Home > Tennis > Envisioning the future: Rafael Nadal will be World No.1

Envisioning the future: Rafael Nadal will be World No.1

You wake up in the morning being second best. Not that it has not happened before – there was Roger Federer, of course whom you trailed for a long while. But this time, it is different. You are second best in your own mind, second best to what you believe you can actually be. No, not a Grand Slam winner, or the World No. 1, but a player who plays so perfectly within himself that he is not aware of the crowd, his box, his opponent (of course there are tactics, but that’s as far as your cognizance of him goes), and even the score-line; a player to whom, on entering the playing arena, the concept of playing a point and the concept for fighting for survival become isomorphic with each other. It is a fault in your mind, and a fault that coercion from every quarter has succeeded in planting there. The fault that seemed only like an aberration has been brought more and more into focus, has become sharper, after each of the 7 successive defeats at the hands of Novak Djokovic. “It’s real, it’s certain – Rafael is never going to defeat Novak at the Slams again.”

There were the unmistakable signs – you take a lead only to give it up, you get too defensive and run more than you should and tire yourself out before your opponent – it was a losing bargain, but a bargain you took anyway, you cannot handle his return of serve – for him, the service returns were even more favourable than his first serves, you lose the long rallies … Second best on every front on court, and second best in your own mind, never destined to win.

How does it sound to remain motivated after being demoted for life by all objective measures? Incredible? Stupid? Well, maybe the solution is to go back to your fundamental premises and see why you started off on this career in the first place. For Rafael Nadal, that is his ground zero. Winnings have not constructed luxuries and blocked out his view of his roots. “Maybe Novak’s level will drop … I will keep getting chances …” Well, what if you don’t? If I don’t “I will keep working with an illusion to improve  …”

A few months after that Australian Open final defeat, which might have left anyone else in shambles for a long time, Rafael Nadal finds himself having beaten Novak Djokovic, albeit on his favourite surface. If nothing else, these victories will show him that even though there is no place of comfort for him in their exchanges, he can play to minimize the effect of Djokovic’s brand of playing with fire. He has removed the certainty out of their equation with his service, with how he deals with Novak’s returns, with how he deploys his own forehand. This will result in a marked improvement in his confidence levels the next time he faces Novak.

What about the rest of the field then? Going by his 2011 record, he was definitely better than the rest of the field, reaching all four Grand Slam finals and playing in 6 finals with Djokovic. That dominance would most probably continue. What will be different is that he will now give himself a fair chance in winning those Grand Slam finals. Having lost two of the three Slams he won in 2010, he finds himself in a position to only gain by winning the Slams.

Look for a confident Nadal to retake the World No. 1 rankings from a Novak Djokovic close on his heels.

Note: Quotes from Rafael Nadal are not verbatim.

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Categories: Tennis Tags: ,
  1. Jun 24, 2012 at 10:28 AM

    It is true that Rafa was better than everybody else last year. Media may point out to his lack of titles on non-clay surfaces forever, but they seem to forget that he reached multiple non-clay finals last year (and AO this year), only to lose to Djokovic.

  2. Prashanth Nayak
    Jul 1, 2012 at 4:31 AM

    The greatness of Rafael Nadal is a bit over-hyped. No doubt he is the greatest clay courter of all times, as records say. But It’s not only about last year. Not sure if numbers alone can define a player is great or not, but numbers below indeed say that Nadal’s entire career is clay dominated !!

    1. 36 out of 50 title wins on clay [ A whopping 72% ]
    2. 7 out of his 11 Grandslams are on clay [ 63% here ]
    3. Since winning his first ATP tour title, Nadal so far in 8.5 years has never successfully
    defended a title win outside clay [ He didn’t play the 2009 Wimbledon, but there’s no
    guarantee that he would have won had he played ]
    4. Only at 2 tournaments off clay has he won more than once [ Indian Wells and Wimbledon]

  3. Jul 10, 2012 at 5:55 PM

    Interestingly, Nadal has so few points to defend in the hard court season (vis-a-vis Djokovic and Federer) that, despite sliding to no.3, he may not actually be out of the race just yet. But he would need to raise the bar several notches from last year. As for RG, it was like some sort of a scary respite, a close shave like Wimbledon 2007 was for Federer. Even Toni Nadal had to acknowledge it was very close. It is imperative that Nadal serves really well in the hard court season. It has remained a slightly weak area in his game and it is beginning to haunt him now.

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