i was able to watch a taped telecast of the nadal-gasquet match in kuala lumpur last november 22. if anyone else here saw that match, you'd notice some very surprising things from nadal's play. btw, i've never seen nadal play in an exhibition, so i'm ignorant as to whether this was the first time he actually played this way or not. anyway, here are the things i noticed about him: 1. he CAN play at a fast pace. in fact, in this match, he was almost playing at andre agassi-like pace. no hair-adjusting, excessive-toweling, bandana-fixing, sock-tugging, and most notably, no butt-picking. he just got the ball, bounced it twice and served. when he missed the first serve, he took almost no time to hit the second serve. this was most probably because there was no pressure so he didn't have to go through all his rituals to calm him down and keep him focused. he could afford to experiment on things and just have fun. speaking of experimenting... 2. he can take the ball very early. again, this was something agassi-like as well. usually, in real match situations, when he is up against an aggressive opponent, he takes a step back and defends. but here, even when gasquet was hitting deep and hard, nadal could take the ball right on the short hop and send it back with interest. this happened more than a few times. and he was even doing it from his forehand side, which is usually the side that requires more time. 3. he was serving and volleying a lot. i mean a lot for him. a lot more than he was doing at wimbledon. obviously, he's not going to serve and volley like edberg or rafter. but he was doing it almost as much as radek stepanek does. and remember that stepanek is one of the most frequent net rushers in today's game. 4. he is capable of "genius shots." by "genius shots" i mean shots like between-the-legs and reflex volleys. usually, the most spectacular shots he plays are the dead-on-the-run passing shots. on grass, he can come up with some difficult volleys. but today, he was coming up with some tough volleys regularly. sure, he'd get passed, but he kept coming in regardless. and in the end it paid off. one exchange saw both players at net and i expected gasquet, the more natural volleyer to win the point, but instead rafa won it. the most well-applauded point was when he was forced in by a gasquet drop shot, then forced back by a very good topspin lob. gasquet was already at net and again i expected him to win the point. but rafa came up with a between-the-legs passing winner, albeit it was helped by the netcord. i had never seen him execute that shot in any of his matches before. 5. he can lighten up. i've heard commentators say that when they watch nadal practice, he is just as intense as in an actual match. so i thought that he would be the same even in an exhibition. but in this match, he was smiling all the way and even joking with the crowd a bit. it was gasquet who looked more like he was in a real tournament.