Revamping Nadal's Game

cork_screw

Hall of Fame
Watching Nadal these past two years vs his entire career, there's some noticeable differences that have changed and I'm surprised he hasn't addressed any of them and I don't think these were a result of age or injury. Sometimes when you're working too close on something (like a painting), you need to step a few feet back to see the broader picture.

I recall a period where nadal would crush one handed backhand players - especially on clay; this year he's already lost to Thiem and Cuevas. Vintage Nadal would pull the ball wide, not *JUST* with depth, but with heavy top side spin and every ball would pull the player wider and wider until he would walk in with a super easy volley (in fact, I think heavy topspin and high ball trajectory is way more important than depth). He doesn't do this anymore, at least with no real strategical intention. Current Nadal seems to hit more randomly mixing balls going to both his opponent's forehand and backhand. I think he should go back to his glory days (of playing "boring") and whip the ball high and out wide to the backhand until he can come into net, not just one shot, but maybe 3-4 pull shots; wider and wider and even wider until his opponent is basically pulled out so much so that his volley becomes a very high percentage easy volley. This isn't just effective against one handers, but a two hander who has to run out wide and wider to retrieve balls also is troubled by this as most two handers don't have the same reach as one handers and he used to illicit the same court positioning.

Vintage Nadal also wouldn't rely on just this tactic alone to stress his opponents. He would also open up the court by hitting heavy top spin inside-out forehands in conjunction to his wide pulls, this really made his wide pulls that more effective because it would keep his opponents guessing.
I noticed something odd and current Nadal rarely seeks any intention to hit inside out forehands as much as he used to and I think it's mainly because of his court positioning. I think he needs to reposition himself in order to hit that shot and it will really play well with the backhand wide pulls.
Nadal used to play "boring" tennis and I think he needs to go back to this. I also think his balls have become flatter and flatter, more depth and penetration but no top spin jump. Also noticed Nadal trying to spot the ball in corners like his opponents used to try on him when he would crush them. Now it seems like he's trying to do it to others and he's losing by doing this and sadly he seems to be losing the baseline game which used to be his staple because he's not hitting with strategy or with any attempt for the easy volley he used to feast on.

Nadal seems to try to aim for depth and penetration as opposed to spin and positioning himself and his opponent. I remember seeing nadal's opponent's under heavy stress back in his glory days when he practiced these methods and for some reason when he came back from his hiatus he played a very different game that went away from his old style. Most telling, most of his opponent's don't seem at all under stress. And that should be concerning if you're his coach.
I don't know why he went away from this but I do think that when he came back from that 7 month recovery break from his appendix surgery he played a much different game than what everyone is used to seeing.

Against someone like djokovic or del potro actually does better against the style that I just mentioned that troubles 98% of the rest of the field. Djokovic actually seemed to have more trouble when nadal played almost a pusher style like Simon recent did where a lot more balls were hit up the middle; whereas simon had no pace, in lieu if Nadal substituted that with heavy spin, I think he would be a lot more effective. It seems a little counter intuitive but when djokovic is given high loopy top spin balls up the middle he doesn't have the angle to creative angles. It's easier to create angles when you're given an angle, but if you give djokovic no angle he will try to create and force angles and thus he will be prone to more unforced errors like he did against simon. And I believe Novak had like 100+ unforced errors. The important thing is high trajectory and heavy topspin or Novak will start to place the ball if he you it up the middle just playing pusher like he eventually did with simon. Nadal has to play like a pusher and just retrieve, that will probably be what he needs to do against Djokovic to throw him off his rhythm, then you can start to open up the court with that inside-out forehand and your pull wide shots, But I do think Novak does much better against the wide backhand pulls than he does with inside out forehands to the deuce court.

The heavy top spin inside out forehands does one thing against novak and that is it makes him return a much shorter ball when he's pulled out so wide where nadal now has half the court to play his next shot and he can just pretty much put it away. I think Nadal has lost the idea of coming to net. It seems like he now just wants to win points from the baseline and with that strategy it won't work. He needs to drop trying to win points by point and shoot style and come up to the net.

So key points.
- High ball trajectory with heavy loopy top spin.
- Don't hit flat or penetrating balls. Some of his opponents prefer these balls over the high top spin balls. And current nadal seems to hit more flat and with more depth than his older self.
- Don't try to point and shoot. Play old style of boring yank off the ad side and mix in some top spin inside out forehands otherwise look for the easy volley to come in on. And drop volleys are a must.


Just wanted to back up my point about his balls have become flatter. It's actually easier to his a drop shot against a flatter ball than a topspinny ball. And Novak has recently been dropping Nadal with a bunch of drop shots, so that is direct evidence that his balls have gotten flatter and less spin. Also, when you hit a fast ball to someone if they get a racquet (like nadal has been doing recently), it can come back equally fast right back at your direction. So that's another reason why so many of his opponents are hitting so many clean winners off his balls like Verdasco. If nadal puts more air and loop and spin players can't just spank the ball like what Cuevas and Verdasco were doing. Verdasco was even admitting he was just closing his eyes and winners were flowing from his racquet. You couldn't do that with more loopy topspinny balls because they won't give you a clean your contact point.

Lastly, word to Rafa:
Bro, you need to change your game. It ain't your knees, it ain't your age. It's your strategy.
 

Bender

G.O.A.T.
This is quite a great post--far better than the usual "Nadal needs to retire now hurr durr" threads I've been reading.

Agree with all of this--I would also like to add that Rafa on clay so far this year has ditched the one tactic that worked for him last season, which was to take the return early on the baseline and not 3 m behind it.

