Yesterday was a sight to see for many tennis fans as Nadal won the first ATP 1000 masters event of the season at Indian Wells, after 8 months of an excruciating knee problem. Although he beat one of my favourite players, Juan Martin Del Potro, it was pleasant to see Rafa back with a trophy in his hand and with this being his 3rd title of the season he looks to be in inspired form and he could potentially rival Nole for the Grand Slams this year.
Nadal came back from a set down on Sunday in California to win the final 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in a game which was a good as the conditions which I say with jealously from the UK. What was great about Rafa’s game was the strategy which he executed to pull the game back. Obviously all tennis fans will know Rafa for his superb shot placement, forcing his opponents to move and work for the point. Moving Del Potro to all corners of the court proved to a persistent tactic which Del Po struggled to combat after playing two tough games en route to the final. As much as Rafa loves to move people around the court, he has proven throughout his career that he is a skilled mover across the court himself and his desire to chase every point down is unquestionable. This is what leaves many of his opponents frustrated. How are you supposed to beat a player with Nadal’s energy never mind a skilled tennis player? This energy is keenly observed in this clip during Rafa’s quarter final match with Roger Federer. Watch out for the shot at 5.04… breathtaking!
Ok so Rafa lost the point but this clip doesn’t show off his greatest qualities as a tennis player. One thing that Rafa has terrified his opponents with this week is his amazing top spinning forehand which in this humidity on a hard court is stunning. The high bounce that is caused by this shot has left his opponents in uncomfortable positions which puts him in positions to control rallies. This is especially why Nadal is such a great clay court player and having won 7 French open titles, 3 of which come in the last 3 years just proves this. Astounding!
Finally another great area which I love about Nadal’s game is his brilliant shot selection. Throughout the game yesterday, Rafa exploited much of Del Po’s weaknesses ,which were mainly down to injury but exploited them nonetheless. Much of the game he targeted the Argentine’s backhand since he currently has a wrist injury and with Rafa being a left hander, this was very much natural. As well as this, targeting Del Po’s backhand often caused him to adopt the backhand slice which gave Nadal time to prepare and blast home a winner.
Yes this deep analysis is all well and good but what is the point in this? Well, considering that Rafa is already playing this well at this intensity just a couple of months after returning on to the court, may this indicate that he is the perfect challenge towards bringing Novak down a peg? Federer doesn’t seem to be playing enough this season for me to really challenge the world number one but then again this could be more helpful for him. Still, Fed hasn’t come close to Djokovic’s standards this year and so he’ll have to raise his game come the next event. Murray is showing a bit of inconsistency at the moment. He played superbly in Australia however after taking a long break, the past week has gone far from swimmingly as he has struggled. Hopefully in Miami, where he regularly trains, he can return to that high standard. Ferrer? His time in the big four limelight is surely about to pass. He can’t compete with the big dogs. Rafa on the other hand is a Spaniard who has, can, and will this year. The Monte Carlo Masters, Madrid Masters and the French Open are all favoured events for him and they are coming soon. More wins here will definitely give Nadal the confidence to challenge at Wimbledon which he and Djokovic are level on in terms of quality.
Isn’t this season getting more and more exciting!