Why did Nadal hit the ball so short if it gets hardly any kick on the AO surface?

Reason for Nadal awful depth?


  • Total voters
    39
#1
Djokovic was tremendous today, but regardless of the narrative that he took all of Nadal’s time away, his depth/length was just unacceptable. He knew the ball wouldn’t kick up on clay, so why not aim for depth and pull the trigger on the FH side as soon as you get a slightly short ball? His strategy made no sense and it didn’t seem to change.
 

Firstservingman

Talk Tennis Guru
#9
You could say because he has no other real strategy, but that's probably not fair. I think more accurately you could say that this is the only strategy he feels comfortable using when he's under the pump, and even more so now he's declined in terms of speed and reflexes and has less options available to him. If he thought he could get away with what you're suggesting in the OP he'd do it. He's not stupid.
 

Halba

Professional
#10
poll should have option: he hasnt beaten any good players on hard court since us open 2017. he simply is a good but not great hard court player. He has only 1 AO title to his name. the players he played in the draw were weak players.
 
#11
Some good answers. I think his entire performance was due to having to play Novak's game from the first point until the last. Whenever he tried to play close to the baseline Novak would just rob him of time, especially with that outworldly backhand of his. Whenever he tried to go back, to his favourite position, Novak would start running him left and right as if on a string. I don't think Rafa had more than a dozen points that were played 'his' way; it was always Novak's way, even on Rafa's own serve.

Of course it didn't help that pretty much every time he had a winning court position he'd pull an unforced error. But a big part of it is also Novak's defense; Rafa knew he had to always hit his best shots and it is not easy even for him.

In short, Novak did to Rafa what Rafa has done to countless people - either dominate them with superior groundstrokes and then finish them off with outright winners or force them into stupid errors due to being desperate, short of time and out of position.

Edit: I don't think I have ever seen Rafa completely whiff on a forehand; even on clay... it happened yesterday and it definitely wasn't a bad bounce.
 

Mr Feeny

Hall of Fame
#12
I don't know what to make of his performance. I was trying to figure out what he or Novak were doing different, tactically, to explain why this match was as one sided as it was in Novak's favour, but I can't seem to put my finger on it.

Nadal also left a lot of short balls in the 2011 US open final, and in extended stretches of the 2012 AO final, but neither was as one sided as this.

Apart from the fact that Nadal wasn't hitting his forehand down the line, what exactly does everyone here think played the biggest role in the scoreline being what it was?
 

Mr Feeny

Hall of Fame
#13
Some good answers. I think his entire performance was due to having to play Novak's game from the first point until the last. Whenever he tried to play close to the baseline Novak would just rob him of time, especially with that outworldly backhand of his. Whenever he tried to go back, to his favourite position, Novak would start running him left and right as if on a string. I don't think Rafa had more than a dozen points that were played 'his' way; it was always Novak's way, even on Rafa's own serve.

Of course it didn't help that pretty much every time he had a winning court position he'd pull an unforced error. But a big part of it is also Novak's defense; Rafa knew he had to always hit his best shots and it is not easy even for him.

In short, Novak did to Rafa what Rafa has done to countless people - either dominate them with superior groundstrokes and then finish them off with outright winners or force them into stupid errors due to being desperate, short of time and out of position.

Edit: I don't think I have ever seen Rafa completely whiff on a forehand; even on clay... it happened yesterday and it definitely wasn't a bad bounce.
Excellent analysis. When I read that, most of it rang true and I could see what you were talking about.
 
#14
Rafa just got out played in the AO finals. Djokovic made few errors and his game was perfectly on. Back to the training strategy for Rafa team. The slow, top spin sitting up did not help matters either for Rafa. Of course Rafa was on the defensive a lot today as well.
 
#17
Rafa just got out played in the AO finals. Djokovic made few errors and his game was perfectly on. Back to the training strategy for Rafa team. The slow, top spin sitting up did not help matters either for Rafa. Of course Rafa was on the defensive a lot today as well.
Yeah, Djokvic right now is a terrible matchup for Rafa. He pretty much defends and moves as well as Nadal, if not then a bit better. On top of that, his two handed backhand is arguable the best twohander in men's tennis right now, which neutralizes Rafa biggest weapon - his lefty forehand to the backhand of righty players. Then you look at their serves, and Djokovic seems to have more options or more choices that he goes to, plus he defends his second serve incredibly well. Probably one of the reasons why Nadal had very few break point chances in the match. In fact, I don't think he had any until the 3rd set.
 

Mr Feeny

Hall of Fame
#18
Yeah, Djokvic right now is a terrible matchup for Rafa. He pretty much defends and moves as well as Nadal, if not then a bit better. On top of that, his two handed backhand is arguable the best twohander in men's tennis right now, which neutralizes Rafa biggest weapon - his lefty forehand to the backhand of righty players. Then you look at their serves, and Djokovic seems to have more options or more choices that he goes to, plus he defends his second serve incredibly well. Probably one of the reasons why Nadal had very few break point chances in the match. In fact, I don't think he had any until the 3rd set.
He didn't have one till the penultimate game, if I'm not mistaken. He only took 1 point on Novak's serve in the 1st set and Djokovic looked really comfortable on his serve for the most part. It was surprising to see.
 
