Rafael Nadal Must Improve 1st-Set Play to Win Wimbledon 2014

David Daniels@TheRealDDanielsSenior Writer IJuly 1, 2014

Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates a point during the men's singles match against Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, London, Thursday, June 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

Rafael Nadal is outperforming Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Roger Federer at Wimbledon 2014 in something that he shouldn't take confidence in.

Playing from behind.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 03:  (L-R) Andy Murray of Great Britain, Roger Federer of Switzerland and Novak Djokovic of Serbia talk to the guests during previews for the ATP World Tour Finals Tennis on November 3, 2012 in London, England. The world's top e
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Entering his Round 4 match with Nick Kyrgios, Nadal has lost three sets in the tournament. That's more than Djokovic, Murray and Federer combined. And all of Nadal's losses have come in the first set.

In Rounds 1 and 2 against Martin Klizan and Lukas Rosol, respectively, he lost the first set 6-4. In Round 3 against Mikhail Kukushkin, he lost the first set 7-6. 

The good news: Nadal is still winning these matches. That's something he couldn't say the past two years at the All England Club, when massive underdogs eliminated him in the first and second rounds. The bad news: If he keeps losing first sets, the odds of him failing to catch up will increase as the talent of the opposition increases.

Nadal, of course, isn't worried.

Others aren't as confident in him. Some think the 19-year-old Kyrgios is the talent that could end Nadal's third straight Wimbledon before the quarterfinals.

“If [Kyrgios] plays with no fear, as he has done, he has a chance,” said two-time Wimbledon doubles champion Peter McNamara, according to Sean Ingle of The Guardian. “Nadal’s been pretty slow so far. He was nearly two sets down against Lukas Rosol and Kyrgios plays a little bit like Rosol. Bang, boom-boom-boom.”

Chris Dutton of The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Tennis Australia development manager Scott Draper agrees.

Nick definitely has the weapons and he genuinely believes he's got the game, then you've got someone who can create havoc. … I think he can [beat Nadal]. I'd say for sure [he's Australia's best chance to win a Grand Slam]. He's got the weapons to do so and he's got potential to be a hell of a player.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 28:  Nick Kyrgios of Australia celebrates after winning his Gentlemen's Singles third round match against Jiri Vesely of Czech Republic on day six of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Comebacks have been Kyrgios' strength at Wimbledon too. He fell behind Jiri Vesely and Richard Gasquet before storming back. If Kyrgios doesn't get off to a slow start against Nadal, the two-time Wimbledon champion should be on upset alert.

But even if Nadal defeats Kyrgioslike he shouldDjokovic, Murray and Federer have all outplayed him thus far by a significant margin. And he won't defeat them unless he improves.

Djokovic, Murray and Federer account for the last three Wimbledon championships. And Djokovic, the 7-4 favorite to win it all according to Odds Shark, is the only one of the three who's lost a single set through four rounds (Federer through three).

Hopefully, for Nadal's sake, he takes less time to warm up when he faces them.


David Daniels is a columnist at Bleacher Report. He tweets, too.