The US Open is curiously the only Grand Slam title the Spaniard has failed to capture. "Curiously" because if one was to choose a title to evade Nadal it would most likely be Wimbledon, primarily due to the dominance of Roger Federer on the turf, but also because the surface could, at first glance, be completely unsuitable to his style of play.
However this great champion found the technical solutions and tactics to impose himself there when nobody expected, after making London his priority.
The US Open continues to resist his advances. Here we analyze the reasons for, what can be called up until today, a failure.
The date of the US Open falls during a bad time for the Spaniard.
The first semester of every year is traditionally a busy time for the Spaniard. I'm not saying it's not the same for the other players, but I simply notice that Rafa plays and wins a lot more than the majority of the other players. From April to June he pulls together a run of extraordinary matches. Look at this year for example: consecutive wins in Monte Carlo, Rome, Madrid, Roland Garros, then Wimbledon. By July the Mallorquin is quite simply empty. The first half of the year has an affect on the rest of the season.
He suffers from an understandable détente.
It's always difficult for a player to reignite his form after achieving all his goals. That's the case for Rafa. Roland Garros is his tournament. Wimbledon is his second priority of the year. Since he has triumphed in both consecutively he is released from that pressure, consciously or unconsciously. As his determination and desire is what drives him understandably his efficiency on court is affected.
Rafa has to play a lot to find his rhythm.
After an intense first semester he takes a well-deserved break before starting work again to attack the second half of the year. He prepares with two weeks of training after which he must gain confidence by playing a lot of games. Unlike other players, the Spaniard feels an urgent need to play loads of matches. They give him a lot of confidence, essential for an anxious player such as Nadal, and allow him to find his timing and get a good feel for the game. Rafa is more part of the group of hard workers and big fighters, than those who rely on their talent as their principle weapon.
After his return to training the US Open arrives very quickly and Rafa often lacks good benchmarks to judge his form against.
By comparison he always starts the French Open with a minimum of three titles on clay under his belt. Before the Australian Open he can't play many matches, however he comes from five or six weeks of heavy work through which he finds a certain rhythm. On top of that, all the players are in the same boat and the general level of play is traditionally inferior to that on display at the US Open. In New York lots of players play their best tennis of the season, while Rafa looks for his.
The speed of the game hurts him.
The playing conditions at the US Open also have to be looked on as an element that undermines his efficiency there to date. Of the four Grand Slams, the US Open is the one where the speed of play is the most important. The surface and the lightness of the balls operate in tandem to accelerate the game with a low rebound. This Spaniard loves to control the rally, he loves to have time to prepare each return. That's how he plays his best tennis. Even when he faces opponents that speed up their game on their first two or three hits and aim for his right hand, he plays short and exposed. The surface therefore gives those opponents an advantage to his detriment. Moreover, the quality of his topspin shot with a very high rebound that speeds up on impact with the ground, allows him to put his game in place. The New York surface is less favorable for that aspect of his tennis.
He will end-up winning in New York.
Despite all those cited reasons as to why the US Open is the only Grand Slam to evade the Spaniard, I'm convinced that he will triumph there. Firstly because the Spaniard is an extraordinary competitor, and has always obtained what he wants through hard work and desire. Secondly, because although he lacks benchmarks from previous matches, this will gradually disappear as he makes his way through the tournament. Over five sets I'm convinced that the Spaniard will impose his enormous physique and aggression even though he will not play his best tennis. Tour after tour he shows his strength and if he fails to beat Roger, who has returned to his best this year, he will triumph here in the near future.