#360view: Time beginning to catch up with Nadal

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Nadal's running out of time to add to his 14 slam haul.

Rafael Nadal’s grand slam campaign ended late Sunday night with a fifth-set tiebreak defeat to young Frenchman Lucas Pouille.

In a thrilling showdown that lasted more than four hours, the pair produced the kind of all-court tennis that will make it a strong contender for match of the year honours when the season comes to a close in a couple of months.

It was a match that had everything. Unthinkable gets, huge winners, seesawing momentum shifts, heartbreaking misses… it was the kind of epic battle typically associated with a warrior like Nadal.

But it’s also one a vintage Nadal would never have lost.

Instead, the Spanish 14-time grand slam champion succumbed to the immensely talented, yet less experienced, Pouille.

The 22-year-old Frenchman fought from a break down in the fifth to force a tiebreak. Nadal saved three match points to take the breaker to 6-all.

Then came a telling moment that could haunt Nadal for quite some time.

After setting himself up for a routine forehand up front that would have given him a match point, the Spaniard dumped the ball in the net.

He covered his face in disbelief and so did the millions who were watching around the world.

Pouille couldn’t believe it either, but he did not hesitate, converting on his fourth match point for the biggest victory of his career and a place in the quarter-finals for a second consecutive major.

The good news for Nadal is that he was as fired up as ever, a stark contrast to how he competed last season.

“I had the right attitude. I fighted right up to the last ball,” he said after the match.

That is definitely true. But Nadal refused to chalk up his mistake at 6-6 in the tiebreak to pressure.

“After winning 14 (slams) and being in semi-finals a lot of times, you feel that’s pressure?” Nadal fired back at a reporter who noted that the Spaniard’s results at the majors have been weaker than at regular tournaments recently, which might perhaps mean he is feeling more pressure at the slams.

“In 30 years, after having the career that I have, (it) is not a question of pressure.”

Rafa graph

Several top players have admitted to feeling extra pressure the older they got, as they become more and more aware of how less time they have left on tour.

Nadal called his defeat to Pouille on Sunday a “lost opportunity” and he must know that such opportunities are coming by less frequently and that the clock is ticking.

While Nadal is miles away from the hesitant, unhappy figure he portrayed last season, the fact remains that he has not made it past the quarter-finals in the last 10 majors (he didn’t play two of them and retired injured from a third).

His last grand slam victory came over two years ago at the French Open, so it’s only natural to feel pressure at crucial stages at the majors nowadays.

And with several talented players rising through the ranks, à la Pouille, Nadal will need to find a way to get back his peak mental strength that helped him win all those majors throughout his career, because mistakes like the one he made in the breaker will no longer cut it.

His passion for the sport remains burning bright, which is the most important thing.

Nadal has set a goal for himself to fight for a place in the end-of-season ATP World Tour Finals, and that will help him stay motivated in the upcoming period.

He is now at No6 in the ATP Race to London, which is remarkable considering he missed over two months of action due to his wrist injury.

Booking a spot in London could prove the right catalyst for 2017, the same way that worked for Andy Murray when he was coming back from back surgery two years ago.

As for Dubai-resident Pouille, he has done enough this season to prove he is an exciting prospect.

He’s got that French flair mixed with some ice-cold Scandinavian nerves (his mother is Finnish) that allow him to pull out back-to-back aces while serving for a set against someone like Nadal, and paint the line with a forehand winner to seal a stunning victory on Arthur Ashe stadium. The top 10 beckons.

Know more about Sport360 Application

Recommended

Most popular

US Open talking points - Nadal crashes out to Pouille

Sport360 staff 05:23 05/09/2016
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Distraught: Rafael Nadal.

Rafael Nadal crashed out of the US Open as the Spaniard lost a five-set thriller to France’s Lucas Pouille in the fourth round at Flushing Meadows.

Nadal saved three match points in a pulsating final-set tie-break, but could not avert the fourth as Pouille triumphed 6-1 2-6 6-4 3-6 7-6 (8/6).

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga reached the quarter-finals of the US Open for the second successive year on Sunday with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-7 (7/9), 6-2 victory over American Jack Sock.

The ninth seed from France fired 54 winners to oust 26th-seeded Sock, the lone remaining US man in the field.

Three years ago and aged just 23, Anastasija Sevastova was so depressed by her tennis career that she quit, left her native Latvia and moved to Austria to study leisure management.

But at the US Open, she has become the latest woman to find success in her second life on the courts, unable to resist the call of competition, the lure of the lights and the security of the big paydays.

NADAL CRASHES OUT TO POUILLE

14-time major champion Rafael Nadal has now failed to go past the fourth round in his last five grand slams, while Pouille advances to meet fellow Frenchman Gael Monfils in the quarter-finals.

