Nadal: A More Complete Picture

Most of know think we know what makes Nadal Nadal. The muscular mass, the left-handed around-the-head forehand, the incredible speed and endurance, and the incredible spin produced by his shots - these are the traits we define him by. However, this picture of Nadal is far from complete, for there are a few more traits distinctively Nadal, which people have not really picked up on. These traits are...

A flat backhand

Most tennis fans are so fixated on Nadal's backhand, they tend to miss out on the devastating power of Nadal's backhand. In fact, Nadal's backhand is arguably the more deadly side of the two 'hands', for the main reason that he deliberately tries to end the point straight-off on the backhand side. In many matches, it was the Nadal backhand that was earning him most of the winners - we particularly like the cross-court and down-the-line flattened out backhand winners which traveled at what seemed like the speed of lightning. Although this may seem like a deliberate preference, there is a technical reason for such tendency of Nadal. Such technical reason is the flatness of his backhand stroke. All things extreme must be balanced, it seems.

A nervous personality

Nadal might seem like the last of all persons whom any attribute of non-confidence could be attached to. His ferocious roars on every single point, the seeming fearlessness in every aspect of his appearance, seem to point to someone who is assured of himself, and has all his energy submerged in constant self-improvement or victory. As the saying goes though, appearances deceive, and this is also when true when Nadal is concerned. Most people do not know that his crazy forehand spins are a mark of a constant inner nervousness. They do not realize that the more confident Nadal is, the flatter his forehand shots are, which is the case now than years back. If you look at Nadal's practice sessions (there are plenty of these on Youtube), one thing you will notice is that all his forehands are hit flat in such sessions. It does not make sense to play one way in a practice session, and then play another way in a pressurized situation, unless it cannot be helped.

A frequent slicer

When we think of Nadal's game-play, we have in mind one that is largely reflexive. It is supposedly reflexive in that Nadal more or less runs for balls and reflects them back in loops. It is supposedly reflexive as opposed to the deliberate style of Federer, who works out every point strategically like a chess player would in a chess game. This assumption about Nadal's game cannot be further from the truth, and the best evidence to disprove such is his frequent usage of the backhand slice (perhaps the most strategic shot in tennis). Like Federer, Nadal often uses the backhand slice to undermine the rhythm of his opponent, or to set himself up for an ideal flattening-out shot. He typically slices in long rallies, and is slicing more recently. This complements a more aggressive mindset compared to the Nadal of a few years back, in that he now seeks to win the point, rather than out-rally his opponent.

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