Wednesday, May 25, 2011

ROLAND GARROS: Rafa admits nerves against Isner


"To be honest with you, I think I played very nervous today. I felt I could lose, and was in real danger since I didn't play well in the tiebreaks..."

Those were Rafa's words - from his exclusive blog for The Telegraph - about his five-set thriller against John Isner in the first round of Roland Garros; the Spaniard's first ever five-set match in Paris since his debut in 2005.

On Tuesday, eyebrows were unanimously raised when Isner went up two sets to one over Nadal, who before dropping the second set to Isner yesterday, had won 22 straight sets in a row in the French capital. Philippe Chatrier is basically is personal playground.

There are many Rafa fans out there who are very concerned at the moment and I want to tell them to take a deep breath and relax because this kind of match against Isner is just what the defending champion needed.

Nadal is coming off two straight final losses to Novak Djokovic on clay. Considering no one has ever achieved such a feat against Nadal, it’s only natural that his confidence is somewhat shaken and that Isner’s full-attack mode took him by surprise. And the way the American was crushing that serve is hard for anyone to handle.

Players constantly say how Grand Slam first rounds are tough on everyone and the fact that Nadal was tested early on but managed to pull through should spring Nadal’s self-belief back to where he needs it to be and prepare him for other aggressive hitters that will come his way in the draw.

Full credit should be given to Isner for executing the almost perfect game plan against the top seed, but Nadal’s appropriate response adjusting his backhand and return in the fourth and final set, bodes well for the Spaniard in the upcoming rounds.

Make sure to check my daily column at Sport360° throughout the French Open.

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