Five Reasons Rafael Nadal’s Defeat to Dustin Brown at Wimbledon Is No Surprise


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Rafael Nadal was beaten 7-5, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 by qualifier Dustin Brown in the Second round of Wimbledon today. On paper, the tenth seed losing to the world no. 102 is an upset, but on the tennis court, where anything can happen, and where Nada has been struggling the past 12 months, the defeat is, in reality, not such a surprise. The Tennis Reviews gives you five reasons why.

1. Brown beat Nadal in the Spaniard’s Opening match in Halle last season.

Brown only dropped five games, too. The German stunned the then recently recrowned French Open Champion and was the first player to inflict a defeat on Nadal at the start of his Slump. Back then Nadal held the French Open title, the U.S Open title and three ATP 1000 titles. Now? Nadal has two ATP 250 titles under his belt over the past 12 months.

We knew Brown could  beat Nadal on grass over 12 months ago. No surprise he could do it again when Nadal was in even worse form 12 months later.

2. Nadal has lost the last three years at Wimbledon before the last eight.

Nadal’s last three Wimbledon exits have been in the second round, the first round and the last sixteen. And each defeat has been to unseeded players with huge serves and aggressive games- Lukas Rosol, Steve Darcis, and Nick Kyrgios. Players of Brown’s type are bad match ups for Nadal on grass and his losing to them is no surprise.

3. Attack should always beats defence on grass.

Attacking players should get the better of defensive ones on grass. Nadal may not always be defensive, but he is often, on grass, the least attacking of the two players on court, and against Brown he was even more so than usual. Brown has a high risk game, much like Rosol and Kyrgios, and is not afraid to take the net on or go for broke on a second serve and those strengths were decisive factors in the match.

Against Nadal, Brown came to the net 85 times, and won 49 points (58%). Nadal, on the other hand, came in just 41 times, and won 26 points. Brown also hit 58 winners to Nadal’s 42, won 77% percent of first serves to Nadal’s 69, and 53 percent of second serves to 46.

By being more attacking than Nadal, and successfully executing the majority of the time, Brown did what he needed to do the beat the more defensive player on a surface that rewards aggressive play.

4. Nadal is always more vulnerable in the first week of play when the Grass is faster.

The grass was even faster in this heat, too. In the early days of his career, Nadal went home in the first week of his first two Wimbledons, and when he made his first final in 2006, he had to survive a tough five setter against Kendrick in the second round. In 2007, he survived five setters against Soderling and Youzhny. In his peak years of 2008-2011, he won the title (2008, 2010) quite comfortably and made the final (2011).

But in his non-peak years he has struggled in the early rounds, and then gone on to the final in the second week when the courts are more beaten up, the bounce gets higher and he can execute his top spin game. The years he made the final though he lost to one of the greatest grass court players of all time- Federer- whose superior serve and all court game helped him defeat the Spaniard.

5. Nadal is the tenth seed this year and has failed to reach his seeded position in 11 of his 18 tournaments played since the French Open ’14.

Nadal is not the player he was, and the latest in a long line of early defeats is proof of this. He has lost to players such as Brown (x2), Klizan, Coric, Berrer, Berdych, Fognini- all world class players, but not ones who troubled him in his best years.

Nadal has slipped from world no.1 to world no.10 since last year’s Wimbledon, but aged 29, and coming back from another in a long line of knee injuries, is it really that surprising? What is really surprising is that Nadal has managed to stay at the top of tennis for a decade with a game that has mostly relied on defense and brute strength.

A step slower, and thus more easily overwhelmed by faster, fitter players, Nadal is going to suffer more defeats like he did to Brown today. That’s what happens to the greats- they decline. Best to remember them at their peaks, and Nadal, a two time Wimbledon champ, and three time runner-up, has given us plenty of those.

Commentary by Christian Deverille

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