Saturday, October 2, 2010
Rafael Nadal couldn't catch a break, or rather covert a break, when it really mattered today and was sent packing from the Bangkok semifinals by compatriot Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.
The World No. 1 was only able to capitalize on 2 of 26 break point opportunities during the 2-6, 7-6(3), 6-3 defeat to his compatriot, bringing back memories of the US Open final - the last tourney he played - where he only converted 6 of 26 against Novak Djokovic. Of course he managed to win that (big) one but made a telling prediction during his post-match presser saying, "Yeah, on the statistics of the ATP I was No. 1 on breakpoints converted, so I think after this tournament I [won't] be No. 1 on breakpoints converted." No doubt.
Could it be possible his opponents have begun to find a chink in Rafa's muscular armor e.g. his lack of a strong return on hard courts? He seems to have difficulties with the backhand return on the rough stuff, opting for a chip rather than a drive, giving his opponents time to set up an aggressive stance off his return. From that point on it becomes very difficult for him to grab the initiative in the rally.
It's too early to say yet whether this is a coincidence or the beginnings of a worrying pattern for Rafa. He's playing the next two tourneys on the hard stuff - Tokyo + Shanghai - so it's surely something we'll all be watching.
[Photo(s): Getty Images]