Why does Nadal struggle so much with journeymen on grass?

#1
Why is it that guys like Brown, Muller, Rosol, Kyrgios and Darcis have all smoked Nadal multiple times on grass while Nadal was in the peak of his career in his 20’s? What is it about his game that suffers so much on grass? Is he incapable of anticipating serves within 5ft of the baseline? The purpose of this thread is to really drill down why Nadal struggles so much on grass and identify all of the holes in his grass court game.
 
#3
Pretty simple really, grass is the lowest bouncing surface and thus his top spin FH is at its least effective, making it easier hit through Nadal and boss him around the court. Also later in his career grass started to be really hard on his knees.
 
#5
Why is it that guys like Brown, Muller, Rosol, Kyrgios and Darcis have all smoked Nadal multiple times on grass while Nadal was in the peak of his career in his 20’s? What is it about his game that suffers so much on grass? Is he incapable of anticipating serves within 5ft of the baseline? The purpose of this thread is to really drill down why Nadal struggles so much on grass and identify all of the holes in his grass court game.
:-D Likewise, Federer has been smoked multiple times in the first round of Grand Slams by players outside the top 200.
 
#6
- His first serve return, as a pure stroke (not factoring in what happens once the ball is in play), isn’t really in the same league as the Federer’s, Djokovic’s or Murray’s of the world.

- He can’t rely on his serve to be a point-ender, so there is additional pressure on him to put the clamps down on his service games. One slippery service game can mean the set.

- His spinny forehand is neutralized the most by low-bouncing grass and indoor courts.
 

ChrisRF

Hall of Fame
#7
Generally, in all those losses I remember he tried to run around his backhand way too often, as if he’s still on clay. I think he principally can just play his "normal" game on grass and still win, but THIS was too much. He played very uncomfortable forehand shots from the right doubles field which didn’t have any power when the opponent’s shot pushed him out too much, and then it was an easy target into the open court, or Rafa had already missed the court before himself.

The worst match in this regard was against Darcis in 2013, a player who should have nothing to hurt him, but still crushed him in 3 sets.

Brown exposed that Nadal isn’t a big server. Normally he troubles players with his spin or slice, and the main concern is bringing it back in play at first. Then Nadal has the opportunity to start baseline rallyes within his usual patterns. But Brown took extreme risks and it worked. He literally attacked Nadal’s serves as if his return was the actual serve which started the point. That would have never been possible against Federer for example.

Kyrgios somewhat did the same. Honestly, for most parts of his career he is just a more glorified version of Brown anyway. I mean only game wise, because Brown is a serious and very likeable person who knows that this style is his only chance everywhere.

I wouldn’t interprete too much into the Rosol match. That was just the usual first week 5-setter like against Petzschner, Haase, Kendrick, Youzhny etc., only that this time the 5th set went wrong for once, mainly due to Rosol’s aces and first strike returns as well. But it was the start of Rafa’s struggles and most likely created decisive doubts in his mentality for the next years.

Finally against Muller, Nadal had somewhat a matchup disadvantage for once, because a lefty serve-and-volley player is even more unorthodox than Nadal himself.
 
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#8
Rafa has gone out in the first or second round on four occasions... the same amount of times that the grass GOAT
Yeah like 50 years ago.
:-D Likewise, Federer has been smoked multiple times in the first round of Grand Slams by players outside the top 200.
Go to Rafa's Wikipedia page and you'll go blind looking at all those blue squares

:-D
 

Pheasant

Hall of Fame
#9
Nadal’s loss of foot speed caused by age and injuries has hurt him the most on grass. Nadal during his peak physical times made 5 Wimbledon finals in 6 years. During the next few 6 years, he made 0 quarters.

All of those injuries robbed Nadal of his speed. Nadal was insanely fast on grass during his physical prime. His speed was breath-taking. Nadal’s peak on grass was incredibly high. From 2003-2009, Federer had only one loss on grass. That’s right, one loss on grass in a 7 year span. That loss was to Nadal. The 2008 Wimbledon final was truly epic. Unfortunately, my guy lost. But he lost to a beast.

