Rafael Nadal's Mental Toughness Makes Him Wimbeldon Favorite

Sports MindContributor IJune 30, 2010

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 30:  Rafael Nadal of Spain in action during his Quarter Final match against Robin Soderling of Sweden on Day Nine of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on June 30, 2010 in London, England.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

I felt this at the beginning of the tournament, and I'll say it now: The Wimbledon champion will be either Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer.

Well, Federer exited the tournament at an unusually early stage for him. He did mention at the press conference afterwards that he had some niggling injuries that didn't help his playing. But, congratulations to Berdych for playing a terrific match. He stood with Federer toe-to-toe, not letting Federer do much dictating at all. That is the type of player Federer will have the most trouble against: the player who can stay with him and take it to him, constantly.

Now that Roger is gone, we have the remaining heavy favorite to win the final: Rafael Nadal. His play has been improving with time this week. He wasn't going to beat Robin Sodering in straight sets—Soderling is too tough to take it lying down—and though he wilted in the end, he put in a strong showing in the first three sets of the match. It could have gone either way during the third set.

As it stands now, with the semifinal lineup, Nadal has at least six more majors than anyone in the draw (Novak Djokovic won the 2008 Australian Open). But what can't be measured quantitatively is his mental toughness. He is the toughest competitor in sport; nerves are very rarely the reason he ever loses a match. And he's up against three others, that, I hate to say it, are nowhere near him (or Federer) in this regard—especially in the later stages of a Slam event.

As a result, I would bet on Nadal winning the semis and the final. It's not that Andy Murray doesn't have a chance. He does. However I just doubt that mentally he has the goods to deliver on Friday, in the biggest occasions of the biggest tournaments, against the biggest players when they are healthy.

He may take a set. But I don't see him going further than that. Plus, the last two times he has beaten Nadal in a Grand Slam (this year's Australian Open and the 2008 U.S. Open), Nadal was either injured or had played, as he claims in 2008, too much tennis going into that U.S. Open final.

I don't see either case hampering Nadal on Friday.

Murray can win if he keeps his first serve percentage up and really takes it to Nadal with deep, hard groundstrokes, only sometimes mixing it up with his usual guile.

The only other way I see Murray winning is if Nadal's knee woes do flare up again. In that case, Murray is not a player one would ever want to face injured.

But beyond that, I am pleased that Nadal is back to Wimbledon after having to sit it out last year. He looks to be feeling fit and injury free and poised to win his second Wimbledon crown and eighth Grand Slam title.


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