• Resurgent Nadal dismantles Alund

    2/28/13 1:22 PM | Cheryl Murray
    Resurgent Nadal dismantles Alund Rafael Nadal gave the best performance since his return in a straight-set victory over Martin Alund.

    Two weeks ago, Martin Alund managed to grab a set from Rafael Nadal, where the Argentine qualifier played well enough to find his way into the Sao Paolo semifinals. This week, however, Alund found out what it was like to play a Nadal whose top form is returning; instead of a set, Alund snagged just four games in a 6-0, 6-4 rout by the Spaniard.

    The first-set bagel was a result of Nadal playing well and Alund playing poorly. The Spaniard did what he normally does on a clay court; he bullied Alund around the baseline with heavy, deep forehands. But perhaps the best news for the Nadal camp is that his movement looked unhampered by pain.

    Alund played much better in the second set. The Argentine hit much harder and with more accuracy than he did in the first set, making for a much more entertaining set for the fans. Still, Nadal was never anything but in complete control of the match. The No. 2 seed scrambled easily to the net to chase down drop shots, and he was able to to take an aggressive position on the court, all good news for the Nadal camp.

    Nadal will take on Leonardo Mayer in the quarterfinals.

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The real tests will be against Almagro and Ferrer.
I have a feeling Rafa will play Miami. He may or may not play IW.

holdserve , 2/28/13 2:07 PM

great description of the match and Rafa's game, Cheryl...exactly how I've seen the latest Nadal's performance...and I like the words "good news for the Nadal camp"...I hope to see it more often in the future...:)

natashao , 2/28/13 4:35 PM

I think it was unrealistic of a lot of us to expect Rafa to come back at the top of his game after 9 months, no matter who he was playing. As Rafa has said on many occasions, all the pros have a good game it's just a matter of mental strength and consistency and knowing when to play the right shots. It was bound to be a bit rocky for him at the start especially against players who had nothing to lose.

Rafa is patient if nothing else and he is gradually getting there. It's good that he hasn't had it too easy before meeting the top 10 because he has had to play himself out of trouble and his mental ability to think on his feet is coming back.

nadline , 2/28/13 4:54 PM

Playing at IW instead of Miami is more logical. Why would Rafa want to spend two weeks in NA doing nothing while waiting for Miami Masters to start the third week of March? He may play both should he lose early at IW, or skips Miami should he goes deep at IW, IMO.

luckystar , 2/28/13 4:58 PM


I agree with lucky. The courts suit Rafa's game better than Miami and it also makes sense to play a tournament instead of sitting around for a few weeks waiting for Miami.

We have discussed this before, this idea that he might go out early at I/W and then play Miami to get more matches. Or if he does go deep at I/W, then he can skip Miami and hopefully be ready for the clay court season.

I think Cheryl was spot on in her analysis of Rafa's performance in this match. I found myself thinking back to the match with Alund at Sao Paulo. That's when Rafa dropped the second set tb and had to go three sets. The final set was a blowout at least.

This time Rafa was in much better form and came out blasting. He just suffocated Alund and didn't let him get into the match. I don't think Rafa played as well in the second set but he didn't have to. Alund started playing better and made it somewhat competitive, but the outcome was never in doubt. It's also possible that Rafa was holding back a bit knowing that this guy couldn't really challenge him. He raised his level to climb out of a 0-40 hole early in the second set and hold serve. He was already up a break and all he had to do is hold his serve and that was the match.

I also agree with nadline about there being some unrealistic expectations from Rafa fans as to how he would perform after being out for so long. I also agree that Rafa is gradually getting there. We can see already how playing two tournaments has helped him to get into better form.

In this tournament, he may meet up with Almagro in the semis and Ferrer in the finals. That should tell us a lot more about where he's really at right now.

Nativenewyorker , 2/28/13 8:20 PM

Hi NNY, since you're around, can I ask you a question? What do you think of Rafa's technique? I read somewhere that Rafa had bad technique and that led to his injury problems. How does Rafa compare to Borg in terms of playing style or technique?

luckystar , 2/28/13 8:37 PM


Rafa's technique has been criticized for a long time. That forehand where he whips his racket up around his head after he hits it, is one thing that has been cited. They don't teach young players to hit it like that. But for Rafa it's part of who he is and how he plays.

Borg was playing in such a different era. The technology was much less advanced. He used a wooden racket. So he couldn't generate anywhere near the power that Rafa does with his strength and racket technology. The game just wasn't anywhere near as physical. With Borg it seemed almost effortless as he hit his groundstrokes. I remember the endless rallies he would get into with his opponents at RG. I recently watched some youtube videos of those matches. He was like a machine. He never wavered, never weakened and simply outlasted everyone in those rallies. I remember more than thirty shots, some insanely long rallies. JMac called Borg a "backboarder". He meant that the ball just kept coming back over and over without end. That's a more accurate term than the one we see used today about Rafa, to the effect that he is a "grinder". That word has a negative connotation to it. I have never liked it, nor do I find it accurate. Rafa is much the same with his defensive skills as Borg was, managing to use his court speed to run down every ball. That's what Borg did. Borg's topspin was his trademark. But he didn't have the torque or force that Rafa has with his topspin.

I have always thought that Rafa was the natural evolution of Borg. He is the modern version. But Rafa's technique is more unorthodox. Borg's practices were almost unreal. He would practice endlessly. He believed that his mental and physical strength were his biggest advantages. But he ended up cracking mentally. He lost the desire to win. He was a burnout case. No one will ever really know what happened to him or why. But somehow that great impenetrable machinery broke down far too soon.

