Tennis Prose



Nadal Suddenly Looks 36

Rafael Nadal began his 2023 season with a very disappointing and damaging defeat. Nadal was upset by lefty Brit Cam Norrie 63 36 46 in the new United Cup competition. Nadal had previously dominated Norrie in four previous meeting, never losing a set.

The good thing for Nadal is he appeared perfectly healthy, not bothered by any foot, knee or ab problems. He was able to scramble all over the court for almost three hours at full intensity, full throttle and full ferocity. He was grunting, slugging, competing and fighting for the match as if it were a Grand Slam final. His body held up well, if it didn’t perform to expectations.

But Nadal’s best was not good enough to conquer the world no. 14, who said after the win, “It was a great match. At the beginning of the match he was winning some of the tricky points. Him coming to the net and drop-shotting me. I managed to stay tough in the longer rallies and embraced the situation. I think by ranking it is the biggest win of my career.”

Down love-40 and triple match point at 4-5 in the third set, Nadal was still fighting furiously and grunting with belief and intent to still win the match but Norrie closed it out on the first match point after a long, tenacious rally. It appeared Nadal is losing steam, depth and pop on his shots, Norrie seemed to be hitting the ball with more authority and heft. It’s hard to read into one single match, especially a season debut, but Nadal knows how to get ready for ATP matches by now and it’s very possible the defending AO champion Nadal could be finished as an elite contender for major titles on any surface.

The game is eventually going to pass him by and make him look like a slow and beaten champion whose best days are behind him. That turning point may have happened yesterday in Sydney.

Nadal was irritated after, “I lost my match, that’s it. Every time that I’m coming to a press conference it seems like I have to retire. So you are very very interested in my retirement. For the moment that’s not the case. When this day arrives I will let you know guys. Don’t keep going with the retirement because I’m here to keep playing tennis.”

It’s hard to imagine Nadal lingering around the ATP World Tour much longer if he keeps enduring beatings like this to players like Norrie.

(Andres Bella art.)

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  • Scoop Malinowski · December 31, 2022 at 2:59 pm

    Nadal tried everything, the grunting and variation grunts at contact and also after contact. It was excessive grunting that Sonego used vs Rafa this year which provoked Rafa to give him the lecture at net. Rafa tried everything in his bag of tricks. This was the kind of match prime Rafa would have won routinely.

  • fannadal · January 1, 2023 at 3:33 am

    And why didn’t you mention this? It’s why Rafa has won so many Stefan Edberg awards and Djokovic has none.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 1, 2023 at 8:21 am

    Yes I saw that, he was going to lose the point anyway as Norrie had the easy put away to the open court. I still remember his lecturing Sonego for grunting and all the excuses for losing. He is a good sport generally but he has lapses, unlike guys like Dimitrov, Lopez, Isner, Hubi, Ruud, Thiem, who never have any sportsmanship lapses.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 2, 2023 at 9:11 am

    Nadal lost again to de Minaur 63 16 57. Another close one that slips away. Nadal now reminds me of Michael Chang at the end, all those close matches he kept losing. Nadal can’t finish like he did, prime Rafa would have won this match automatically. The self doubt is growing. The intimidation factor is gone. Rafa will be lucky if there’s one last hurrah left.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 2, 2023 at 9:50 am

    Nadal’s last 7 competitive matches –

    De Minaur L
    Norrie L
    Ruud W
    Felix L
    Fritz L
    Paul L
    Tiafoe L

    And Ruud may have tanked that loss too. This is Nadal’s worst streak in almost two decades.



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