Author Topic: Rafa's game plan against Djokovic  (Read 15417 times)

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Offline tennisfan78

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Rafa's game plan against Djokovic
« on: May 16, 2011, 10:01:55 PM »

Nadal has lost to Djokovic 4 times in a row this year. All of them in Masters finals, twice on hard court and twice on Clay.

Indianwells Final :  4-6, 6-3, 6-2

Miami Final: 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(4)

Madrid Final: 7-5, 6-4

Rome Final: 6-4, 6-4

I am actually surprised to see that Nole had to work more on a hard court than on Clay for these wins knowing how good Rafa is on this surface.

I have seen most of these matches and noticed the following:

Rafa's forehand cross court is going straight into Nole's strength - his backhand.  Djokovic is feeling pretty comfortable attacking the high bouncing ball of Rafa, even on Clay.

Djokovic's forehand has been pretty consistent and he is able to dictate the play by pinning Rafa on his backhand side and finishing it with powerful ground strokes into the open court.

Djokocis's serve looks pretty reliable and is making it hard for Rafa to break. Also, Rafa seems to be spending more time trying to hold his own service games.

Looking at all this, how should Rafa approach his future encounters with Djokovic?  Should he try anything different in trying to break Djokers game? Also noticed that Rafa has tried to play more aggressive and also moonballed more in Rome, but that hasnt worked much. 

So, what should be Rafa's game plan for future matches again Nole?  Please Discuss.

Offline falcon

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Re: Rafa's game plan against Djokovic
« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2011, 10:54:18 PM »
Rafa should be hitting the forehand flat...for sure he doesn't seem like the invincible rafa we know but this rafa was good enough to beat anyone on clay but this is a new Nole. The game that Rafa possesses now will be enough to beat anyone on clay other than Nole. Rafa really needs to find his backhand really fast, his error count is a bit on the higher side too, so he needs to be as precise as possible and of course his forehand should be a lot flatter.


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Offline Alex

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Re: Rafa's game plan against Djokovic
« Reply #2 on: May 16, 2011, 10:55:39 PM »
Rafa doesn't need to change anything. I really, really like it the way he is playing against Nole right now ...  :rofl_2: (sorry Rafa fans  :))

Offline garion

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Re: Rafa's game plan against Djokovic
« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2011, 12:02:18 AM »
Rafa should be hitting the forehand flat...for sure he doesn't seem like the invincible rafa we know but this rafa was good enough to beat anyone on clay but this is a new Nole. The game that Rafa possesses now will be enough to beat anyone on clay other than Nole. Rafa really needs to find his backhand really fast, his error count is a bit on the higher side too, so he needs to be as precise as possible and of course his forehand should be a lot flatter.
I think the BH thing is a good point. Nole is good off BOTH wings and it seemed in Rome, Nadal relied on his FH most of the time. I thought Nadal had a pretty good BH but it does seem that in Rome Nadal liked to run around and use his FH.

Nole has a wicked BH, a pretty wicked FH, flexibility, speed, and a good serve. So, he no weaknesses. The only way to compete with that is be better in all those areas than Nole or outlast him. But even there, Nole seems to be pretty fit and have nice stamina.

Offline williamchung7

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Re: Rafa's game plan against Djokovic
« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2011, 01:54:51 AM »
I guess only Prime Roger or Prime Sampras can take care this Djokovic because both players able to short the point as short as they can.  Prime Federer can hit winners anywhere and Sampras's serve and volley are just magic.

I think the real problem for Nadal is that his ground stroke need a little be more time to generate power and speed becuse he is playing top spin. Djokovic does not allow any time for Nadal to set up and attack every shot. Then Nadal was pushed back to the court very deep. We can see similar thing happen when Nadal played against Davydenko, Del Potro in 2009 and Murray in 2008-2010.


I think his forehand need to be flatter to reduce preparation time for generating power and speed. I guess it is a bit hard for Nadal because his playing style is top spin. It needs time.
Right now, I believe he should try to hit more inside out forehand rather than hit inside in forehand when he try to run aournd his backahand. His heavy top spin forehand can generate a lot of angel which I think it is good to hit more inside out forehand. But the problem his footwork and groundstroke does not very suit for this style of play. Backhand has similar problem. So I think his first prority is to find out his serve in 2010 US open. It has more speed and precise (210k).
« Last Edit: May 17, 2011, 05:31:24 AM by williamchung7 »

Offline FedFanForever

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Re: Rafa's game plan against Djokovic
« Reply #5 on: May 17, 2011, 02:06:52 AM »
Strategy for his next match against Nole - forfeit.  :whistle:
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Offline williamchung7