I also think that Borg had a better serve than Rafa. If you look at his matches at Wimbledon on grass, you will see that he loved to serve and then come in and hit a volley for a winner. He was able to adapt fairly quickly to grass and play accordingly. He had a big serve. That's what struck me again as I watched some of his Wimbledon matches. Rafa's serve can be a weakness. He doesn't have a big first serve and his second serve has always been a liability. For a while he had that USO serve, but wasn't able to keep it up. There have been times when Rafa's first serve has been an effective weapon, but it goes up and down. I think Borg had a more natural serving motion.

I could talk about Borg and Rafa forever. I love comparing the two of them.

Nativenewyorker , 2/28/13 9:33 PM

^^^ carry on comparing! I do not have the honor of watching Borg played so I can't do the comparison of Rafa to Borg. It'll be interesting to see a Borg with a modern racket and Rafa with a wooden racket. If Borg could generate topspin with a wooden racket, I'm sure Rafa could also do that. Maybe Rafa is really a modern version of Borg! I'm sure if Rafa was born back then during Borg's time, he would also learned S&V to survive in that era and S&V to win at Wimbledon (given that Rafa also has very good movement and moves comfortably on grass).

I really don't think Rafa's injuries (mainly knee injuries) were the results of bad technique, if not, he would already had serious shoulder, elbow, wrist, back or hip injuries by now. Other than a few incidences of shoulder issues (once at Queens, once at Cincy in 2007 and once prior to Paris Masters in 2010, after serving big at USO and Tokyo), he is practically injury free with the exception of his left foot/knees.

He's unorthodox no doubt but that allowed him to win 11 slams and beating the 'goat' six times in a slam, what more to ask for? He may or may not be better had he played the normal orthodox way, who knows! No doubt Rafa depends a lot on his athletism, raw power and mental strength but so do others. Fed without his speed and movement? I'm not sure he could win so many slams; Nole without his movement? He certainly won't be able to defend the way he defends now. They (Fed/Rafa/Nole) would still be very good players even without their movements, but would never win that many slams to be classified as tennis greats, IMO.

luckystar , 3/1/13 1:07 AM


I really love chatting with you about Rafa and all things tennis. I was fortunate to be around to see Borg play. He was a phenomenal athlete. He and Rafa both have that incredible speed on the court. He could get to anything. He would just wear down his opponents by getting every ball back and not flinching or blinking. He was like a well-oiled machine. I would love to see Borg with a modern racket. That would be something. It's interesting when you hear him speak about Rafa. He really appreciates what Rafa has done. He said that Rafa is the greatest clay court player of all time. It's nice to get that from the man who was considered to be the greatest clay court player up until Rafa. He really understands the genius of what Rafa can do on clay and other surfaces.

I do agree with you that Rafa would have learned to S&V out of necessity back in the day. Borg did have to learn to adjust his game for grass. He didn't just come out there and win the first time. He had to make some changes for grass. I was just impressed watching his matches again with JMac. I didn't remember that he was such a good server. His accomplishment of winning the channel slam, RG and Wimbledon back-to-back for three straight years, is considered so extraordinary because the grass was different back then and more challenging to adjust to after playing on clay.

I don't think Rafa's injuries are from bad technique. Like you said, he would have had more shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip or back injuries. Somehow his buggy whip forehand works for him. They may not ever teach youngsters to hit it that way, but for Rafa it's such a great shot.

For what it's worth, I love Rafa's unorthodox style. That is what makes him unique and so exciting to watch. Borg picked up where Rod Laver left off with topspin. It was still considered something fairly new at the time. Laver was the one who brought it to the game. Borg then used his topspin to befuddle his opponents. It was amazing what he was able to achieve with his racket, given the limitations of wood rackets. Borg was very fortunate to never have any of the injury problems that have plagued Rafa. I think Rafa's problems started with the deformity in his foot. I think the orthotics that he had to wear could have predisposed him to his knee problems.

I would not change a thing about Rafa! As you said, his style of play has enabled him to have a lopsided h2h with Fed and win 11 slams, the career slam, an Olympic gold medal for the Golden Slam and so many Masters titles. He has so many records and exceptional achievements in this sport. What I am most grateful for, is that Rafa still has the desire and the passion for this sport. He didn't burn out like Borg.

Nativenewyorker , 3/1/13 1:39 AM

Thanks for your comments, NNY. It's interesting to learn about all the similarities between Rafa and Borg. Oh and yes, I'm also happy and thankful that Rafa still has the passion and desire for the game after so many injuries, trials, ups and downs in his tennis career. I'm hopeful that Rafa can still surge to new heights in his career, by making some subtle changes f his game to compensate for the loss of speed and power as he grows older, and also to accommodate his troublesome knee/foot.

luckystar , 3/1/13 4:17 AM

If Rafa were to meet Borg on clay, assuming they're from the same era, I wonder who would win more often between them. Both have great movements on court, tough mental strength and focus, superb fitness and stamina. If Rafa doesn't have his foot issue, I think he's even more unbelievable on clay. Borg said it himself, to beat Rafa on clay, one has to out grind him and that may mean playing for five or six hours nonstop at an unwavering high level. I think only Borg can meet that and he may beat Rafa on clay, but may lose slightly more than he wins against Rafa.

luckystar , 3/1/13 4:31 AM

Current ATP-rankings

1. Djokovic 12 500 pts
2. Murray 8 750 pts
3. Federer 8 670 pts
4. Ferrer 6 970 pts
5. Nadal 6 385 pts

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