Observations from the latest episode of Nole-Nadal: In sum, Nole is the better player and has been the better player for the last few years. Reasons for his superiority over Rafa: 1. Return of Serve: This is one of the primary reasons for his dominance. Nole has developed one of the best ROS in the history of the sport. Thus, when they both bring their A-Games, Nadal will always struggle more than Nole to hold serve. One interesting stat from today’s match is that Nadal had a 71% first serve percentage and still lost the match is straights. 2. Serve vs serve: I will give a slight edge to Nole here although I think Rafa’s serve is looking better than ever. 3. Ground strokes and stroke patterns: Again, Nole is simply superior here in virtually every facet. Nole really doesn’t have a weak stroke and Nadal’s BH is a hindrance when playing Nole. Rafa has done a good job of improving his inside out FH in order to counter the usual patterns that Nole brings against him but it hasn’t been enough b/c, in the end, Nole can still get to Rafa’s BH enough to cause problems. 4. Nole’s ability to take it on the rise and go offensive: Although Nole generally prefers the longer rallies (he won approx. 2/3 of all rallies over 10 strokes today), when his energy is lagging, he can step into the court and hit outright winners with greater consistency than Rafa. In fact, I think this is a vastly underutilized area of Nole’s game in general. He plays too defensively for his talent. What can Rafa do: 1. Endurance: Hope that he can extend the match and get to Nole’s legs: This is the only area in which I would give an edge to Nadal. He has greater stamina than Nole. 2. Take a few more balls on the rise and run around more BH’s to hit the FH: I think Nadal has started to make this adjustment but it wasn’t enough today. Watch the point at 2-3, Love-15 on Rafa's serve in the 2nd set for a good example of a winning pattern for Rafa. Areas in which they are close to equal: 1. Will to win: Nadal owns this category against most players but I think Nole is neck and neck with him at this point 2. Court Coverage: I think Nole is slightly better here at this point but it is very close What Rafa can’t change: 1. The overall dominance of Nole’s ROS 2. The fact that Nole has less holes in his groundstrokes than Rafa Can Rafa still beat Nole? Absolutely……whenever he can get to Nole’s legs or his form on the day is a level or two above Nole’s form. Also, if Rafa can continue with his adjustment of stepping into the Court and hitting the inside-out FH, that may change the overall patterns of their matches. Most interesting aspect to the coming year from my perspective: What will happen between Murray and Nadal when they happen to meet in a big match. Can Murray turn the mental tide and reverse Nadal's recent dominance in their match-up. A rested Nadal vs. a new crowned GS champion....could be fun to watch. Summary: A very enjoyable match between two great champions.