I never saw anybody move on grass like Nadal did during his really young years. . That young version of Nadal would have buried Kyrgios, Brown, Muller, and Rosol.
 

weakera

Hall of Fame
#16
2012 he was suffering from tendinitis in his knee and subsequently withdrew from the Olympics, USO and the entire rest of the season.
2013 was a legitimately bad loss. He played the tiebreaks poorly. It happens a few times in a career.
2014 Rafa played a great match, 44 winners and 18 UE. Kyrgios simply played out of his mind to the tune of 70 winners and servebotted out the tiebreaks.
2015 he was playing the worst tennis of his career.
2016 he missed the tournament.
2017 he played an amazing match and lost an epic battle. He actually won 7 more points than Mueller. 77 winners, 17 UE. However, just 2 of 16 BP converted.


There you have it. Rafa struggling at Wimbledon is generally a misnomer and if you look behind the curtain, you will notice that he has actually been unlucky at the tournament and his prowess on grass has never wavered. Of course most people don't like to be confronted with the truth, but there it is.
 
#18
It's not just nadal, everybody would struggle against red hot big hitter. Except nadal doesn't have a big serve to bail him out unlike other members of big 4.

Of course his returns aren't top notch either on grass but primarily his inability to hold consistently on grass is the biggest issue.
 
#19
2012 he was suffering from tendinitis in his knee and subsequently withdrew from the Olympics, USO and the entire rest of the season.
2013 was a legitimately bad loss. He played the tiebreaks poorly. It happens a few times in a career.
2014 Rafa played a great match, 44 winners and 18 UE. Kyrgios simply played out of his mind to the tune of 70 winners and servebotted out the tiebreaks.
2015 he was playing the worst tennis of his career.
2016 he missed the tournament.
2017 he played an amazing match and lost an epic battle. He actually won 7 more points than Mueller. 77 winners, 17 UE. However, just 2 of 16 BP converted.


There you have it. Rafa struggling at Wimbledon is generally a misnomer and if you look behind the curtain, you will notice that he has actually been unlucky at the tournament and his prowess on grass has never wavered. Of course most people don't like to be confronted with the truth, but there it is.
That last paragraph is pretty darn delusional.

Nadal doesn’t have the physicality to moonball on grass and he’s been getting exposed like he should’ve been all along.

When you realise how he’s struggled even when he won the tournament, you’ll realise that him actually winning TWICE is an incredible misnomer. The recent results prove that. (Especially in 2010. Should’ve lost to Peszchner and Haase)

The second he comes up against someone who can serve and put the ball over the net with a bit of pace, and the weather isn’t unusually hot and dry, Nadal is basically guaranteed to exit before the Final.
 
#20
His playing style suffers from low bounce.
On grass you cant stay a mile behind the baseline.
Grass gives him less time.
A good serve is a much bigger advantage on grass.
Grass hurts his knees more.
He moves better on clay.
 

weakera

Hall of Fame
#22
That last paragraph is pretty darn delusional.

Nadal doesn’t have the physicality to moonball on grass and he’s been getting exposed like he should’ve been all along.

When you realise how he’s struggled even when he won the tournament, you’ll realise that him actually winning TWICE is an incredible misnomer. The recent results prove that. (Especially in 2010. Should’ve lost to Peszchner and Haase)

The second he comes up against someone who can serve and put the ball over the net with a bit of pace, and the weather isn’t unusually hot and dry, Nadal is basically guaranteed to exit before the Final.

Lol he played Djokovic who is the best grass court player of the decade by far to within a point of defeat just 11 months ago. You also clearly don't know what the word 'misnomer' means :-D

Rafa also famously conquered Federer at Wimbledon in his prime, of course. And you will never live that one down ;)

There are legitimate explanations for every one of Rafa's Wimbledon defeats and the only 'bad loss' came at the hands of a player similar to Sergiy Stakhovsky.
 
#26
I figured that, but Ancic was something like 154 in the world back in 2002. So not 200. Stakhovsky was 116. Those are the worst.

