‘It is incredible’ -solving abilities

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‘It is incredible’ -solving abilities
Alex Livie

Mats Wilander was hugely impressed with Rafael Nadal’s problem-solving skills in his win over Felix Auger-Aliassime in the fourth round of the French Open.

Nadal had his back to the wall against a rampant opponent, who took the Spanish great to a fifth set at Roland-Garros for only the third time in his career.

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Nadal was put under huge pressure, but he mixed things up in the fifth – shortening points on occasions and getting the job done to set up a meeting with great rival Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals.

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“He was number two today for most of the match,” Wilander said in the Eurosport studio. “He learns his lessons so quickly. It takes three or four games, then he understands it is not working and he has to change.”

Wilander feels Nadal has got better at adapting to different scenarios the older he has got.

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“As the older he has got, the more willing he has been to change his game and do a little bit more with the ball, some slices and drop shots and serve and volley a bit,” Wilander said. “Both him and Novak are becoming smarter on the court, as maybe Father Time is catching up.

“They never stop learning. It is incredible the problem-solving abilities of Rafael Nadal.

“His hands. They are unbelievable. Those chipped backhands that he hit. The last point. His hands in defence, his hands in offence.

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“We don’t talk about it much, but it is coming out more and more the older he is getting.

“He always had unbelievable hands, we knew that, but now he is using them more and more.”

Despite being on court for four hours and 21 minutes, Wilander feels Nadal will be ready for battle against Djokovic.

“The things he says, he is going to be there, he means it,” Wilander said. “Not a lot of players are able to promise to be there emotionally, physically, technically, tactically, spiritually. He can do that and I don’t know another player who can do that.”

Nadal was at the Stade de France on Saturday night to watch Real Madrid beat Liverpool in the Champions League final, and Wilander feels the game had both a positive and negative impact on the Spaniard.

“We have to remember though Rafa played yesterday,” Wilander said. “He was emotionally involved in Real Madrid last night in the stands. He’s the biggest Real Madrid fan in the world most probably so as an athlete, he’s involved.

“I actually thought of that in the beginning of the match, because he had breakpoints in the third game and like, wow, he’s missing backhands down the line. He looks a little flat. And I’m like maybe he’s emotionally involved three days in a row and that’s not easy.

“But I think that Real Madrid winning, helped him go through. It makes him a happier person, and it makes him come up with the answers.”

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Stream the 2022 French Open live and on-demand on discovery+.

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