Beijing SF: Cilic Trashes Nadal 6-1, 6-3, Nadal’s Star Fading?

Lets be honest, whatever happens with Rafa is relevant to Roger. Especially when he gets trashed like he was by Cilic in the Beijing Semi’s. I didn’t see the match, but from the scoreline and from what I have heard it’s pretty obvious that Rafa had no chance. As a FedAddict I’m not gonna lie, it’s always a good sight to see Rafa being owned like this. But before we start celebrating, lets not forget about the fact that Rafa has once again come back from injury after a few weeks off. It’s kind of the same thing that happened at the US Open. I still think he would have lost to both Delpo and Cilic even if he was at his best it must be said. The thing with Rafa these days is that there is always an injury problem, so you can’t use that as an excuse anymore.

The big losses Rafa has suffered this year was against Soderling at the French Open, Delpo at the US Open and now against Cilic in Beijing, and in all of those losses injury played a roll. Even if it only meant he was coming back from injury. The other important factor is that Soderling, Delpo and Cilic are all similar players. They are all pretty tall with big serves, strong two handed backhands and punishing base line games. Is there a pattern developing here? There certainly is. These players all played a similar game by stepping into the court and used heavy strokes from both sides to obliterate Rafa. As predicted after the French Open, more players are now starting to figure out how to beat Rafa. It’s inevitable.

It’s definitely more than Rafa just being injured or not being match fit. You are now starting to see the difference between a one dimensional grinder and a Master. I am of course talking about RogiGOAT :-) The reason why Roger has been able to win so many slams and stayed at the top of the game for such a long time, is because he is multi-dimensional and he doesn’t just rely on retrieving like a mad man until his opponent makes the error. As good as Rafa is, two flaws has now become clearly evident in his game. The first is that he is too one dimensional, allowing players who use the right tactics to trash him. The second is that his one dimensional game is too taxing on the body, and is leading to chronic injury.

This is something that I have predicted would happen for ages now, and is only really now starting to take effect. I don’t mean to sound like I’m writing Rafa off, because like I said he is still coming back from injury. But one can’t ignore the fact that this is another crushing loss, and that this is very likely to start happening more and more in the future. What message does it send to the rest of the tour when a guy like Cilic, who isn’t even in the top 10, crushes Rafa like this? Their thoughts will be along the lines of: “If Cilic and Delpo can school him like this, and Soderling can beat him in four sets on clay, then at least I can beat Rafa 7-5, 6-4”. It just gives the rest of the field a lift, and Rafa starts losing his air of invincibility.

Is this good or bad for Roger? At first glance surely it is a good thing that his main rival gets owned like this. But having thought about it for a while, I do think that Roger and Rafa’s destinies are somehow intertwined. The downfall of Rafa could mean the downfall of Roger. Notice I said could, because it is not a certainty. All in all you have to say that this loss from Rafa is a good thing for Roger. First off all there is the ranking points, with Rafa having an outside change of passing Roger in the rankings before the end of the year. It also means that if Rafa’s star is starting to fade, then Roger have less to worry about from Rafa in terms of competition. If guys like Soderling, Delpo and Cilic can beat Rafa early on in the slams, then Roger won’t have to worry about him as a final opponent.

There has been suggestions of Roger’s star also fading, but after the year he has had that is a very harsh call. Besides, he won more slams then Rafa and he got his number one ranking back. He didn’t get injured the way Rafa did either. Therefor if anyone’s star is fading it is definitely Rafa. Once again after this loss the question must be asked if Rafa should have played in Beijing. With all the injury problems he has had, is it really worth it to risk further injury for 180 ranking points? It just seems like things have gone from bad to worse for Rafa since that French Open loss. As far as I’m concerned I’m really in two minds about it. In a way Rafa is good for the game and his rivalry with Roger has made for probably the best era of tennis yet, and I’m worried that if Rafa fades away Roger will follow suit.


But for now I am not worried about that. For that Roger had too good a year. And it is not like there is a shortage of players in the wings who Roger could have new exciting rivalries with. Guys like Delpo, Murray, Djokovic, Cilic and Soderling are all tough competitors. Having said that, if Rafa fades away like I expect, I don’t think tennis will quite be the same again. Something else that I should mention here is Simon Reed’s article about Cilic winning a slam next year. Although I still think that is a stretch, let’s give credit where it’s due. After the win over Murray at the US Open and the follow up over Rafa, it seems like Cilic is progressing faster than I thought he would. I guess you can say he is now a dark horse to win a slam in 2010, but far from a certainty.