Nadal led by 4-2 and a break in the deciding set in Arthur Ashe Stadium but Pouille broke back, winning four out of the next six games to force a tie-break.

The 22-year-old then pulled 6-3 clear to open up three match points but, while Nadal saved them all, he then missed a simple forehand and Pouille pounced to snatch a momentous victory.

“It took everything,” Pouille said on court afterwards.

“It is my first match on the centre court against Rafa. I couldn’t dream better than this.”

TSONGA ELIMINATES LAST US MAN STANDING

The ninth seed from France fired 54 winners to oust 26th-seeded Sock, the lone remaining US man in the field.

In match pitting two players with fearsome forehands, Tsonga boasted the deadlier precision, although Sock didn’t go quietly, saving a match point in the third-set tiebreaker to force the deciding fourth set.

Once he had, however, 2008 Australian Open runner-up Tsonga reasserted himself, powering to a 5-2, 40-0 lead.

The Frenchman had a little hiccup with a double fault before belting an unreturnable serve to close it out.

SEVASTOVA’S RETURN GOING WELL

On Sunday, the 26-year-old became the first Latvian woman in 22 years to reach the last-eight of a Grand Slam.

It’s a long way from when she stepped off the circuit in May 2013 until January 2015, opting to study instead.

“It was some accounting, some management, marketing; I had some exams. I passed and it was easy at some point,” she recalled after seeing off Johanna Konta of Britain to reach the US Open quarter-finals.

“But at some point I said, OK, I will try tennis again. So I had to stop.”

Her ranking had slumped to 181 by the end of 2012, but her surprise success in New York, where she has already knocked out French Open champion Garbine Muguruza, will comfortably see her improve on her current standing of 48.

“It’s been a bumpy road. I didn’t expect to be here at this point of my life after retiring,” she said.

Most popular

Today's US Open five to watch & predictions

Sport360 staff 01:00 05/09/2016
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Big stars on show.

Which matches are you most looking forward to seeing on day eight and who do you think will progress to the quarter-finals from our picks?

Have your say and share with us your predictions by commenting below, using #360fans on Twitter or getting in touch via Facebook.

SERENA WILLIAMS (USA) vs YARASLOVA SHVEDOVA (KAZ)

SERENA (USA) vs SHVEDOVA (KAZ)

  • 1 - WORLD RANKING - 52
  • 4 - HEAD TO HEAD - 0
  • 71 - CAREER TITLES - 1
  • 36-5 - 2016 WIN-LOSS - 19-19

Serena takes on the big-serving Kazakh for a place in the quarters.

Serena has lost just three US Open matches since 2008.

She’s back in great form and will likely prove too much to handle.

SPORT360 VERDICT: Serena in two.

SIMONA HALEP (ROUx5) vs SUAREZ NAVARRO (ESPx11)

Share a long history of tight battles, with seven of their 10 encounters going to a final set.

Suarez Navarro won their most recent clash, on clay in Rome 2015, and both are in good form in New York.

Halep is stronger at the majors though.

SPORT360 VERDICT: Halep in three.

VENUS WILLIAMS (USAx6) vs KAROLINA PLISKOVA (CZEx10)

VENUS (USAx6) vs PLISKOVA (CZEx10)

  • 6 - WORLD RANKING - 11
  • 1 - HEAD TO HEAD - 0
  • 49 - CAREER TITLES - 6
  • 24-11 - 2016 WIN-LOSS - 36-16

Pliskova’s on an eight-match winning streak and into the second week of a slam for the first time.

She beat three top-10 players en route to the Cincinnati title last month.

Venus is searching for second straight US Open quarter-final.

SPORT360 VERDICT: Pliskova in two.

ANDY MURRAY (GBRx2) vs GRIGOR DIMITROV (BULx22)

Murray lost just three of his last 43 matches.

The reigning Wimbledon and Olympic champion lost his most recent meeting with Dimitrov, during a brief slump in Miami.

Meanwhile, Dimitrov looks like he’s finally past his 2016 woes.

SPORT360 VERDICT: Murray in four.

DOMINIC THIEM (AUTx8) vs JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO (ARG)

THIEM (AUTx8) vs DEL POTRO (ARG)

  • 10 - WORLD RANKING - 142
  • 0 - HEAD TO HEAD - 1
  • 7 - CAREER TITLES - 18
  • 52-16 - 2016 WIN-LOSS - 21-9

Two of the nicest guys on tour face-off, although Del Potro has the tennis world rooting for him during his comeback from wrist surgeries.

Del Potro hasn’t dropped a set yet in New York while Thiem has fought through 12 sets already.

SPORT360 VERDICT: Del Potro in four.

Most popular

Related Sections