Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs.  Adrian Mannarino (FRA)
It was one-way traffic for Nadal in the first set in this first meeting between the two; Mannarino couldn’t get many winners and Nadal could do no wrong. Nadal dominated the Frenchman and won the first set 6-1. Could Nadal sustain this level of play in the second set? We have seen the brilliance of “vintage Rafa” showing up periodically in his recent matches; yet, he has not been able to sustain that consistent high quality of play throughout. Just when you feel that he is back, the shaky player shows up and the errors creep into his game and he looks uncertain.
Fans are often lucky to watch a match where both players bring their “A” game at the same time because the match is exciting and anticipation of the unexpected is high. It was not that Mannarino played badly in the first set, Nadal was simply sharp. In the second set he was not and the change was subtle. It started with his serve as the doubts crept in and his mind wandered. He was not as precise with his serve placement, the pace decreased and the uncertainty flowed through into his groundstrokes. Mannarino’s level did not improve in set two; it was a matter of Nadal’s level dropping significantly, inexplicably.
Why after such a dominant start would he be plagued by doubts? That is the question that many continue to ask, including Nadal. Often we have heard that tennis is a mental sport and Nadal continues to be vulnerable mentally despite his moments of brilliance in recent matches. Nevertheless, he hung on to win 6-1, 7-6(6) and will play Grigor Dimitrov, another player who is also struggling with low confidence.
SOURCE OF IMAGE USED: Creative Commons