Hello all! Glad to see so many enjoying themselves in the Castle. That's what it is all about. We all lead different lives, but occasionally we can chill out here and welcome the others that visit.
I don't know how many were able to watch the Nadal - Zeballos final. Zeballos played very well for the most part. He went for the lines, went for some risky drop shots, sometimes too much, but fortune favors the brave as they say. As for Mr. Nadal, what can I say. He has been off for 7 months. During many of those months, he obviously had his mind and body away from tennis. So I'm not surprised he was not able to win his first tournament back in action. I thought (in FITD) that he would lose in the SF to Chardy, but Chardy played surprisingly horribly to me, considering his relatively good form in Australia.
To me there were 3 main things that contributed to Nadal's loss (not necessarily in the order listed below):
1. Movement. His movement was not as good as I usually have seen it on clay. Well, I suppose we can put this down to two things. He had said his knee his still hurting some and preventing him from making certain movements. Secondly, he does not appear as fit as he could be.
2. Return. His return was generally not good. He did break in the first game of the 3rd, but it was mostly due to a Zeballos let down after winning the second set tiebreaker, not anything special by Nadal. Other than that, Nadal wasn't coming close to breaking Zeballos, and return of serve is usually one of Nadal's biggest weapons. Perhaps Zeballos was hard to read, or Nadal just had an off day. But fundamentally, he is still standing about as far back as he can without being in the crowd. This just invites him to return much shorter than he shoud, or be susceptible to slice serves.
3. Fitness. Nadal could be more fit. He was somewhat fortunate to be playing Zeballos who played aggressively, going for lines and drop shots many times. On the few rallies that lasted awhile, Nadal was winded more than I thought he would be. On the other hand, Zeballos also looked like he might have lost his legs for a few games, but it appeared that he got a second wind just in time. If Nadal had to play some of the very fit players counter punching players like Murray, Ferrer, Djokovic, I think he would be in serious trouble. Hopefully he gets more fit. I don't think adding doubles to his tournament schedule helps in the fitness category. He needs to be doing a lot of swimming or something like that, something that doesn't put too much pressure on the knees, but allows him to get wind and leg fit.
Basically, I think he probably could have done more to help himself while he was out, but maybe he needed a mental rest as much as the physical one. It's not good news that his knees are still bothering him enough to hamper his movement. He has to hope that pain goes away soon, or I can't see him competing deep into big tournaments with the top guns... and we are not even talking about hard courts here. He's got to do it on clay, before he can expect anything good to happen on hard courts.