Rafael Nadal Is Dominant and Unique

(Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP/Getty Images)

(Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP/Getty Images)

Sally Jenkins has written a lovely article full of Rafa-love for the Washington Post – here.

You want to play like Nadal? Study a door that swings crazily on a broken hinge and slams shut. That’s the closest equivalent to the wild heretical action Nadal calls his forehand, which is the biggest shot in the game right now. Only a corporal genius could organize all of those contradictory motions — the open stance and the closed racket face, the outstretched arms yet folded knees — into such powerful strokes. And not just organize them, repeat them. In fact, Nadal might be the best athlete in the world right now.

Corporal genius – I likes the sound of that.

“As much as you can hand every artistic and aesthetic accolade to Federer, Rafa Nadal has changed the way the game is played, not just on clay but anywhere,” says ESPN and NBC commentator Mary Carillo. “If you want to be the greatest tennis player you can be, you watch Nadal.”

Mary’s felt the Rafa-love for a long time now.

The article goes on to give you a step by step on trying to imitate Rafa’s shots…and tie yourself up like a pretzel and probably sprain a few joints thanks to the attempt.

Paul Annacone, the former coach of Pete Sampras, noted in a Tennis Magazine analysis that the end result of Nadal’s seemingly wasteful, muscled action is a natural recovery into a new stance. As he comes to a stop, “his trailing leg slides along to the ready position without sending him any farther from the center of the court.” While it may seem inefficient, it isn’t. “He might look rugged and violent out there,” Annacone says, “but Nadal moves economically and precisely. On clay, no one does it better.”

Now that’s nice to hear. Most writers seem to make Rafa sound like a flailing out of control gyroscope. I like the idea of him being a fierce economical and precise Swiss watch a bit better. *ahem*

Watch him particularly at the French because, as versatile as he is and capable of winning on grass and hard courts, clay is his true habitat, the surface on which he is most natural. Watch him because he’s the greatest player in the world at the moment, in the tournament that remains the truest test in tennis. As Carillo says, “it’s still the most beautiful expression of the sport.” Dirty, but beautiful.

Yes ma’am! We’ll be watching. You can bet the farm on that.

12 Responses

  1. tiemyshoe says:

    I saw this article today, too! This –

    Watch him because he’s the greatest player in the world at the moment, in the tournament that remains the truest test in tennis. As Carillo says, “it’s still the most beautiful expression of the sport.” Dirty, but beautiful.

    – just shows that not only has RG made Rafa’s career, but that Rafa’s also bringing claycourt tennis to the forefront in a way that hasn’t been the case probably since Borg. It seems like tennis federations everywhere are trying to train their kids on clay, and I’m sure Rafa’s success has something to do with the burgeoning interest.

  2. kefuoe says:

    That was a nice piece of writing. I think that there is something important to learn from Nadal’s game that she dind’tmention. I don’t know if it’s teachable or not, but one of the big reasons I’ve been attracted to Nadal’s game is that I feel like he is a lesson in perseverance and concentration– two things lacking in my game. When I’m struggling in a set, I tell myself to “be with calm”, like Nadal would. I’m not sure it helps, but it makes me smile!

  3. niki says:

    Just in time. I needed this article to reaffirm Rafa’s Awesome to myself – have been inexplicably panicking on the inside ever since RG began. Of course, I should have known better than to doubt a “spontaneous wildflower of a talent.” Not sure why, but that description sounds a little dirty. Naturally, I love it.

  4. johanne says:

    Nice to see the word ‘genius’ attached to Rafa’s name. Who cares if he doesn’t play like a certain someone or the way some tennis snobs feel one “should” play. It’s amazing to watch his game unfold on court – probably because he is so unique. There will be no one else like him. Rafa is a breath of fresh air, if you ask me. Easy on the eyes, too. ;)

    • sG says:

      I’m just glad Rafa is being recognized as his own person. For so long he’s been Federer’s foil, his spoiler, his albatross. It’s kind of nice to see Rafa being recognized as an entity with talent outside of ‘what he’s doing to Federer…’. He’s got his own history to make.

  5. June says:

    Thanks again Miri, I saw that one earlier while finding this other one. Here’s another great article I wanted to share in case no one else got to see it. It’s entitled “Roger Federer needs to beat Rafael Nadal to become best-ever player” written by By Chris Wilson on May 24, 2009 on foxsports.com.au. It’s also a very nice reading what John Newcombe has to say about RAFA & Newsflash to RF in case he’s wondering — you ain’t gonna beat RN & you can take that to the bank!!! Enjoy :-) Tomorrow’s the day (#30) **everyone please cross your fingers & hope like heck**

  6. aRafaelite says:

    Great article. I’ve never agreed with the commentary about Rafa’s game being dirty or inelegant or about him muscling his way round the court and bullying his opponents (though I can understand how they might feel that)! The reason I love to watch Rafa is because there’s an extraordinary beauty and balance in his movements. Try and copy that signature buggy whip forehand in slow motion – it draws all the energy back into the body ready for the next shot instead of jarring the way it does if you finish the shot across the body like most players. Watch the lines of his body when he plays and it’s like watching Tai Chi at warp speed – for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction which harnesses natural energy flows. Watching Rafa is like watching raw energy in motion. Beautiful and elemental, but not dirty.

  7. Nada H. T says:

    Simply, Wonderful !!

    She’s so insightful !