With the current tennis season over, the players are preparing for the start of the next one. The first big tournament will be the Australian Open, where Novak Djokovic will try to defend his title. However, Spaniard Rafa Nadal will have a word or two to say as he could become only the second man to win all Grand Slams at least twice and join Rod Laver in this remarkable achievement.
Rafael Nadal has been the dominant player for most of 2013, capturing the #1 ranking on the ATP Tour.
With Nadal surpassing his most prominent rivals such as Novak Djokovic and David Ferrer, this leaves most commentators wondering how exactly Nadal has managed to capture the spotlight this year.
Most notably, Nadal has maintained a Win-Loss record of 75-7 in 2013.
Even though Nadal began the season on a rough patch with a knee injury, he managed to take home the US Open and French Open titles in 2013.
An Iconic Figure of the Modern Game
Rafael Nadal’s game is synonymous for deep penetrating baseline shots to wear his opponents down physically and mentally. In many ways, Nadal’s combination of heavy topspin and aggressive movement is the trademark of the modern game.
Most commentators surmised that Nadal’s intensive side to side power baseline game would eventually cause him to succumb to an early retirement due to the physical demands on his body with the game style that Nadal possesses.
While these commentators may have been patting themselves on the back for their ominous predictions, they were only partially correct. Nadal required a seven month layoff due to his knee injury. Thankfully, he has came roaring back in 2013 to the surprise of his fans and competitors alike.
Part of the reason behind Rafael Nadal’s remarkable comeback from his injury in 2013 is due to his incredible discipline on the court. Many players (including pro players) have struggled to comeback from injuries, due to the staggering physical and mental drawbacks that are involved with having to take time off from the game.
Recovering from injuries requires the upmost care to perform a highly disciplined rehabilitation routine. It is a process that cannot be rushed, and is often a frustrating time for any athlete. Nadal’s successful comeback can be attributed to his positive mindset and well as his willingness to put in the work required to return to full strength.
Top Notch Physical Conditioning
Rafael Nadal’s amazing 2013 run was also partially attributed to his top notch physical conditioning and rehabilitation program. Nadal has long been known for being one of the fittest competitors on tour. With Nadal’s incredible cardiovascular endurance, he is able to dominate his opponents in grueling three and five set matches on virtually any surface.
Changes to Nadal’s Court Positioning
Nadal has also learned to adapt his game style accordingly to different surfaces. In the past, his baseline clay court style always allowed his opponents to capitalize with more penetrating shots against Nadal. Recently, he has learned to play closer to the baseline – which takes time away from his opponents. This also increased his effectiveness on the faster hard courts such as the US Open.
By a combination of physical conditioning and adjustments to his court positioning, Nadal has been able to stay toe to toe with his competitors on every Grand Slam surface. This is what makes Nadal incredibly difficult to play.
One element that separates the champions of every great sport from the rest of the pack is their willingness to compete in the moment. Many athletes have great raw talent, but their attitude and demeanor are their limiting factors.
Rafael Nadal is an expert when it comes to playing every point as if it were match point. Regardless of whether Nadal is down 2 sets to 1, or in the midst of bageling his opponents – Nadal plays every point with maximum intensity.
Very few players have the desire and willingness to battle every point the way that Nadal does. His ability to play at 100% intensity irrespective of the score or situation is what makes Nadal a championship competitor.
A Strong Fighting Spirit
Nadal understands that tennis is a game of momentum, and he knows that if he can win one point at a time – he can change the dynamics of the entire tennis match. While most pro players become disappointed by their temporary setbacks, Nadal uses this as fuel to pump himself up to play even better the next point.
While Nadal has always had a strong fighting spirit, he knew that 2013 was a critical turning point for him. Nadal knew that if he wanted to be a top notch competitor once again, he had to prove it by successfully overcoming his knee injury.
Applying Nadal’s Skill Set into Your Own Game
One amazing aspect behind Nadal’s game mentality is that he is willing to run down every single tennis ball no matter where he is on the court.
Even in practice, Nadal can be seen using the same intensity as if he were in an actual match. Most club players (even pro players) tend to be lackadaisical in the practice courts. By practicing the way he wants to play, Nadal is ingraining the correct intensity he needs, so that his optimal level becomes instinctive once he gets into a real match.
Players at all levels of the game can learn from Nadal’s intensity and positivity regardless of the situation. Not only is Nadal a championship competitor, but he is also a great role model for tennis players at all other levels of the game.
This article was written by Coach Ed of Optimumtennis.net