Barcelona R3 previews and picks: Nadal vs. Fognini, Kohlschreiber vs. Paire

Paire 3Rafael Nadal will hope to avenge a loss from earlier this season when he goes up against Fabio Fognini during third-round action on Thursday in Barcelona. Philipp Kohlschreiber and Benoit Paire are also looking for a spot in the quarterfinals.

(13) Fabio Fognini vs. (2) Rafael Nadal

Nadal and Fognini will be facing each other for the sixth time in their careers and for the second time this season when they clash in round three of the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell on Thursday. The head-to-head series stands at 4-1 in Nadal’s favor, but Fognini got on the scoreboard a few months ago on the clay courts of Rio de Janeiro in the form of a 1-6, 6-2, 7-5 upset. Nadal has still won two of their three encounters on the slow stuff, having previously prevailed 6-1, 6-3 two years ago in Rome and 7-6(5), 6-4, 6-4 shortly thereafter at the French Open.

Unfortunately for Fognini, this may not be the same Nadal that was on display in Rio. The fourth-ranked Spaniard lost early in Indian Wells and Miami, but he played better in Monte-Carlo (despite succumbing to Novak Djokovic 6-3, 6-3 in the semifinals) and crushed Nicolas Almagro 6-3, 6-1 in his Barcelona opener on Wednesday. Fognini also benefited from a first-round bye before battling past Andrey Rublev 3-6, 6-4, 6-1. The 13th-seeded Italian is just 7-9 for his 2015 campaign and this is first trip past a second round since Rio. With Nadal picking up confidence and Fognini lacking in the same department, this should be routine.

Pick: Nadal in 2 losing 5-7 games

Benoit Paire vs. (12) Philipp Kohlschreiber

Kohlschreiber and Paire will be squaring off for the fifth time in their careers on Thursday. Their first showdown was their most memorable; in round two of the 2012 U.S. Open, Kohlschreiber broke back at 5-6 in the deciding set and ultimately survived 6-7(4), 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 7-6(4). The German once lead their head-to-head series 2-0, but Paire has since won two in a row with victories at the 2013 Indian Wells Masters (6-4, 6-2) and a few months later at the Masters event in Montreal (7-6(1), 7-5).

The Frenchman could not have asked for a better draw so far in Barcelona. He disposed of qualifier Jaume Munar 6-2, 6-2 in his opener before recovering from a slow start against an ice-cold Ernests Gulbis to roll 1-6, 6-2, 6-3. Kohlschreiber is slumping with a 6-8 record for the year and he has not yet won back-to-back matches at any event. The world No. 25 got the best of Andrey Kuznetsov 7-6(1), 6-3 during second-round action. This could go either way, but Kohlschreiber plays with a high margin of error and will be able to extend points long enough on clay in order to expose the Paire forehand.

Pick: Kohlschreiber in 3

42 Comments on Barcelona R3 previews and picks: Nadal vs. Fognini, Kohlschreiber vs. Paire

  1. Every time Rafa loses on clay my heart dies a little bit. I know he typically rights the ship by the second week of RG…last year I also panicked after he lost MC, Barcelona, Rome and won Madrid because Kei retired…and then? He won the whole enchilada. Fix whatever needs fixing, Rafa! #vamos #madrid

  2. chloro,

    I think you are right in saying that Rafa may not even be consciously aware of the nature of the problem. He has to continue competing and practicing. I don’t know if he even has the time or ability to sit down and contemplate what is going on with him.

    I found myself thinking today about all the times that Rafa won matches when he wasn’t at his best. That’s why I don’t think it’s technique or his game. He’s made a career of winning matches that he should have lost. That was part of his greatness. That fierce will, the refusal to lose even when being outplayed. He would find his back against the wall and fight even harder. I think that is the quality that is not there anymore.

    Your take about part of Rafa not being willing to push himself or not wanting to just go to his limits, is interesting. I don’t know Rafa and can’t get in his mind.

    I feel for him because he is a proud champion. This was his home tournament and we know what it means to him. He was obviously disappointed in his performance. It’s true that he made no excuses and was brutally honest. I happen to think that’s a good thing.

    I hurt for him. I hope with all my heart that he can find the answers.

  3. If I were a Rafa die-hard, and hadn’t hit the panic button already, I would be hitting it HARD now. Fabio nearly lost to Rublev 2 days ago. Sure Rube is a 17 year old with a world of potential, but Fabio only got away with the win because the youngster does not yet know how to close out a professional match. Maybe those events led Fabio to feel as if he was playing with house money the rest of the tournament, but, still this is rafa we are talking about. It is truly sad to see him play at this level.

  4. last year he didnt lose to Fognini on clay twice. this year he has much more than Djokovic to worry about.

  5. yes and even before the French open last year Nadal won the Madrid Masters and reached the Final of Rome Masters where he lost to Djokovic in 3 sets.

    • Those tournaments have yet to be played lol.

