Mayer Owns Nadal in Shanghai 7-6(5), 6-3

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.

Highlights:

Roger Federer


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27 Comments

  1. You know that Nadull will be a totally different player again in the big tournaments again next year, right? I think he learned that from Serena!

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  2. Great post. These results are not unusual for Nadal as he has never had much success on fast indoor courts. I’m not sure if these results mean much going into next year though, as Nadal has never really gotten up for this part of the season in his career.

    I think when Australia rolls around – Nadal will be giving it his all to win that. Before then I hope Federer and Nadal are drawn into the same group at the World Tour Finals. It would be nice to see them in the same group where they would be guaranteed to play.

    It’s too bad Federer skipped Shanghai because it would have been a good chance for him at least exit the season with something relatively important to his name. He skipped the Asian swing which is his best surface and best chance to win titles. If he doesn’t win any of his 3 remaining tournaments, it’ll then be a full 12 months without a tournament victory going into Doha next year. A 12-month drought is unheard for a champion of Federer’s quality.

    On another note – if Federer is no longer capable of playing a full season, why doesn’t he start skipping the clay season instead of the indoor season? It would make sense for him to quit playing for 3 months after Miami and come back strong and rested for the grass season, fully fresh and ready for a charge at Wimbledon.

    In this case he could also play another grass tournament such as Eastbourne if he needs more time on court to get him back in form going into Wimbledon. Federer making the finals at the French Open will drastically hurt his chances of winning Wimbledon again in the future as fatigue becomes more and more of a problem for him.

    There very little time to rest or recover between the French Open and Wimbledon and at this stage of his career fatigue will be a large factor for Federer. I know McEnroe has mentioned this point before about the possibility of Federer skipping the clay season entirely. I was just wondering what Ruan’s thoughts and other’s thoughts are about that?

    Which route should Federer go? Try again to beat Nadal at the French Open where Federer is most likely to reach the final, and then be fatigued for Wimbledon win or lose; or skip the French and go straight for another Wimbledon fully rested? At this stage of his career Federer should be considering such options even though it’s highly unlikely he will stop playing the French as playing in majors means a lot to him.

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    Katarina_YYZ Reply:

    Why should he skip clay? Fed is great on clay. Europeans are totally comfortable on clay, as Europe is full of clay courts. This idea that Fed hates clay is a myth; his fans hate it because of the Nadal thing. Roger has always prided himself on being a great all-around, all-court player. Why should he chicken out of clay now just to grab up cheap points at mickeymouse tournaments? He knows best when he needs his rest periods; he’s done a great job so far managing his schedule (as proven by his lack of serious injuries; the kind that lead to surgeries, threaten an entire season, etc).

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    booya719 Reply:

    I never implied that Federer hates clay. He grew up on it and likes it. However, I don’t agree that Federer has always done the best job of managing his schedule at times, now and in the past.

    In 2010 Federer injured himself playing Halle due to leftover fatigue from the clay season. At Wimbledon he nearly lost in the first round to Falla, but somehow he made it all the way to the QF with his injury where he was unable to compete with Berdych. 2011 he made the final of the French and then he had to pull out of Halle due to fatigue again and still went on to lose early in another Wimbledon QF.

    Let’s face it – Federer is 30 now, not 23. When he was young and in his prime the wear and tear of a full season didn’t bother him. Now, he can’t play at the highest level every single week of the year anymore. Playing the clay and grass seasons so closely together is going to make it very, very difficult for Roger to have anymore success at Wimbledon. As it stands going into the future, Wimbledon is Roger’s worst slam and is his least chance of winning any of the 4 majors. I don’t remember Roger winning a clay or grass tournament at all since the Wimbledon of 2009, correct me if I’m wrong on that.

    A fast, indoor surface best suits Roger’s shot-making game. It should be where he plays the most to showcase his ability. He’s good on clay, but he’s consistently amazing on hard indoors. How is it that Federer has never won the Paris Masters yet it’s his best surface? The answer is that he skipped it in his prime years. Had he played there in his prime he would have won it probably 3 or 4 times and would still be ahead of Nadal in Masters 1000 count.

    Roger should be playing all of the indoor season where he thrives the best and plays his best tennis, whether Nadal is there or not. Federer would be winning these tournaments more often than not but he never plays them for some reason be it fatigue, lack of interest, injuries, etc.

    Skipping the clay at this point in his career could cut down on the wear and tear of a long season and give him more mileage to make it through the grass and hard court seasons with better results and a few more tournament victories.

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  3. Good post, as usual, I enjoy your writing…I’ve never seen Mayer play but I’m hoping they show it on Tennis Channel since I wasn’t able to stream it at work. Nadal is a machine and shockingly he hasn’t physically broken down yet, mentally yes. You hit the nail on the head. His confidence is shot, it’s obvious by all the losses. The cheating between points is pathetic, totally unsportsmanlike of him, but not surprising since it’s Nadal. Let’s not forget though, that Nole also does the same thing, probably not as bad or as much as Rafa. Either way, it’s pathetic and thankfully Mayer showed his mental fortitude and kicked his ACE. And Rafa getting bageled by Murray? I can’t even believe that one. yea, Nadal is done. buh bye.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks :-) Did you get to watch Mayer? It was an epic schooling.

