[CR3] Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs. [CR106] Dudi Sela (ISR)
Once again, Nadal got off to a brilliant start, at least that’s what the score indicated (6-1, 6-0). Yet, the score never tells the full story of the close points and missed opportunities. The score does not express that Sela is a competent player, despite never winning a title. He was in the third round of the Australian Open after beating a quality opponent [CR30] Lukas Rosol (CZE), the same player who defeated an in form Nadal at the 2012 Wimbledon. Sela knows how to play; therefore, his “no show” in the first two sets must have been the result of his being too nervous to compete at his top-level.
I was convinced that Sela could make this a match, despite the rout in the first two sets; I knew he still could challenge Nadal. I watched the third set unfold as Nadal started to get tense, not obvious to the casual observer, but to fans who know his game it was glaringly obvious he was getting more anxious. His forehand went awry, he started dropping his balls short in the court and the backhand started misfiring. Sela had numerous opportunities to break Nadal and win the third set; yet, somehow, Nadal won that set and the match 6-1, 6-0, 7-5. As much as I admire Nadal for his tenacity, I recognize that he is still not as confident as he once was. That is the intriguing thing about confidence, it fluctuates at times for no apparent reason. At this point in Nadal’s career, an opponent that has a few more weapons and belief can beat him. Will his next opponent [CR15] Kevin Anderson (RSA) be the one? Anderson is not exactly brimming with confidence either, so Nadal may escape that match unscathed.