#20
Edit: I don't think I have ever seen Rafa completely whiff on a forehand; even on clay... it happened yesterday and it definitely wasn't a bad bounce.
Actually, his racquet touched his left knee just a little before hitting the ball - changing the trajectory of the racquet in the process.
 
#22
Djokovic was tremendous today, but regardless of the narrative that he took all of Nadal’s time away, his depth/length was just unacceptable. He knew the ball wouldn’t kick up on clay, so why not aim for depth and pull the trigger on the FH side as soon as you get a slightly short ball? His strategy made no sense and it didn’t seem to change.
abdominal strain...
 
#23
Djokovic was tremendous today, but regardless of the narrative that he took all of Nadal’s time away, his depth/length was just unacceptable. He knew the ball wouldn’t kick up on clay, so why not aim for depth and pull the trigger on the FH side as soon as you get a slightly short ball? His strategy made no sense and it didn’t seem to change.

I would agree that it was unacceptable, especially when it is a major final. At times it looked as if Rafa didn't belong on TV. Tuned in to watch a bit of tennis and it looked more like death wish 8, ya know. I had a nightmare about Rafa's supporting box last night as well. Not good. Djokovic though, wow, what a geez.

 
#24
Excellent analysis. When I read that, most of it rang true and I could see what you were talking about.
Agreed ... Kalin's post is on point. I would add that the forehand down the line you mentioned was something Novak targeted coming into this match. I personally feel his team addressed this via a combination of FHDTLs from Novak and sharper cross-courts backhands. Of course, these type of "tactical" changes are easier said than done right? But Novak executed beautifully, and as a result, Rafa had no answer. He simply couldn't play aggressively as Novak continued to rob him of time and push him around. He was just too good on this day, and even the errors from Rafa I think were mostly due to a lack of an answer for what Novak was bringing. Credit to him for an outstanding performance.
 

Rosstour

Professional
#27
I don't know what to make of his performance. I was trying to figure out what he or Novak were doing different, tactically, to explain why this match was as one sided as it was in Novak's favour, but I can't seem to put my finger on it.

Nadal also left a lot of short balls in the 2011 US open final, and in extended stretches of the 2012 AO final, but neither was as one sided as this.

Apart from the fact that Nadal wasn't hitting his forehand down the line, what exactly does everyone here think played the biggest role in the scoreline being what it was?
2 things

1. Movement. Djoker's defense was incredible and Nadal couldn't just wear him out and discourage him like he does to everyone else.

2. Djoker knows how to beat Rafa, you keep the ball up the middle until you have the shot you want. Rafa thrives on being pulled wide.
 

Halba

Professional
#28
Rafa has been poor on AO hardcourt for a long time actually. He has only won AO title once, in 2009 in his best form in his career.
He was simply overrated massively going into the match. he never was a great AO hardcourter in the past 6-7 years.
Nadal's hardcourt and grass game peaked in the previous decade and declined significantly in the past few years(the us open being the exclusion).

His clay game, however, never declined.
 

Enga

Professional
#29
Just based on the observation of the highlights on Youtube, I get the impression Djokovic was much faster than Nadal that night. Nadal relies heavily on mixing it up with his forehand, and for that he needs some really good movement, circling the backhand and getting there early so he can take advantage of all the angles. But Djokovic kept him on the defense a lot, and Nadal was often just barely getting to the ball and chipping it back with slices. Because Nadal wasn't very quick, his plays becomes predictable, and Djokovic can use his speed to take the ball on the rise to keep Nadal on defense.

Nadal was certainly trying to go on the offense, he hit a lot of flat forehands, looking for easy points or damage Djokovic's defense, but Djokovic's court coverage is still good, he doesn't get bothered by aggressive play, especially from someone who doesn't usually do that. Djokovic with his flexibility and speed, always gets to the ball quick and even if sometimes he doesn't, he can use flexibility to place the ball anywhere, which makes him always unpredictable in his play pattern. Basically, Nadal is shoehorned into only a few play patterns that works for him, while Djokovic has many more play patterns that work for him, keeping him in the points. Also, Nadal's serve wasn't hurting him.

But based on what I saw, Nadal will still be the favorite at the French Open. Suffering from speed disadvantage isn't as huge on clay. Inconsistent bounces, windy conditions, Djokovic can't hug the baseline that much on clay. Nadal has been working on his strokes, hitting the ball with a lot of power still. I think it's enough to keep him in dominant positions in rallies on the clay.
 

Halba

Professional
#35
agree. djokovic was playing a lot faster than rafa, thats because he's a much more natural hard courter/fast court player ,in the same vein as Federer.
 
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