Will Nadal Win His Third Channel Double?

So the only detail I missed last post was predicting Nadal would take five sets to down Djokovic in the French Open final. Rafa surprised me a bit and took care of business in four instead. Nine Roland Garros titles in ten tries is something we probably will not see repeated anytime in the near future. Just incredible! One day after his triumph he was kicking up blades of grass in Halle for his Wimbledon tune-up. Only thing is, he lost in two meek sets to a player ranked miles below him. This begs the question then of which Rafa will now show up next week in the first round at SW19? Perhaps a big part of how this plays out is how Nadal feels physically after the grinding clay court season has come to a close. Mentally, you would think he would want to reverse the recent (last two years) trend of losing early in London and prove to himself he can make the red to green transition better than anyone else since the days of Bjorn Borg. The doubters are plenty. Some say he just isn’t quite athletic enough anymore to bound across grass for hours on end and outlast all comers like he used to. I guess we will know soon enough. If we have learned anything about Rafa the last several years, however, it is this…he is not to be counted out…even when he is struggling with one or more issues. The guy has an engine that just doesn’t quit. So, unless he tweaks his back or twists his knee and is simply unable to compete sometime during the next two weeks, my prediction is that he will wear down Murray in the semis and Djokovic in the final…I think I’ll go with four sets this time for each :)

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French Open 2014 Prediction

I have been thinking about Nadal’s performances so far this spring and how they have been lacking relative to his amazing track record on terra battu over the years. In fact, this is the first time in about a decade that he has not won at least two clay court titles before entering Paris. His anti-climactic triumph in Madrid after Nishikori retired from injury is all Rafa was able to muster since winning Rio several months ago. There are no doubt a number of theories as to what ails Nadal these days, but the one that makes the most sense to me is that Rafa simply struggles more as the hunted rather than the hunter. Without referencing a plethora of stats here, Nadal’s psychology seems bent to better perform when chasing a target ahead of him…namely one or two tennis greats who have a few more ranking points than he does. Once he overtakes them, he seems to drop intensity or lose some of that indelible fire perfected to consume all obstacles in his path. Inevitably, the losses mount and he is overtaken. Now of course, injuries have played a sizable role in Rafa’s ranking roller coaster as well. But the psychological element should not be underestimated. This is my theory, and I am sticking with it :) Which brings us to my prediction for this year’s French Open now that play under stormy Parisian skies is under way. Stan Wawrinka, the only player in Nadal’s half of the draw that could really challenge him, has already lost. So, Rafa in the final seems a good bet. Will he meet Djokovic there? I am confident he will. And the outcome of this? Nadal in 5 sets…

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