of 2008-2011, was already hitting short balls in his matches so thats nothing new; which was why Novak mentioned that he just wait for Rafa's short balls and capitalized.

I dont see the doom and gloom, in fact Rafa had already shown some improvements in this match, its vs a formidable Novak of 2015! In 2013 to early 2014 when Rafa was a better player than now, he still lost in straight sets to Novak on the HCs with scores like 6-4, 6-4 or 6-2, 6-3, so nothing changes there on the HCs

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Post by HM Murdock Mon 12 Oct 2015, 10:52 am

Belovedluckyboy wrote:Hes capable of sneaking to the net as often as possible, as evident in his match vs Ferrer on clay at Rome 2013 for example.  Its a matter of willingness to do so when he comes to terms with the fact that his baseline game is no longer that effective vs certain players.
It's more a matter of the net being 15 metres away, and therefore hard to sneak into.

Rafa always speaks of moving forward even as far as the baseline as an "adjustment". There is no way he starts coming to the net regularly.

Nothing to do with not having skills (I think his hands are pretty good) but we can't expect him to suddenly think and play like a net-rusher.

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Post by Belovedluckyboy Mon 12 Oct 2015, 11:41 am

You see, if he could do that during 2013, he could do that now. It's a matter of coming to terms with reality, that his baseline game couldn't harm some players so he needs to change things up. You're talking as if he's unwilling to change, then why he changed during 2013?? It's a matter of feeling confident to do so or not; right now he's not but no guarantee that he won't feel confident enough to do so in future.

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Post by HM Murdock Mon 12 Oct 2015, 12:50 pm

But in 2013, he was on the baseline, not coming into the net.

And even then, it was still a game built on power - he was absolutely hammering his FHDTL during that North American HC stretch.

Without that power, that shot becomes less potent. Not just in terms of velocity but in terms of the the topspin dropping the ball right on the line.

If the power is gone (which remains to be seen), I don't think he can re-invent his game. I don't really think any player can re-invent their game at the end of their career.

(For the record, I don't consider Federer to have re-invented his game. What he has done is return to his roots.)

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Post by Belovedluckyboy Mon 12 Oct 2015, 1:31 pm

No, watch his match vs Ferrer at Rome that year and you'll realize how well and how willing he was moving to the net, on his own accord. His matches vs Novak were always that of hard hitting, not so much varieties to be honest. Rafa vs Murray has got more varieties IMO and Fedal have wonderful shot making. I don't think it's reinventing his game in the first place, when he was/is able to play that way already; he just has to play that way more often when his power is waning as he gets older. It happens to Fed and it'll happen to Novak and Murray too in future. He's not a net rusher the way Fed does it, but he's good enough to approach the net more than what he's been doing now.

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Post by bogbrush Mon 12 Oct 2015, 1:57 pm

Rafa is not going to become a McEnroe-style net sneaker, not unless I've slipped through one of those dimensional transfer things that seem very abundant in deep space wherever the Enterprise is cruising.

You're not saying that of course, but what you are describing is only a slight tweak - if the power isn't there it won't make any difference. The day everyone can read Federer's serves all the time I doubt he'll have any adjustments that will compensate.
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Post by Belovedluckyboy Mon 12 Oct 2015, 2:00 pm

If the power isnt there..

Isnt that true about any player, Fed included?

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Post by Guest Mon 12 Oct 2015, 2:07 pm

I don't think the extra dimension is there for Nadal. What happens when your not the best baseliner on tour? When that time dawned on Federer, he adapted his approach in matches and looked to come in more and made it so it was part of his game during matches. I can't see Nadal doing anything similar.

I don't want to say this, but being brutal, Nadal looks hopeless at the moment. Off the level he set so high over the years. Yes it will hit Djokovic and Murray, but Nadal you fear at 29, what can he do? Least with Murray and Djokovic they have tried to add something to their games in terms of bringing the personnel that will help feed those changes. I've not seen Nadal do anything similar.

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Post by Belovedluckyboy Mon 12 Oct 2015, 2:15 pm

Why is Rafa hopeless now? Hes now no.6 in the race and looks set to reach no.5!

Rafa need not do like what Fed did, just comes in more and cut short the points. If he could get in someone to help with his serve in 2010, he could do so now too to help with other areas of his game. It need not be some famous coaches but someone who can help.

