[CR3] Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs. [CR112] Tim Smyczek (USA)
Nadal started his match off against Smyczek playing with focus, striking the ball well, and pushing Smyczek around the court. All his fans probably felt that this was not going to be a competition and turned off their television and went to bed. Yet, it was anything but easy. Nadal suddenly decompensated. The “bull” on the tennis court is no longer feeling confident in his abilities. Unfortunately, it starts with belief and if he has lost that, it is not surprising that it is reflected in his performance on court.
Nadal is one of the fittest players on tour, admittedly, he has had a string on medical issues recently and they may have taken more of a toll than even he realized; however, he won the first set easily. So I do not believe it is simply due to a lack of physical conditioning. Nadal is suffering from a crisis in confidence. I trace this back to the year that Novak Djokovic dominated him in finals and he has never regained his confidence. Once dominant on clay, he began struggling on that surface. He lost matches to players he had never lost to or had a winning record against; even more troubling, he lost to players ranked outside the top 100.
He no longer believes and until he regains his self-confidence, he will continue to struggle. He won 6-2, 3-6, 6-7(2), 6-3, 7-5, but at what cost? Does he realistically have a chance of making it to the second week? The answer although I do not want to admit it is “no”. Sooner or later, a player with a few more weapons and a bit more belief will stop Nadal. To struggle this much against a player ranked 112 is very troubling for Nadal and his team.