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ARTICLE: Virus Residue Affecting Nadal

1/22/2011Rafaholics ™


Residue From a Virus Leaves Nadal Feeling Sluggish

By CHRISTOPHER CLAREY
Published: January 22, 2011

Nadal did win, defeating the talented 18-year-old Australian Bernard Tomic, 6-2, 7-5, 6-3, to secure a spot in the fourth round.

But Nadal, the world’s No. 1 player, clearly had concerns beyond Tomic. After contracting a virus that affected his play at his first official tournament of the year in Doha, Qatar, he delayed his arrival here to recuperate. Though Nadal said that he was no longer running a fever and that extensive medical tests conducted in Doha showed no further sign of the virus, he said that his body was still recovering.

“I’m more tired than usual and I’m sweating more than usual,” he said. “I changed my shirt five or six times, and it wasn’t that hot. I lost two and a half kilograms” — about five and a half pounds — “and usually I don’t lose weight in my matches. It must be coming from the illness I had in Doha. Maybe my body’s defenses are still down.”

That is not to take too much away from Tomic, who has a remarkable ability to anticipate the flow of play and an unusual rhythm-shifting game that accentuates touch over power and frequently had Nadal leaning the wrong way.

The youngest player in the men’s tournament, Tomic required a wild card from Tennis Australia to compete. That generated controversy because he had skipped the wild-card tournament, citing an illness. His serve is still a work in progress, and he is, for now, ranked only 199th. But Nadal predicted much lower numbers for Tomic after struggling to take charge of many a baseline rally against him.

“He’s this kind of player that makes you play bad,” Nadal said.

That was almost exactly the same phrase that Nadal’s Spanish compatriot Guillermo García-López used earlier in the day when he lost to Andy Murray of Britain, 6-1, 6-1, 6-2. And it is Murray to whom Tomic is most often compared. Nadal likes the comparison.

“I think the concept is similar, how he positions himself on the court,” Nadal said of Tomic. “They do some different things to bother opponents, but I think he has really good potential.”

What was also impressive about Tomic was his lack of stage fright. He opened the match with a big service winner down the middle, then used his wide variety of shots and kept his cool, an attitude that jibes with his thinking-man’s game.

Tomic can hit with power when he chooses, and he finished with more forehand and backhand winners than Nadal, who acknowledged that he was not at his sharpest although he did take consistent advantage of Tomic’s second serve. That helped him recover from a 0-4 deficit to win the second set, but Nadal still finished with a high unforced error count (32) by his standards and missed multiple forehands that he would normally handle.

“I didn’t play well; I kept the ball too short,” said Nadal, who also was unhappy with his serve, which Tomic broke three times.

“I dropped the power a bit to be more accurate; that’s the truth,” Nadal added. “The other day, I served better.”

Nadal’s path will grow more arduous quickly. In the fourth round, he will face Marin Cilic of Croatia, the No. 15 seed, who was a semifinalist here last year and has shown signs of resurgence after struggling through most of the 2010 season.

Nadal also has his countryman David Ferrer, the seventh seed and one of the fittest men on tour, in his quarter of the draw. Murray and Robin Soderling — who have beaten Nadal in Grand Slam tournaments — are in his half of the draw.

Clearly, this is not a time to be feeling sluggish: Nadal is four victories from becoming the first man since Laver in 1969 to hold the four tennis trophies that matter most.

“When I play and I’m anxious, I’m a player who sweats more,” he said. “But even when there’s no anxiety here, I’m sweating like crazy. And what concerns me most is that I’m getting tired during practice.”

Now for the reassuring news. Despite all the shirt changing, Nadal has yet to drop a set.


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