Rafael Nadal’s poor form over the last 13 months has been a bit of a surprise. He has suffered a couple of injuries but confidence from the former world number one seems to be low right now with his tennis suffering as well. Nadal has under achieved at Wimbledon in the last 3 years with only 4 wins to his name. Rafa has lost big matches to Murray in Madrid and Djokovic at Roland Garros recently but the losses weren’t close defeats but domination from the opponent.
Nadal played for the first time at Queen’s Club but his tournament did last very long as he lost in three sets to Alexandr Dolgopolov despite having a 4-2 lead in the final set. The level of tennis from Nadal just simply wasn’t good enough. The main weakness of his which is usually a strength was the forehand. The Nadal forehand is one of the best shots in tennis but this year it has been lacking the killer touch it usually has.
Within the first couple of games in the match we saw where the strength where he usually produced winners turned into a weakness.
As you can see above when Nadal makes contact with the ball this is where both players are stood. The yellow line shows where you would expect the forehand to be placed in the best the shot has been a bit loose recently and the red line off Nadal shows where it goes. This shot gives Dolgopolov the chance to get to the ball which he does and then plays the winner as shown into the open space (blue circle) which Nadal left open due to the poor forehand.
The forehand did improve against Dolgopolov but I felt the backhand was a more consistent shot for him during the match. Another issue off the forehand was on match point.
On match point Nadal is in the driving position after forcing a poor return from Dolgopolov off his serve. In this position Nadal has two options, either the forehand down the line or cross court. Nadal went for the cross court option and again didn’t get enough pace or angle on it. The yellow line shows where the shot should have gone to cut off any angles but the red line shows where it did go and it gave Dolgopolov a chance to get to it as he did.
After Nadal hit the poor forehand he didn’t give himself enough time to position himself. When Dolgopolov made contact with the ball Nadal had cross court covered but this time didn’t have the down the line covered.
I do think Nadal’s positioning could have been better maybe 6 yards to the left and when Nadal does get there the diagram shows the ball is already passed him.
My gut feeling is we won’t see the best of Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon. It’s a tournament where he hasn’t turned up in recent years and the warm-up tournament at Queen’s didn’t go down to well. I think if he does get to the quarter finals then it will probably be against Murray who has the game to beat him on grass but Nadal could face a tricky round three match against Stepanek or Troicki or even Ferrer in round four.
Nadal’s tennis and confidence is quite low right now, I cannot see him winning the tournament if he is going to then he would have to produce some of the best tennis of his career on grass and maybe may have to beat Ferrer, Murray, Federer/Berdych and Djokovic/Wawrinka.