Roddick on Rafa’s backhand

Photo by Beth Wilson

Nice interview with Andy Roddick at the Inside Tennis site. In it, he’s asked to pick his favorite backhand on the tour:

AR: Rafa’s got a great backhand. And no one talks about it because everyone one likes talking about the pretty one-handers. The shot that looks great is a shotmaking shot because you see it on a highlight reel and it looks great. Rafa’s is solid. Every single one is heavy. His ability to mix up the height on it, the way he passes off of it. He has a great backhand.

(He also has great things to say about one of my other favs, David Ferrer.)

36 Responses

  1. Eliana says:

    I really like Andy. He has shown Rafa some love during these years. And so great that he shines a light to Rafa’s backhand. Beautiful movement and definitely agree with you miri in this one, his face, that stare, brutal!!

  2. Nana says:

    Interesting perspective from an actual opponent. Rafa’s backhand may not always make shot of the week but its craft and power can only be truly felt by someone who has to hit that ball back.

    I’m a tennis layman and always find it hard to comprehend the difference between forced and unforced errors. When someone’s in a perfect position to hit the ball and they make an error, that’s an UE. But is that possible that they’re actually “forced”, i.e. caused by the spin or the power or weird angle hit by the opponent? If that’s the case, maybe some of the opponents’ UEs are actually winners by Rafa!

    Feel almost embarrassed to sound like a complete fan girl. But if someone can explain a bit I would be most glad to enrich my tennis knowledge!

    • An says:

      Nana, don’t feel embarrased! You’re a Rafanatic, that shows you have more knowledge off tennis then some people who actually play it already:)

      Yes, you are absolutly right, the people who do the statistics in these matches judge wheter they count it as an UFE or not and i think sometimes its verry hard to tell if they really should count it as an ufe.
      For example we saw Thiemo de Bakker play against Rafa last week, Thiemo whas making a lot off UFE’s that day, but how manny really where unforced, well only Thiemo could tell!

      My opinion is that maybe because he never played Rafa before he had a lot off trouble returning the heavy spinn balls that Rafa hits better then any other.. Because off the spinn the ball bounces a lot higher ( espacially on clay ) and they are verry difficult to read, plus it takes a whole lot off adjustment to youre technique to retrurn that balls, i can tell you its much harder to hit these balls then a realy flat hard hitted ball!
      Furthermore, because Rafa defends so well and he gets back balls that normally would have bin winners against a lot off other opponents Rafa forces his opponents to play sharper, closer to the lines, he forces them to take more risks because to hit a winner against Rafa the ball never has to be just good, they have to be perfect, otherwise he’ll get to it and return it!:) And you can imagine that having to take more risk, under the constant pressure to hit perfect balls to make a point…… yes, you sooner will fail!

      So you saw it right! Altough an error for the opponent will never be count as a winner for Rafa but the line between wich is an forced error or an unforced error is sometimes verry thin and i think easaly miss judged.

      • Nana says:

        Thanks An! You’ve explained it very clearly and I understand a lot more, but now I want to return a Rafa ball just to experience it!

        And I also understand more how frustrating it must be for Rafa’s opponents, being forced to take risks and then fail. It can really get on your nerve! No wonder they always look barking mad.

        • An says:

          Hah. Yes i would love the experience off having to return Rafa’s balls;)

          • natch says:

            Poof! Rafa’s balls are mentioned, and I show up! ;)

            But…erm…I wouldn’t return them. I would make him beg for them back. ;P

            • an says:

              huh, i knew you would Natch…. I knew you would;) And iff and how i would return his balls would totally depend on with wich balls he would be hitting me, No?

      • Dolcefuga says:

        Hi An,

        Thank you so much for breaking it down, I am new to tennis and just got interested because of you know who. I have a lot of questions about the intricacies of the game and didn’t know who to ask. It is also great to know how Rafa’s abilities are over and above others that make me appreciate him even more.

