Friday, January 27, 2012

Not Tennis Anymore, It’s Officially Battle of Minds - Djokovic & Nadal


Just a year back, Nadal was at the top of the world recording easy wins over his opponents. It seemed that nothing can go wrong and was being thought of as the top contender to surpass Federer's record of 16 GS.

And all of a sudden, a wave free of Gluten hit him and knocked him down from his World No. 1 ranking as well as Wimbledon & US Open Crown.

After being called as the best,you lose to a person whom you have defeated 12 times and he rips you apart clueless 6 times in a row, ! Imagine yourself - Best worker year in and year out –Suddenly your co-worker (2 places down since 3-4 years) comes and takes away the crown not once-6 times! No matter how hard you try, you are not able to surpass him/her at work-place.

Result- You are bound to feel demotivated ,loss of self-belief in yourself no matter how many times close ones tell you to remember you are the best! At least I will! Will coming second or beating other colleagues even matter?

Nadal who was the best all of a sudden lost 6 finals in a row in 2011 against Nole! The main reason, I feel, is the loss of self-belief, and the mind wanting to reverse his results against Djokovic! When he lost once or twice to Djokovic last year, he thought he would be able to bounce back! He believed he was the best- that’s why he defeated everyone in French Open. He thought he can defeat Djokovic but now after 6 times, his confidence has been finally shaken and his mind can see a repetition of trend!  He has really started to doubt his game! And that’s why, although he is still the same, his mind has one thought-Will he be able to defeat Djokovic ever?

What I am trying readers to understand is the psychology of a human mind! Nadal is no different. He is also human. No matter as fans of Nadal, we would want him to win thinking why has he all of a sudden started to play so vulnerably, is his game over? My answer- No, simply because- he is still amongst the best. It’s just that he is trying to find a solution to defeat Djokovic. And once he does that, he will return to normal!

We can look at Federer, after 2008 he has not been the same old Federer we were so used to see! Why? Because he still hasn’t been able to find a convincing answer to Nadal! And the trend has reversed for Nadal- with Djokovic posing a mental battle to his mind! I believe that till the time, he finds an answer to Djokovic, no matter where and against whom his wins are- he won’t be the same Nadal we have known since 2006.


It’s a step by step process: A father took his boy (who was very good at mountain climbing) to the biggest mountain in the country and told him to climb that! He tried to climb, he failed. Tried it for multiple times, and still the same result. So the father after seeing this told the boy- you have been the best since last 5 years, stop thinking this is the biggest mountain- break it down into small goals and think you can do it! And when your mind poses doubt or fear, just think of me and moments when you have climbed mountains like this! And the boy thus climbed the mountain.

1) Shut out his mind about the past and stop thinking about Djokovic as the unstoppable machine:When Nadal played in Wimbledon/US Open- the thoughts of losing to Djokovic were present in his mind! And he admitted the thoughts had an effect on him! This time when he plays Djokovic, he will have to take the match game by game. Look at Federer in the SF 2 days back, when he was a set and break up, he crumbled and gave away the match. Especially at the crucial points, Nadal will have to shut out his mind.

2) Find out someone to look upto at crucial points:I know it’s difficult to shut out your mind- it is bound to go back. In those moments, he will have to find or think of someone ( & certainly his family can help showing positive signs and believing in him) whom he can look up to and give him the strength and belief that he can win during the game. The outbursts of his father and family during Wimbledon could have made anyone nervous!

We all have one such person in our lives- Whenever I am in toughest of situations- I think about 1993- Wimbledon Finals (Steffi Graf against Jana Novotna 1-4 down 30-40 in the third set and how she managed to win Wimbledon) & instantly my fears vanish -be it my exams, interviews or anything! My mind is instilled with a belief and confidence! Only if at 5-4, In Wimbledon Final, Nadal could have not committed those 2 unforced errors! And no guesses why those two happened at crucial points!

And Nadal himself said last year - He didn’t suffer that much, the reason why it’s a bit tough on him.For Nadal fans: In words of Helen Keller:

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved."

So Nadal right now is in phase 1 of suffering and if we go by words of great Helen Keller, he is bound to rebound back and achieve success!



  1. Well. . .the only way Nadal's going to be Djokovic is if Djokovic is tired or he has an injury. Because if you observe , all of Novak's shots are better than Rafa's. The serve , forehand , backhand , defense , etc. So more than the the mental part, Nadal has to improve his game to stand a chance against Novak.
    And btw... is ur site as well?
    nice article ... ur posts are really amazing !!

  2. Nice article and good analysis. Keep it up

  3. This wasn't very objective. I am guessing you are a Nadal fan? Djokovic simply has more weapons than Nadal at this stage. I keep thinking of Pete Sampras vs Michael Chang, and Federer vs Lleyton Hewitt. The lesser talented guy was more mentally strong when they were younger but then talent takes over and the head to head gets on sided for the more gifted player. I think Djokovic will own this matchup until they both retire.

    1. Do you honestly believe that Chang and Hewitt are in the same league as Rafael Nadal? What are you smoking..??

  4. Hello Apeksha,
    A mistake in typing that it was 1993 Wimbledon Final,not Semi final.

  5. imho, i think there r so many players that should be beating nadal on hardcourts. murray, soderling, berdych, delpotro, because they have the potential 2b aggressive & hit flat balls. on clay, nadal glides, but on hardcourt he pounds & that must be tuff on his body. watching the florian mayer win over nadal, there were moments nadal was out of breath & even got a warning 4 taking 2 long btwn points by the umpire. their r young players like raonic, tomich, that i feel should eventually beat nadal on hardcourt a well. tsonga is another player whos game should give nadal a hardtime on hardcourts. however, its all these players lack of consistency & belief that doesnt allow them 2win over nadal. i mean these guys r taller, have big serves, hit the ball relatively flat, but nadal is so mentally tuff & defends so well these guys dont believe they can hang w/him. nadal is a great player, one of the best ever, but i just am so amazed how these guys never beat him on hardcourt. djokovic, who i've been saying 4 a long time, will beat nadal, has because he finally put all the mental stuff tgether w/his physical game. these other players need 2do the same. as for federer, hes 30 yrs old, doesnt have the same motivation, although i cant believe hes happy about not winning a major in 2011. its interesting hes taken lots of time off. i hope its 2 somehow regroup & take annacones advice & come into the net more. however, i still think 2012 will be dominated by djokovic & nadal again, although i'd love 2c murray step up to the plate. i guess we will c

  6. @Anonymous:3:45- You are absolutely bang on when you say that consistency and mental toughness is what is required to beat a great player like Nadal. Nole did this in 2011 and its Nadal who is nervous now when he plays against him.Its his turn to dig deep and find a solution to the mental riddle called Nole just like Federer who has been trying to find one in Fedal rivalry! I think 2012 would be interesting because of possibilty of Federer, Nadal rising upto the challenge of Nole and also if Murray can be inspired by his contemporary-Djokovic!All in All- Interesting times lay ahead for all the tennis fans.

  7. I don't think Murray can win on as Bolletieri and Becker say. If he doesn't get one this year he might be a Goran or Schivone, Stosur and win one later on.

  8. This is the most important match between them and it will tell us how the year will go. If Novak wins this it will mean complete dominination.Even if he doesnt he will be a serious contender for the FO.