The problem is I can no longer tell when people are just wrong or when they are deliberately lying.
Wrong, lying, or twisting facts in the most stupid ways:rolleyes:. How relevant was Federer in 1999, 18y old and 4 years before he won his first slam? Its not the same as losing R1 in your prime, when you just won another slam a month ago.
 
#27
Because his serve is (relatively) attackable and his returns aren't good enough to dominate the field on that surface.

(Compared to other great players) His skills aren't particularly tailored to win the short points that are the most prevalent in grass.

He can beat anybody, but he's beatable too.
 
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#29
Wrong, lying, or twisting facts in the most stupid ways:rolleyes:. How relevant was Federer in 1999, 18y old and 4 years before he won his first slam? Its not the same as losing R1 in your prime, when you just won another slam a month ago.
I don't want to get into the middle of yet another partisan war, but it does irritate me when people distort on purpose just to win trolling with other equally unreasonable people.

Any ATG with so many years of play is going to have some bad losses. No shame in that. It's just part of what happens. I would expect the most unexpected losses for each player to be on his worst surface, so clay for Fed, probably grass for Nadal. And maybe bad losses on indoor, fast HCs. I haven't even checked.

You'll never catch me trashing any of the Big Three for being anything less than ATGs.
 
#31
I don't want to get into the middle of yet another partisan war, but it does irritate me when people distort on purpose just to win trolling with other equally unreasonable people.

Any ATG with so many years of play is going to have some bad losses. No shame in that. It's just part of what happens. I would expect the most unexpected losses for each player to be on his worst surface, so clay for Fed, probably grass for Nadal. And maybe bad losses on indoor, fast HCs. I haven't even checked.

You'll never catch me trashing any of the Big Three for being anything less than ATGs.
Sure, Nadal has won 18 slams, including golden slam, so no sane person should trash him. But OP is asking an interesting question (although in a bit trashing way). When a player wins FO, loses R1 at W and then wins USO, its natural to ask why? Between 2011 and 2018 his grass results are surprisingly weak compared to his overall results.
 

Luka888

Professional
#32
- His first serve return, as a pure stroke (not factoring in what happens once the ball is in play), isn’t really in the same league as the Federer’s, Djokovic’s or Murray’s of the world.

- He can’t rely on his serve to be a point-ender, so there is additional pressure on him to put the clamps down on his service games. One slippery service game can mean the set.

- His spinny forehand is neutralized the most by low-bouncing grass and indoor courts.
Something like this.
 

jga111

Hall of Fame
#33
Why is it that guys like Brown, Muller, Rosol, Kyrgios and Darcis have all smoked Nadal multiple times on grass while Nadal was in the peak of his career in his 20’s? What is it about his game that suffers so much on grass? Is he incapable of anticipating serves within 5ft of the baseline? The purpose of this thread is to really drill down why Nadal struggles so much on grass and identify all of the holes in his grass court game.
Easy answer. He was either

a) injured
b) coming back from injury
c) low on confidence due to a or b
d) did not have much transition from slow to fast
 
#34
Lol he played Djokovic who is the best grass court player of the decade by far to within a point of defeat just 11 months ago. You also clearly don't know what the word 'misnomer' means :-D

Rafa also famously conquered Federer at Wimbledon in his prime, of course. And you will never live that one down ;)

There are legitimate explanations for every one of Rafa's Wimbledon defeats and the only 'bad loss' came at the hands of a player similar to Sergiy Stakhovsky.
“Legitimate explanations”.
LOL
 
#35
Three words: Return Of Serve.

His ROS is really his greatest asset on slower high bouncing surfaces (80-90% of the tour). That weapon is greatly neutralized on fast and low bouncing surfaces (grass and WTF).

Brown, Muller, Rosol, Kyrgios all have huge serves. Darcis is the outlier.
 
