It takes a recklessness to be Nadal. It’s not only about running with abandon, but also about throwing everything you have with every single body part into every single motion. It is to push limits, to create energy and adrenaline so powerful that even people watching can feel it. To be Nadal is not to float gracefully like Roger Federer, but to storm the court like no one before.
And all of that is to point out one thing: The guy who lost to Tomas Berdych 6-2, 6-0, 7-6 (7-5) Tuesday in the Australian Open quarterfinals? That wasn’t Nadal.
Rafael Nadal warned us. He said he wasn’t ready to win this tournament, that he was rusty from his time away because of injuries. He said Tuesday that reaching the quarters was a good step. But are we supposed to believe his words — and, those of ESPN’s analysts who think he just needs practice — or our own eyes? Because what I saw was this:
Nadal’s body is broken. It’s amazing he lasted this long, to 28. How long would your car last going pedal to the metal all the time?
“I am feeling OK,” he told reporters. “Just was not my day. I didn’t play with the right intensity, with the right rhythm. And the opponent played better than me.”
But you were rubbing your hamstrings. And you took some sort of medicine during the third set.
“Yeah, happened nothing,” he said. “I am feeling well. That’s it.”
Truth: Nadal hates it that people think he blames injury for losses. More truth: Injury was the reason for this loss.
Well, actually I don’t think it was injury, though that’s how Darren Cahill portrayed it. Maybe he’s right. I hope he’s right. But I suspect this is just Nadal’s normal state now. He has put his body through torture for so long.
But the problem against Berdych wasn’t rust or timing. Nadal can’t change directions on a dime — as