After closing a short and atypical season on clay with an unbeatable note, after winning his thirteenth Roland Garros, Rafael returned to Paris to play the last Masters 1000 of the year on the track. indoor with less fortune. The truth is that in Paris-Bercy he did not manage to compete at all well and that he lacked aggressiveness and decision in his strokes. But with his return to the indoor courts of London’s O2 Arena, just a week later, he has shown not only that he took good note, but also the clear determination to make up for the mistake, be more aggressive and be willing to take a little more initiative. of the game.
In his first match of the Masters Cup, the one he played against Andrey Rublev, we could see him at all times and, especially in the rest, with the clear idea of going to look for the point playing with less effect than in Paris. He was much more direct in his shots and changed directions more assiduously. It is true that the Russian was not very successful, but also that he suffered great discomfort due to the aggressiveness that Rafael inflicted on him.
In the second match of the group stage, against Dominic Thiem, I perceived something superior to my nephew until the tie break of the first set, when he wasted a 5-2 in favor and gave the first set to the Austrian. He had some extra nerves that led to a somewhat more intermittent and imprecise game, although he continued to connect good shots and plays of merit. Rafael ended up succumbing, again in the tie breakBut the match left us with the impression, at least to me, that victory against his next opponent, Stefanos Tsitsipas, who was also the reigning champion of the tournament, was not only possible but also probable.
And the reality is that it was.
The match that gave Rafael a pass to the semifinals was one of great intensity and beauty. He was, at all times, very solid and focused, aggressive and superior in the duel against the Greek, who only had three break balls.
The semifinals do not have a clear favorite, as is normal when they face precisely the four best players in the world ranking: Novak Djokovic, Rafael, Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev. The latter, which my nephew must eliminate if he wants to reach the final, can give the wrong impression. He is a player with a somewhat strange style and atypical coordination. When watching him run or hit the ball, one can come to think that he is not a great player, but whoever has wanted to look a little better and has followed his career in the last two years, will know that he is a very complicated tennis player. It is not easy to know where to squeeze it. Faced with a passive game and long exchanges, the Russian manages to bore his rival before missing a ball. If, on the contrary, one decides to attack him, it has to be with great precision and determination, since his counterattack is lethal.
Rafael will have to choose, in my opinion, to take the initiative and to be more aggressive. The opposite would be suicide, which I don’t think will happen. The truth is that I see Rafael very well on his way. Any one of the four could lift the trophy tomorrow, but I want to have the faith that this year it will be him who will finally do it.