Nadal Loses to Berrer in Doha: Is He Finally Declining?

Howdy folks. I was pleasantly surprised last night when Nadal suffered a sixth consecutive loss in the quarter finals or earlier. His last six losses came to Brown(85), Kyrgios(144), Klizan(56), Lopez(21), Coric(124), and Berrer(127). I was glad to catch this one but at first it looked like Nadal was right back to his best which of course would not have been surprising given his strange history, bread sticking Berrer in the opening set. As you can imagine I was not exactly thrilled with what was going on, remembering how Nadal came back in 2013 after a seven month lay off and hardly losing a match from the beginning to dominate the tour until after the US Open. He was also playing as well as I’ve ever seen him play, hitting one ridiculous banana shot in the process. But Berrer got the break early in the second set and held on to take the second set 6-3. To my surprise he also got the early break in the third set, because I was expecting Nadal to establish dominance again.

At 5-4 it was the moment of truth with Berrer serving for the match. He appeared shaky because he began with a double fault and went 0-30 down. He also served another double fault in the same game but somehow managed to hang on and get the upset victory, and that at age 34 which is also his last year on tour. After I saw the first set I thought Nadal was already back and that he could go all the way to the Doha final, but this loss seems like a new low now. It was the second lowest ranked player he lost to in his last six matches but Kyrgios probably played like a top five opponent at Wimbledon. Now before I make too big a deal of this let me just remind you that Nadal has lost early in smaller tournaments before, and then contended for slams again. I don’t want to draw any conclusions from this loss with the Australian Open coming up but it does make you wonder where he is going.

Last year’s champ Hewitt was a first round casualty

I just find it hard to believe that after six straight upsets he is just gonna show up in Melbourne and play the world on fire. Even Nadal needs confidence. Yes he can gain confidence by grinding out some wins over five sets, which is why I would never write him off. If he grinds out some wins in the first week with his superior fitness and experience he can certainly be a factor in the second week. But he could also run into a hot player and lose in the first week. And even if he makes the second week he can still lose to a good player due to lack of match play. But even if he doesn’t feature at the Australian Open it doesn’t mean he is over the hill. You’d expect him to come back strong in the clay court season and probably be the favorite for the French Open again. I said earlier that I expect him to win two slams this year. But that is more out of respect for his ability to prove me wrong.

He may also win no slams for the first time in(10 years?). I always thought Nadal was about on par with Sampras as far as greatness goes and that 14 is about the right number for him as far as slam titles go. But then he kept surprising me to the point that I was sure he would surpass Roger. And then of course Roger raised his own game and it now seems likely that he will win another slam himself. So now I am not so sure Nadal will surpass Roger anymore, but I still think he can catch him. Or not. It is just very difficult to tell in tennis and we may even see Nadal decline rapidly this year. Given his taxing game style I would have thought he would have declined a lot more already so it is not impossible. I mean he is getting injured more and more like his body is beginning to fall apart. How long can you keep playing like that for anyway? Surely there comes a point when even Nadal declines.

Hitting with his new shoes(Destroy fear)

Could this finally be Djokovic’s year to win the French? If that happens then you would think Nadal won’t win any slams this year. But if he does win the French then he could easily win the US Open as well. It is really hard to know what will happen given the unpredictable nature of tennis but I thought I’d put some food for thought out there and get some comments from you guys. As far as Roger goes he finally plays tomorrow against Millman who beat the qualifier easily. I’m sure you have all been looking forward to seeing him back in action just like myself. Simon has already lost too which means Roger will face Nieminen or Duckworth if he wins. So his draw has already opened up some. Dimitrov already played today and scraped by Chardy 10-8 in the final set tie break. The other seed in Roger’s half Dolgopolov was eliminated by Klizan who keeps impressing.

Enjoy:

Dolphinerer: 

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19 Comments

  1. Hey Ru-an, great post. Like you I have also seen the match. First set Rafa was unbelievable. Scary good. But then, I don’t know what happened. Berrer decided that he had nothing to lose and played like a mad man so good. Maybe Rafa let go a little bit and Berrer took advantage. Suddenly (just like Stan in the 3rd set MC final 2014) everything Berrer touched became gold and a point.
    And if anyone thinks Rafa didn’t give it his all, they really should watch the 3rd set. Rafa DID NOT want to lose. HE DID NOT. He tried and tried and…..failed.
    It is like I said to you earlier: if age and health cathes up with every player (including “injuryfree” Roger) than why does everyone think Rafa will be the exception??
    Ofcourse this is not completely the road to his decline, but…. he is getting close.
    Ru-an, I don’t know if you heard what one commie said during the match, but it did say it all (to me anyway): While Rafa was gone (injured), the game MOVED ON. That is the simple truth. The rest DOES become better. And thanks to Rosol, Stakhovsky and ofcourse Stan, they all believe and KNOW that they can beat the top.

