Nadal’s Game Is Still Off

China Open, Beijing

[CR8] Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs. [CR230] Di Wu (CHN)

Despite the 6-4, 6-4 victory, Nadal’s game is still off.  There is still no conviction from him; at least it appeared that way to me.  He’s goes for shots and hopes that they will go in; he no longer believes they are going in.  That was never the case from vintage Nadal.  It continues to amaze me that his game has deteriorated so badly; furthermore, that it’s taking him this long to recover his form.  Yet, it should not be a surprise.  Psychological injury unlike physical injury takes much longer to heal.  Recovery is further complicated because the damage cannot be repaired with surgery and physical therapy. I watched as Nadal struggled through this match against an opponent ranked 230 and I was shocked.

If he struggles against a player ranked so low, realistically, what are his chances of consistently  defeating players ranked in the top hundred much less the top fifty?  As much as I am troubled by the state of his game, I can only imagine what Nadal is feeling.  This must be so frustrating for the “Champion” in him, this inability to get his body to respond consistently to his commands and the constant anxiety that now plagues his game every time he steps on court. This is his first match since his third round loss to Fabio Fognini at the US Open.  He is struggling to hold on once he’s taken the lead, and that is the result of his lack of confidence.  Doubt has completely eroded his game and it’s hard to watch him in this current state.  Can he defeat Vasek Pospisil in the next round?  Traditionally, Nadal has struggled against opponents who have a big forehand.

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