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Re: Rafa's game plan against Djokovic
« Reply #6 on: May 17, 2011, 03:14:01 AM »


These inside-out forehand I was talking about, I think Nadal may develop his own version, maybe?
« Last Edit: May 17, 2011, 05:32:15 AM by williamchung7 »

Offline monstertruck

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Re: Rafa's game plan against Djokovic
« Reply #7 on: May 17, 2011, 05:16:28 AM »
Wow!!!  Great topic!!! :king:


Thoughts:
-  perhaps one reason Nole had a tougher time on HC was due to less time.
-excellent observation that one of Raf's strengthes plays into Nole's strike zone!  CCFH to BH.  Nole clearly has the advantage in the DTLBH, it is an amazing shot when he tees it up!
-  Nole's consistency on the FH has been incredible.  Perhaps this is due to his improved fitness/movement?
-  Nole's serve has been good.  I think there is still room for improvement in both 1st & 2nd deliveries. 
-  Raf flattening his forehand seems contradictory to me.  Maybe he could play to the Nole FH and bit more to create space on the BH side in order to force Nole to hit BH's on the move.
-  Raf has to serve better.  Nole is taking charge of points immediately with his returns.  He has no respect for the Nadal delivery.  Time and again he wrong foots Raf with his returns and turns the tables with his first shot.
-  anyone else notice there has been no puffing of the cheeks for Nole after extended rallies?  I wonder if the deep breathing used during yoga is helping?  Control of breath leads to calmness of mind = improved confidence.  It's scary to watch.  No longer do we see the repeated outbursts and looks of panic.  Just a confiedent determination. 
-  I think Raf needs to be very aware of his court position relative to Nole.  He seems more than willing to back off the baseline and let Nole take charge.  Maybe Nole is forcing this to happen and Raf is unable to go toe-to-toe at the baseline.  The timing required for his long sweeping FH just won't permit it.

Great thread!!!  Thank you!!!
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Online Babblelot

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Re: Rafa's game plan against Djokovic
« Reply #8 on: May 17, 2011, 08:47:44 AM »
Wow! What an awesome return tennisfan. You should be around more often  :)

From what I saw, the same thing occurred to me that falcon observed. Rafa is wasting energy overworking the ball on the FH. All that extra topspin isn't doing diddly poo. He hits winners when he hits a flatter FH.

I agree with monster about the serve losing its effectiveness. Even at IW and Miami, he wasn't serving like he was at USO when he was clocking 130mph serves.

As for Nole's conditioning, there was no better test than the 83 degree, humid final in Miami. I commented at the time that Nole wasn't even sweating let alone breathing hard, whereas sweat was pouring off of Rafa's face and his hair looked like he had just stepped out of the shower. Rafa is definitely working much harder than Nole and he's wearing down.

Having said all that, it may behoove Rafa to shorten the points against Nole. Serve bigger, flatten the FH, and stay out of the long rallies.
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Offline Start da Game

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Re: Rafa's game plan against Djokovic
« Reply #9 on: May 17, 2011, 08:50:08 AM »
good thread, tennisfan78........nadal has lost all his confidence in the backhand and that wing is temporarily dead........that is his major problem now.........his backhand is such a crucial shot against djokovic because djokovic is vulnerable when pushed on the forehand side out wide, not on the backhand side.........historically that is how nadal usually dominated djokovic, by directing most of the shots towards his forehand and creating openings on the backhand.........

so for that to happen, nadal's backhand needs to be working over time.........at the moment it is plain dead and nonexistent........djokovic pounded that hopeless wing all night in rome and even in madrid.........   

djokovic has also improved meanwhile........he has upped every aspect of his game two notches higher........it is high time that nadal sorts out the backhand issues and starts playing solid off both sides........

i think he can do it, nadal is built to overcome challenges and find answers for anything........

   

 
« Last Edit: May 17, 2011, 08:51:57 AM by Start da Game »
Marian Vajda to Novak Djokovic, "I saw you beat that man like I never saw no man get beat before, and the man KEPT COMING AFTER YOU! Now we don't need no man like that in our lives."

i demand french open to be renamed RAFAEL GARROS

Offline Swish

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Re: Rafa's game plan against Djokovic
« Reply #10 on: May 17, 2011, 09:11:55 AM »
good thread, tennisfan78........nadal has lost all his confidence in the backhand and that wing is temporarily dead........that is his major problem now.........his backhand is such a crucial shot against djokovic because djokovic is vulnerable when pushed on the forehand side out wide, not on the backhand side.........historically that is how nadal usually dominated djokovic, by directing most of the shots towards his forehand and creating openings on the backhand.........

so for that to happen, nadal's backhand needs to be working over time.........at the moment it is plain dead and nonexistent........djokovic pounded that hopeless wing all night in rome and even in madrid.........   

djokovic has also improved meanwhile........he has upped every aspect of his game two notches higher........it is high time that nadal sorts out the backhand issues and starts playing solid off both sides........

i think he can do it, nadal is built to overcome challenges and find answers for anything........

