Rafael Nadal Looks Extraordinarily Vulnerable in 1st Round Match at US Open

Peter AjemianCorrespondent IIAugust 31, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 30:  Rafael Nadal of Spain looks on against Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan during Day Two of the 2011 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 30, 2011 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

I've never seen Rafael Nadal display so little confidence on at tennis court.

Last night, Nadal struggled mightily against Andrey Golubev, the 98th ranked player in the world.

It wasn't just that he struggled. It was that he played such a tentative, overcautious brand of tennis.  Nadal repeatedly hit forehands and backhands that landed shallow in his opponent's court, enabling Golubev to rip many forceful ground strokes that put Nadal on the defensive.

That's another thing. Nada, when in defensive mode, couldn't get good wood on numerous shots that he normally dominates with.

Nadal, along with Novak Djokoivic, is one of the best defensive tennis players in the world and it is incredibly hard for any player to hit a winner against him—period.

Well, on Tuesday night, Golubev hit a lot of winners and a lot of shots that Nadal couldn't make solid contact on.

I thought I was hallucinating. Was that really Rafa Nadal out there? 

I fully understand that many top players perform erratically in early round matches and I've seen Nadal do it before. I've even seen Federer do it. (Fed also had his own ups and downs in his first-round match, but that's another article). However, last night was something different for Nadal.

His confidence seemed much lower than usual. Even Nadal's Uncle Tony, when interviewed between sets, acknowledged that Nadal's confidence needed to grow during the US Open.

So, what's up with Nadal? Are off the court problems keeping him from excelling on the court?