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Post by It Must Be Love Mon 12 Oct 2015, 3:19 pm

I've watched most of the Nadal matches this year, maybe all apart form 4 or so, and I've tried to observe very closely where specific areas of his game are getting worse/ improving.
Bogbrush, I'm sorry but your analysis seems so so off that I wonder if your impressions aren't based on watching a few highlights here and there and looking at the scores on ATP.com

Firstly Nadal's problem this year has not been, in any way whatsoever, the ability to generate power. There are times after he makes a few mistakes that he goes into a shell and plays very safe forehands as well as safe short backhand slices; but he's done that throughout his career.
He's generating as much power on his forehand as he normally does, and recently he is probably hitting his backhand harder than for a good few years.

His primary problems are:
-He's lost the precision on his forehand. Quite often now on very simple forehand, normal rally shots which used to be unbelievably reliable, he is mistiming the ball badly and shanking it. That reliability was a key cornerstone of his game
-Movement- he just doesn't seem to be as sharp on his movement. Again great movement, reflexes on the defence, sharpness were all crucial parts of his game when he was at his best. As he's getting older, he is gradually losing these attributes.
The other problems tend to be secondary to these two.

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Post by JuliusHMarx Mon 12 Oct 2015, 3:45 pm

The Spanish Shanker? That's a new one!

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Post by Belovedluckyboy Mon 12 Oct 2015, 3:46 pm

Its not like Rafa's team is not aware of those problems, theyre working to improve Rafa's footwork and the timing of his FH. Mistiming his FH makes him looks like he's not hitting his FH with power.

I remember Fed in 2009 was also mistiming his shots and thus all his shankings. He somehow overcome that but now and then he still shanks his shots though not so frequently.

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Post by Guest Mon 12 Oct 2015, 4:42 pm

During their periods of dominance, consistency has characterised the play of Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray. Murray was consistent in getting to semi-finals then losing to the top three - extra effort, belief was needed for the final hurdle. Nadal was consistent but his top level has fallen away and with injuries has become hit and miss to some extent. Federer is still highly consistent but his power and movement are not quite there anymore. Djokovic is consistent - his consistent high level is enough to dispatch Nadal nowadays. We would need an extra special effort from Nadal to make a match of it.

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Post by It Must Be Love Mon 12 Oct 2015, 4:53 pm

JuliusHMarx wrote:The Spanish Shanker? That's a new one!


He does talk about Federer like a lovestruck drooling fanboy whenever he gets the chance, maybe this was his own unique way of paying tribute to the Basel Bungler's backhand.

On a more serious note, I've talked to some of my Chinese friends who are Nadal fans, and they said it got so bad they had to wear face protection to protect themselves from Nadal's shanking forehand.

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Post by socal1976 Mon 12 Oct 2015, 5:21 pm

Yeah, I can't see Nadal morphing into a guy who wins matches by his net play and variety. He always struck me as the least tactically diverse of the big 4. Not that he can't volley or mix up a big serve here and there but that he is the most comfortable when he is repeating the same pattern over and over again. The big exception to this was when he changed his approach for Djokovic in 2013 and mixed up his tactics and became more aggressive. I think if he could channel that Nadal of two years ago he would, why he hasn't been able to for such a long time now bears asking. Is it the back or the coaching or the confidence? I think it is hard to nail it down because unless you are inside the guys head and body how could you tell for certain?

I agree with IMBL, I think his movement as a whole is a step slower than I am used to seeing it even in recent years. I think he needs to hit a few more backhands and not put that forehand under such pressure. He has a pretty good backhand and maybe an approach where he still runs around most of his backhands but doesn't sell out his court position is more appropriate at this age. He shouldn't be hitting forehands anymore from past the doubles alley on his BH side anymore. Just do what other pros do and run around the mid court balls. That way you don't force yourself into constantly scrambling and getting into the right spot to hit that FH. I think this would dramatically reduce his errors on the FH side and simultaneously cut down his running by about 25 percent.

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Post by Henman Bill Mon 12 Oct 2015, 6:23 pm

I guess if IMBL is watching so many Rafa matches, has to be a valid opinion. From what little I've seen his forehand has definately gone downhill, I agree. It seemed to start in 2011 at Wimbledon in the final against Djokovic when he hit about 5 bad ones in the match, at the time even that seemed amazing, but now it's routine. Also the reliability of his forehand still seemed there in 2012 and 2013, at least on clay, but now it does seem to have gone.