   

 

Is Nadal's BH gone forever? What is it that caused it to malfunction?
Usually the clay court is where Nadal perfects his tools of the trade, not so this year.

To answer my own question, I expect Nadal realizes his problem and will concentrate his practice to address it, he hasn't much time but with good practices and focus he should beable to bring his BH side back to where it was and will have a few matches should he make it to the finals at RG.
The next question is will it be enough should he come against Nole at RG?

Offline monstertruck

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Re: Rafa's game plan against Djokovic
« Reply #11 on: May 17, 2011, 09:35:46 AM »
Aside from the serve, I don't see any concrete evidence to support the notion that it's a matter of stroke failure. 
My opinion is that the strokes are failing because of position and movement issues directly resulting from the wrong tactics.
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Offline Start da Game

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Re: Rafa's game plan against Djokovic
« Reply #12 on: May 17, 2011, 09:40:07 AM »
good thread, tennisfan78........nadal has lost all his confidence in the backhand and that wing is temporarily dead........that is his major problem now.........his backhand is such a crucial shot against djokovic because djokovic is vulnerable when pushed on the forehand side out wide, not on the backhand side.........historically that is how nadal usually dominated djokovic, by directing most of the shots towards his forehand and creating openings on the backhand.........

so for that to happen, nadal's backhand needs to be working over time.........at the moment it is plain dead and nonexistent........djokovic pounded that hopeless wing all night in rome and even in madrid.........   

djokovic has also improved meanwhile........he has upped every aspect of his game two notches higher........it is high time that nadal sorts out the backhand issues and starts playing solid off both sides........

i think he can do it, nadal is built to overcome challenges and find answers for anything........

   

 

Is Nadal's BH gone forever? What is it that caused it to malfunction?
Usually the clay court is where Nadal perfects his tools of the trade, not so this year.

To answer my own question, I expect Nadal realizes his problem and will concentrate his practice to address it, he hasn't much time but with good practices and focus he should beable to bring his BH side back to where it was and will have a few matches should he make it to the finals at RG.
The next question is will it be enough should he come against Nole at RG?

it is a temporary absence and at the moment it looks like a lack of confidence thing, swish........he has lost his dynamics off that side for some reason........just observe him these days, he is not even able to drive the ball which should be a routine business for a top player.........he is moonballing his backhands out of desperation........

however this is not strange with rafa, he has this habit of dropping his level significantly and the mindset starts getting defensive match by match........naturally talented players would hit into form any time but that's not how nadal catches form again, he needs hours and hours of practice........

it is somewhat worrying for his fans because the french open is almost here and he goes in without a backhand........

i still think he can 'manage' a victory without the backhand.........he will tear through the draw into the final with his great forehand alone........with the format being best of 5 sets and the surface being red clay, we just have to go with nadal against anybody.........he will be ready to play a 7 hour final if needed, that is the advantage he carries over others........ 



 
« Last Edit: May 17, 2011, 09:40:44 AM by Start da Game »
Marian Vajda to Novak Djokovic, "I saw you beat that man like I never saw no man get beat before, and the man KEPT COMING AFTER YOU! Now we don't need no man like that in our lives."

i demand french open to be renamed RAFAEL GARROS

Offline Swish

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Re: Rafa's game plan against Djokovic
« Reply #13 on: May 17, 2011, 10:15:59 AM »
good thread, tennisfan78........nadal has lost all his confidence in the backhand and that wing is temporarily dead........that is his major problem now.........his backhand is such a crucial shot against djokovic because djokovic is vulnerable when pushed on the forehand side out wide, not on the backhand side.........historically that is how nadal usually dominated djokovic, by directing most of the shots towards his forehand and creating openings on the backhand.........

so for that to happen, nadal's backhand needs to be working over time.........at the moment it is plain dead and nonexistent........djokovic pounded that hopeless wing all night in rome and even in madrid.........   

djokovic has also improved meanwhile........he has upped every aspect of his game two notches higher........it is high time that nadal sorts out the backhand issues and starts playing solid off both sides........

i think he can do it, nadal is built to overcome challenges and find answers for anything........

