Advice for Rogerby: Stephen Tignor, TENNIS.com posted: Wednesday, April 25, 2007 | Feedback | Print Entry filed under: Tennis There's only one story in tennis right now, Roger, and I think you know what it is: Can you beat Rafael Nadal on clay in time to win the French Open? When the year started and Nadal had his biceps handed to him by guys named Gonzalez and Youzhny, you probably liked your odds. But put Rafa on a dusty red court and he's a new man. He left you slump-shouldered again in Monte Carlo on Sunday. Afterward, you said the right things about gathering more useful "information" about his game. What more is there to learn? You're 0-5 against Nadal on clay. You've been "getting closer" to him for a year now. You seem to think that if you keep playing your normal game you'll pass the Spaniard the way you did your old tormentors, Lleyton Hewitt and David Nalbandian. I mean, where are those guys now? You're right -- why would you change anything? Still, there must be a seed of doubt; you don't shank 20 forehands long against anybody but Nadal. I know you're bombarded with advice about how to play him, but hopefully you won't mind 2 cents more from someone who's sat through all five of your clay-court demises. Don't change your game, but use more of it You're a complete player, but usually you don't need to be. You can win by rallying and waiting for a mistake or drilling a forehand. That doesn't cut it against Nadal on clay. He doesn't miss enough, and when you play defense, he bullies you. Learn from James Blake (I know that's tough to swallow, but just do it) and use combinations. Go hard to the forehand to push Nadal back and open up the backhand, or slice low to his two-hander to get a short ball. Your forcing shots don't need to be perfect. Make him beat you with a pass; it's better than sailing a forehand long. Guess on the return Nadal almost always serves to your backhand, yet you miss many of those returns. Lean that way and try to get in after the return early in the match; you might get in his head. Think first-serve percentage You made 55 percent of first serves Sunday. That's too low. Nadal attacks second serves, but on first serves he often sends back a hacked, floating slice backhand. Get the first serve in. Push him back, not wide It's hard to beat Nadal out wide. But his long strokes mean he can be handcuffed by a deep drive down the middle, even on his forehand side. This may earn you a high, short mishit. Listen to Pete You're a baseliner, so it's hard to become a net-rusher. But consider Pete Sampras' words about Nadal. He says he would have liked his chances because he could have gotten to the net on him. This is difficult on clay, but Sampras' confidence and mindset shouldn't be ignored. Change the routine Nadal pumps his fists, you hang your head. Don't let him monopolize the intensity in the arena. You're going for history -- getting pumped up now and then will remind you of that, and change a negative dynamic. Have no regrets Try everything in your arsenal. If he beats you after that, it wasn't meant to be. Remember this is all easier said than done. You're still No. 1, and surface variety is the spice of tennis. Go win Wimbledon And let us not speak of clay until next year.