I’ve liked Cilic since I saw him play this year at Wimbledon and have said so before. He has a great mentality and he is similar to Delpo, kind of a gentle giant. I can definitely see him becoming one of my favorite players in the future. I think it’ great for tennis that guys like Cilic and Delpo have come along and lived up to their potential so far. They have attitudes towards the game that is good for tennis. It would be good for tennis if there are new guys challenging Roger, instead of Rafa being the only one to ever do it. Change is good. I honestly believe that Roger can still stay at the top of the game and win slams for a long time to come. Once again he made the right decision not to play in Asia and it will just pay off in the long run. Just excellent, intelligent scheduling.

Is Rafa's star fading?

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19 Comments

  1. You are right about Cilic, Delpo and Soderling playing style. As they narrow their gap on Nadal, I hope Roger takes cue from them on the winning strategy and narrow his H2H too. Should I be worried about Roger now since Nadal and him are sort of inter-twinned. Perhaps but no as Roger has more weapons. Again he should sit up right and be on his guard. Gosh I really miss Roger, Nov sound so far….

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    jonny Reply:

    Yeah, but Roger would not get the chance to correct the H2H if Rafa keeps losing early to the aforementioned players.

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    jason Reply:

    Well, if Rafa’s shine really fades away fast, then Roger can correct his H2H record against Rafa in early rounds of tournaments. Roger was trailing 7-2 against Hewitt. After 2004, he’s been beating the shit out Hewitt 12 or 13 times straight.

    I don’t expect that to happen w/ Rafa, just an illustration of what can happen.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    True.

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  2. Surprised and shocked that Rafa loss. I do agree that the Roger/Rafa matches has been great. I have said for awhile that who will be the first to retire first, Roger or Rafa? It is nice to see new faces to compete with Roger.

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  3. I saw some of Rafa´s match (Fox Sports).Cilic was really playing like a monster.Nadal was just a shadow.
    Cilic is a tennis talent & one to watch for among the upcoming youngsters(Gulbis too).
    In my opinion Roger is not going to be as dominant as he has been,hope it doesn´t mean Roger´s downfall.

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  4. The injuries Rafa suffer have been getting increasingly serious as time progresses. Since 19 (the year he won his 1st FO), he has been dealing w/ injuries. One reason is because of his playing style.

    However, we must now consider other factors possibly contributing to his injuries, and worst of all, to his mental state. Think about it. More and more guys now beat him and know how to do it. At several occasions, he’s beaten very easily. As he doesn’t win tournaments as easily before (and there are more significant likelihood of early round elimination)… he’s having a tough time to collect those ranking points. Remember the point I mentioned a while ago: ranking points increase exponentially as participation in tournaments get into later stages.

    As an illustration, consider he plays 2 ATP500 tournaments and get to the SFs but loses each time. He gets 180×2 = 360 points. Reaching & playing SFs require 4 matches. So, it’s 360 points from 8 matches. And now consider if he just wins one. He only plays 5 matches and he gets… 500 points. Losing in the SFs will be physically more debilitating, that’s before even considering the travel needed to make to 2 different tournaments.

    So, if he wants to maintain his ranking points, guess what the solution is. Playing more tournaments! Now, this will definitely aggravate his injuries. And w/ him being beaten more easily, his mental state will be fading too… his aura of invincibility will inevitably deplete.

    OK, that’s quite a bit of extrapolation that might not play out exactly. But assuming this extrapolation play out to some extent/degree, the only way for Rafa’s career to go is either:

    1. play just as often as now. possibly he can keep top 2 or 3 ranking for a while more, but w/ very high risks of getting his career severely shortened… and never playing at his best, OR

    2. take a lot of rest, just focus to the biggies (GS, Masters)… at the risk of losing a lot of ranking points. there’s a significant risk he’ll be out of top 5, but he can still play his best at GSs and have much better shots at them, especially FO.

    I pretty much favor option 2. After all, you don’t get remembered for how long you stay in top 2 or 5. What matters most is how many GSs you win.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    I agree but somehow i dont think he will go for option 2.

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  5. It’s uncanny how Roger & Rafa’s destinies are intertwined. I see some strikingly parallel fates these two share.

    In 2008, Roger pretty much had a career crisis. To a certain extent, I blame his out of season scheduling for this. In the off-season, he’s supposed to rest & practice to prepare for the new season. Instead he was having these exhibition matches w/ Pete, travel & stuff. Not enough prep + mononucleosis -> recipe for disaster. And a “disaster” he had in 2008. Lucky he was still able to revive it somehow in USO 2008. Meanwhile, Roger’s crisis brought Rafa’s best season ever.

