Rafael Nadal continued his triumphant return with an easy victory against Ivan Dodig. The world number 2 cruised into the fourth round of the US Open, once again another straight sets sweep: 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.
Despite losing in the first round of Wimbledon to an unseeded player, he has made great strides in his return from the horrible knee injury, which kept him out for seven months. He has clinched titles in both Montreal and Cincinnati and defeated rivals Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic during the journey.
If Andy Murray is to reacquire the US Open championship he will face stiff competition from Rafa who looks self-assured and tactically astute on the court. Nadal is quicker and sharper than ever before. He has demonstrated exceptional movement covering great distance and playing closer to the net. There is a hunger and aggression in his play. Almost as if he pushes for perfection and anything less will never be enough.
…expending greater energy and strength…
The main weapon at his disposal of course is the topspin forehand. He has been generating huge rotation on these shots, which has allowed him to rip through the ball and create impossible angles. This means opponents are having to work extra hard on returns, expending greater energy and strength.
Nadal has a small grip and handle. This has given him a little more freedom to work with his wrist, and with that lightning quick arm he has been able to generate relentless power and thrust behind each shot. Not only that but he has worked tirelessly in training to invigorate his backhand. These improvements have begun to manifest in his game.
…It will be exciting to see whether Andy regains his trophy…
The Spaniard has been efficient and ruthless in his performances at Flushing Meadows this year. He has only won one US Open title, all the way back in 2010, and for someone full of such ambition and prowess he will be eager for another. Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic stand in his way. It will be exciting to see whether Andy regains his trophy, whether Novak adds to his growing collection or whether Rafa makes this the consummate return.