In sports, things rarely happen by chance. And even less if it fits in tennis, where for years they have almost always won the same. Rafa Nadal is a huge compendium of virtues, which makes him an almost perfect competitive machine.
The regularity and solvency of the tennis of the Balearic Islands are one of its hallmarks. He finds himself like a fish in water with the long, hard exchanges that dominate tennis today. It has a very complete repertoire of hits, effects and rhythms.
Nadal starts the games in the dressing room tunnel and prints a high pace of play and power from the first to the last point of each game. Be it an affordable first round or the more difficult final. His best performance always occurs at a high heart rate, where many of his rivals collapse.
Also, playing against Nadal means having to beat him every point, either through winning shots or forcing his mistakes. Which, together with his regularity, makes each point a dog-face fight. With the physical and mental wear and tear that this entails. On the court, Rafa Nadal does not give his rival or the time.
He never gives up
Never. He doesn’t understand truces. His confidence in himself and in being able to turn around an adverse situation, impossible as it may seem, is another of his strengths. His rivals know that they can never relax and that if they do, they can pay dearly. He is fearsome even when he is far behind on the scoreboard.
A definite pattern of play.
Nadal has internalized patterns of play and plays that allow him to reduce mental stress and have greater success in continuous decision-making. He plays almost from memory, both on defence and offence. Without improvising excessively and keeping risk under control at all times. He seldom plays a ball that he does not touch in a match and masters the points. Also, his spinning game clears the net.
Very competitive mindset.
Nadal always wants to win. To what he plays and against whom he plays. Whether it’s ludo with his team in the off-hours, to the Play Station or to an impromptu challenge posed to him such as sneaking a ball into John McEnroe’s press booth in front of twenty thousand spectators. It is a competitive animal by nature and perfected through years of training. Few manage to beat him and fewer can boast of having won more than once in a row.
A privileged physical condition.
His intensity, consistency and pattern of play (he moves like no one at the bottom of the court) have shaped Nadal’s physique. It’s hard to find a similar blend of sheer power, explosiveness, and resistance to exertion and resilience afterwards. Hence his tendency to exhaust the estimated rest time between point and point of 25 seconds. Or his ability to keep a point alive by rowing from more than four meters behind the baseline.
Ability to cover the tennis court well.
His defensive qualities are well known. He is a tennis player who always forces the opponent to look for several winners per point. Because the ball always comes back. This quality, coupled with his physique, gives him an advantage on the huge centre courts of all four Grand Slam tournaments. His footwork is so remarkable that he can cover the court asymmetrically, to find the forehand more often, with which he usually moves from defence to attack. The short angles of him wreak havoc on the opponent’s legs.