Welcome to another installment of LiveAnalysis! Today’s match-up: the Viña del Mar doubles finalist Rafael Nadal squares off against the recent Australian Open quarterfinalist, Jeremy Chardy. The greatest claycourter of all time hasn’t lost a set in either singles or doubles yet – as a matter of fact, Nadal has only conceded a total of 10 games in the two singles matches he’s played since his seven month absence from the sport. On the other hand, Chardy started his Viña del Mar run with somewhat of a scare: the Frenchman lost the first set of his debut match on Chilean soil against none other than 16-year old local prospect Christian Garín. However, after that initial setback, Chardy has managed to concede only 10 games in the four sets of tennis he’s played since.
Surprisingly enough, since we’re talking about a 25 and a 26 year-old (and the Frenchman is set to turn 26 in a couple of days), Nadal and Chardy have never played each other in an official ATP match. That’s simply remarkable, given that Chardy has managed to play well over 200 matches on tour. Anyway, I’m sure they’re well aware of each other, although we do know that Nadal didn’t watch Chardy’s greatest run at a Major just a few weeks ago. Why? Because his cable provider in Mallorca dropped Eurosport from the channel lineup right before the tournament started.
Three Things to Watch For:
1. Can Jeremy Chardy punish Nadal’s occasional lack of depth in an efficient way? This, to me, is the key to the match. Nadal has gone through stretches in the opening two rounds where he’s struggled to get his top-spin heavy balls past the service line, particularly off the backhand wing. At the beginning of the Delbonis match, his attempts to make the tall Argie move were thwarted by the lack of depth of his shots, and Delbonis was having a fun time teeing off on everything Nadal sent his way. Tonight, Nadal plays a much better, and more determined, version of Delbonis. Chardy doesn’t play tennis with a whole lot of subtlety: if the Frenchman gets a chance to attack, he will. It’s a good idea for him, since he’s not known for being an exceptional (or even a good) defender or counterpuncher. The key for Chardy in terms of attacking is how efficiently he can do it – in terms of finding the right spots and the right moments to unload. If Chardy gets impatient and if he starts going for low percentage shots all too often, this match won’t last long.
2. Who will put more pressure on his opponent’s serve? Nadal will be hard pressed to get good pace and depth on his deliveries, because Chardy will be looking to pounce as soon as he gets a chance. Likewise, the Lacoste ambassador can’t afford to get pushed around from the start of a service point by Nadal’s deep returns. In this sense, Chardy’s bigger 1st serve will be useful – it’ll be interesting to see how well and how quickly Nadal starts to read it.
3. Does Chardy truly believe he can produce the upset? He’s playing probably the best tennis of his life, and he’s comfortable on clay. It’ll be interesting to see how the Frenchman reacts to the inevitable opportunities he’ll have in this match, and how poised is when he’s presented with them. Against Nadal on clay you can’t afford to blink, as so many people can tell you.
Remember to refresh this page often, as I will be providing game-by-game updates throughout the match!
Finally time for Rafa vs. Chardy.This should be a good test for where Rafa’s game/movement is at the moment.
— Ataraxis (@Ataraxis00) February 10, 2013
Justin Gimelstob (back from Chile already) did his “Who has the edge” segment with the checkmarks, and it’s too bad I can’t screencap it. Essentially, he gave Nadal a checkmark for everything. Chardy got only two checkmarks.
First Set – Jeremy Chardy will serve first
0-0: Without having to do anything extraordinary, except hit very short forehands that Chardy can’t handle to go up 15-30, and a straightforward inside-out FH winner to set up 15-40, Nadal breaks at 30.
That was a horrible start from Chardy, who made life for Nadal far easier with two bad FH UFEs into the net. The Frenchman seems to be a little overwhelmed by the occasion.