#36
Why is it that guys like Brown, Muller, Rosol, Kyrgios and Darcis have all smoked Nadal multiple times on grass while Nadal was in the peak of his career in his 20’s? What is it about his game that suffers so much on grass? Is he incapable of anticipating serves within 5ft of the baseline? The purpose of this thread is to really drill down why Nadal struggles so much on grass and identify all of the holes in his grass court game.
I semi agree but surely you can't call Kyrgios a journeyman, he has top 5 talent when he "turns it on" which he usually does against the big four, and grass fits his game perfectly
 
#37
Even with those first-week losses, one can debate whether Rafa or Murray is the third-best player at Wimbledon over the last 20 years (essentially, post-Sampras). And Rafa did make 5 straight finals from 2006-2011, winning two - he sat out the 6th year of that stretch. Not too bad.

Many of the reasons have been stated already. Rafa is a not a natural grass-court player, and the low bounce (especially in the early rounds) is neither good for his game or his knees. He generally rounds into better form in the latter rounds (as many great players do) but generally speaking, his grass game is not as good as Novak's - let alone Fed's. Also, I think that his going all-in during clay season leaves him a little spent going into the short grass season.

On the other hand, Rafa has a lot of attributes that do work well on grass. He's lightning fast, and quick, has great hands and transitions well from defense to offense. His volley and overhead are both quite good. He can flatten out that devastating forehand and when his backhand is on, he can rip it flat and down-the-line as well as cross-court. He played great at last year's Wimbledon and came just a hair short versus Novak in what was the de facto final and, to most, the match of the year.
 
#40
Why is it that guys like Brown, Muller, Rosol, Kyrgios and Darcis have all smoked Nadal multiple times on grass while Nadal was in the peak of his career in his 20’s? What is it about his game that suffers so much on grass? Is he incapable of anticipating serves within 5ft of the baseline? The purpose of this thread is to really drill down why Nadal struggles so much on grass and identify all of the holes in his grass court game.
Have you watched all the matches? What defines someone being 'smoked' ?
 
#41
2012 he was suffering from tendinitis in his knee and subsequently withdrew from the Olympics, USO and the entire rest of the season.
2013 was a legitimately bad loss. He played the tiebreaks poorly. It happens a few times in a career.
2014 Rafa played a great match, 44 winners and 18 UE. Kyrgios simply played out of his mind to the tune of 70 winners and servebotted out the tiebreaks.
2015 he was playing the worst tennis of his career.
2016 he missed the tournament.
2017 he played an amazing match and lost an epic battle. He actually won 7 more points than Mueller. 77 winners, 17 UE. However, just 2 of 16 BP converted.


There you have it. Rafa struggling at Wimbledon is generally a misnomer and if you look behind the curtain, you will notice that he has actually been unlucky at the tournament and his prowess on grass has never wavered. Of course most people don't like to be confronted with the truth, but there it is.
The truth is Nadal has always struggled the first week on grass at Wimbledon, even in 2006, 2007 and 2010 he had to battle through 5 setters early on.

I believe Nadal being the champion he is, always found a way to win but after a while he lost a little bit of his edge and these matches started to go against him. No big surprise

It could also be partly due to finding the short turnaround between RG and Wimbledon harder as hes gotten a bit older. The gap is bigger now and he has a good run last year so maybe this will be a factor again
 
#43
Nadal is vulnerable in the early stages of Wimbledon. Borg was exactly the same. The Swede was lucky not to lose in the first week on several occasions.

A natural clay court player switching to grass after winning Roland-Garros isn't an easy thing to do.
 
#45
Sure, Nadal has won 18 slams, including golden slam, so no sane person should trash him. But OP is asking an interesting question (although in a bit trashing way). When a player wins FO, loses R1 at W and then wins USO, its natural to ask why? Between 2011 and 2018 his grass results are surprisingly weak compared to his overall results.
Also no trashing here...

Fed again has a ratio of games to points that is 1.86. You can check it out yourself, but you need exact numbers. Take % of games and points. Subtract 50 from each. Then divide.

1.9 is fine for grass, but around 2.25 or so is good on clay. Why?