    Rafa in 2009, played too much, get injuries & you know since the early season, Rafa’s season has been horrific (to his standards, of course). Rafa’s undoing seemed to bring Roger back up from the abyss many think he will go to. Pretty much, I would say Rafa is undergoing a very similar crisis to one Roger had in 2008. Whether he can shrug it off remains to be seen, but arguably his problems are more complicated — especially if you don’t have huge ranking point buffers.

    As early 2009 was very critical moments in Roger’s career, so too I think early 2010 will be for Rafa’s career.

    To add a more interesting point, Roger’s career really began to shone very brightly in 2004 (not 2003 — only 1 Wimbledon could have been a “one-slam-wonder”) while Rafa’s in 2005 (1st FO & huge numbers of Masters titles). They have this crisis exactly 1 year apart as well. Uncanny, eh?

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    jason Reply:

    Edit from above:
    “Rafa in 2009, played too much, get injuries & you know since the early season, Rafa’s season has been horrific (to his standards, of course)”

    I really meant “after the early season”. Starting from FO, that is.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Good points…

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  6. As for Roger, I agree w/ Ines that his domination is going to fade, but hopefully only slightly & slowly. The prescription he needs to take is:
    1. playing less & only on the important ones. if needed, perhaps he only needs to play 13-14 tournaments/year (4 GS + 9 Masters series + 1 Masters Cup). And please, please, please… no Davis Cups… please.

    2. work more on strengthening his back. i’ve heard he has a back injury lately. the back is cornerstone to his serves and his game needs his serve to work well.

    The back problem concerns me. I think it started in 2008 season end. It’s affecting him again now, possibly it also did in USO final (remember the numerous DFs & low serve %? — yes, Ru-an I don’t agree w/ you on this). So, hopefully he can recover from this fully. I have doubts that hopefully will be proven wrong.

    If this problem is no more, I think he can dominate like in 2007 to great (but not full) lengths… only that he has to play fewer tournaments.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    I also think his back could be troubling him again, but still if he won those importnat points in the USO he wouldve won imo.

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  7. I’m just happy for the ranking points.

    Now I have a specific wishlist.

    #1 Djokovic to go number 2 before London

    #2 Nadal to be in Federer’s group in London

    #3 Federer to beat Nadal but both qualify

    #4 Federer to beat Nadal again in the final.

    Just to improve the h2h y’know?

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    Ru-an Reply:

    That would be sweet!

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  8. Methinks you are jumping to a very early and erroneous conclusion. Nadal is still as much of a threat to anyone out there as he has always been. I don’t think his opponents regard him as lightly as you do. But then again, they have to play him and you and I don’t have that problem. Nadal will be back in full strength. You heard it here first.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Rafa is not the threat he was. You heard it here first.

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    Paul Reply:

    I mean this in the most offensive way possible. Anyone who says ‘you heard it here first’ is a total muppet.

    It reeks of arrogance and is used to dress up a random guess as actually looking like you know something.

    Don’t mean you here Ru-an, as yours was made in a jestful reply.

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  9. Dear Ruan
    I think you are being too polite.
    I believe it is more than injury that is bothering Nadal. Have you noticed how small he has become? He has lost muscle mass and his hair is very thin, I even noticed some bald patches. And he has finally started to have facial hair!
    You can’t keep excusing him by accepting the claim of injury. If he is injured he should not play.
    People must remember that Roger exposed the limitations in Nadal’s game in Madrid and good players like Soderling, Del Potro and Cilic have exploited his one-dimensional game. I have always felt Nadal won his matches by attrition – boring his opponents until they make an error. Now he is the one that can’t keep the ball in play because he can’t run as fast as before.
    I don’t expect Nadal to come back. In fact I expect him to fade quickly and be out of the top 10 by the French 2010.
    Whether he plays on or retires will NOT affect Roger in any way. Roger has endured the challenges of Hewitt, Roddick, Safin etc over the years. They never stopped him achieving his goal or keeping his focus. Nadal’s decline or otherwise will have no effect on Roger’s motivation. Players come and go and there are many on the rise at the moment – Del Potro, Cilic are just a couple. No, Nadal’s decline will have no impact on Roger whatsoever!
    As for the HtH, it really does not mean anything. It is records that matter, not HtH – How many grand slams will Nadal win? How many finals will he reach etc.
    As far as I’m concerned Roger is the GOAT.

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