  3. Atch2 says:

    I thought his backhands at Monte Carlo were fantastic.

    • tiemyshoe says:

      Me, too. I think his backhand on clay is marvelous – he’s got time to set up the shot, and he can hit through the court with it better than his forehand.

      It’s also possibly the shot to look at if one has questions about his knees. I think it might’ve been on this site or somewhere else that I read someone saying last year he protected his right knee by not stepping into his backhand, which is why it got so slice-y. At MC, his court positioning was so good he could just rip it! Sooo satisfying to watch.

      • neilintoronto says:

        Also i think you can easily judge where Rafa’s confidence is by his backhand. Sometimes on hardcourt, he tends to go to the slice more, because its not his favourite surface. When i see him cracking the two handers, especially indoors on hardcourts, i’m pretty secure in knowing he feels good about his game :D

        • miri says:

          Not just his confidence, but also his movement and/or how rushed he is. He slices a lot when he can’t quite get to the ball in time to do a full two-handed backhand with all the top spin.

          • neilintoronto says:

            I also like that he uses the slice against guys who have a harder time generating their own pace. Like after Gilles Simon beat him in Madrid, he sliced the crap outta the ball against him in their 09 A.O. quarter final :)

  4. Maria says:

    Such a good read this interview. I liked everything that Andy said, the guy’s really good at words and always manages to sound honest about Rafa. In fact, I think he’s the only one on tour who has enough imagination and just the right measure of pride to not be totally boring, utterly spiteful, inescapably patronizing or downright stupid in his judgment of Rafa.

    • Atch2 says:

      Agree, good interview.
      I find that A-Rod can be a bit of a pain-in-the-ass on court a lot of times with his temper and attitude, but he is not fake, he tells it like it is and you can tell he luvs to play tennis. I like his interviews/pressers bec they are honest, humourous and he articulate.

      I liked the interview that he and his coach did last yr complimenting Rafa’s game.
      And I luv his description of Wimby here and you can tell he is in awe of the tournament and it would mean a lot to him to win it.

      • natch says:

        “I liked the interview that he and his coach did last yr”
        Poof! Did someone mention SpankMe Stefanki? ? ;)

        Completely agree with you on A-Rod, Atch. Although I don’t find him a pain-in-the-ass, because I understand where he is coming from. If he sees a wrong, he wants to right it immediately. He may be wrong about seeing that wrong, and he will own up to it when he realizes it. But I like his sense of fairplay. Hm. Fairplay…foreplay…SpankMe Stefanki…Rafa…SpankMe…*faints*

        • Atch2 says:

          Natch, your mind is wondering off topic now :D Lets talk about Rafa’s balls instead.

          • natch says:

            No problemo! Let’s see…when I saw Rafa warming up last summer…his balls were usually high and tight. *coughs*

            I understand that Andy is on the Twitter thing. I am not, but I would if Andy started twittering about Rafa’s balls. ;)
            *throws down challenge handkerchief to A-Rod to discuss Rafa’s balls*

            • miri says:

              No problemo! Let’s see…when I saw Rafa warming up last summer…his balls were usually high and tight. *coughs*

              Well, he is only 23…

            • CC says:

              Yup, that would make me consider following twitter too. But only that. ;)

              I love tight balls. Especially Rafa’s… Oh, to feel. Mmmm…

      • Maria says:

        I enjoyed that interview too, exactly because you could sense Andy was not fake in what he was saying. I also liked what he said about Roger’s tearful moment at the 2009 – zero sympathy. I felt the same way.
        His description of Wimbly – just perfect:)

  5. Fay says:

    Nice honest interview by A-Rod, he does have his on court debates at times but never reaeally goes over the top. He is straight to the point and I like his attitude.. really felt for him when he lost to Fed last year but again he found away to take out the positives from it, after all he only lost by a whisker! and gave the crowd something to be proud of..
    He must want that elusive Wimbledon title more than ever now.. First time I have seen a player in awe of Rafa’s b/h and he also mentions Rafa as being mentally strong, alot of respect there, I hope to see him along with Rafa later at Queens in June I have yet to catch Andy live..

