Rafael Nadal: The Best Ever?
It’s not often that I can’t find the right words to analyze a match or a player, but that is the case with Mr. Nadal. His game is incredibly unique and I am not sure if we will ever see another player like him and that is why he is so great for the sport of tennis. I’ve had many people asking me to break down Nadal’s game and explain to them how he does what he does, so I will do my best!
Nadal has a strong western grip with his hitting hand directly under the handle. He is able to generate incredible spin with his shots and the balls will often bounce very high above the shoulder of his opponents. He can also drive the ball. He does not drop the racket-head below the ball as much as he does when he hits with spin. Lastly, the string he uses is difficult to master, but he is able to harness its power to add more spin and cause the ball to jump and bounce forward.
He also has what I have termed the “cowboy-lasso follow-through” on the forehand side. He hits his forehand and his racket whips around his head and ends up on the hitting side. Folks: Do not try this at home! This is a dangerous shot and only a few can master it (Schiavone and Sharapova comes to mind here). If you do try it, have the medic standing by to stitch up the cuts on your head. Some experts and coaches say this type of shot is the result of making contact when the ball is behind you. I think Nadal, Schiavone and Sharapova are doing just fine with it, don’t you?
Even though Nadal plays tennis as a lefty he is actually right-handed and that is a major asset for him because his right hand (top hand) does all the work on the backhand side. He has a very effective low-biting slice, he can come inside the baseline and attack balls above his shoulder (this is where his top hand helps so much), and he is very dangerous when on the run or when his opponent’s come to the net. Once again, because his top hand is so strong, he is able to dip the ball down to the feet of the attacking opponent.
Nadal is also a very good doubles player and he isn’t hesitant to come in and approach the net when necessary. His approach shots are so good that all he has to do is to hit a simply block volley to the open court or behind his opponent. You will not often see him go for outright winners with his volleys.
Despite not being branded as having a sonic serve, Nadal’s serve is pretty darn effective. Being a lefty gives him an advantage especially when serving to the ad court or jamming your opponent by serving into the body. He can do a bit of everything with his serve and it is this variation that makes his serve so good. You don’t have to go for it every time, you just have to be precise and accurate.
He can move this way, that way, backwards, forwards and every direction in between. He is off the charts when stretched out wide, or behind the baseline, and he can come back with not only a good shot, but he often hits a winner leaving his opponent completely shocked and talking to themselves. What makes him so special is his lower body foundation. He is always in control with perfect balance.
I don’t have to say much here as I think it’s pretty obvious. He is as physical as it gets for a tennis player.
It’s very rare to witness any negative emotions or verbal put-downs from Nadal. If he lets down his guard here or there, it is put aside when he plays the next point. Andre Agassi was a fire-breather on the court, but he too always believed that the most important point of a match was the next one.
At this time, no one can say who the best player is, but let me say that Nadal is definitely on the short list. He is only 25 years old and if he stays healthy and can compete each day like he does right now, his chances of being the very best are not out of reach. You have to credit his family and support team for everything they do for him. I’d love to bottle that positive energy and sell it!
Finally, I’d like to just say this. The way Nadal trains and performs, he reminds me of a Navy Seal. He always finds a way to win!