April 18, 2016
Rafael Nadal’s manner of victory in Monte Carlo raises some interesting questions about his newfound recipe for success.
Is he taking a leaf out of Roger Federer’s book and trying to end rallies earlier to preserve energy?
Does this new path to glory mean he could be ready for a better run at Wimbledon this year?
The popular Spaniard’s 7-5, 5-7, 6-0 victory over Gael Monfils, his ninth Monte Carlo Masters, wasn’t always plain sailing – not until the final set anyway.
And the fact that he has just equalled Novak Djokovic by claiming his 28th Masters title overall shows that he is finding some important answers to some long-standing questions.
Rafa said: ‘It’s been an important week, the victory confirms that I am better. It’s great to win a Masters title again. I hope this week will help me a lot.’
Rafa is back with a bang, as we said on Friday. But is this exactly the same Rafa who took the world by storm in his prime with relentless power from behind the baseline? Not quite.
Let’s take a look at some of the statistics emerging from the final against Monfils. They show that Nadal had more success in the shorter exchanges than the prolonged wars of attrition.
Rafa won 57% of rallies involving 1-4 shots, 59% in the 5-9 range and less than half – 47% – of rallies that lasted longer than that.
Nadal stepped inside the baseline for 18% of his contacts, twice as often as Monfils, whose forehand was more powerful (127kph) than Rafa’s (121kph).
Now we all know that statistics can be misleading. And some stars will also tell you that the Monte Carlo arena isn’t as spacious as Roland Garros, for example, and can sometimes give a false impression of who is hot and who is not.
Having said that, it’s possible to conclude from the weekend’s action that Nadal is learning, perhaps even from the way Roger Federer has changed his game in the last year or two.
As we all know, the Fed tries to get rallies done a little quicker these days; because once you’ve passed thirty years of age, prolonged attrition can catch up with you before the end of a match.
Rafa is younger than Federer – but his body has taken even more punishment during his career, due to his bludgeoning style of power-play.The stats are telling him that Roger’s way could be the right way forward for him too.
Now Nadal looks like he might be starting to seek a higher degree of swift and ruthless precision, rather than simply trying to wear his opponent down with relentless force or wait for a mistake from his adversary and the opening that brings.
Could it mean that the new Rafa is also more suited to Wimbledon, where rallies tend to be slightly shorter overall, and where he has endured a wretched time of it in recent years? Possibly so.
Although Nadal has won Wimbledon twice, that hasn’t happened since he moved into his late twenties. The greater economy of energy expenditure that we seem to be seeing in Nadal’s slow but significant shift in gameplan could produce better results for Rafa on grass than we have seen of late.
Time will tell. But isn’t it great to have Rafa Nadal back to winning ways? It just makes the prospect of the summer Slams in Europe all the more appetizing.
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