Rafael Nadal. We know him mainly for the violence of his shot-making - the brutal fast-jumping spins and the powerful drives of his flattened out forehands. But is power the only or main reason for Nadal to win the number of matches he has, and to achieve the records he amassed. We at Rovo dive in to find out, and write in here our analyses from such.
As mentioned above, power is one major reason for Nadal to be some triumphant over the age. This is common-sense: whenever your power is greater than someone who is less powerful, all else remaining equal, you are sure to blow your opponent off the court. What is interesting, however, the weight with which his power had as a factor in his successes differs every year. To make this point, 2010 and 2013 were the years in which his power played the most important role in defeating his opponents. We are very certain that this is not just a matter of ours having our own opinions, since it is evident when watching his matches during those two years that his power was simply too hot to handle. Rallies were typically short as a untypically impatient would step in to finish the point with a blast of a forehand (typically after a few too-powerful shots which leave the opponent in an unviable position) to abruptly end the point. For all other years, Nadal was more patient and power played less of a role as a result.
Nadal would have been second-to-none in the department, were it not for Djokovic. Although it may not seem like it given Nadal's body figure ('the optical illusion of mass' was how our Rovo intern Roger So put it), Nadal travels across the court at a speed that we could consider lightning-fast. This, we believe is the key to Nadal's extraordinary defensive skills, not his spinning nature as commonly believed. This has allowed him to, on a ridiculously unreal number of times, return balls that were supposed to not have been returnable. Think the banana shot. How many times have you seen Nadal drawn wide, by a blistering drive groundstroke or even a smash, only to claw the ball back into play with a winner within a what looks like a mini-inch of the ball touching the ground? Such movement has served him in his offensive abilities as much as they do his defensive ones. How many times have you seen Nadal's opponent hit a floating shot to a part of the opposing court not deemed by them to be reachable in time by Nadal to hit a blistering, only for Nadal to crash such hopes by proving (both his opponent and us wrong) wrong with just such winner? Too many times, we would say!
Yes, another major reason contributing to Nadal's winning of so many matches is the fact that he is a left-handed player. Correct me if I am wrong, but I remember hearing from a source I cannot remember that Nadal's left-handedness is actually the result of a strategic decision made at the very beginning of his tennis journey, for no purpose other than to embed in him what his uncle Toni must have known is going to be a life-long strength. This makes a lot of sense, for Nadal is not known to be naturally ambidextrous, but uses his right hand for almost every other major thing that he does. The global dominance of right-handed player in terms of numbers would mean that the percentage of people with not-too-much experience playing lefties would weigh in Nadal's favour when it comes to match-win probabilities. Even Federer at a point in time in the earlier stages of his career (we feel) should count among such a player. In his earlier clashes with Nadal, we could see how he was used to settling into cross-court rallies between his backhand and Nadal's forehand, only to find himself in trouble a short while later. Such is the power of habit that even the greatest succumbs to it.
Although we have no solid proof to back this up, we are willing to bet our money on the fact that Nadal works the hardest amongst all the players in the ATP tour. This is mainly from the vibes that Nadal gives us. The seriousness in his expressions whenever and where-ever he appears in the camera's eye, and his rather not-too-relaxed responses to and attempts at jokes, points to iron will/goal which everything else is subsumed (and also sacrificed to). Such iron will could also be to be leaking in the ways and words he chooses to verbally express himself. 'I will work harder' or 'I vow hard work' has been thrown out by him so often to the press that the phrase itself should be deemed a trademark of Nadal's. This, we believe, like many other very successful people, is the main reason for why he is so good.
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