      Sometimes he wins before Paris, sometimes he loses before Paris. Other than 09 when injured, he always wins Paris. Even if he doesn’t, not the end of the world.

      I will be happy when he recovers his game, which he has always done before and will do again just like he said he will. Just a matter of time.

  6. IT IS A CRISIS going by Rafas pressers. WE may not get answers in Madrid as Madrid is not suitable due to the altitude, balls fly a lot.

    He may be able to fix it and hopefully soon.

  7. Djoko must be licking his chops now but then Rafa is not the only one who can stop Djoko. He is capable of suffering a shock exit in Paris as he feels highest pressure there.

  8. Federer was in a similar bad state for good part of 2011..good part of 2010..all of 2013..

    He did get back decently in 2012 and 2014.

    I am sure Rafa can too.

    BTW why does Djokovic not have these confidence issues? He has been so consistent from past 4 years, he has not been through a rough patch at all. Yes he has lost some big slam finals and that’s the only glitch where he kind of falters but otherwise he has been very solid.

    • Rafa was mentally superior and unwavering from 2005-2008, a four year run winning five slams.

      Djokovic was the head basket case after winning 2008 AO until 2011. That’s three years because he did not believe in himself. Other than 2011, he has never won more than one slam per year. He mentally faltered big time in important moments in slam finals and semis many times (2011 FO, 2014 AO and 2014 USO just to name a few). He hired Boris Becker primarily due to confidence issues. Because of confidence issues, Djokovic has less slams than he should.

  9. Lesson for us is to just not have any expectations going forth. If he wins and surprises us, great. Playing consistent and well is not ‘the new normal’ for Rafa. Playing inconsistently is.

  10. I don’t know that Novak hasn’t had confidence issues. Rafa did get the better of him in the slams since that defeat at the 2012 AO final. In 2013 I thought that Novak had regressed somewhat. He was suddenly double faulting in key moments of matches, sometimes losing the set or a match. He seemed to falter in those crucial moments when matches are decided. I believe that Novak stopped a losing streak by winning Wimbledon last year. I don’t remember the last time he won a slam, but he definitely was on a losing streak. So that doesn’t indicate a player that is brimming with confidence and on top of their game.

    I do think he’s had rough patches. He hasn’t dominated since 2011. When you see who one the slams, Novak isn’t dominating at all. So I don’t think Rafa is the only top player to have these kinds of issues.

    Life goes on. I have my own life to live and can’t invest too much more energy on this loss. It is what it is. I am not going to get carried away with expectations going forward. I think Rafa will continue to have these ups and downs.

  11. RT @AmyFetherolf: “So we’re going to do the whole “Rafa’s not the favorite for RG” thing again? That’ll be fun when he inevitably wins it w/out dropping a set.”

    Well, Rafa’s malady is contagious, I AM NOT CONFIDENT, Amy!!

    • Who is Amy? What makes her so confident about Rafa given his current play?

      2011 yes he was not playing well..2014 he wasn’t..but 2011 is no way comparable to this. He was reaching all finals in 2011 and only losing to Djokovic. I think he made 11 finals that year and 3 slam finals.

      2014 yes he was poor in clay but he made it up by winning Madrid and making final of Rome. He wasn’t losing to Fabios , only Almargo loss is comparable.

      Madrid may give answers. maybe seeing Federer on other side and beating him will give the required tonic 🙂

  12. Somehow I felt Rafa would have a tough day. Atleast I expected 3 setter. This is similar to IW/Miami. He played well in IW and looked confident despite losing to Raonic only to get bounced in miami 2nd match. I dont know what to look for now. It has been an year to enjoy ‘one tennis week’. Its really hard to be Rafan

    • “Its really hard to be Rafan”

      Understatement of the year, hehehe!

      For me, this loss came from left field. I had Rafa downing The Fog in 2, given the South American experience! We live and learn.

      Still love Rafa to bits. However, will now approach all Rafa’s matches with zero expectations. Will just enjoy each moment he is on court.

      Vamos Rafa!

  13. somehow, I still consider changing the racquet one of the reasons why Rafa needs more time to reach his highest level…I remember Fed taking more than a year to do so…the same with Novak…so even though we can all argue that Rafa is far even from his 50% I believe a racquet has a lot to do with it…

    I also mentioned the other day that for some strange reason Rafa lost his “lucky star” and is extremely unlucky with his draws but also when playing…he has to do it all the hardest way possible and given his current state of mind it makes it difficult to overcome…if his ball hits the net it will most of the time stay on Rafa’s side…sometimes I feel sorry for Rafa in those crucial moments…

    I notice Rafa’s lack of aggression on key points…I notice Rafa being way to tentative and tight on break points which immediately leads to his failure to convert those numerous break points…I also notice Rafa’s game is predictable which makes it easier for his opponents to read it and to attack…his FHs are landing short and they do not have the strength as before…there are a lot of issues in Rafa’s game which need to be resolved…there is not much time to deal with it…and when you add to it Rafa’s low confidence, distrust and fear of the opponents that have hard flat hitting pattern it makes it clear that Rafa may need miracles to reach his best at the RG…it seems less unlikely to happen now…