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  4. This game again proves that if you have a good two handed backhand, when i say good it means all the facets slice..cross-court .. down the line… then you can surely can beat Nadal…. These kind of results are common for Nadal in masters, the true Nadal always emerges on GS…so lets wait for AO..but cant wait for masters final in london, should be a cracker assuming Murray will win this one and Joko/Fed will be back rejuvenated..

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  5. Good one, Ru-an, enjoy reading this. Love your easy and orderly writing style, your analysis and how you cover matches well, picking on important, relevant and interesting information to impart to your readers. Yeah, Mayer was truly a breath of fresh air. Nadal did not have a clue on what was coming next but there were some ridiculous points by the Bull too. Very good match to watch. I don’t remember Mayer plays like this. I think Fed beat him quite easily not too long ago, don’t remember where. I wasn’t too impressed with him and I don’t recall he plays so interestingly. Anyway, I love his jumping BH, such style! Reminds me of Safin’s. In my dreams, Fed has a double-handed backhand (dream on!). Btw, did anyone notice Tsonga playing single-handed backhand at USO when he was playing Fed?! He was so cheeky to try it against Fed. Anyone noticed if he tried it with other players as well?

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks veronica. You sum up my writing style well. Roger beat Mayer last year at Halle i think. Sorry but I like Roger backhand. As for Tsonga yes he does it all the time now. he did it against Roger at Wimby too. Quite an interesting shot.

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    dj Reply:

    if am not wrong, fed beat mayer in final of IF STOCKHOLM OPEN last year…..

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Correct. He did beat Mayer in 2005 Halle though.

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  6. One more thought. Shouldn’t our beloved Maestro be playing like how Mayer plays? He should take a lesson or rather, encouragement, from Mayer. He is so much better than Mayer and has more than Mayer yet he is not fully exploiting or freely swinging it as Mayer does. So sad. Fed is too worried about looking beautiful, too worried about over-taxing his body, too fazed and can’t think clearly when challenged. Hence our Maestro can’t play freely nowadays. Instead of swinging it freely like he should (afterall he has nothing more to prove), he still plays tense, like under a lot of pressure and when challenged, he gets rattled. But still I am hopeful and I shouldn’t ask for more for what he has already given us. I think it is not only his personality and his artistic nature which get in the way of being more tough mentally, it is also his culture – European, cultured, traditional, proud, certain way of acceptable behaviour, very wary of embarrassing oneself, keeps it all to himself or only a very few select people. All these can hinder his progress as a player I believe. He could be helped by sports psychologist but can you imagine Fed ever succumbing to that?!! He would be horrified and shut down the idea completely.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    I don’t necessarily agree. You make it sound like Roger is British. Roger used to be a bad boy.

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  7. In response to Booya719 I donot think it good for Federer to skip clay season and try to play only on grass. Firstly there is no guarantee that he can win grass titles as in his heydays and secondly he can play more freely French Open rather than Wimbledon because there is less expectation from him in French Open.I am hopeful that he may fare better in clay come next year.

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  8. I too don’t understand Nadal. It is obvious he doesn’t like playing in this part of the year. Specifically this year, he doesn’t need the points because he already lost the race. His choices are just bizarre. Does he really need the money he gets for participating??? He’s not 21 anymore and certainly not poor, he should focus on his goals.
    Anyway, I don’t think he’s declining yet. I believe he’s occupied with finding a solution to Djokovic and he doesn’t have the drive to go deep in these tournaments. When he fails to reach a slam semis we’ll know something has changed.

    On the same issue, have you heard that Nadal is playing Halle next year? He was offered £750,000 appearance fee. Just a tiny conspiracy thought: Are the Halle event directors trying to ‘punish’ Federer for his absence in 2011 by bringing Nadal in?

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    George Reply:

    interesting parts from Nadal’s autobiography:

    ” My mother remembers that, as a small child, sometimes I’d come home from training crying. She’d try to get me to tell her what the matter was, but I preferred to keep quiet.

    Once I confessed to her that Toni had a habit of calling me a “mummy’s boy”, which pained her, but I begged her not to say anything to Toni, because that would only have made matters worse.

    Toni never let up. Once I started playing competitive games, aged seven, it got tougher. One very hot day I went to a match without my bottle of water. I’d left it at home.

    He could have gone and bought me one, but he didn’t. So that I’d learn to take responsibility, he said. Why didn’t I rebel? Because I enjoyed tennis, and enjoyed it all the more once I started winning, and because I was an obedient and docile child. My mother says I was too easy to manipulate.

    During a match I’ll hear him say, “Play aggressive!” before a return of serve . I’ll go for it, the ball will go out, and then he’ll say, “Now wasn’t the moment”.
    But it was the moment; it just happened that I messed up the shot. If the ball had gone in, he’d have said, “Perfect!” The atmosphere in our team is tenser when Toni’s around than when he’s not.

