Busted Racquet

How Novak Djokovic beat Rafael Nadal and got into his head

Patrick Mouratoglou
Busted Racquet

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Patrick Mouratoglou is a world-renowned tennis coach who has worked with Marcos Baghdatis and Aravane Rezai. His French tennis academy is considered one of the top in the world. He is a frequent contributor to Busted Racquet.

Novak Djokovic left no doubt he's the new boss of the ATP after soundly defeating Rafael Nadal in four sets in the Wimbledon final. With this second Grand Slam title of the season (and third of his career), the Serbian is going to be able to go for a mini-Slam at the US Open like the recently-bested Nadal did last year. How times have changed.

We witnessed outrageous domination by Djokovic on Centre Court on Sunday, with the exception of the third set in which he slightly dropped his focus. Even in the fourth set, where he wasn't playing as good as in the first two, he showed he was above his opponent in all the areas of the game. Nadal had no answers for Djokovic during the match, somethin he realizes all too painfully.

Since the start of the season, the Spaniard is running out of time in the rallies against Djokovic . The Serbian always succeeds in sticking him on one side of the court because of the length of his shots and because of the accuracy of his eye. It allows him to wrong-foot Nadal on a number of points. Djokovic also knows Nadal's movement strategy (stay lateral, cheat to one side) and anticipates all of his defensive runs. A bit like a Monica Seles in the past (a player he admires a lot), he has mastered Nadal's sublime counterpunching by taking the ball early. It puts a lot of pressure on his rival's shoulders. How do you beat someone who's always one step ahead?

Still, there are several things that could be better displayed by the deposed No. 1. The slice backhand has long been a mistake and needs to go. He's not masterful enough with that shot so he ends up being tentative with it, leaving time for his opponent to breathe and find a good, offensive position. Nadal's strength is to prevent his rivals from staying in points by keeping a high intensity all the time and by tiring them with high speed of play. It's his natural style and his main weapon. Against Djokovic, the option of trying to break the rhythm is turning this strategy into a failure.

Novak went for some sliced serves from right to left because the chop backhand on the return helped him to take the lead and dictate the point. If he's watching the video of this match, Rafa would have to admit that his return position has to be changed even if that means he'll get aced a little bit more on the T. If he's going a little bit more on his right, let's say about 18 inches, he'll be able to pound his backhand and won't be late anymore for the start of the point.

In the manner of a true champion, Nadal was able to seize all his opportunities in order to try to turn the match around, despite this third set and the break lost at the start of the fourth one. But now it's obvious that Nadal can't sit around waiting for Djokovic to fall. It's his game now and Nadal needs to catch up. No more waiting around for Nole to lose focus and start missing. Rafael Nadal needs tactical answers and had to make tough decision, especially with the American hard court season certain to suit Djokovic's game in the coming months.

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