Yet another exit for Nadal in a Masters Series event before the quarter finals, as was the case in Montreal just a while ago. It also comes on the back of being bageled by Murray in the Tokyo final. I think it is fair to start asking now if Nadal is suffering a lack of confidence after all the losses he took to Djokovic this year. I mean it has to take a toll. Losing to Murray who was in the zone is one thing, but losing to a relatively unknown like Mayer in straight sets is another. Not to take anything away from Mayer. He played a brilliant match and totally deserved the win. I don’t know if you’ve seen Mayer play but he is a very interesting player. He reminds me of Santoro. He has an unorthodox style and mixes it up very well. He doesn’t have a huge serve but it is effective and got him many free points against Nadal.
He serve-and-volleys, hits drop shots, slices, lobs, and everything that messes with his opponent’s rhythm. He also has a good two-handed backhand, which is of course key in beating Nadal. Mayer is like a breath of fresh air, and it was very nice to see him getting a big win like this while playing an interesting game. In a way he is the antithesis of Nadal. Where Nadal always does the same thing, Mayer never does the same thing. With Nadal the opponent knows exactly what he is gonna get. It is just so hard to beat it. Against Mayer the opponent has no idea what he will get, and that makes it uncomfortable to play against. There was some truly amazing rallies in this match. On some important points Nadal was his usual freakish defensive self and didn’t allow Mayer to take advantage. At 5-4 in the first set Mayer had two sets points, but Nadal somehow hung in there.
In the tie break Mayer was actually a break down, but played some fantastic tennis to break back and then broke Nadal once more to win it. In the second set you would expect Nadal to mount a comeback, but Mayer kept up his impressive play to break at 4-3 and then held serve for the match. It was awesome to see Mayer drop shot Nadal on several occasions and then lobbing over his head. It was like he was toying with Nadal. Nadal got visibly frustrated as he had no answer to Mayer’s variation, and at one point he even argued with the umpire over a hawk eye decision. This match shows once again how one dimensional Nadal is. He simply could not come up with a plan B when his A game was not working. People don’t believe me that Nadal is one dimensional, but what has he been able to come up with to counter Djokovic?
Losing six straight finals without making any headway is telling. You can say Roger never came up with a plan B to beat Nadal, but he never lost six straight times to Nadal. He did once lose five straight times to Nadal, but that was past his prime and two of the matches were extremely close five set matches. Also, against Nadal it is not just a tactical thing, but also a mental thing. Roger had many chances to put Nadal away in the past, but he faltered mentally. In the last four meetings Djokovic have beaten Nadal comfortably, two of those victories being on his favorite clay. In none of those meetings Nadal ever looked like beating Djokovic. This is also why I don’t see Nadal solving Djokovic. He doesn’t have the variation needed to beat Djokovic. The only way he can beat Djokovic is if Djokovic becomes careless and his level drops.
I said in my last post that I don’t see any reason to believe that Nadal is declining yet, and that he will be back with a vengeance next year. But this loss leaves some room for speculation. Nothing definitive can be concluded, but the fact that Nadal is beginning to lose before the quarters of Masters Series events to guys like Dodig and Mayer could mean something. I am also amazed at how much Nadal keeps playing. While Roger and Djokovic is taking much needed breaks, Nadal is still playing every event possible. I mean he just never slows down, and it seems kind of unreal. Djokovic’s body finally started breaking down after all the tennis he’s played this year, and Nadal hasn’t played much less. He has an even more grueling game style than Djokovic as well. It just blows my mind how he keeps going like a machine.
Something that I left out about the match was Nadal’s usual breaking of the rules. The allowed time between points is 25 seconds and Nadal was once timed taking 40 seconds and another time 52 seconds. And those are just the instances I know of. When they showed his average between points it was 33 seconds. I mean it is just absurd how he keeps breaking the rules while the umpires do nothing about it. It is simply cheating, but we knew long ago that Nadal sinks to these levels. Do the umpires feel sorry for him because he runs around the base line like a madman, and therefor give him more time to rest between points? Rules are rules and you apply it or you don’t make the rule. This leniency by the umpires gives Nadal an unfair advantage because he has more time to recover after his opponent went through the trouble of running him ragged behind the base line.
It also allows him to make his opponent wait and break their rhythm. How long will the ATP still allow Nadal to get away with murder? Probably only until he starts declining when it doesn’t matter anymore. Anyway back to Shanghai and the top seed left now is Murray. There are also just two of the top eight seeds left in the draw. It means this is a pretty weak field for a Masters Series now, but it is also nice to see some new faces. Murray really should win this event now, but I guess you never know with him. If he wins the event he will also pass Roger in the rankings. But like I said that is not a big deal. I am going a bit back and forth in this post but I want to get back to Nadal. Only time will tell whether he is starting to decline, but this could be the beginning. Next for Nadal is Paris, which is a fast indoor surface that doesn’t suit him at all.
He may go into the Masters Cup low in confidence and struggle there. I wouldn’t mind seeing him making the latter rounds and facing Djokovic however. A seventh straight loss would be a nice way to top off the year. If Nadal struggles more towards the end of the year it could just affect his form at the start of next year. We will just have to see. He will no doubt do everything in his power to come back strong in 2012, so I won’t get too excited yet. But it is not impossible that Nadal’s decline is starting very soon. Lets hope it is the case.
Ps: Nadal didn’t have a single break point the entire match.