    Everything I have achieved in the game of tennis, all the opportunities I have had, are thanks to him. I’m especially grateful to him for having placed so much emphasis from the very beginning on making sure I kept my feet on the ground and never became complacent.

    While Toni’s refusal to let me off the hook has its value, in that he pushes me always to improve and do better, it can also be bad because he creates insecurity.

    The point is to hold on to the lessons I’ve absorbed from Toni but to impose my own judgment more, striving to find the right balance between humility and overconfidence. . .What I am trying to teach myself now is . . .to exercise more autonomy over my life and disagree more openly with him.”

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks for that George, that reveals a lot.

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    George Reply:

    Yeah I think Nadal is tired of wearing that ‘mask’ his uncle gave him a long time ago to cover every real emotion he feels. His autobiography shows that Toni has always been a cruel man. Nadal admits he was manipulated by his uncle. I don’t want to think of mind-control, brainwashing or something like that, but it’s perfectly clear to me that Nadal was forced to become who Toni needed him to be. He was forced to become who he is now. Nadal cannot help but feel ‘different’ to the other players. He seems like a good humble guy off the courts, but deep inside, he has a general sense of inferiority. He now realizes that Toni’s mind-control methods are not only wrong, but also catastrophic for his personality (“While Toni’s refusal… he creates insecurity”). All I want to say is that Uncle Toni has created a ‘monster’. A neat monster. I hope the consequences will not be too bad. The positive side is that Nadal has realized all that and wants to change some things. But still, I don’t think he will ever fire his coach. In a way, Toni would not let him do so.

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  9. Thanks for that post, George. It sure makes Nadal look like a sulking, ultra-dependent child. Now all his swaggering and chest-thumping makes a lot more sense to me. He’s obviously over-compensating for the great passivity of his inner child. I almost feel sorry for the guy.

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  10. Super Nadal is clearly on vacation, not to return until London.

    Judging from the video, he didn’t have the strength to muscle the ball with tons of topspin, the way he does when he’s at his peak.

    Nadal’s confidence is almost entirely a function of his physical attributes. If he’s at full strength and stamina, he’ll mindlessly run for hours, certain that he can grind down his opponent.

    If he’s not at his physical peak, then he becomes vulnerable because he has to rely so much on defense and has nothing else to trouble his opponent.

    This loss won’t bother him. Last year he lost to Melzer in Shanghai and it didn’t affect his performance at the YEC.

    Probably only defeats on clay really shake his confidence; when he lost to Soderling at RG it was nearly a full year before he won another title.

    As an aside, Nadal’s decided to skip Queen’s Club next year and play his grass warm-up at Halle instead, supposedly because British tax laws would cost him prize money. ???

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  11. Nadal losses mean little this time of year. Why? Because we have seen that it is a typically low point in his cycle, and not simply because the surfaces may not suit him. He is, after all, a winner of two grand slams on hard court. No, unlike any other great player I can recall, and quite unlike Roger at his peak, Nadal’s performances follow a predictable pattern over each year. After the USO and through to December is often weak for him, as are his performances between slams. What would surprise is if he starts to lose during the clay-court season (to anyone other than a player bearing the name Djokovic). Like Arnie in “The Terminator”, he will be back, a little battered by his repeated beatings at the hands of the Serb world No.1 but still running endlessly across the baseline in every match. In the meantime, there is the pleasure for the tennis connoisseur of seeing his very one-dimensional game periodically taken apart by more skilled and varied play by some unlikely opponents, when his seasonally superhuman physical skills seem to be at their lowest ebb. Sure, he cheats by repeatedly going over time, but after years of watching pro tennis I doubt that’s the extent of it. But don’t expect the authorities to call him anytime soon for that, either.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    ;-)

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  12. I don’t feel like we should hope so much for Rafa’s decline.
    I believe we have to focus more on Roger’s performance and hope for Roger to reconnect with victory on the highest level and get some rehabilitation.
    Things don’t always appear what they are anyway. We think sometimes we’re gliding down the highway, nearing destination, when in fact we’re slip sliding away, and vice versa.
    I try to stay positive and hope for Roger having better results at the expense of whoever this might be.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    You are actually right Wilfried. I will try to keep that in mind.

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  13. Dear Ruan and Fedfans,
    You may want to read Patrick Mouratoglou’ view on Nadal’s late performances and mindset.
    ttp://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/tennis/patrick-mouratoglou/article/2542/time-for-nadal-to-face-up-to-his-problems/

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  14. Nadal’s loss of confidence is one thing; the other thing is that the other players are losing their fear of him. So many times over the years, I felt that he just “sucked out” in a lot of matches; his opponents were outplaying him, but just couldn’t close the deal (sadly this applies to one R. Federer as well :-( ) Remember Haase and Petzchner in Wimbledon 2010? Heck, John Isner nearly took him out of RG in the first round this year. The aura of invincibility has eroded, and more and more players will look to have “the biggest win of their careers” against Nadal (as many have against Roger) instead of just shrugging sadly and booking their plane ticket home when they see Nadal in their quarter of the draw.

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