The Beast

When I first saw Nadal in person, my eyebrows raised.  His physical stature was enough to turn heads when he walks into a room.  I didn’t realize how big this guy was.  His tenacious work ethic on the court is admirable but I saw that his genetic predisposition left me in the dust.  So how can someone learn from someone that big, strong and fast?

The Rivalry

Why does Roger Federer have such a hard time beating Nadal?  Rafa would be the first person to admit that Roger has superior form in his strokes, yet this some how does not matter.  Rafa has beaten him 68% of the time with a total of 23 wins in 34 matches.  There are some points to consider seeing that many of their matches have been on Rafa’s best surface, clay.  Age is also a consideration as Nadal is 5 years younger than his counterpart.  Even with that taken in consideration, Nadal seems to own Federer, even beating him at his prime on grass in the epic 2008 Wimbledon Final that is considered to many as the greatest match of all time.  So what is it that Nadal has?

The Simple Strategy

When asked that same question, Rafa simply answers with, “I hit shots that are easy for me while Roger goes for shots that are difficult for him.”  This is a simple strategy but very powerful as well.  Think about it.  If you are constantly hitting easy shots while your opponent is going for more difficult shots, who is going to with most of the time?  I would say your chances are high (Maybe around 68%?).

Putting this Strategy Into Practice

The most important part of this strategy is finding the rally ball that you hit and would be surprised if you missed.  This will take considerable practice as our minds often think we are more capable of a shot than we actually are.  Keep in mind that the pros can hit the ball much harder in a match if they wanted but know that the probability of winning the point drops as they go for more on their shots.  Speed is only one element of this type of play.  Think about net clearance as well.  How high over the net are you aiming?  Nadal hits with a lot of spin so he can hit the ball hard and high while if you do not have a lot of spin, you have to slow your stroke down so you can still hit high over the net.  Are you hitting over the low part of the net as well?  This will ensure you are hitting cross court, which is the longest shot you can hit, making it difficult to hit it too long.  Lastly, where are you aiming on the court?  We often go for the lines way too much when we play, especially when the shot isn’t going to put us into a winning position anyways.  It’s risky and is not a formula for high success on the court.  All of these elements come into play when you are playing your match.  Start practicing how you would play by seeing what type of ball you feel comfortable hitting all the time that goes in and deep, keeping your opponent from hurting you and baiting them into a more difficult shot. After all, Rafa has won the majority of his matches using this strategy this against one of the best players that has ever played.  I think it’s worth a try on our end!

Taking it a Step Further

nce you have your rally ball, start going for more pace.  Your accuracy will drop but if you continue to work at hitting the ball a bit harder, your accuracy will start coming back up.  This will be your new rally ball speed, which is superior than your old one.  By starting with a strong foundation, you can slowly build up your shot tolerance with speed, placement, and consistency to ensure you keep improving.