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Not the same Rafa anymore?

by Tennisnerd

I had a feeling Rafa would have a tough Australian Open this year, but I wanted to believe he would be back contesting the title. Now he’s out, losing a fantastic match against Fernando Verdasco 7-6 (8-6), 4-6, 3-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2.

Verdasco said after the match: “I think I played unbelievable in the fifth set from after the break he made against me,” Verdasco said. “I just started hitting winners – I don’t know how. I was closing my eyes and everything was coming in.”

This is the third time in a row that Nadal goes out of a slam in the first week and I think it stings for a lot of fans. We want him to be in there, fighting and winning, but it’s not just happening right now. In fairness, the draw was as difficult as they come for a first round match, but still, these are matches he need to get through if he’s going to have a chance to win slam number 15.

Right now it doesn’t look bright.

Last season people were talking that maybe it’s about time he gets another coach in his team, some fresh thinking and a slightly different approach to get his mind back to winning even the toughest of matches. It’s obvious that he needs to change something, whether it’s hitting flatter and more aggressively, or just finding that extra mental gear that he had in previous years.

My feeling is this: Nadal was a fantastic fighter both mentally and physically, his style of tennis is built on that passion and dedication. Now that his body and mind is slightly older and he’s had some tough losses and confidence is wavering from time to time, he needs to change his game to accommodate this. And for this to happen, I think he needs a new coach.

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Verdasco consoles Rafa while probably finding it hard to contain his excitement. Photograph: Mark Baker/AP

Rafa was visibly upset in the press conference:

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