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.