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Nadal smells blood.

Posted by tennisplanet on July 19, 2007

With barely four months to go before the season ends, Nadal is determined to knock Federer from the No. 1 spot this year.

His five-setter at Wimbledon against Federer has done more to stoke that fire, than any of the predictions from lunatics like Gilbert etc. that he will be No. 1 by year end. He has never believed in that, more than he does now. The fire is lit and it is turning into white heat.

At the moment, he reminds me of Mr. T in the Rocky movie. He has narrowed his focus. The type of ultimate fierce competitor he is, it is difficult for him to digest the insulting daggers from Federer – the bagel at Hamburg, the rude snapping of his 81-match winning streak, bagel at last year’s Wimbledon and the ultimate one, of being No. 2 in the world despite breaking so many records.

Can you even imagine asking him for an exhibition match, right about now, without appointment for reconstructive face surgery?

With major hard court tournaments starting in the first week of August, barely 15 days away, he is playing clay events. In fact, there are three more clay events, before the hard courts take over on August 5th. You wanna bet if he will go for any of those?

Although he has been to Stuttgart three times, this year it comes with a new sense of urgency.

Uncle Tony and Nadal, have obviously had a sit down, to revise their strategy to accomplish the goal, with the new belief system in place.

With his record of hard court not very shabby, barring last year, his revitalised, revamped and improved all around game, will come under a new and severe test in these four months.

The most titles he has ever won in a season is 11 in 2005. He already has five. Federer’s most is 12 and he has four now. To equal that number, from now on, Federer has to win all the tournaments he has entered to compete – 8 – in four months.

Both are capable to repeat their best year. They both carry so many intangibles on the court, that it is virtually impossible to bet against them, on any surface, against anyone.

Personally, I don’t think he has enough time, to close that wide a gap in points, this year. He may be looking for some help from Federer to push him along. If Federer is not at his usual stellar level, it could end up going down to the wire.

But it is hard to imagine that bad a let down from Federer, despite all the talk and rumors. Federer has reiterated time and again, his two major goals in life – win Wimbledon as many times as possible and protect his No. 1 ranking. With such focus from the best ever player, you need more than just a chain saw to wrest it away from him.

But I certainly think, the rivalry is going to get better and more intense in the coming months and is nowhere near fading out. Nadal’s improved play in the future will motivate Federer to bring his best. Eventually Nadal will have the upper hand, but his concern is whether even then, he will be able to reach the No. 1 spot.

If you are as good as Nadal, it is humiliating not to have reached the No. 1 ranking in the world. It is better to be No. 5. But to be No. 2 for so long and never make that last jump, is going to eat you for the rest of your life. There are many living with it right now.

With others not fully armed to challenge him for it, he sees this as his golden opportunity to close it NOW.

If he never makes it to the No. 1, and there is a strong possibility of that happening, he will have the dishonor of being the best No. 2 ever.

It is good for tennis and the fans to see him in frenzy and just going nuts to get to No. 1. He has certainly improved many parts of his game tremendously, and that bodes well for many more close five-setters between him and Federer.

And if Djokovic steps up, we could have a triangle just like Borg, McEnroe and Connors. Did I go too far? But Djokovic will hurt Nadal more than he will Federer, as he comes of age. Federer, by then, would have had his share and would be happy to pick up a few major ones here and there, you know, quality over quantity kind of deal.

Nadal is looking at both Djokovic and Murray, maybe, even before he is done dealing with Federer. That No. 2 monkey on his back is not easy to get rid of, given what is happening or what is expected to happen, to the tennis world in the next decade or so.

With Djokovic already entrenched in the No. 3 spot, Nadal’s rear view mirror is not a happy place. He is a baseball player caught between first and second base. If he changes his game too much to the left, he risks losing his domination on clay, without getting the proportionate gain on other surfaces.

It appears that it is easier to master the clay battle, if you are a specialist on other surfaces, than it is otherwise. A clay court specialist other than Borg, rarely gets a good run at other surfaces. That’s a huge dilemma for Nadal, and it is difficult to gauge the risk of leaving a safe haven, in pursuit of greener pasture without knowing whether it is worth it.

It’s like he has one bird in hand, but is close to getting the two in the bushes. But if he goes after those two, he might not only, not get them, but may also lose the one he has in hand.

What would I do? I would leave the first base and go for it. Nobody can take away from what you have already achieved. The whole life is a risk, isn’t it? None of us know, if we will be alive tomorrow. But the rewards are stupendous. So is the risk. Is there anything new here?

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