"I need to play at my hundred percent if I want to have chances..." Rafael Nadal had admitted during press time in defeating Alexander Zverev in the quarterfinal at the 2019 Nitto ATP event. That was then and it's the same principle now.
But there may be thoughts if that 100 percent will stay constant or decrease drastically causing losses? The conditions this year to play any tournament were mind-boggling and had put a strain on players physically and mentally.
The world health crisis onset, the shutdown of tournaments or postponement of others and keeping fit and staying healthy were a burden on players. Many had opted to try playing as many events as they could, while others knew they had to be selective to give the top priority tournaments major considerations.
Rafael Nadal was in the latter category and not having enough performances on court might have led to less success. The Spaniards had gotten to the semifinals, of which he wasn't able to do at last year's Nitto event.
Facing Daniil Medvedev was no easy task and before the match he had said to the media "It's going to be an amazing challenge and I hope I'm ready for it." Technically on paper, Nadal was ready for it. He had defeated Medvedev in all three meetings but hadn't played him since last year's Nitto ATP.
Would he be a bit rusty at playing the highly competitive Nitto ATP? Would he be more rusty at playing a Medvedev that had elevated his level of play since last season and could he be a viable threat?
The Spaniard won the first set 6-3 using slices and drop shots
This helped give him confidence that maybe he'd be able to win this match, but things happened and it did time and time to Nadal.
The second set the Russian bounced back with intimidating shots. He was able to clip the corners, paint the lines, cross court Nadal and throw him out of position to win the points. It came down to a tiebreak, but Medvedev just out played Nadal to win the second set.
The decider clearly showed that the Spaniard was running out of steam as he struggled and they tied at 3-games all. But the games were slowly adding up for the Russian as he gave it his aggression and precision on court to win the last set 6-3 and the match.
Rafael Nadal had said on his take of Medvedev's ability to put away the match that "I should be winning my serve in the third, the one that I lost," he had emphasized. But the match was over. At times the Spaniard wasn't just thinking about winning the Nitto finals but just in the moment of winning the match with Medvedev.
In the third, Nadal felt it moving from him and it wasn't anything he could do about it. "I feel I played a bad game...he played some good points and I make a couple of mistakes..." Well with all the stress the Spaniard did win his 13th grand slam crown this year at Roland Garros and made it to the semifinal at Nitto.
He acknowledged that he will always have the same goals and motivation to play as well as he can. He vows to continue working strongly off-season and be ready for the 2021 year. The competition is getting more fierce and he knows when his strategies aren't working on some players and where is has succeeded over others.
He admits that he had easy volleys to close the game with Medvedev but didn't. Nadal looked glum but appreciates the usccess he had this year saying "Small details make a big difference."