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One act sparks concerns over Nadal’s health

Tennis greats Jim Courier and Tim Henman have raised concerns over Rafael Nadal’s fitness following a second straight singles loss at the United Cup.

Just days after losing to Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie, the reigning Australian Open champion was downed by a spirited Alex de Minaur as he again coughed up a first-set lead.

Nadal’s game unraveled in the second set when he managed to win just one game, and Courier and Henman noticed something off with the ball toss on his serves.

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A graphic shown on Nine’s coverage during the second set showed the difference in first serve contact points at the United Cup compared to Nadal’s victorious Australian Open campaign from last year.

Courier, a two-time Australian Open winner, suggested that Nadal’s wider contact points could be a sign that he is not yet fully recovered from the abdominal injury that ruined the back half of his 2022 season.

“He’s far more limited it seems,” the American great said on Nine’s coverage.

“It doesn’t seem like he can arch back with his abdominal and reach back for the ball over his shoulder. As he’s serving, everything is moving out to his left side.

“I just don’t know if he can use the abdominal to reach back up there. He’s also hitting it at a lower contact hit point, not as high, that makes it harder to be accurate.

“It’s something that we watched in the US summer when he came to play in Cincinnati and the US Open.

“He was suffering from that and we thought it might’ve been a temporary situation, (but) it does not appear to be the case. It has not resolved in that time, which was about four months ago.

“It would seem to us that would not be a choice that he would willingly make. That is an accommodation for the injury he sustained at Wimbledon I would have to assume.”

Henman was also in agreement with Courier and explained how Nadal’s new ball toss was hamering his flexibility on certain points.

“It’s really taking out the kick serve, the top spin on the second serve, because you’ve got to get up the back of the ball, and to do that you need to arch your back,” he said.

“If your ball toss is a little bit further in front, then you’re only coming around the side of the ball.

“It means you can only hit a slice serve and that limits where Rafa’s really going to be able to hit into the box.”

Former English pro Mark Petchey also noticed the slight change while sitting courtside during Nadal’s clash against de Minaur.

“The predictability is one thing, but it’s obvious to see that he’s not trying to serve at the body, because that’s been his pattern over the last couple of years on second serves,” he said.

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“The other thing from that graphic is how far forward it (the ball) is. That affects your plus-one shot.

“He’s a lot further inside the baseline, he’s a little rushed on his plus-one after his serve because of how far forward the ball is.”

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