On paper, of course, nothing is impossible. But in light of the latest results, there is room for doubt. For the first time in 13 years, Nadal has lost three matches in a row. Three losses against… three Americans, Frances Tiafoe at the US Open, Tommy Paul at Bercy and therefore Fritz in Turin. Although you should never say never with such an animal, the most likely hypothesis today is that the Mallorcan 2022 season will end in blood sausage.
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One thing is for sure, Nadal will not have wasted his time. “When you win two Grand Slams, it’s bound to be a good season, no matter what else happens“, recalled the former world number one and current coach of “Rafa”, Carlos Moya. Hard to contradict him. Winner of the Australian Open then Roland-Garros, Nadal has achieved more in six months than 99% of players in their entire career Fact is that he has concentrated those successes into half a season or so.Since withdrawing before the Wimbledon semifinals with a stomach flu, the Spaniard has lived a bit of an ordeal.
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In training, Rafa has been playing really well for the last few days, but he couldn’t find the key to turn it into a match.
In the past four months, he has only been able to play seven matches, winning three (all at the US Open, where he reached the round of 16) and losing four. “He was a bit unlucky with injuries, Judge Carlos Moya. He has proven to everyone this season that he can still play well and aim for victory in major tournaments. When his body holds, Rafa is always ready.” That’s the whole point. In the last 18 months, he’s only been able to express himself 100% a third of the time, and even then he saved his two spring injuries in Indian Wells and Rome.
Today, he lacks rhythm due to the lack of being able to link the tournaments. He’s struggling with his guns at the moment, but in the ultra-competitive context of the Masters, that might not be enough. Against Taylor Fritz it was. “Rafa served well but the rest of his game was not in place and in these conditions against an opponent like that it is difficult, admits his coach. It’s not his best match, that’s for sure… In training, Rafa played really well, he had very good feelings the last few days, but he couldn’t find the key to turn it into a match..”
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So can he get away with it? The Nadal clan, as always, refuses to give up, as does Carlos Moya: “It’s not the ideal start, but that’s the good side of the Masters. Even if you have a bad day, you can still qualify. Of course we believe there is still a chance, you have to believe in it, but he will have to play a lot better.”
Against Félix Auger-Aliassime, he will already play quits or doubles or almost. In case of defeat, he will either be eliminated or forced to hope for an unlikely miracle. Otherwise, he will be able to turn his back on this complicated period by turning to 2023. With envy, Moya promises. “It is clear that the young people are coming more and more, he said. Rafa is better than he was before but the legs are not the same so you have to adapt to stay competitive. He must stay out of harm’s way. It’s the most important thing, but not the easiest thing at his age, but it’s the key. If successful, he will still be competitive next year.“
Rafael Nadal and Carlos Moya during the US Open 2022.
Credit: Getty Images
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