Nicolas Almagro So Close to Stepping Up, But Still So Far

Nicolas Almagro playing at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell last week.

By Yeshayahu Ginsburg

Unfortunately for Nicolas Almagro, his last match against Rafael Nadal feels like it went pretty much the same way all of his other matches have. Almagro is very good against most players on tour, especially on clay. He has improved on all surfaces over the past few years and now consistently goes deep in a lot of tournaments. However, he also consistent loses to just about every top player on tour.

Almagro is a combined 1-21 against the “Big 4”, with that one win coming against Andy Murray at the French Open in 2008. Almagro is also 0-13 against David Ferrer, 3-9 against Tomas Berdych, and 0-6 versus Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. With records like that, it’s easy to see why Almagro likes to play a lot of 250-level tournaments and why it’s incredible that he manages to stay as close to the top 10 as consistently as he does.

It is often said that consistency is what separates the Big 4 from the rest of the tennis world. Most of these top players can win any given point against anyone else. But when it comes to the Big 4, they play at or near their top level for just about every point of a match. Thus, to beat them, any other top player would have to play at that level for an entire match as well.

Watching Almagro’s matches against the top players, it is easy to see why this rule is mostly true. Almagro always seems to start out strong, especially against Nadal. He plays a power game on clay and keeps the ball deep, pinning his opponents back until they finally can’t defend anymore. This works well, especially against Nadal, and Almagro often keeps things close or even jumps out to a lead. In Barcelona on Sunday, Almagro won the first three games of the match, going up a double break to start.

What Almagro cannot seem to do is to keep at this level for an entire match. Once Nadal gets back into things, Almagro crumbles. This was epitomized in the 4-4 game of the first set on Sunday, when Almagro was up 0-30 on Nadal’s serve. Nadal won an incredible point that Almagro must have felt should have been his (I’m sure that everyone has seen the video of that tweener by now), followed up by a massive Nadal forehand right down the line the next point. Almagro just couldn’t shake those points off. Nadal went on to win that game, broke to take the first set the very next game, and then picked up an early break in the second set with which he could cruise towards the win.

This was not an aberration or a one-match phenomenon. This seems to be how the majority of Almagro’s matches against the top players go. I honestly don’t know what Almagro has to do to get over that hump. He needs to find a way to put previous points out of his mind and to just play every point with the same level of consistency, just like the top players do. What I do know is that it is not for lack of talent that Almagro can’t beat these guys. And that, in my mind, is quite a shame.