China Open, Beijing
[CR2] Rafael Nadal (ESP), known as Rafa, is working his way back into form after a right wrist injury interrupted his season for approximately three months. Rafa is no stranger to time off due to injury, and he has always come back strong; however, one wonders how many more times he can do so.
He is looking leaner and fitter, for a player that was already very fit, that is a testament of Rafa’s commitment to continuously improving his game. It is one of the attributes that makes Rafa so appealing to tennis fans all over. When Rafa is confident, he plays the ball deep and he hugs the baseline; however, when he is not, the ball drops shorter and shorter in the court; he hits with less pace; his serve goes awry; and he moves further away from the baseline.
Rafa won their previous encounter; however, [CR122] Peter Gojowczyk (GER) took the first set. Thus, Rafa knew today was not going to be an easy victory. The second set was telling, Rafa was not dominating the points and was reacting to Gojowczyk’s shots. The confident Rafa would have manufactured opportunities to hit forehand winners. His tentative approach to closing out the match was another telling sign that he is not fully back, despite his improved physique. He had match point, a sitter forehand volley and he hits it tamely back into the court, only to watch as Gojowczyk sent a winner by him.
Though he won the match, 6-3, 6-4, Rafa knows that he will have to take it up a notch mentally as the tournament progresses because his upcoming opponents will have no qualms about taking advantage of his hesitancy.