Wazzzup Rafa?

Generally the top players, Nadal is ranked world no. 4, do lose from time to time which is expected, but for the Spanish 'King of Clay' to lose his first semi-final on clay in 12 years against the world no. 19 is something very unexpected indeed.

Fognini, 27, is a decent player and has won three singles titles so far in his career. BUT can anything more be read into this surprising Nadal loss?

The 14-time Grand Slam winner's style of play is to literally grind out results, skidding across courts week in week out, which he has been doing his whole career, using his incredible fitness plus his heavy hitting, vicious top spin ground strokes to get him his 64 singles titles so far.

One has to ask the question, has this way of playing started to have a negative effect on him physically? 

He plays so hard that one has to wonder: How long can that body take that kind of a pounding?

Top players like Roger Federer seem to put in half the effort, energy wise, to win points and generally will try and finish points off early. This in turn stops the body being punished to the extreme that Nadal's body goes through. And it does seem to work for Federer, who at 34-years-old he is ranked world no.2 and has had a long career of very few injuries. 

In recent years Nadal has been out of action fairly often with niggling injuries.

His legs have weakened with recent injuries to his (right or left or both) knees, but now the injury bug has moved up his body and claimed his wrist. It's the right wrist for a lefty with one of the more bruising two-handed backhands on tour.

The Spaniard missed the ATP World Tour Finals in London last year after undergoing surgery for appendicitis, which happens, but also used the recovery time to get treatment on a long-standing back injury, which goes as far back as the 2014 Australian Open final loss to Stan Wawrinka, where he was clearly suffering. 

These are the injuries that the media know about and if there are any other issues…who knows?…only those close to the player?

In the last six months the other big names in tennis like Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and a few others seem to have upped the ante when it comes to the way they are striking their ground strokes. The power used seems to have increased and the balls are being hit a lot flatter, keeping low on the court.

Nadal, whose big top spin game has made him seem invincible on clay, could be in for a surprise going into the clay court season ahead of the French Open on May 24.

The higher bounce from the extreme top spin he hits could become something that his opponents will attack more than in the past, like was done at the matches he played in at the Rio Open.

The Spaniard is always expected to win on clay against anyone when 100% fit but watching him closely over the last year or so, that edge is definitely missing. 

Maybe it's nothing and the more he plays the better he will get, as most are saying and hopefully they are right, because at 28–years old,  Nadal definitely should get a few more Grand Slam wins in the tank before he retires.

The French Open is the only Grand Slam tournament Djokovic is yet to win and though Nadal beat him in last year's final he is up against a very confident, fit world no.1, who has just won his 8th Grand Slam title, beating Any Murray in four sets to clinch the 2015 Australian Open.   

So don't be surprised if Nadal does not have things all his own way this clay court season and for the rest of 2015, as right now things don't look that kosher with the 'King of Clay'.

By Rob Fleming

Comments