The other thing that seems to be lacking is like some vague X factor that could be physical or mental, whether it's fitness, wear and tear, behind the scenes personal issues, or confidence, I just feel that we have never had the whole story with Rafa. Could be fanciful but maybe a blockbuster Agassi-esque autobiography will hit the shelves in about 2020 with the scoop.

I don't agree with a steady decline since 2010 though.

He was almost the same player in 2011 in my opinion, just Djokovic greatly improved. This is what I judged waching him play at Indian Wells (live), and US OPen (on TV) for example. he was playing hard and consistently, but against a tougher opponent that hadn't been there in 2010.

You can also see it in the statistics. He lost 10 matches in 2010, and 15 in 2011. Probably, if we check, he lost about 5 more matches to Djokovic in 2011 than 2010.

In 2011, the fact that his performance level was the same can be seen in his ability to reach finals. Slams: 3 out of 4 the same as the previous year and one of only 2 years he achieved 3 slam finals. The one slam he failed to reach the final in 2011, the QF loss to Ferrer at the AO, was injury influenced.

In the masters series, he reached the first 5 finals of the year before fading off. 5 masters finnals in a year I think was his equal best by that point. But his fading off inn most tournaments at the end of 2011 was possibly partly due to concentrating in the Davis cup, where he won many of his matches quite emphatically in the semi and final.

On to 2012, and still playing at a very high level, he nearly beat Djokovic at the AO final and might have done so but for one shot down the line that went into the tramlines.

After winning Monte Carlo, Rome and French Open against the new Djokovic, he then lost the rest of the year to injury.

The whole of 2013 was pretty awesome, not just the summer hard swing. He won 2 out of 2 slams that he was fit for. Of the 8 masters he played, he won 5, 1 final, and 2 semi finals, clearly his best every years at the masters.

He also reached the final at the world tour finals, equalling his career best. 2013 he won 91% of his matches (75-7).

So I don't buy the argument about Rafa being in steady decline for some years. His peak years were 2008 to 2013 inclusive and the ups and downs were largely due to injuries. Apart from injuries, and periods that didn't include clay, there isn't really any long term down in performance inn that period.

He has only been declining for a year or two and mostly this year.

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Post by Guest Mon 12 Oct 2015, 7:02 pm

Rafael Nadal issues with knees and feet are well known. It's a constant repair work with periods of time out. They are never quite the same again (elasticity versus scar tissue). At certain points the slow decline cuts across thresholds where it becomes noticeable (certain court surfaces and conditions). Similarly for Murray - his back will never quite have the same resilience and flexibility following his back operation. It is still giving him a few problems when he is tired. He said as much during the past Davis Cup match.

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Post by It Must Be Love Mon 12 Oct 2015, 7:07 pm

Agree with HB on Nadal's peak/decline, and Socal is right to say his lack of speed means he should hit his BH more, something which I feel he is already starting to do now.

He has also made some technical changes to his forehand this year; I didn't include it in the analysis of why he's declining on that wing simply because there's no real evidence that it is to blame; as his unforced errors have come from even easy safe shots.

His cross court forehand, despite having the same grip, has less height over the net now in its trajectory. It means the ball despite having spin does not bounce up as high, and the advantages are that he can hit the ball harder and with slightly more pace. The disadvantages are that the spinny high ball made it very uncomfortable and awkward for most players on their backhand, and that effect is reduced. I would love to see an average net clearance on Nadal's cross court forehand this year compared to previous years.

He has also changed his inside out forehand. Firstly he hits less, due to his slight loss of movement, on a ball far onto his backhand wing he is actually more content to take it on his backhand.
When he does hit the inside out forehand, his stance is more closed than it has been in the past. This means there is better weight transfer on the forehand, essentially leaning into it more. Whereas in the past, he was more content to actually lean back and simply generate power with the racket head speed of his arm. It becomes more apparent when you see where he finishes off his forehand follow through, it is now lower than it was in the past. It means now he is hitting the ball harder on that wing, but when he leant back it also made it easier for him to get a better angle which he doesn't get now. Thus why watching Nadal now it can feel like he's putting a lot of effort in hitting the ball very hard but still not actually moving his opponent out of position with the inside out forehand.

