Rafael Nadal is through to the semi-finals of Roland Garros, chasing an unprecedented 14th title in Paris. Here’s the road he has taken so far:
- Rd 1 def. Jordan Thompson 6-2, 6-2, 6-2
- Rd 2 def. Corentin Moutet 6-3, 6-1, 6-4
- Rd 3 def. Botic Van De Zandschulp 6-3, 6-2, 6-4
- Rd 4 def. Felix Auger-Aliassime 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 3-6, 6-3
- Qtrs def. Novak Djokovic 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(4)
There are a myriad of ways Rafa applies pressure on his opponents. Here are two that don’t get a lot of attention.
Rafa has been at deuce 30 times so far for the tournament. That includes multiple deuces in the same game. Rafa has pushed his opponents to deuce 51 times. In no match to the semi-finals has Rafa been at deuce more than his opponent.
Going deep in your opponent’s service game, even if you don’t win it, helps ramp up the pressure for the Spaniard. He is almost always in your service game, hunting break points to convert.
At the other end of the serving spectrum are games held to Love. Rafa has enjoyed 24 service games where he has not lost a point. His opponents have only won nine. Love service games serve the purpose of removing – even temporarily – pressure in the match. An easy hold is like taking a nice big, deep breath in the match. Rafa is so much better at removing pressure in this manner than his opponents.
These two specific elements of the match exist on the scoreboard and work on the mind. Rafa loves long, drawn-out return games where he can really sink his teeth into his opponent’s serve. Pressure is applied with getting to deuce or pushing for multiple deuces.
Also, it must be demoralizing for opponents to see Rafa hold his serve to love, knowing that a protracted battle is probably following on their own serve.
This is the art of relentless pressure that has Rafa just two wins away from a 14th Roland Garros title.