From the technical POV, he's hitting more WW forehands from what I can see (please correct me if I'm wrong), and that's been giving him more depth on average than his usual reverse forehands.

Also, Rafa's balls are flat, because they've been crushed by Djokovic too many times as of late.

I suggest PRP.
 

dadadas

Semi-Pro
Watching Nadal these past two years vs his entire career, there's some noticeable differences that have changed and I'm surprised he hasn't addressed any of them and I don't think these were a result of age or injury. Sometimes when you're working too close on something (like a painting), you need to step a few feet back to see the broader picture.

I recall a period where nadal would crush one handed backhand players - especially on clay; this year he's already lost to Thiem and Cuevas. Vintage Nadal would pull the ball wide, not *JUST* with depth, but with heavy top side spin and every ball would pull the player wider and wider until he would walk in with a super easy volley (in fact, I think heavy topspin and high ball trajectory is way more important than depth). He doesn't do this anymore, at least with no real strategical intention. Current Nadal seems to hit more randomly mixing balls going to both his opponent's forehand and backhand. I think he should go back to his glory days (of playing "boring") and whip the ball high and out wide to the backhand until he can come into net, not just one shot, but maybe 3-4 pull shots; wider and wider and even wider until his opponent is basically pulled out so much so that his volley becomes a very high percentage easy volley. This isn't just effective against one handers, but a two hander who has to run out wide and wider to retrieve balls also is troubled by this as most two handers don't have the same reach as one handers and he used to illicit the same court positioning.

Vintage Nadal also wouldn't rely on just this tactic alone to stress his opponents. He would also open up the court by hitting heavy top spin inside-out forehands in conjunction to his wide pulls, this really made his wide pulls that more effective because it would keep his opponents guessing.
I noticed something odd and current Nadal rarely seeks any intention to hit inside out forehands as much as he used to and I think it's mainly because of his court positioning. I think he needs to reposition himself in order to hit that shot and it will really play well with the backhand wide pulls.
Nadal used to play "boring" tennis and I think he needs to go back to this. I also think his balls have become flatter and flatter, more depth and penetration but no top spin jump. Also noticed Nadal trying to spot the ball in corners like his opponents used to try on him when he would crush them. Now it seems like he's trying to do it to others and he's losing by doing this and sadly he seems to be losing the baseline game which used to be his staple because he's not hitting with strategy or with any attempt for the easy volley he used to feast on.

Nadal seems to try to aim for depth and penetration as opposed to spin and positioning himself and his opponent. I remember seeing nadal's opponent's under heavy stress back in his glory days when he practiced these methods and for some reason when he came back from his hiatus he played a very different game that went away from his old style. Most telling, most of his opponent's don't seem at all under stress. And that should be concerning if you're his coach.
I don't know why he went away from this but I do think that when he came back from that 7 month recovery break from his appendix surgery he played a much different game than what everyone is used to seeing.

Against someone like djokovic or del potro actually does better against the style that I just mentioned that troubles 98% of the rest of the field. Djokovic actually seemed to have more trouble when nadal played almost a pusher style like Simon recent did where a lot more balls were hit up the middle; whereas simon had no pace, in lieu if Nadal substituted that with heavy spin, I think he would be a lot more effective. It seems a little counter intuitive but when djokovic is given high loopy top spin balls up the middle he doesn't have the angle to creative angles. It's easier to create angles when you're given an angle, but if you give djokovic no angle he will try to create and force angles and thus he will be prone to more unforced errors like he did against simon. And I believe Novak had like 100+ unforced errors. The important thing is high trajectory and heavy topspin or Novak will start to place the ball if he you it up the middle just playing pusher like he eventually did with simon. Nadal has to play like a pusher and just retrieve, that will probably be what he needs to do against Djokovic to throw him off his rhythm, then you can start to open up the court with that inside-out forehand and your pull wide shots, But I do think Novak does much better against the wide backhand pulls than he does with inside out forehands to the deuce court.

The heavy top spin inside out forehands does one thing against novak and that is it makes him return a much shorter ball when he's pulled out so wide where nadal now has half the court to play his next shot and he can just pretty much put it away. I think Nadal has lost the idea of coming to net. It seems like he now just wants to win points from the baseline and with that strategy it won't work. He needs to drop trying to win points by point and shoot style and come up to the net.

So key points.
- High ball trajectory with heavy loopy top spin.
- Don't hit flat or penetrating balls. Some of his opponents prefer these balls over the high top spin balls. And current nadal seems to hit more flat and with more depth than his older self.
- Don't try to point and shoot. Play old style of boring yank off the ad side and mix in some top spin inside out forehands otherwise look for the easy volley to come in on. And drop volleys are a must.


Just wanted to back up my point about his balls have become flatter. It's actually easier to his a drop shot against a flatter ball than a topspinny ball. And Novak has recently been dropping Nadal with a bunch of drop shots, so that is direct evidence that his balls have gotten flatter and less spin. Also, when you hit a fast ball to someone if they get a racquet (like nadal has been doing recently), it can come back equally fast right back at your direction. So that's another reason why so many of his opponents are hitting so many clean winners off his balls like Verdasco. If nadal puts more air and loop and spin players can't just spank the ball like what Cuevas and Verdasco were doing. Verdasco was even admitting he was just closing his eyes and winners were flowing from his racquet. You couldn't do that with more loopy topspinny balls because they won't give you a clean your contact point.

Lastly, word to Rafa:
Bro, you need to change your game. It ain't your knees, it ain't your age. It's your strategy.
I guess losing to Fognini means nothing to his old game :rolleyes:
 
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