Some of you may have read my previous article about how Dustin Brown would not beat Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon today. In all fairness I was confident in my thoughts and didn’t expect the German to come out on top. But why exactly did he come out with the win, was it Nadal being poor or Brown playing at the peak of his powers again?
It was both. Brown played at a much higher level than I expected given the conditions and circumstances and for the first time, I really felt like the former World #1 might just be on a real decline. Despite avoiding the thought of this being a real decline for Nadal until now, I can’t simply ignore it anymore.
Looking at the latter in more depth now there are a few features of Spaniard’s game which are severely worse right now than they’ve been before. Here are my thoughts on his game as it currently stands.
It’s been the Achilles’ heel of his year so far. Whenever big moments come on serve, not only does the first serve seem to completely disappear but he also ends up coughing up double faults on huge points. Today on serve in the third set at one set all from advantage up he served 2 double faults in a row to get broken. This would be crucial as it would turn out to be the only break in the third set. Nadal in the past would have most likely never hit a double fault in such a crucial time of a match let alone two in a row.
His forehand, arguably the greatest shot in tennis, was a complete mess. Whenever he had half chances or even big chances you could have bet on the forehand producing errors and today was no different, culminating early in the fourth set when Nadal rather threw away the break and match with uncharacteristic forehands. Not only was he missing them but he was missing them by a ridiculous margin.
It’s always been the weakest part of the Spaniard’s game, but today was embarrassing. In 2012 he made Rosol’s serve look huge, last year he made Krygios’ serve look gigantic, and today he did the same with Brown’s serve. Not to say all three are poor servers because they’re not, but he’s made their serves all look and feel much bigger than they actually are. Back in Nadal’s peak, 2008 and 2010, his return was never great but what he used to do so well was at least get the ball back into play. Today was another story missing return after return when the qualifier found his first serve. In the end it ultimately led to his own demise not even being able to create a single break point in the last two sets of the match to get himself ahead or right back into it.
I apologise for my poor prediction, but in all honestly I believed a much better Nadal would have taken Centre Court today. A Nadal which had some real authority about him that was unseen in previous years here. But ultimately I was wrong and it’s the same issues that have plagued him all year that have caused his loss and poor performance here.
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