   

 

Is Nadal's BH gone forever? What is it that caused it to malfunction?
Usually the clay court is where Nadal perfects his tools of the trade, not so this year.

To answer my own question, I expect Nadal realizes his problem and will concentrate his practice to address it, he hasn't much time but with good practices and focus he should beable to bring his BH side back to where it was and will have a few matches should he make it to the finals at RG.
The next question is will it be enough should he come against Nole at RG?

it is a temporary absence and at the moment it looks like a lack of confidence thing, swish........he has lost his dynamics off that side for some reason........just observe him these days, he is not even able to drive the ball which should be a routine business for a top player.........he is moonballing his backhands out of desperation........

however this is not strange with rafa, he has this habit of dropping his level significantly and the mindset starts getting defensive match by match........naturally talented players would hit into form any time but that's not how nadal catches form again, he needs hours and hours of practice........

it is somewhat worrying for his fans because the french open is almost here and he goes in without a backhand........

i still think he can 'manage' a victory without the backhand.........he will tear through the draw into the final with his great forehand alone........with the format being best of 5 sets and the surface being red clay, we just have to go with nadal against anybody.........he will be ready to play a 7 hour final if needed, that is the advantage he carries over others........ 



 

Federer said himself that when they changed the masters to 3 sets he lost a big advantage, his endurance and playing well over 5 sets was always his 'ace in the hole'.

With Nadal it's the same advantage, he can play till the balls are bare.


Offline FedFanForever

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Re: Rafa's game plan against Djokovic
« Reply #14 on: May 17, 2011, 11:22:24 AM »
Federer said himself that when they changed the masters to 3 sets he lost a big advantage, his endurance and playing well over 5 sets was always his 'ace in the hole'.

With Nadal it's the same advantage, he can play till the balls are bare.

Really? That explains all those early round losses in Masters since 2007?  :rofl_2:
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Offline falcon

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Re: Rafa's game plan against Djokovic
« Reply #15 on: May 17, 2011, 11:28:00 AM »
Aside from the serve, I don't see any concrete evidence to support the notion that it's a matter of stroke failure. 
My opinion is that the strokes are failing because of position and movement issues directly resulting from the wrong tactics.

MT, as Shank pointed out rightly, Rafa is just moonballing even on the easiest of stroked which is quite alarming. Someone as quick as Nole or Murray will take advantage of the time gained when Rafa moonballs. I see that his backhand is almost gone, his precision is a bit lost too. I think all this comes down to confidence as well. Nole is very confident at the moment which allows him to play fearlessly. This is something lacking in Rafa right now and he SHOULD get his forehand flatter and get back his backhand as well.


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Offline tennisfan78

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Re: Rafa's game plan against Djokovic
« Reply #16 on: May 17, 2011, 06:38:19 PM »
Wow!!!  Great topic!!! :king:


Thoughts:
-  perhaps one reason Nole had a tougher time on HC was due to less time.
-excellent observation that one of Raf's strengthes plays into Nole's strike zone!  CCFH to BH.  Nole clearly has the advantage in the DTLBH, it is an amazing shot when he tees it up!
-  Nole's consistency on the FH has been incredible.  Perhaps this is due to his improved fitness/movement?
-  Nole's serve has been good.  I think there is still room for improvement in both 1st & 2nd deliveries. 
-  Raf flattening his forehand seems contradictory to me.  Maybe he could play to the Nole FH and bit more to create space on the BH side in order to force Nole to hit BH's on the move.
-  Raf has to serve better.  Nole is taking charge of points immediately with his returns.  He has no respect for the Nadal delivery.  Time and again he wrong foots Raf with his returns and turns the tables with his first shot.
-  anyone else notice there has been no puffing of the cheeks for Nole after extended rallies?  I wonder if the deep breathing used during yoga is helping?  Control of breath leads to calmness of mind = improved confidence.  It's scary to watch.  No longer do we see the repeated outbursts and looks of panic.  Just a confiedent determination. 
-  I think Raf needs to be very aware of his court position relative to Nole.  He seems more than willing to back off the baseline and let Nole take charge.  Maybe Nole is forcing this to happen and Raf is unable to go toe-to-toe at the baseline.  The timing required for his long sweeping FH just won't permit it.

Great thread!!!  Thank you!!!

Thanks monster!!

You make a very good point about the breathing/puffing with him.  He doesn't seem to be bothered playing long and extended rallies lately, and is showing much better fitness.  How would he do in a 5 set format would be interesting to see.