    I hate this feeling in my stomach…yesterday I said that this was rather insignificant tourney mainly because Rafa had little points to defend and I thought if he lost it wouldn’t be a disaster…but I did not foresee him losing to Fog and the way he lost…that is why this loss hurts so much….

    and Rafa’s words do not help…he being brutally honest only tells me that he is in deep crisis and that Team Nadal has no answers…

  14. What is the worst that will happen? Rafa will not win any more tourney, will drop out of Top 10 right?

    Lets accept that , so that nothing can shock us. It can only get better from there if he plays better.
    I have already accepted that Rafa is not prepared to win RG and will not win any slam this year and he finally ends his 10 year consecutive slam/year record.

    NNY – You had cited the Borg fear in 2011 and I understand that its a real fear that may come to pass. But do you think Rafa wants to quit as a player who left the field and went away? Right now he is in a slump and if he quits, he will garner reputation that he did not overcome his obstacle and left. I doubt any great tennis legend will want to do that. Take for eg Steffi..she did not win a slam in 97 & 98..had multiple injury issues but won RG in 99, reached Wimby finals in 99 n then immediately left the tour on a high ranked No 3. Take for eg Sampras..he did not win any slam in 2000 & 2001..but won US 2002 and immediately quit.. They all wanted to have the last hurrah and leave with their head high. Similarly I think Rafa will do a lot of disservice to his legacy if he just leaves now, I am sure neither he or his team will want him to run away from a crisis and leave. I believe he will make an effort and fight it out.

    • sanju,

      Please don’t misunderstand what I said regarding Rafa’s problems being like Borg. I do not think that Rafa will quit! That’s not in Rafa’s nature. I was just comparing it to the burnout that Borg suffered and the fact that he could no longer compete and lost the will to win. No one knew what was going on with Borg back then. We didn’t have the internet and social media and Borg was famous for not talking. So it was an enormous shock. But Borg spoke about it in the documentary “McEnroe/Borg: Fire and Ice”. He said that he was planning to quit for a while, but only his parents and coach knew. He felt that he didn’t have a life outside tennis.

      Maybe I should say that there are some parallels, but I think that Rafa and Borg handle it differently. I am just concerned if there is some burnout issue, because there is no doubt in my mind that this is mental and psychological. I also do think that this could be the beginning of Rafa’s decline. It happens to all great champions, unless they walk away young like Borg.

      I am not sure why they decided to change Rafa’s racket at this time. I am not sure that it’s helping him. If he loses control, then that could be why his forehand was all over the place in that match.

      So just for the record, I do NOT think that Rafa will walk away! He seems committed to staying in there and finding a solution. I will support him all the way!

  15. Fognini, Kyrgios, Isner, Verdasco, Raonic and Ferru will be in Rafa’s quarter/half in Madrid.

    Book this.

  16. if I were Rafa I would ask for a WC in Estoril and play it just to get more match practice…Rafa is not tired and he needs to deal with his fitness issues…even if losing to nobody again it might help going into Madrid, the tourney I BTW totally dislike and have no expectations whatsoever…

  17. Watching Nishikori play RBA and I keep asking myself: am I to believe that Nishikori is now a better clay courter than Rafa?

    *headshake*

    • I am trying to keep it all in perspective and not panic. But I do think this year is different. He lost even earlier at Barcelona to the likes of Fog. At least last year he was losing to Almagro and Ferrer.

      I am not giving up hope, but still am concerned about this inconsistency. I don’t know if the racket change is helping or hurting.

  18. Shireling, please help to understand! 🙂

    Francisco Roig was asked questions about Rafa’s new racket. I used Google translation, but I didn’t fully understand his explanations. That’s what I understood:

    Question: “Why is this one better than the previous racket? ”
    Francisco Roig: “I cannot say it’s better or worse. What happens is that he misses more. …I think 80 percent of the change of racket is to spin the ball more with less effort…”

    http://www.puntodebreak.com/2015/04/21/francis-roig-creo-nadal-podra-luchar-titulos-33-anos-federer

  19. Augusta08,
    I’m glad to help

    This is the answer to the question about the difference between the two rackets:
    Francis Roig answers: “the new one is neither worse or better but the ball “goes out” faster from it. It has the same amount of strings but they’re more spaced out between each other, especially on the sides. This way, when you don’t have a perfect hit in the middle of the racket the ball still goes out at the same speed. I believe that there’s an 80 % chance that the reason for the racket change is to have more ball speed with less effort. If on the other hand, one wants to decrease ball speed then there’s no point in changing racket, you just need to adapt your game”

    There you go. I can’t say I fully understand it and I don’t like what it derives = Nadal struggling to hit the ball as hard as he always does. This we have seen very clearly against Fognini.

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