Unlike Rafael Nadal’s shocking 10th seed in this year’s Wimbledon pretty much everything was expected – including his second round defeat to Germany’s Dustin Brown on Thursday.
Rafa (as Nadal is known to his fans) has been having one of the worst years of his decade-long career with just one title in Stuttgart, ironically a grass-court tournament where he defeated Victor Troicki, ranked 24 in the world.
It is unusual to say, but Rafa’s recent performances have only put him in the level of the low-ranked players although he continues to be a part of the “Big Four.” It is no more a question of his health or more specifically knees that have troubled him throughout his career, but the vague signs of his decline.
Only a few weeks before he lost his French Open crown to Novak Djokovic in the quarter finals after a nine-year reign. It was sad to see two of the greatest tennis players facing each other so early in a major tournament, but Djokovic won convincingly. In fact, at many points of the match Nadal wasn’t even a competitor he should be to Novak.
In his second round clash against Dustin Brown, who defeated Rafa last year in Halle he looked to struggle to find his form – the vintage Nadal that has seen him topple so many world records in the sport.
Brown with his ferocious returns and crisp serves absolutely deserved to win. But had Rafa played in his familiar level, the results could possibly have been different. Rafa was hardly getting his first serves in and missing the forehand winners that are his biggest weapons. Albeit losing the second set, which showed a tiny mental breakdown of Brown – he dominated the entire match.
Nadal who generally takes more time within points (maximum of 30 seconds against the 25 seconds rule) was left to see flashbacks of 2012 before his eyes when he lost to Lukas Rosol in the second round as well. Brown with his quick serves and calculated drop shots that were executed in a blink of an eye, gave less time to Nadal to collect himself.
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 3, 2015
Although he showed glimpses of what he is capable of doing, never for once did it occur during the match that Rafa will manage to come back. His loud grunts of “Vamos” and the crowd chanting “Rafa, Rafa” only helped him to hang in there, but the long-haired, braided German who is ranked 102 in the world didn’t lose his will.
And perhaps, this will is the one that is causing Nadal all sorts of problems. We saw him lose seven months of his career, owing to his fragile knees in 2012. However, it was his will that saw him win 10 titles the following year, including two grand slam titles and it was Rafa’s will that has termed him ‘intimidating.’
Yesterday, the willed Rafa was seen to shake his head in between points and look expectantly at his camp – perhaps, feeling the decline in his mind more than his body. After his post-match press conference, he admitted to not having the confidence.
“Without having rhythm at all, I didn’t hit three balls in a row the same way. Then when you need to hit the ball, extra ball, you don’t have the confidence to do it. So that’s what happened.”
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 2, 2015
And this bring us to the question whether Nadal’s decline’s on the brink?