Is Nadal’s Reign of Dominance Over?

by John on October 31, 2009

Nadal Shanghai

Rafael Nadal has not won a tournament since the Rome Masters in May. Since then, the No. 2-ranked Spaniard has gone seven straight tournaments without a win, while losing his No. 1 ranking to Roger Federer on July 6. Most players would consider the 23-7 record Rafa has posted in that span a success, but not Nadal. Particularly telling is the fact that six of the losses were in straight sets and the other a four-set pummeling by Robin Soderling in the fourth round of the French Open. Definitely chinks in the armor. Plagued by injuries off and on since the end of last year, Nadal has clearly not been “le bete sauvage” who won four straight French Opens (2005-08) and was virtually invincible for 46 straight weeks at No. 1. Some wonder if Nadal’s overzealous schedule and relentless style of play have finally worn him down. After retiring against Nikolay Davydenko in the quarterfinals of the Paris Masters last November, Nadal packed it in for the season to rest his weary knees. Rejuvenated by the time off, Nadal won the Australian Open in January as well as four other tournaments, while posting a 38-3 mark. Nadal failed to win his fourth straight clay-court tournament of the spring when he dropped the final of the Madrid Masters to Federer two weeks after Rome. The Spaniard hasn’t been the same since. After losing at Roland Garros, Nadal shut down for over two months to calm the tendinitis in both knees. A difficult decision since he was the defending champion at Wimbledon. The Spaniard returned in August and played two hard-court tournaments leading up to the U.S. Open. He strained a stomach muscle at Cincinnati and then re-agravated the injury at Flushing Meadows before losing to eventual champion Juan Martin del Potro in the semifinals. After some more down time, the 23-year-old Nadal returned this month. The results weren’t good as he was scorched by Marin Cilic in the semifinals at Beijing and Davydenko in the final at Shanghai. Nadal has two more tournament this season – the Paris Masters in two weeks and the season-ending Masters Cup in London at the end of the month. After leaving Shanghai, Nadal was philosophical about his current state. “I can just say I am going to work hard to be at my best as soon as possible and I am not seeing myself very far off that. I would love to have a title, but if I am still playing like this in Paris and London, it’s difficult, sure,” he said. “The best players are there. But in Paris I expect to have another chance to play a good tournament. And if you are there all the time semifinals, final, you’re going to win. I don’t know when, but you’re going to win.” If Nadal is to regain the form that led to his reign at No. 1, he needs to remain injury free. His style of play dictates that he competes on sound knees.

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humberto November 29, 2009 at 3:27 pm

All the top players know now how to play Nadal and that is to attack Nadal. This is how Soderling beat him in Paris, and how Davydenko, Djokovic, and Soderling beat him at the Masters in London. Bagdhatis mentioned in 2006 that Nadal does not like to be under pressure, he wants to be in control of the court, well those days are gone.

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