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  2. Also I wanted to say this. I know you think Rafa will win atleast 2 GS this year. Eventhough he is Rafa and cannot be counted out, I honestly believe Rafa will not win any slam this year. Not even RG. Just like Roger, he has been figured out. That is the simple truth. More players are beating him, even on clay. BUT…. if by chance he does win RG…. even if I don’t like him, even if I think he doesn’t deserve to win a slam, even if I still believe that he is a “user” and does gamesmenship…. I would still take my hat off for him… winning 10 RG will be an achievement, no matter how you look at it.

    About Novak…. the way he played the exho against Stan and the way he played yesterday against Lajovic….just 4 words…. SCARY GOOD AND UNBEATABLE. But I don’t buy it anymore. Whenever he plays like this, Roger beats him and brings him back to earth :-) Many believe this year Novak will win RG. I don’t. RG will be the slam he wants too bad and will never win. Someone else will win RG (hopefully Roger).

    Ps: Kudos to Berrer and Lajovic. They played great. I loved both the matches.

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  3. Hey Ru-an and Katanyi,

    ‘Hopefully Roger’ is right! If Nadal can’t make it, Roger’s chances on clay are pretty good, especially the way he’s been playing lately! And I do have a feeling that Nadal is declining, as Ru-an asked about. I have a feeling that Nadal’s proper place in tennis history might be right next to Pete Sampras! :-)

    But I wouldn’t want to underestimate Nadal, and he looked pretty good most of the time in those highlights against Berrer. I do have a sense that his run at RG will end this year, but … well, you know. I have to be careful not to EXPECT his run to end. :-)

    I really haven’t seen enough of Roger or Nadal at this point to have an idea of the kind of seasons they’ll have. But I do want Roger to face Nadal across the net at some point, because of tennis history, legacies, and all that – but b/c of match-up issues between the two, I’d say the sooner the better! (i.e. before Nadal has a chance to play himself back to full strength).

    So AO could be a nice place! If Roger can knock him out there, that’s one more slam that’s out of the question for Nadal. And I think Roger’s confidence would sky-rocket.

    Well I can tell the expectation thing is starting to grow on me, so I’d better close! Katanyi I do so hope you are right about Nadal this year!

    Best to all…
    :-)

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Hey Joe. If Nadal loses at the FO it could be hard for him to recover. A sudden and irreversible decline is not out of the question, in which case he will remain on 14 slams indefinitely. But I am not gonna bet on it. He has proved me wrong too many times in the past. He could easily win two slams this year the way I see it. Some of his crazy fans think he can win the calender slam but obviously I think that is pushing it a bit far.
    As for a Fedal meeting I have been hoping for the same thing, but Nadal has been too weak post FO to make it happen. Hopefully he will find some form soon so we can see it.

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  4. Hi Ru-an, maybe it’s just me but did you gag yourself while writing this article? Felt like you kept holding back. True, Nadull proved us wrong on numerous occasions with crazy 2013 type comebacks but all fairy tails ends eventually. This early exit is an ominous sign imho… He played good but still lost. Like @katayai said, rest of field getting better and some are actually beating him. The losses will pile up soon, watch for it. Esp, when he loses FO (about damn time). With increasing desperation, Nadull will turn to more miracle “rehab” and come back eyes glazed. 2015 could be his worst year as the rest of pack gets hungry and better. Ironically, Federer adapted his game well in 2014. That has got to sting Rafa’s camp who takes pride over Nadull’s lopsided h2h. People praise what a good sportsman Rafa is… Just wait and see, if 2015 proves to be his worst year… All his infamous antics will be back in display. I’ll be enjoying the meltdown almost as much as watching Federer continually getting betterer.

    Conclusion, Rafa won’t win a GS at all this year. Ranking falls below 8 by WTF. I can dream, no? So, Who’s with me?! :-)

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Nope, no gagging Ben Chia. Just being cautious. Early on I didn’t dream Nadal would even come close to Roger’s record, nor win the career slam or destroy Roger in the h2h. I thought he would win like half the slams of Fed with his potential but he just kept improving and proving me wrong. I’m not gonna make the mistake of underestimating him now. I’d rather be wrong than sorry.

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  5. Was so good to see a player taking it to Nadal, maybe he didn’t like playing a leftie. I think we will see a different Rafa on clay if indeed not before…pains me to say it! Hope Roger plays well tonight. so many articles about Roger at least we don’t have to worry about him…if he doesn’t succeed at tennis he could always be a tour guide!!! So C’mon Roger we prefer TENNIS x

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    Joe Reply:

    Tour guide? I thought he was going to start a catering service when he retired!

