Strokes of Luck & RG SF


Three (“3”) is a magical number for many reasons. I am not going to recount its myriad of meanings other than the number reared its head again when three different examples of Nadal’s luck struck me this afternoon, with the rain still hanging-over that Nadal v Schwartzman QF.

And sure we go back to the Rome final. We’ve been over this. This is sheer genius for Nadal. He’s circling the drain in that final v Zverev or even worse in his RG QF v Diego — the Spaniard, at the ripe age of 32, despite what all of the experts are saying, is looking pretty vulnerable.

Suddenly his FH is gone, or his BH is short, and he doesn’t have a serve to rely-on; he’s in trouble, not imposing his mental and physical prowess; he’s not ripping the cover off the ball which is the only way he really can dominate — when he’s rampant and destroying his opponent with that bullying demeanor that characterizes his championship form.

Interestingly enough, the conditions are getting heavier in this hypothetical (that plays-out in reality), his ball isn’t spinning or bouncing as well, so his opponent is tracking and returning with interest, which, ironically, replicates the dirt-ballers’ leader’s blueprint.

And, indeed, it starts to rain.

The before and after of the rain in Rome and here this week in the QF was, undeniably, striking; even Nadal fans have to come to this themselves. He truly benefited from this change in the weather. Twice in the last couple of weeks. And likely wins titles because of this change in fortune (Rome Masters and very likely another Major) .

I’ve already written, actually with a tint of compliment, about his ability to take advantage of such circumstances; this isn’t luck if he doesn’t take advantage.

But he does. He’s done it in RG before. The 2012 final v Novak is a great example and I think the 2014 final had some rain advantage for Nadal, as well.

But certainly that’s a bit of luck for Nadal that really no one can dismiss. Again, this clay season alone (2018) has seen Nadal on a few occasions benefit from a rain interruption.

Even he knows the math:

The second example of Nadal’s luck, imho, is not having to potentially face a Djokovic in the final. I am the first to argue that Novak still looks rough, still lacks that inner belief and passion for the carnage. Losing to Cecchinato, despite all of the claims that the tennis was world-class, quality in the clouds, etc., is massive disappointment for the Serb. If you don’t think this affects his grass campaign and the rest of his season, you’re wrong. Sure he can find his form, still, rise to the occasion in London or on the N.A. hard courts, but chances are he’s spinning right now, confused and searching for answers if he even has the drive to answer those million dollar questions.

Admittedly, too, Novak has made a ton of progress from earlier in the season. I am not denying that.

But if he had routined the Italian and had a chance to avenge his 2017 loss to Thiem in last year’s QF with a chance to play Nadal in the final and get back in that championship form that we know becomes contagious. . . and ruin half of the rampant spaceship that is 2017-18 Fedal. . .Djokovic is that guy.

And just to be clear: a 3 or 4 set victory over Marco could have been huge going the other way. I already said Thiem is no easy out here: talk about rampant. But Novak into a QF with a chance to beat Dominic and then take a shot at the clay GOAT could have been fascinating.

Nadal dodged a bullet, imho. I said after the Rome SF loss Novak sustained to Nadal: this match is good news for the French. Djokovic, especially in that first set, showed he’s not afraid of Nadal and most importantly Nadal knows this.

The third example of luck is bit more trifling, but part of Rafa’s luck, nonetheless. The promotions are making their rounds for the documentary on the 2008 Nadal v Federer WB final. It’s called Strokes of Genius.

To make a long story short: that match ended in the dark. It should have been postponed, as the only source of light was the scoreboard; yes, the irony is rich: the match was rain delayed. But there’s so much more to that story that I need to unwind for you all, explain, contextualize, etc., but that’s for a different time.

But Nadal benefited, again, from these strokes of luck.



Roland Garros SF

I’ll make this quick:

Nadal should have more than enough to beat Del Potro. Even if Del Potro comes-out and wins the first set, like he did in their 2017 U.S. Open SF, Nadal will regroup. He’s a five-set genius, I have to give him that. Not sure how Juan Martin can marshal enough strength and BH-efficiency playing against the motivated and monstrous lefty on clay.

However, this is the SF we wanted in that top half. No doubt. Rafa is 9-5 against the Argentine. Why? Because Juan Martin has championship huevos rancheros. He has that level of confidence: he could come-up with a miracle match and upset a Nadal who has looked vulnerable.

All you who say Nadal is playing the best tennis of his career are popping
presentism pills by the handfuls. Nadal is 32; he’s feeling the stress.
If he doesn’t win the French, think about it, he’s a mess.

Del Potro has the game but the stiff BH and Nadal’s five-set wisdom will be tough to overcome. Nadal in 4, but I want to be surprised here. As you know.

Thiem takes care of Cecchinato in 3 or 4; I say 3.

Enjoy the semi-finals.

One thought on “Strokes of Luck & RG SF

  1. dlima1987

    Insightful stuff as usual Matt.

    Completely agree that Nadal seems vulnerable out there as opposed to last year for example. Something we have never discussed is how significant is Toni’s absense in these moments for Rafa?

    As you mentioned, and apart from the intimidation factor, Nadal’s tennis brain is genius and that has been one of the main reasons, often overlooked, behind his success over the years, in particular when playing Roger.

    Finally regarding Nadal’s rain, I would just point out weather has a massive impact on clay. In fact, rain-like conditions play against Nadal’s strengths so rain does not miraculously start when he is struggling, but rather the damp pre-rain conditions are making him struggle.

    I’m betting on an epic Nadal Thiem final, but then again I also thought Juan would have no impact on the French..



Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s