In what looked more like an exhibition instead of a men’s final, Rafael Nadal cruised to victory over hometown favorite Milos Raonic to win the Rogers Cup at Montreal Sunday afternoon.
Nadal has now won his eighth ATP title this year (as well as his third Rogers Cup and 25th ATP Masters title – an all-time record) and has moved to third in the world rankings. He is now 48-3 for the year and has reached the final of 10 of 11 tournaments in 2013 (the lone exception being his stunning first round exit at Wimbledon).
If you are a fan of Nadal, what should be even more pleasing than the fact that he won the tournament was how he did.
Nadal took a noticeably different approach in Montreal.
No longer was he standing way back to return serve but rather he positioned himself closer to the baseline in order to attack his opponents’ serve. No longer did he seem unwilling to rip the backhand or to flatten the strokes on his forehand. No longer was he content to just roll his serve into play but rather was willing to serve big (both on first and second serve at times).
Anyone watching his semifinal victory over Novak Djokovic should take notice of how troubled the world number one player was by Nadal’s more aggressive approach at the start of the match (with the double-faults and the forehand errors) and although Nole rallied in the middle of the second set to send the match into a final set tiebreaker, it should not take anything away from Rafa’s victory. When was the last time that Djokovic lost to Nadal on hard courts?
Nadal wins Rogers Cup (courtesy of ESPN)
In the finals, Rafa was once again had an aggressive stance on his return game despite the fact that Raonic is one of the biggest servers on the ATP Tour. He was also very aggressive on the baseline and was usually the one dictating the rallies with the Canadian and he once again had a great day serving (it also helps that Raonic is one of the worst players on tour when it comes to breaking his opponents’ service games).
In a letter written to Nadal back in February, I suggested that the Spaniard considered a change in his playing style in order to extend his career. I figured it would benefit him to be more agressive on the tennis court (on surfaces other than clay of course). I wanted to see him go for winners in an attempt to shorten the points and to go big on his serve. In particular I mentioned his 2010 US Open victory, where his serve (which suddenly turned into a weapon) was instrumental throughout the tournament.
This is not to say that I am taking credit for Nadal’s change in tennis philosophy. Nadal is very astute and probably figured that such change was necessary both for his game and for the longevity of his career.
By winning the Rogers Cup playing with a more attacking style of tennis, Nadal sent the rest of the ATP tour a huge message. They better take heed. The U.S. Open is only a couple of weeks away!