Welcome to the first LiveAnalysis post of 2014! Today we have the first ever meeting between World No. 1 Rafael Nadal and Australian hopeful Bernard Tomic, a.k.a Bernie, a.k.a the #BernieGOAT.
Remember to refresh this page often, as I will be providing game-by-game analysis throughout the match!
As in previous LiveAnalysis posts, I’ll be using a bit of “tennis shorthand” today. Here’s your glossary:
BP: Break Point
DTL: Down the line (means the same as “up the line”)
GP: Game Point
SP: Set Point
S&V: Serve and Volley
SW: Service Winner
UFE: Unforced Error
No preamble this time – let’s just jump into the action!
First Set – Bernard Tomic will serve first
0-0: An Ace up the T starts the proceedings. After another ace makes it 40-15, Bernie does some weird stretching and grimaces. They’ve played all of one strong rally so far. A third ace seals the game.
This much is clear: Bernie will have to serve lights out to stay alive in this match. And the real test will come later in the set, when Nadal gets a better grip on his service patterns – few adjust to that sort of thing quite like the World No. 1. Two of the Aces in this game were out wide from the AD court.
It looks like Tomic's limping a bit… strained muscle while serving? Physio called…. not good
— Genny SS (@genny_ss) January 14, 2014
1-0*, Tomic: As a contrast to the way Bernard started the match, Nadal opens his first service game with a DF. However, Bernie fails to return 3 serves (one an Ace out wide from the AD court), and Nadal has held comfortably.
And here lies the biggest issue for Tomic today: be competent with the return of serve. He struggles mightily to get depth and pace on his returns, and those are the ones that actually land in.
1-1: Extremely easy hold for Bernie, as Nadal fails to get any semblance of depth on his own returns. Bernie did look comfortable when dealing with short balls, which is never a bad thing.
And now, a Medical Time Out is announced, and Bernie has disappeared into the locker-room. He comes back minutes later.
2-1* Tomic: Nadal clearly wants to get Bernie on the run, moving him side to side with that classic FH, and eventually triggering a very easy high volley. That’s a great gameplan, since Bernie doesn’t really cover the court all that well, and he’s starting the return points far behind the baseline due to his short returns. Two aces follow, so 40-0. Moments later, another return is missed, and Nadal holds easily.
2-2: Bernie is grimacing quite a bit – I wonder if he pulled a groin muscle in that first long rally of the first game. However, Bernie is still serving OK, and Nadal is still struggling to get any depth on return. Nadal then starts picking up Tomic’s predilection to go out wide from the AD court, and sends a very nice FH DTL return that forces an error. 40-15. Nadal gets a couple of OK returns back, wins one point, loses the other.
Now Tomic is pulling off the tape job on his thigh during the changeover. #ausopen
— Beyond The Baseline (@SI_BTBaseline) January 14, 2014
It’d be nice to talk about Xs and Os, but so far, the main issue seems to be whether Bernie will be able to continue in this match. Unfortunate.
3-2*, Tomic: Bernie gets a spectacular CC BH return winner at 15-0. Read Nadal’s traditional wide lefty serve quite well. The Aussie misses two straight returns, but then fires a great running FH DTL winner. Then hobbles. 40-30.
Fundamentally sound tennis from Nadal so far: not shy about pulling the trigger on the FH DTL, but more than happy to try and inflict punishment on Bernie’s BH with the CC FH. As for Bernie, it’s hard to know whether he has any plan other than hitting short balls into the open court (not a bad idea).
3-3: Bernie keeps serving well, goes up 40-15, but then he DFs. However, Nadal botches a makeable return, so the #BernieGOAT has held.
4-3*, Tomic: Nadal misses some 1st serves, and Bernie gets into some rallies. He surprises Nadal with a nice FH DTL, and then gets Nadal to commit a BH error. 30-30. But then he misses a return. 40-30. Another short return by Bernie gets him in trouble, and Nadal has held.
4-4: Bernie’s FH has responded well when asked to put away short balls. At 15-30, Nadal sends a very bad BH slice up the middle, and Tomic punishes accordingly. But then, Nadal hits an outrageous FH DTL while running backwards. Insane counterpunching. First BP of the match. 2nd serve…Nadal’s return is short and attackable, and Bernie sends an I-O FH well wide. Nadal will serve for the set!
Lengthy exchanged between Tomic & the trainer at change of ends. Did have left thigh strapping but he removed it earlier this set #ausopen
— Australian Open (@AustralianOpen) January 14, 2014
5*-4, Nadal: Bernie fires his usual flat FHs all over the place, goes up 0-15, but then hobbles to receive serve. Not a good look. Ace up the T by Nadal, 15-all. Rinse and repeat, 30-15 (that was Ace #5 for Nadal in this set). Nadal goes up the T again, gets called out, he challenges, but he’s barely missed it. Bernie absolutely botches a 2nd serve BH return, so it’s 40-0, triple SP. A nice CC FH by Nadal triggers the error, and the set is over.
During the changeover, Bernie pulls the plug on the match, to the surprise of nobody. He clearly pulled something in that first game of the match, and there is no way he was going to survive a best-of-five tussle against the best player in the world with such an impediment. A complete bummer for Bernie, Australia, and everyone who was intrigued by this match as soon as the draw was made.
Game, Set and Match to Rafael Nadal, 6-4, RET.
Not much more to say: the men played a somewhat long rally at 15-all in the opening game of the match, Bernie then fired an Ace to make it 40-15, and immediately started grimacing and stretching. The problem was obviously not going to be solved by a visit from the trainer, or by any tape job in the world.
What a bummer.