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Post by Henman Bill Mon 12 Oct 2015, 8:01 pm

rafa's inside out forehand is an amazing shot, the mind boggles at how one should run sideways so fast (like a scuttling crab) just to avoid hitting a backhand

but now that you mention it i haven't seen as many this year, at least not the extreme ones where he runs like mad

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Post by temporary21 Mon 12 Oct 2015, 9:03 pm

It Must Be Love wrote:I've watched most of the Nadal matches this year, maybe all apart form 4 or so, and I've tried to observe very closely where specific areas of his game are getting worse/ improving.
Bogbrush, I'm sorry but your analysis seems so so off that I wonder if your impressions aren't based on watching a few highlights here and there and looking at the scores on ATP.com

Firstly Nadal's problem this year has not been, in any way whatsoever, the ability to generate power. There are times after he makes a few mistakes that he goes into a shell and plays very safe forehands as well as safe short backhand slices; but he's done that throughout his career.
He's generating as much power on his forehand as he normally does, and recently he is probably hitting his backhand harder than for a good few years.

His primary problems are:
-He's lost the precision on his forehand. Quite often now on very simple forehand, normal rally shots which used to be unbelievably reliable, he is mistiming the ball badly and shanking it. That reliability was a key cornerstone of his game
-Movement- he just doesn't seem to be as sharp on his movement. Again great movement, reflexes on the defence, sharpness were all crucial parts of his game when he was at his best. As he's getting older, he is gradually losing these attributes.
The other problems tend to be secondary to these two.
Pretty good analysis I have to agree. The interpretation of rafa as a guy who can't hit the ball hard anymore, and who can't adapt for some reason I don't feel have watched him much. It indeed remember all the times he's already adapted

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Post by laverfan Tue 13 Oct 2015, 2:39 am

legendkillarV2 wrote:If Nadal is to evolve his game, I think Toni needs to step aside and I know that can't be an easy decision for Rafa to make. What is clear to me is Rafa needs new input and where and who that comes from is anyone's guess.

I would state it differently. Toni needs to let go, because he must know that he is not adding to his nephew's career, but dragging it down, by his own logical reasoning. Emotion and family ties should take a back seat, if Nadal has to try and pull himself back up. Toni should tell Rafa to go find a new coach, not the other way round.

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Post by HM Murdock Tue 13 Oct 2015, 9:33 am

Mixed feelings about Toni.

On one hand, I don't think he's added huge value as coach for some time. Rafa's incredible form and aggressive approach in 2013 flourished when Francisco Roig was taking the lead.

I don't get the impression that Toni has offered Rafa much more than the old Plan A (topspin FH to the oppositon BH). They were noticeably slow to respond to the emergence of Djoko, and Rafa basically went 7 defeats playing the same way over and over again.  The turnaround in that match up came not as a result of Rafa finding a solution but Novak's form coming back down to earth (and, indeed, becoming a bit shakey for a time).

However...

I don't pin Rafa's current form on Toni. If Rafa has lost a step and is shanking basic forehands, I don't see how Toni can either have caused that or is supposed to address it.

An additional voice in the team may be useful though.

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Post by Belovedluckyboy Tue 13 Oct 2015, 10:03 am

I dont think youre fair in saying that Rafa and his team didnt turn things around but rather Novak's level dropped after 2011. Rafa did make changes to his game, for one, the FH wasnt going CC all the time; two - his BH improved and three - hes hitting more penetrating shots to push Novak further back from the baseline (its more evident in that Rome 2012 match)

Its more like in 2012, Fed, Rafa and Murray turned things around when facing Novak, having lost some matches narrowly to Novak in 2011(eg. Rome SF, Miami final, USO SF). Novak lost to them a combined 9 times in 2012.

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Post by HM Murdock Tue 13 Oct 2015, 10:35 am

^ I think 2012 was a return to normality.

Rafa, Federer and Murray all had mini peaks in that period but I don't view their overall level as being much different to 2011.

Djokovic though, was clearly a level below what he produced in 2011. So we ended up with 4 fairly evenly matched players, who all won a slam each.

As for Rafa, he only played Novak 3 times in 2012 (post-AO), all on clay, and Novak stunk in all of them, except for that run of games in the drizzle at RG.

I'm not suggesting Rafa only won because Novak played badly. I'm saying  Novak's level did not demand any great tactical adjustment from Rafa.

Match ups don't always turn on new tactics. Often they turn on the ebb and flow of respective form.

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