Was Nadal’s lack of ‘luxury draw’ and the need for ‘lights out’ tennis early on catch up with him against Federer?

All the talk leading up to this one was about 2008.

However in 2019 no one had played better tennis coming into the Wimbledon semi-final in the first eleven days than Rafa did so what went wrong?

Rafa’s best tennis during the match came when he went for the Federer backhand. It allowed him time to build points and take control, the backhand of Federer is still a great weapon but lacks in raw power when under pressure and Rafa is in his element when he has to slice.

Screenshot 2019-07-13 at 10.54.13

Image Credit – BBC Sport

This was the only play that worked for Rafa.

This was built up so much due to the their last meeting at Wimbledon being the 2008 final but it was anything but a classic.

I felt lost.

Rafa usually wins quick points and long points but the numbers were as confusing at the performance;

Points Won – Federer

Rallies of 0-4 – 81
Rallies of 5-8 – 35
Rallies of 9+ – 10

Points Won – Nadal

Rallies of 0-4 – 86
Rallies of 5-8 – 21
Rallies of 9+ – 10

Totally against what you’d expect especially off longer rallies.

Roger as we know likes quick rallies so winning 81 to 86 is pretty normal to be honest but of rallies over 5 shots Roger won 45 to Rafa’s 31 which is massive and surprising!

I didn’t understand the performance one bit.

It just felt underwhelming! Maybe the tennis he has played since the beginning of Rome caught up with him?

Since the beginning of Rome until his semi-final yesterday he won 17 matches in a row dropping four sets of tennis to Djokovic, Thiem, Goffin and Kyrgios. The level throughout those 17 matches was a level of ‘lights out’ tennis but light flickered against Roger.

The two biggest problems for me were Nadal’s positioning on the court and lack of awareness.

Screenshot 2019-07-13 at 10.53.10

Image Credit – BBC Sport

He is another example. Big point on serve in the first set and I’m intrigued to know why he went for the shot into the path of Federer to line up his forehand instead of going down the line?

Federer pulled off the winner down the line and sealed the set where as the backhand into the corner from Rafa would have cut off the angles.

Screenshot 2019-07-13 at 10.55.32

Image Credit – BBC Sport

Cutting off the angles was a problem for the Spaniard who left his defence open. Early exchanges of this third set were massive and I couldn’t believe how laid back in a way Nadal was.

He’s gone big to the Federer backhand and just stands there without even shifting over a little bit to cover down the line where Roger ripped the winner.

This one below, summed it up.

Screenshot 2019-07-13 at 10.56.31

Image Credit – BBC Sport

Exchange at the net, into the open court right? This would save break point but it was so tentative from Rafa that Roger got it back and then again another chance to kill it off…

Screenshot 2019-07-13 at 10.56.47

Image Credit – BBC Sport

Curl it down the line for the winner? How many times have we seen that? Plays it right into Federer and gets picked up easily. Federer hits the winner, breaks serve, takes the set and the match.

I think the tennis and the level of opponent he has had to face on this run since Rome has caught up with him.

From Rome to end of Roland Garros he saw off Tsitsipas, Djokovic, Federer, Goffin, Nishikori and Thiem with three sets dropped.

At Wimbledon just to get to the semi-finals had Sugita, Tsonga, Kyrgios, Querrey and Sousa with one set dropped.

He has hasn’t the luxury of having some ‘easy’ rounds where he could play at 60/70% and still go through he has had to be at such a high level.

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