Rafael Nadal has had a difficult 2021 season. The Spaniard fell from the top spots for the first time in a couple of years, playing just two games after Roland Garros. The king of clay lost the Roland Garros trophy to Novak Djokovic, winning his most notable title at the Foro Italico a few weeks earlier.
Rafa could have faced an early elimination at the Rome Masters when he faced Denis Shapovalov in the third round. The Canadian defeated the Spaniard in 2017 as a teenager at his Montreal home. He had a great chance to do it again four years later in the Italian capital.
Shapovalov wasted two match points in the twelfth game of the deciding set in a heartbreaking 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 loss after a grueling three hours and 27 minutes. Unsurprisingly, Denis admitted it was a tough loss to take. Still, he wasn’t surprised by the result and Nadal’s fighting spirit as he had done it many times against different rivals in the past, he said.
The Canadian praised the Spaniard, saying Rafa played at a high level when he was most important to avoid defeat. The young man was happy with his performance and stated that he will sleep well that night knowing he gave it his all.
Denis hit 40 winners and 45 unforced errors, playing brave tennis and staying in touch with Rafa in the short- and medium-range changes. Nadal didn’t play well in the first set, suffering three breaks and trailing 3-0 in the second set.
Before elimination, Rafa won six of the next seven games to turn the tables and force the deciding set. Shapovalov started all over and built a 3-1 lead that didn’t last long as Nadal came back from the break to extend the fight.
Mouratoglou talks about Nadal
Patrick Mouratoglou recently took to Instagram to explain three changes he believes Rafael Nadal has made to his game over the years. “In 2005 Rafael Nadal won his first Grand Slam title.
He emerged with his own unique playing style, standing well behind the baseline and adding insane spin to every shot. With this game he became the clay court king,” said Mouratoglou. “Now he’s not just a clay court specialist. He leads the race in terms of Grand Slams won.
How has he adapted his game to win on faster surfaces?” According to the Frenchman, the 35-year-old tries to keep rallies as short as possible to conserve his energy. “Rafa’s game has become more and more aggressive.
Early in his career he won games by forcing long rallies from the baseline,” Mouratoglou said. “Now he’s trying to get on the pitch more, taking control of the points and cutting rallies to save energy .”