I have NO idea. Clay is the surface where players win the most games, grass the one with the least. It's all about margins. so when you have % for all games for careers, they run a few % points higher on clay. The margins are smaller. HC is in the middle.

The ratio is highest on clay, lowest on grass, in the middle on HCs.

That means that when looking at games and points, around 2.25 or anything close to that is great. 1.86 is very low, and Fed has been about there for his entire career. Since his total game% on clay is noticeably weaker when you would expect it to be higher, it's very plain he has a weakness on clay. I'll let other people try to figure out why.

So I don't see that Fed is any better on extremely slow surfaces than Nadal is on very fast ones, but the way the tour works it's a lot harder to skip grass when Wimbledon has such a huge rep. If Nadal had just won his 12th Wimbledon, most likely he would be the favorite in any GOAT debate., and that's probably a huge understatement. The biggest reason why Borg is so hyped in spite of his very short career is that he had a Nadal-like dominance on clay but also those 5 straight Wimbledon's. He started out his career as a famous clay grinder, but once he had those grass credentials it was tough not to put him up very high.

I don't know why Nadal has been so vulnerable to early losses on grass. He looked like he would do well after 2008, but since then it's been tough. Some say it is because grass bounces so much lower the first week when it is still green, and there are other reasons. Personally I think it is at least 50% mental now. His knees hurt, he knows he's expected to do well, and his losses are in his head. So maybe once he gets past the first week he starts to relax and begins to believe he can win again. The biggest head-scratcher for me is Djokovic. I expect him to win on HC, but not on grass. Why he has had so much more success there than Lendl has never made sense to me.
 
#46
Nope,

like Wimb 2017, AO 2016 (first round lol), USO 2015, Wimb 2015, Wimb 2014, Wimb 2012, AO 2011, AO 2010, USO 2009, RG2009, USO 2008, USO 2007, AO 2007, USO 2006, AO 2006
What about uso2010,uso2011,uso2017,uso2013,ao2019,rg2012,rg2010,rg2014,wimb2010,wimb2011. Ha ha you should be grateful nadal didnt make it to fed. We all know how fed lays an egg in front of nadal in rg.
 
#47
2012 he was suffering from tendinitis in his knee and subsequently withdrew from the Olympics, USO and the entire rest of the season.
2013 was a legitimately bad loss. He played the tiebreaks poorly. It happens a few times in a career.
2014 Rafa played a great match, 44 winners and 18 UE. Kyrgios simply played out of his mind to the tune of 70 winners and servebotted out the tiebreaks.
2015 he was playing the worst tennis of his career.
2016 he missed the tournament.
2017 he played an amazing match and lost an epic battle. He actually won 7 more points than Mueller. 77 winners, 17 UE. However, just 2 of 16 BP converted.


There you have it. Rafa struggling at Wimbledon is generally a misnomer and if you look behind the curtain, you will notice that he has actually been unlucky at the tournament and his prowess on grass has never wavered. Of course most people don't like to be confronted with the truth, but there it is.
All I see are excuses for bad grasscourt tennis. Though he did play really well in 2018. He was crap from 2012-2017 though. Please stop with these excuses.
 
#48
- His first serve return, as a pure stroke (not factoring in what happens once the ball is in play), isn’t really in the same league as the Federer’s, Djokovic’s or Murray’s of the world.

- He can’t rely on his serve to be a point-ender, so there is additional pressure on him to put the clamps down on his service games. One slippery service game can mean the set.

- His spinny forehand is neutralized the most by low-bouncing grass and indoor courts.
Pretty much this, I agree with all points. Being a phenomenal shotmaker and one of the greatest athletes in tennis helped him achieve an enormous success on grass, but his game was never designed for the surface.
 
#50
All I see are excuses for bad grasscourt tennis. Though he did play really well in 2018. He was crap from 2012-2017 though. Please stop with these excuses.
How can some clown on an internet forum call anyone crap? It's all relative, he was not crap. He lost to other professional tennis players. Before you think someone is crap, make sure you know they would 6-0 6-0 6-0 you.
 
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