1-0, Nadal: Nadal double-faults at 30-15, but then survives a fun rally (first one of the match, really), to go up 40-30. The point ended with Nadal using a CC BH + DTL BH combo. The initial CC BH was very, very good. However, Nadal then double-faults again, so it’s Deuce #1. Anyway, BP for Chardy, which goes begging after the lanky Lacoste man sends a BH return well long. Stil…Nadal DFs yet again. #3 for the game, so BP #2 for Chardy. Nadal erases the advantage immediately with a thundering hooked FH after a short return by Chardy. Deuce again, and this time Chardy sends a FH well long. Nadal consolidates the break after Chardy hits a bad inside-out FH right after hitting a very good one that got Nadal completely out of position.
Nadal double-faulted 3 times in that last game, and Chardy could not break. Not breaking after your opponent double faults that many times should carry a fine of some sort.
Seriously speaking, I see a problem with Chardy: whenever he wants to put more pace on his FH, he doesn’t get much depth that shot. Pace is not that hard to handle for the pros when it’s not accompanied by depth.
2-0, Nadal: Nadal gets a good FH combo in amidst a rash of Chardy UFEs. It’s 15-40 in a hurry, and then Nadal gets a shot at a single good inside out FH that Chardy can’t handle. Nadal breaks again!
It’s a pretty damning indictment of Jeremy Chardy when an unheralded youngster from Argentina put Nadal under way more pressure than an Australian Open quarterfinalist and #26 ranked player in the world. Then again…this is Jeremy Chardy we’re talking about.
Chardy donates another game to the Rafa comeback (okay, Rafa earned that last point, but until then…) Rafa’s up 3-0.
— Nadal News (@nadalnews) February 10, 2013
3-0, Nadal: Nadal consolidates rather easily. About Chardy…
Chardy cannot find the court . Literally – he couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat
— Beth S (@bethinpv) February 10, 2013
It’s been that bad.
4-0, Nadal: Somehow, Chardy gets on the scoreboard, with a relatively quick hold to 15. I guess it had to happen at some point.
Gimelstob keeps talking about how erratic Chardy’s toss is. Then Brett Haber says that during the Australian Open QF match against Murray, they tracked Chardy’s toss electronically, and it was “all over the place.”
This is not a good thing.
4-1, Nadal: Nadal holds at love. Chardy has no idea how to return Nadal’s serve, and has no clue as to where Nadal will hit the ball from shot to shot. Nadal hit a CC BH winner that should not have been a winner at all, had Chardy had any semblance of standard anticipation. Or if he had remembered that Nadal goes CC with his BH almost 98% of the time.
}5-1, Nadal: Chardy drop shots Nadal successfully to go up 40-30, and holds after a service winner.
Gimelstob says that he hasn’t seen Nadal lose points after an opponent hits a drop shots as frequently as he’s seen it happen in Viña del Mar. After watching that Slo-Mo replay, you could see that Nadal’s movement is not there yet. The confidence in the slide is not there yet either. Well, they expect it to get better by the end of the month. We gonna see, no?
5-2, Nadal: Nadal tries his best to make it interesting, but he ends up sealing the set after yet again yanking Chardy around and finishing with an overhead.
First Set to Rafael Nadal, 6-2
Here are your first set stats:
Jeremy Chardy is serving 72% 1st serves…and still lost that set 6-2. That’s more of a reflection of everything that happened with his game after those serves went in.
Second Set – Jeremy Chardy will serve first
0-0: Chardy just held at love! The Frenchman came out with a little more confidence, a little more resolve to make this a match. Let’s see if it lasts.
1-0, Chardy: At 30-15, Chardy goes for a huge 2nd serve return, but his FH goes straight at Nadal, and has no depth whatsoever. Was it hard? Yes. But that’s not difficult to handle for Nadal, who calmly put an inside-out FH away for a clean winner. The Spaniard holds after a horrible attempt at a dropper by Chardy.
1-1: Chardy puts a FH in orbit (seriously, it might have left the stadium), and he’s down 15-40. He then dumps a very simple shot FH into the net. Nadal breaks!
Chardy breaks himself to give Rafa a 2-1 lead in the second set.
— Nadal News (@nadalnews) February 10, 2013
I think that would be more accurate, actually.
2-1, Nadal: It’s just amazing how terrible Chardy’s movement is. Changing direction with his feet seems like an odyssey. In related news, Nadal consolidated the break at love.
