Rafa’s playing style

Rafa Nadal: “My game is to play with the rallies. I don’t want to play serve and volley or serve and one shot or ace. Everybody has to know that. My game is to play with intensity, play good rhythm all the time, and try to play long times without having mistakes.”

Forehand:

Rafael Nadal forehand

His heavy spin forehand is one of the heaviest shot in today’s tennis. It’s the central component of his game, allowing him to dictate the play from the baseline.
Nadal forehand shot rotates at an average of 3200 times a minute (2700 for Roger Federer). Being given that he plays left handed, the spins come onto the racquet different to what players practise all of the time. Lately he tried to reduce the spin in order to win more winners, especially on hard courts.


Backhand:

Rafael Nadal backhand

Essentially a defensive shot at the beginning of his pro career, his backhand is now a reliable weapon. A natural righty, Nadal can use his dominant right hand as an anchor for his two handed backhand. That enables him to produce spectacular passing shots from difficult angles. His improved slice backhand also brought more variety/versatility to his game.
Like Borg, he adapts his backhand from clay to grass quite easily: he hits with deeper length and less topspin on grass.

Footwork:

Rafael Nadal footwork

According to Paul Annacone (Sampras’ former coach): ‘He might look rugged and violent out there, but Nadal moves economically and precisely. On clay, no one is better.’

Serve:

Rafael Nadal on serve

Arguably the weakest component of his game but also the area he improved the most since his pro debut. Coach Toni and Rafa have focused on increasing the velocity of Nadal’s serve in the hope of earning more aces, allowing him to win more easy points and putting pressure on his opponent from first shot on.

Volley:

Rafael Nadal volley

Nadal’s net game is largely underrated. For sure, he’ll never be a serve and volley player but he’s able to approach the net following a big forehand attack and finish the point. He can volley deep and has a nice touch and feel. He’s also one of the few top players who plays regularly in doubles (he captured 6 doubles titles including 2008 Monte Carlo and
2010 Indian Wells ).

Physique:

Rafael Nadal

Probably his biggest force but also his biggest weakness.
Rafa is blessed with incredible raw athleticism, but he keeps struggling with recurring knee injuries which forced him to withdraw from Wimbledon last year. Rafa should shorten the rallies to preserve his body but needs first to improve his serve. Some are concerned for Nadal’s longevity but with little changes in his game and a lighter schedule he could regain his 2008 form and keep amassing trophies in the years to come.

Mental:

Rafael Nadal

Nadal plays every point as though it were the last and has the ability to focus on winning the current point regardless score. But he seems to have lost some confidence in his game since his multiple breaks injuries, as he recently suffered little mental collapses which cost him victories (vs Ljubicic in Indian Wells and Roddick in Miami).

Tactics:

Rafael Nadal

Another part of his game he could (should) improve. All his game is based on his heavy topspin forehand, tenacious court coverage and amazing athleticism.
He should vary more to shorten the rally, and attack the net more often.

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