List the reasons Nadal used to be so good on Clay

daniel42

Rookie
What made Nadal so good on Clay, especially at the French Open. I know he dominated everyone there, but why. Was his speed more adaped to clay, was his topspin more erratic coming off the ground?
 

Supertegwyn

Hall of Fame
High bounce helps his topspin, slow speed and sliding helps his defence. Nobody could get balls past him, and when he decided to turn up the heat his forehand would destroy the opposition.
 

Anaconda

Hall of Fame
Clay promotes Nadal's strengths and promotes his weaknesses. Whilst his serve and ROS aren't weaknesses, an aggressive server/returner can pick Nadal off on the serve and return on hard and grass; On clay they can't. Also, the clay field sucks, but Nadal is still the boss on clay regardless.
 

vive le beau jeu !

Talk Tennis Guru


also, his baby bottle was (is?) probably stuffed with clay (among other things) by his caring uncle, since he was a rusty peak injured golden calf.
 

easywin

Rookie
Thanks ! My french sucks but it was still very worth it.
Very awesome slow motions and - apart from what we already knew - its nice to hear some actual experts on these topics and this was very well produced

Edit : It's very interesting that Ljubicic describes Nadal as a player who wants to beat you "as quick as possible" and it would never feel like he wants to "drain you down".
I think I already heard some other experts say that Nadal is, at heart, an offensive player and I actually agree with them.
 
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bjsnider

Hall of Fame
The question contains an assumption, ie. it's a loaded question -- "used to be". It's like asking "have you stopped beating your wife?"
 

tennis_commentator

Hall of Fame
What made Nadal so good on Clay, especially at the French Open. I know he dominated everyone there, but why. Was his speed more adaped to clay, was his topspin more erratic coming off the ground?
Definitely not speed, because Djokovic was faster than Nadal in 2013 and 2014 and Nadal still won.
 
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6

6-3 6-0

Guest
2 things:

1) His heavy top spin FH (Probably the best FH ever on clay)
2) His superior defense - Ability to chase down every ball
 
D

Deleted member 77403

Guest
Nadal's footwork on clay was majestic. He hardly ever put a foot wrong, was hardly ever off balance. His vision on clay was amazing, he knew when to grind, when to defend, when to attack. The ability to chase down balls with perfect sliding and time, and the ability to really crank up that venomous forehand at any time made him dangerous in all areas of the court.

Plus, his mental strength was only fortified by his physical gifts - together they gave him the confidence within to know he will always be the last man standing. That self belief created an aura that broke the will of other players...he basically laid the gauntlet down telling the opposion that they are in for a world of hurt, and many lost the battle before the first ball was even hit.
 

President

Legend
His groundstrokes are/were so consistent on clay, something that isn't always true on hardcourt because he has a pretty big take back on both sides so needs more time. That forehand is incredible on clay, one of the best shots ever no doubt. He can hit it on a dime and jerk the opponent around on a string, all with a huge margin for error. Great stamina, speed, and footwork doesn't hurt as well.
 

jg153040

G.O.A.T.
Being a lefty is a big part of it. Other players aren't used to lefty patterns, since they don't play much vs lefties. Also, even if they play vs lefties, there aren't many of great lefties, so even then, they can't practice.

Also on clay mentality is the most important. And here lefty has an edge on big points due to geometry of the court.

Well, this is by pure luck and chance that Rafa decided to do that. They didn't do that with Toni on purpose.

Of course this tiny edge can be huge. It can mean a difference between matchups vs Djokovic and Federer. They are amazing clay player, but with this tiny edge Rafa makes them look a lot worse.

Also tiny difference even 5% can mean the difference between 2 and 9 RG titles.

Of course when you have this edge, you also are mentally a lot better. Rafa can play his natural game on big points, but his rivals can't, so that further makes Rafa mentally stronger and further makes Fed and Nole mentally weaker against Nadal. It's called positive feedback loop.

I think most righties would agree that if lefty and a righty are equally skilled, lefty will always win. Even lefties agree.
 

spinovic

Hall of Fame
High bounce helps his topspin, slow speed and sliding helps his defence. Nobody could get balls past him, and when he decided to turn up the heat his forehand would destroy the opposition.
That's it, right?

He's one of the fastest/quickest players ever, so his defense is great anywhere. Add to that his natural affinity/ability to move and slide on clay. You had a great defensive player, who was a great clay court mover/player, and clay is a slower surface. All of that made his defense virtually impenetrable. (I suppose you could add the extra room behind the baseline to that equation on Chartrier as well.)

Second, the grinding, physical clay game also fit his personality to perfection. Nadal seemed to thrive on the idea of "suffering" on court, so by nature he has always been a patient player, willing to take time to construct points, to drag his opponent into deep waters and outlast them.