3-1, Nadal: Chardy gets some good 1st serves in, gets a quick lead, and then holds to love. Not much more to say about that game.
FMOB, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a senior player move so badly on clay. Sharapova included.
— Andrew Burton (@burtonad) February 10, 2013
My theory? Chardy is just overwhelmed by the occasion and his rival’s reputation. Just hasn’t been able loosen up since the match started.
3-2, Nadal: Just as I type that, Chardy goes on a rampage with his FH, and he’s up 0-40 on Nadal’s serve. These are the first BPs Chardy has actually generated by himself – the others came in that DF-riddled game in the first set. No bother: Chardy badly nets a return. 15-40. In the next point, Chardy lines up a huge inside-out FH…but misses it by just a few inches. Had it gone in, it would’ve meant the break. 30-40. Nadal goes for his trusty lefty slider, and Chardy can’t handle it at all. Deuce. Now Chardy sends a BH well long, and Nadal can hold. That’s followed by a wide BH DTL attempt, and Nadal holds.
So many wasted opportunities for Chardy in that game. And I think the Frenchman can only feel good about doing well in one of them.
Chardy cannot return a wide serve to his BH in the ad court. At all.
— amylu (@amylu_sports) February 10, 2013
4-2, Nadal: Nadal has a shot at the double-break, but he gets a very shot return in play on BP, and Chardy does not screw up the simple putaway. However, a bad error by the Frenchman is followed by a horrific “attempt” at a volley that would make a club player wince. Nadal breaks again and will serve for the match!
Gimmelstob is talking about how revealing his interview with Rafa is…how he depends on his family & town. Yeah, that’s groundbreaking stuff
— Nadal News (@nadalnews) February 10, 2013
5-2, Nadal: Nadal seals the match with a hold to 30. There was some hilarity involved, but nothing too crazy.
Game, Set and Match to Rafael Nadal, 6-2, 6-2
Here are your second set stats:
There is very little one can say about a match that was so lopsided, with one of the players performing at such a poor level. This was supposed to be the biggest test Nadal would face in this extremely successful (so far) Chilean segment of his comeback – it was slated as such from the moment the draw came out. Maybe all of that hype got into Jeremy Chardy’s head, and his reaction was to…. freeze. The Frenchman was rarely loose tonight, and his movement on the clay looked almost amateurish, which is kind of shocking for someone who had to at least grow acquainted with the surface while growing up in France.
To Nadal’s credit, he didn’t extend this for longer than he needed. The man clad in “atomic purple” yanked Chardy from side to side repeatedly with his FH, hit some good BHs, and was almost completely untroubled on serve. You could say that Nadal had all of two situations that vaguely resembled drama: that weird second game of the first set when the Spaniard double faulted 3 times (but didn’t get broken), and when Chardy’s best 3-point stretch of the match had Nadal down 0-40 in the sixth game of the second set. An inside-out FH by the Frenchman in one of those BPs came close to landing in, but that’s as close as Chardy ever came to making this match competitive.
You can talk a lot about the Xs and Os, about how Chardy’s BH is below par, about his poor movement on clay, about his complete lack of anticipation in terms of reading Nadal’s groundstrokes and his serve – but I think the main reason Chardy was so abysmal tonight was simply due to belief. As in, the Frenchman had none. The Australian Open quarterfinalist played without any of the confidence he showed during his big upset of Juan Martín del Potro just a few weeks ago. Instead, Chardy looked like a frightened junior who is terrified of a packed stadium and a very famous opponent. Which is a shame, because had Chardy remembered that he was the 26th ranked player in the world, and someone whose FH could do some damage against Nadal, we would’ve enjoyed a much more compelling match.
After savoring the victory, I’m guessing both Nadal and his uncle might feel a little disappointed about how that match went. Sure, they will gladly take the win. But this match was meant to be a test, a barometer for how well Nadal is playing after just two singles matches in the past seven months. Delbonis was young and inexperienced, Gimeno-Traver is a journeyman. But Chardy was supposed to be the one to push Nadal like a top 25, top 15 player would.
The Nadals wanted questions asked of them tonight. But Jeremy Chardy opted not to ask any.