Nadal Loses to Pouille In One of the Best Matches of 2016

Wow! What an incredible match that was between Nadal and very promising French/Finnish youngster Pouille last night. I must say I enjoyed that a lot and I hope you had the opportunity to watch Pouille defeat Nadal 6-1, 2-6, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(6).

Pouille slipped under my radar a bit but I don’t think many people thought he could defeat Nadal. Nadal had been cruising through the draw without dropping a set while Pouille had already played a four-setter and two five-setters.

Pouille was playing unbelievable tennis from the get-go but he seemed to tire a bit in the fourth set when he dropped some balls short and at a break down in the fifth very few people still believed he stood a chance.

The ESPN commentator Taylor Dent had flat out written him off after which Pouille embarrassed him by pulling off the unlikely. I am not a fan of ESPN by I am just grateful I didn’t have to listen to Mcenroe’s endless fanboying of Nadal.

Pouille looked down and out at a break down in the fifth set but I wasn’t one of those people who had completely written him off. I mean it seemed unlikely that he could turn it around but I didn’t just dismiss the possibility that there could be another twist in the plot.

Pouille showed such great composure throughout the match that you didn’t want to write him off. He then found a second wind as he broke Nadal back in the nick of time to even up at 4-4 and then crucially held serve to take the lead 5-4.

They went into the final set tiebreak where there were several mini-breaks before they switched sides at 4-2 in favor of Pouille. Pouille showed more great composure as he held on to take a 6-3 lead and bring up three match points.

Nadal saved two match points on his own serve and saved the third one on Pouille’s serve after Pouille hit a forehand long. They changed sides again at 6-6. Amazing drama. The next point was unbelievable as Nadal had the shot he wanted when Pouille dropped a backhand woefully short and gave Nadal a look at what should have been an easy forehand winner.

Instead, Nadal dumped the forehand into the net to bring up another match point for Pouille. Nadal choked. Simple as that. As good as Pouille is mentally he took advantage of it when he hit a forehand winner on the next point after a long baseline rally.

The perfect end to a tremendous match and Pouille’s reaction was priceless. He was a class act in the on-court interview as well and I am an instant fan. I don’t like French players but Pouille is half Finn and doesn’t strike me as very French at all.

No pure French player can do to Nadal what Pouille did to him. Pouille showed no fear against a Nadal who was playing close to peak level as far as I’m concerned. Nadal showed similar form to what he showed at the Olympics which is very good.

  • What Does This Loss Mean for Nadal and Pouille?

It is just that the competition has improved and figured him out. He doesn’t command the same respect in the locker room he used to and he is too one-dimensional to adapt the way Federer did.

Nadal actually looked like a legitimate threat for the title but there was still Djokovic who you figure would have pummeled him after seeing what he did to Edmund. Nadal was doing his usual thing against Pouille of fist-pumping after every point he wins and running down impossible balls relentlessly.

It is no secret that I don’t appreciate him or his tennis and I couldn’t have been happier for Pouille. He played attacking, positive tennis as relentlessly as Nadal was pushing and retrieving.

He has a terrific all-court game and the mental strength to back it up. I definitely think he will be a top ten player. After making the quarterfinals at Wimbledon this year he has now backed it up with another quarterfinal at the US Open and has a great shot of going one better.

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Yes, he will be tired after three consecutive five-setters but he looks like a special player and Monfils is not unbeatable. Whatever happens, this was a huge win for Pouille and he is a serious prospect for the future and a great guy.

As for Nadal, he is still doing what he has always done but he may have lost a step and like I said players have figured him out and he is unable to adapt. He is just too one-dimensional and it is hard to see him adding to his slam tally.

He and Federer are now in the same boat. You wouldn’t write either of them off to win another slam at the French and Wimbledon respectively but it looks unlikely now. Djokovic and Murray look to be well in control.

It is also good to see more young players come through like Pouille, Edmund, Evans, and Thiem. In my view, Nadal doesn’t deserve to win any more slams. Relentless defense and retrieving should only take you so far.

  • Djokovic Sends Edmund Packing in Straights

Unfortunately, this match was at the worst possible time for me and I couldn’t watch it but I caught the highlights as usual and judging from the scoreline and the opposition Djokovic is right back to his best.