Offline tennisfan78

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Re: Rafa's game plan against Djokovic
« Reply #17 on: May 17, 2011, 06:59:12 PM »
Wow! What an awesome return tennisfan. You should be around more often  :)

From what I saw, the same thing occurred to me that falcon observed. Rafa is wasting energy overworking the ball on the FH. All that extra topspin isn't doing diddly poo. He hits winners when he hits a flatter FH.

I agree with monster about the serve losing its effectiveness. Even at IW and Miami, he wasn't serving like he was at USO when he was clocking 130mph serves.

As for Nole's conditioning, there was no better test than the 83 degree, humid final in Miami. I commented at the time that Nole wasn't even sweating let alone breathing hard, whereas sweat was pouring off of Rafa's face and his hair looked like he had just stepped out of the shower. Rafa is definitely working much harder than Nole and he's wearing down.

Having said all that, it may behoove Rafa to shorten the points against Nole. Serve bigger, flatten the FH, and stay out of the long rallies.

Thanks Babble!!!   

Rafa's top spin forehand has been a major weapon on clay all these years, and it still is excepting when he is playing Nole.  It is his natural shot and will he be willing to make the change when playing Djoker remains to be seen.

I also agree with others that his backhand is lacking firepower lately. He used to hit some unbelievable winners on that side.



Offline monstertruck

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Re: Rafa's game plan against Djokovic
« Reply #18 on: May 17, 2011, 08:32:24 PM »
Aside from the serve, I don't see any concrete evidence to support the notion that it's a matter of stroke failure. 
My opinion is that the strokes are failing because of position and movement issues directly resulting from the wrong tactics.

MT, as Shank pointed out rightly, Rafa is just moonballing even on the easiest of stroked which is quite alarming. Someone as quick as Nole or Murray will take advantage of the time gained when Rafa moonballs. I see that his backhand is almost gone, his precision is a bit lost too. I think all this comes down to confidence as well. Nole is very confident at the moment which allows him to play fearlessly. This is something lacking in Rafa right now and he SHOULD get his forehand flatter and get back his backhand as well.
Looked to me like the moonballin' was a tactic and not a stroke deficiency.

Odd how no one mentioned Raf having a weak backhand or having to flatten the FH until his 2 losses to Nole. :whistle:

As I've said before, I think Nole steals position and therefore time from Rafa causing the FH & BH to appear 'off'.  His ROS has been devasting as well, wrong footing Nadal time and again, forcing him to play weaker shots than normal.

But hey, that's just my opinion.... ;-()
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Offline monstertruck

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Re: Rafa's game plan against Djokovic
« Reply #19 on: May 17, 2011, 08:33:49 PM »
Wow!!!  Great topic!!! :king:


Thoughts:
-  perhaps one reason Nole had a tougher time on HC was due to less time.
-excellent observation that one of Raf's strengthes plays into Nole's strike zone!  CCFH to BH.  Nole clearly has the advantage in the DTLBH, it is an amazing shot when he tees it up!
-  Nole's consistency on the FH has been incredible.  Perhaps this is due to his improved fitness/movement?
-  Nole's serve has been good.  I think there is still room for improvement in both 1st & 2nd deliveries. 
-  Raf flattening his forehand seems contradictory to me.  Maybe he could play to the Nole FH and bit more to create space on the BH side in order to force Nole to hit BH's on the move.
-  Raf has to serve better.  Nole is taking charge of points immediately with his returns.  He has no respect for the Nadal delivery.  Time and again he wrong foots Raf with his returns and turns the tables with his first shot.
-  anyone else notice there has been no puffing of the cheeks for Nole after extended rallies?  I wonder if the deep breathing used during yoga is helping?  Control of breath leads to calmness of mind = improved confidence.  It's scary to watch.  No longer do we see the repeated outbursts and looks of panic.  Just a confiedent determination. 
-  I think Raf needs to be very aware of his court position relative to Nole.  He seems more than willing to back off the baseline and let Nole take charge.  Maybe Nole is forcing this to happen and Raf is unable to go toe-to-toe at the baseline.  The timing required for his long sweeping FH just won't permit it.

Great thread!!!  Thank you!!!

Thanks monster!!

You make a very good point about the breathing/puffing with him.  He doesn't seem to be bothered playing long and extended rallies lately, and is showing much better fitness.  How would he do in a 5 set format would be interesting to see.
See Alex's post in the NoleNoleNole thread for one possible explanation for his improved breathing.
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