Another year, another disappointment for Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon. Take nothing away from Dustin Brown, who played out of his skin to beat the Spaniard, but it is becoming a recurring theme to expect an early exit for a player usually so feared in every event he enters.
It is easy to make excuses for the two-time Wimbledon champion: injuries have plagued him in recent years; grass is not his favourite surface; his coach did not prepare him well enough for the match-up.
John McEnroe has even called for Nadal to swap his uncle Tony for a new coach to bring in some fresh ideas. Though the problem may well be more psychological than immediately apparent.
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The first few rounds of any tournament are generally not a problem for Rafa, as he faces opponents without the experience he possesses. The difference with Wimbledon is that now he has exited before the fourth round the past four years running. He has a mental block. His confidence and belief in himself begins to fail at the slightest hint of a struggle.
Looking closely at his last four appearances at SW19, the players who beat him all went out in the very next round, implying that it was either a fluke or the sheer effort took a lot out of them.
The latter seems much more likely, especially given the incredible performances that these underdogs have invariably produced against Nadal.
The common theme is that they all sensed an opportunity, that Nadal was weak and low on confidence. He failed to use his undoubted skill to overpower the lesser experienced player on the other side of the net. Instead he got drawn into a battle for dominance and lost because his desire was not as high as his opponent's.
He can train and train as much as he wants, but until Nadal is able to have a complete change of mindset on what it means for him to become champion of Wimbledon, it may never happen again.
Particularly worrying is his own comment on his future at Wimbledon, "I don't know if I will be back to the level of 2008 or 2010."
A player is only truly past their peak if they think they are. Look at Roger Federer, still going despite his age and occasional struggles with form. But he never stops believing he is the best. Incidentally, Federer has no coach to tell him what to do. Perhaps Nadal should take a leaf out of his book.
Can Rafael Nadal rediscover his Wimbledon form? Let us know below!
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