  6. Fay says:

    Pssst Miri, like your new Poll!

  7. ang says:

    Yeah another one of my favorite Andy on Rafa comments is that “playing Rafa up by net is like driving into head on traffic” another is when asked who he could play in the next match and just said well “Rafa is Rafa”… every since the AO Hit for Haiti I want them to play doubles together.

  8. natch says:

    Gosh, with all these nice comments on the article…I’m going to actually have to go back and read it! :D

  9. JK says:

    Andy just loves Rafa cause Rafa is able to do what Roddick has failed quite a few times. Beat Roger in grand slam finals. Rafa has put Roger through the same pain – Roger puts Roddick through on numerous occassions… Hehe

  10. Nana says:

    Oh we’re into Andy on rafa quotes now? Ok… I remember one. He likened Rafa to Bambi once, didn’t he? Cutie…

  11. CC says:

    I have loved Andy Roddick ever since I heard him tell an umpire to “get off his fat ass and take a look at the mark…”. This interview only confirms my love. :)

  12. jimmy says:

    Much as it pains me to say this, I don’t agree with Roddick here. Nadal’s backhand, while solid, does not merit it’s place among the best in the game. In fact it’s not even among the best double handed backhands in ATP.

    As far as two handers go. When it’s on, Nalbadian’s backhand is certainly still the best backhand in the game. Next is Djokovic (although we haven’t seen much of that lately) While Djokovic doesn’t create the same angles that Nalbandian does, his backhand is huge especially the down the line. It’s also terrific on the run and when he’s defending. One step down would be Murray’s backhand whose striking is effortless and the technique is textbook.

    Nadal is amazingly consistent with his backhand, his cross-court backhand is one of the best in the game, however, it’s penetrates the court only when he is playing well. Nadal’s backhand passes are also excellent mainly because of his footwork.
    The deficiency for Nadal is his backhand down the line. The reason why it is not great is the same reason which makes his cross-court effective i.e using the top right hand as the dominant hand (him being a natural righty). Because of this he cannot utilize the right amount of upper body rotation when he hits down the line as opposed to hitting it cross court. Finally his backhand while stretching out wide on the run, plays havoc on his knees and ankles. ( See here: ). That is surely a technical deficiency.
    All that said, Nadal has done extremely well to improve his backhand over the years. While watching his matches from 2004-2006, his backhand is a almost a liability. Not any more..

    • tiemyshoe says:

      Wow, that video does show how much stress that shot on the stretch puts on his body. Ow, ankle!

      Do you think the way he slides on clay also affects his backhand? I say this because as Rafa is right-handed, he also seems a bit more left-footed, so he tends to slide on his left toward his backhand, and that seems to give him less recovery time when he’s under pressure.

    • miri says:

      But notice he refers to how heavy Rafa’s backhand is. I think he’s saying that from an opponent’s perspective, Rafa’s backhand is hard to return and, therefore, a weapon he admires.

      • kefuoe says:

        Yes, I noticed the comment about the weight of the backhand, too. That feel can’t really be gauged while watching a match. Hitting a very heavy ball also has the effect of wearing down your opponent over the course of the match. I think Roddick may have been highlighting that it’s not just about being able to produce winners from that side, but also how it affects players over time.

        • Atch2 says:

          His game seemed pretty complete at Monte Carlo of what I watched. I didn’t feel nervous when opponents hit to his backhand bec it wasn’t a weakness. Seemed to be complimenting his forehand in setting up points and as you said wearing his opponents down. Rafa’s forehand is not going to make winners like his forehand but it’s also not a weakness.

  13. ang says:

    I found this article there is some more Andy on Rafa in this article ( Very intresting