Third, for all the talk of his devastating topspin and its effectiveness on clay, and contrary to what some would have you believe, Nadal had the ability to flatten that shot out and hit through his opponents, even on clay, and he could do it from the baseline, which meant he didn't have to move too far forward and sacrifice much on the defensive side. He could do it, and do it with relative safety. People rarely mention this, but without it, I believe it would have totally changed the dynamic for him on clay. He would have been closer to David Ferrer than the King of Clay without the ability to crank that forehand up and blast winners from deep in the court.

And, the slower clay combined with his exceptional movement and understanding of how to play on the surface, made it easier for him to run around his backhand and create forehand opportunities. It was, again, virtually impossible to avoid Nadal's forehand in his prime on clay.

It's hard to imagine constructing a more perfect clay court player. I think his record would back that up.
 

NatF

Bionic Poster
Incredible movement and tenacity, nerves of steel, an extremely heavy and powerful forehand, best passing shots of his generation, extremely fit - and he is a lefty.
 

spinovic

Hall of Fame
Forgot to throw the lefty thing in there. That definitely helped, I think.

Also, I would add, the biggest thing missing from his game this year was the forehand. It was inconsistent and didn't have the steam on it that he once did, IMO. I do think he's probably slowed down slightly, but if he could still rely on that forehand like it used to be, he'd have been much more formidable on clay this year.
 

tenisdecente

Hall of Fame
Being lefty is huge part of the 23-10 stuff, believe me

Those who play tennis and are righties know that is a huge disadvantage to play against a leftie, just because the lefty is used to play against righties, and not viceversa
 

The-Champ

Legend
Being lefty is huge part of the 23-10 stuff, believe me

Those who play tennis and are righties know that is a huge disadvantage to play against a leftie, just because the lefty is used to play against righties, and not viceversa

Being lefty alone doesn't help. Or else verdasco, lopez, Nieminen and other lefties would have had the same success against Federer.
 

LETitBE

Hall of Fame
Incredible movement and tenacity, nerves of steel, an extremely heavy and powerful forehand, best passing shots of his generation, extremely fit - and he is a lefty.
Where have all these fantastic traits gone? And why? :)
 

The-Champ

Legend
Nope.....but you didnt answer the question.What's his match record since october 2013?
he is bound to lose eventually. This is what you have been seeing the last couple of years. Totally expected.


But why don't you give us your own opinion of why he has not been successful last year of this year?
 

NatF

Bionic Poster
Being lefty alone doesn't help. Or else verdasco, lopez, Nieminen and other lefties would have had the same success against Federer.
Being a lefty is not all of it no, but it is an advantage. A player with the same shots and abilities as Nadal but playing right handed would not have had as much success IMO. Whether that means just 13 slams or 10 or etc...I don't know. But that lefty serve out wide on break points is massive.
 

LETitBE

Hall of Fame
he is bound to lose eventually. This is what you have been seeing the last couple of years. Totally expected.


But why don't you give us your own opinion of why he has not been successful last year of this year?
I spray my opinion of Nadal all over the forum if you hadnt noticed.Huge coincidence is it that Nadal has been going down hill since october 2013.
 

bullfan

Legend
Nadal as a lefty has more time to watch the ball to allow him more time to place the ball. His speed was definitely as asset. Which has not been evident since 2010-2011 time frame.
 

Chanwan

G.O.A.T.
Nadal's footwork on clay was majestic. He hardly ever put a foot wrong, was hardly ever off balance. His vision on clay was amazing, he knew when to grind, when to defend, when to attack. The ability to chase down balls with perfect sliding and time, and the ability to really crank up that venomous forehand at any time made him dangerous in all areas of the court.

Plus, his mental strength was only fortified by his physical gifts - together they gave him the confidence within to know he will always be the last man standing. That self belief created an aura that broke the will of other players...he basically laid the gauntlet down telling the opposion that they are in for a world of hurt, and many lost the battle before the first ball was even hit.
yep, well put.
His groundstrokes are/were so consistent on clay, something that isn't always true on hardcourt because he has a pretty big take back on both sides so needs more time. That forehand is incredible on clay, one of the best shots ever no doubt. He can hit it on a dime and jerk the opponent around on a string, all with a huge margin for error. Great stamina, speed, and footwork doesn't hurt as well.
consistency was key too, he would hardly ever miss and make the opponent hit one more ball -> leading to more errors.
1. Forehand
2. Movement
3. Consistency
4. Tenacity
5. Endurance
Good list.
6. speed.
7. being a lefty (yes, it helps, but he would have been incredible on clay no matter what)
 
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