Australian open 2014: Nadal v Monfils 3rd round

Colin ChambersGrand Slams Leave a Comment

Nadal teaches Gael why every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

I’ve just tuned in and heard the initial hype around the match. Both players last met each other in a final. I thought I would try posting while the match is on. See what it’s like. Maybe I will see things differently.

A quick check of the Nadal v Monfils head to head tells you they only just met in the Doha final with Nadal winning in 3 sets 6-1 6-7(5) 6-2. That was on a hard court in presumably hot conditions like Melbourne but it was not a slam but a tune up tournament.

Already we are seeing a pattern. Nadal is out thinking Monfils.

Rafa understands the basic principle that every action has an equal and opposite reaction and knows how to apply this on the tennis court, his opponent doesn’t.

Monfils of course is one of the physically fittest guys on tour but unfortunately is one of the mentally weakest at this level. He basically doesn’t seem to realise why he wins or loses even though it’s generally for the same reasons.

Nadal on the other hand is also one of the fittest on tour. Both have injury problems so there isn’t really much between them there. The difference is between Nadals ears. He win with tactics and thought first. Against Monfils he knows that the frenchman will tire himself out on his own. He just has to give Gael the opportunities to do it.

The first set started with Gael trying to rally with Nadal. The problem always lies with Rafa working his opponent into situations that open up space. For example Gael hit an inside out forehand to Rafas backhand and directly lost the point as Nadal redirected the ball back into the open court.

Why was this obvious? It happens to me all the time when I play for the same reason. Defenders like Nadal realise that using their opponents energy is a great way to save your own. He used Gaels attack against him because how you approach the net and what you do there are everything.

Gael hit a great shot but at the wrong time. He was in ok position but moved to the left to hit an inside out forehand that opens up a lot of space to his right making nadals return easier. Gael also hit the ball really hard which means it gets to rafa quickly but if rafa anticipates and gets to it which he did then Rafa can return the ball much faster too.

The advantage for Rafa is that the sooner he gets the ball back the more advantage he can take all because windows of opportunity close quickly in tennis. That Gael hits hard is his biggest strength and his biggest weakness. The ball reaches rafa and comes back faster than Gael can cover the hole he has left.

It happens to me so I’ve been looking at how to stop it. I learnt that from Rafa, only play your favourite shots when you are in position to benefit from them. Don’t play shots that take you out of position too often. That means playing the less exciting solid shot but knowing you can cover the return. Monfils hates doing this because it’s boring. That’s why he struggles to win. He likes to do the fun stuff but he doesn’t worry about the results. He win a run of points here and there. Generally amazing ones because that’s what he keeps trying. Their success distracts him from the boring but efficient points he wins and from the points he generally loses playing that way. Missing a line here and hitting the net there.

He doesn’t utilise Nadals biggest strength to beat him. That is Nadals predictability. Nadal is ruled by his head not his heart and so you can pretty much predict what he will do because he will be solid and play percentages 90%-95% of the time. Figuring all this out though just isn’t Monfils style. He doesn’t have the mental stamina, much like Tsonga. No real appetite for strategy.

So Gael is fantastic to watch, never really a dull match but also never some one I can bet on in a slam.

What fascinates me most is that Monfils was the best junior of his time winning all but the US Open title in a standout year before he turned pro. Why he has never translated this success into the pro tour is a lesson itself. An example of huge success too early you have to think. Like Wozniacki his game seems to be stuck in the style that achieved his former success and has blinded him to the changing demands of his later years.

Right now the score is 6-1, 5-2 to Nadal. Everything is going to plan. Monfils has run as much or more than Nadal yet the key points keep going to Nadal. All because Rafa understands the basic principle that every action has an equal and opposite reaction and knows how to apply this on the tennis court, his opponent doesn’t.

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