Nadal doesn’t have a title yet and he has not even faced Federer. Federer has no title and he has not faced Nadal yet. The big winners so far this season?
Djokovic (AO), Roddick (Dubai) and Djokovic(Indian Wells).
At two of these three important events (Dubai and Indian Wells), Nadal lost to the eventual winner (Roddick and Djokovic) and Tsonga at the AO was not too far from that slot.
To him that means Federer may not be his most feared rival anymore on hard courts. It could also mean that field might have overtaken him on that surface for good. Although he is still able to hold his own against most everybody else, but the title contenders for any given event have so far taken him out in humiliating straight sets – at all the above three tournaments.
Draws he has received so far have also contributed to Nadal getting deep at tournaments, as is the case here. He is not going to clash with a title contender until the finals, whether it’s Federer or Tsonga or Roddick. That’s the hump that appears to have gained height on him to the extent he is unable to find the next gear to scale that mountain. Straight set losses at that level can point to no other direction.
For the past two years, Nadal has been unable to string together any impressive wins in the second half of the season after he is done with clay. He has to extend himself so far out on clay, to just hold his current ranking that he ends up being either completely spent or injured when he comes out the other end.
He has won just five freaking hard court titles in his entire career since 2004. That works out to just one title per year.
Nevertheless, Nadal has shown consistency at all the events he has played so far except Rotterdam where he inexplicably lost in the second round. Other than that misstep he has reached one quarterfinal, two semifinals and one final. That’s not bad, but the kind of year Nadal is in this season, this is not even enough to hold his current ranking forget about gaining on Federer.
However, it’s encouraging to see some improvements in his hard court game this year. His first serve percentage is over 70 percent and his ace count is slowly appear to be moving up. Will that be enough to keep the wolves at bay?
Answer coming up right after the clay season ends for sure.