MY TWO CENTS: After his recent defeat at the hands of Novak Djokovic in a match that can only be described as a thrashing, team Nadal has to be thinking that something has to change. Djokovic has been a dominant force for a while now and has defeated many members of the top ten with similar embarrassing scores; however, Nadal of old was always able to put up more resistance. Their head-to-head tells the story. Prior to this last match, they were tied at 23 wins each. However, Djokovic has won the last five encounters, including yesterday’s final. As I watched that match in Doha, Nadal looked shell-shocked. He never seemed to get going and although Djokovic opened the door in his first service game, Nadal failed to take advantage. Nadal of old was more opportunistic. He also has to realize that spin is not working anymore against Djokovic. Even on clay, Djokovic has won some crucial matches against Nadal. Unfortunately, when Nadal tried to flatten a few of his shots in frustration, many ended in errors. Nadal still has a winning record against the remaining three members of the top four; yet, whenever he plays them now, there is no guarantee he will walk away victorious. Nadal no longer dominates the encounters and often he is being pushed around. Why is Nadal at such a dis-advantage these days? Jim Courier is his assessment of the situation said that after analysis it was not that Nadal’s game had changed in any significant manner; however, what had changed was his mental state.
When you are shaky mentally and your confidence waxes and wanes, it’s hard to drive your shots consistently with conviction; worse, it’s difficult to truly believe that you can defeat your opponent. Tennis as with many individual sports depends heavily on strong mental fortitude for success, which once was Nadal’s primary weapon and made him such a success. If he wants to hoist another major trophy, Nadal will have to understand what has caused the change in his confidence.