Not that he ever really was away from his best. I think the couple of losses he suffered at Wimbledon and the Olympics was over-hyped by the mainstream media as usual and now he silenced them again.

The scoreline of 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 is a copy of the French Open semi-finals where Djokovic delivered a masterclass against Thiem and it seems he was in similar form against Edmund,who I think is another promising youngster.

He did two rounds better than his previous best at a slam by making the fourth round in New York and defeated two seeds Gasquet and Isner along the way. He looks mentally solid as well because he has a kind of unflustered temperament on the court.

The other Brit, Evans, who lost in five sets to Wawrinka looks a little more mentally volatile but it has been a great tournament for the Brits and I am happy for them. Murray’s presence surely helped these youngsters to emerge as well.

But back to Djokovic, he looks in good shape now for a third US Open title and it looked like he wanted to prove a point against Edmund because he doesn’t usually play that well in a slam in the fourth round.

He needed to prove a point too because the media has been on his case for too long and he needed to get them off his back with a solid performance which he did. I’m sure the extra rest time did his wrist well.

With Cilic and Nadal losing the draw has opened up for him as well but, of course, Tsonga is never an easy opponent who he faces next. Tsonga defeated the last American in the draw, Sock, in four sets.

So there will be no Americans in the US Open quarters which is pretty sad for such a big country with such a proud tennis tradition. Sock looks woefully overweight for a tennis player anyway and needs to drop a few(more like many) pounds to take it to the next level.

Djokovic has a 15-6 head-to-head record over Tsonga but he won 11 of the last 12 meetings.

  • Elsewhere in the Draw

In the bottom half, Thiem continued his good form as he defeated Busta in four sets but Del Potro is really the guy who looks in astonishingly good form. This time, he dismissed the 11th seed Ferrer in straight sets 7-6(3), 6-2, 6-3.

It looks like the Olympics was the perfect preparation for Del Potro who doesn’t need many matches to play his best tennis. He looks primed to make a deep run in New York and I think he played even better against Ferrer than he did against Johnson.

I mean these are not pushover opponents we are talking about. They are seeds but Del Potro makes it look easy. The guy is just a monster and I am really happy for him that he is back and still healthy.

I think the injury problems he had has also given him a new outlook and appreciation for what he does and it helps him to be more relaxed. After the match, he said he doesn’t mind if he wins or loses he is just happy to be playing again.

We are talking about a guy who was very close to quitting after devastating injuries and it just goes to show you the importance of perseverance and that nothing is meaningless. If Djokovic does not win the title I sure hope it is Del Potro.

I would be very happy for him and with the way he is playing it is not out of the question. He now plays Thiem which is a match that will start soon and that I don’t want to miss. I think Del Potro will win but it should be a terrific contest.

They both have immense power off the ground and takes huge cuts at the ball off the forehand side. The two have met once this year at Madrid and Del Potro actually won that match in straight sets.

That is somewhat surprising as clay is Thiem’s best surface and Del Potro will have a better shot against Thiem on hard. So I think Del Potro is the favorite but I think Thiem is at least capable of winning a set.

I don’t think Thiem will get blasted off the court. For that, he hits too big himself and moves too well. He is also a good all-court player like Del Potro.

Then Kyrgios retired during his match with Marchenko and personally I don’t see him ever amount to a serious contender in tennis unless he drastically alters his attitude. Marchenko now plays Wawrinka who defeated Evans after being match point down in the fourth set.

The backhand winner Stan hit on that point was a thing of beauty. Either way, Evans played very well and it was another great contest which Stan won 4-6, 6-3, 6-7(6), 7-6(8), 6-2. All of a sudden the bottom half of the draw is looking quite tough while the top half looks like the easier half.

Nishikori also won and now plays Karlovic who at age 37 is doing some great things. In the final match of the bottom half, Murray plays Dimitrov after Murray dropped a set to an inspired Lorenzi.

Murray didn’t look all that impressive and another upset against Dimitrov may be in the making here like in the 2014 Wimbledon quarterfinals when Dimitrov defeated Murray in straight sets.

Murray is now a different player though and he will probably get his act together. He needs to or he will lose to Dimitrov who is himself a much-improved player of late.

Who will win?

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Posted in Grand Slams, US Open.

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