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  6. Thanks for putting up this post so quickly. I just found out the match now and came by here first to see if there were any comments and found a whole post…

    Watching the highlights I have to say Berrer’s backhand held up pretty good. (single hander too). He was hitting over the backhand directly against Nadal’s inside out loopers. It seemed like a better backhand than Lopez’s anyway (!). I saw him going to the net aggressively too. Maybe Katyani is right, tennis has ‘moved’ on a bit and once again people are looking at Federer for inspiration.

    However, despite this loss I know Nadal will write it off and come back. Of course Uncle Toni will use this to paint him as a ‘0% chance’ of winning the AO..the usual low expectations games will begin.

    However this guy always come back and it comes down to fitness and mental strength, making his opponents realize they can’t beat him over 5 sets so they give up. Last year we saw an on-fire Federer lose in straights to him on courts which were a bit quicker than average for Australia. We missed a chance for a victory in Basel this year when Nadal lost to Coric…

    Actually I feel more worried for Fed – he’s been in great form, but that semifinal streak in Australia – what is it, 8 or 9 in a row? – is too incredible , like his crazy quarterfinal Slam streak.

    I still agree with Ruan that Nadal will get at least 1, and likely 2 slams…he just keeps on coming back. But maybe I am scarred after watching so many matches he ‘should have lost’ – Verdasco in 2009 in Australia, Federer 2009 AO…the French final vs Fed in 2011..even the Frnech 2013 semifinal vs Djokovic…

    But if the above poster is right and these are ominous signs of decline, I certainly won’t be unhappy…!

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    Joe Reply:

    Too right about Toni and the underdog game Bharata!

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Right Bharata I’m very careful to write Nadal off. That first set against Berrer was already him at his best. If he finds form at the AO there is no telling how deep he can go. I mean how hard can it be for him to grind out some matches and reach top form again? He does it all the time.

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  7. Rafa may not even play the AO…..he’s definitely not the same….http://edition.cnn.com/2015/01/07/tennis/tennis-nadal-qatar-defeat-qualifier-berrer/

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    Ru-an Reply:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/tennis/rafaelnadal/11329209/Rafael-Nadal-in-doubt-for-Australia-Open-following-first-round-defeat-to-world-No-127-Michael-Berrer-in-Qatar.html

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    Joe Reply:

    Hey Ru-an,

    This is very surprising news to me. Nadal has always seemed pretty fearless in the past, and that’s one reason (IMHO) he’s been so dangerous.

    The possibility that he might actually stay away from AO because he’s afraid of losing suggests to me that this loss to Berrer is really in his head. And he may also be afraid of the prospect of Roger chipping away at their H2H. :-)

    If his head is really that messed up, maybe it’s because he knows his best days are behind him. Maybe he feels a sudden and irreversible decline coming on! :-) And if that stays in his head, then his best days WILL DEFINITELY be behind him.

    But whatever his results are this year, it’s hard for me to see him NOT winning at least one more major. I think he would sweat blood to do that.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    He won’t withdraw from the AO I think it was a wrong translation because Nadal’s English is so bad. And he probably wants people to think he won’t play and then come out all guns blazing in Melbourne. People are not giving him much of a chance and that makes him dangerous.

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    Joe Reply:

    Thanks Jim!

    I love the way this article seems to indicate that Rafa may already be worrying about how hard it could be to defend at RG this year, skipping AO to play in a couple of ATP clay tournaments instead!
    :-)

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  8. I don’t think Nadal is physically going to be the same man as he was pre surgery. Too many great athletes have had surgery and recovery hasn’t been great – can only think of Del Potro and Murray at this point in time.
    I’m curious if Nadal has had surgery on his knees? I did a brief search and can’t find any solid info – I think he just did the blood cycling to heal them?

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    Ru-an Reply:

    It was just an appendix removal so I don’t see that being a problem. But his body does seem to be feeling the stress these days. Not sure how much longer it will hold up. It’s already breaking down all the time. He’s not had surgery on his knees. Just that shady blood spinning crap which has been proven not to work. He only does it to get the other ‘benefits’ from it or to mask doping.

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  9. Hey guys dont judge rafa by this loss.. Remember his 2013 comeback started with a loss to zebolis (lefty) . He is such a strong guy and when he is saying this again n again that he will come back go his best so believe him.. Cant write him off.. Even a hot djokovic ‘d be hesitant against him if they meet in ausopen.. I think big servers like kyrkyrgios or the guys wwith solid backhand wawrinka nishikori Murray can beat him in ausopen.. And i wish if RoRoger can finally win the ausopen again..

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