lunes, 11 de junio de 2012


José Manuel Serrano Esparza
Rafa Nadal has just won his seventh Roland Garros, beating Novak Djokovic in the final in four sets 6-4, 6-3, 2-6 and 7-5 after a very hard match of 3 hours and 49 minutes disputed during June 10, 2012 and June 11, 2012 Monday, which has been one of the most terrific battles from base line ever disputed.

An unprededented feat in the History of Tennis, with which this extraordinary Spanish sportsman overcomes the figure of six Roland Garros tournaments that he shared till now with the Swedish player Bjorn Borg, pioneer of the topspin tennis from mid seventies.

From scratch, the game beginning on Sunday became a struggle of titans between the two best tennis players on earth, who fought to their limit to achieve victory: Djokovic in search of his Grand Slam and Nadal looking for his seventh Roland Garros Cup, which he managed to attain, after leaving all of him on the court against an exceedingly tough Novak Djokovic, who sweated blood and always attained to recover when he was on the brink of defeat, thenks to his talent and the huge strength and accuracy of his shots from baseline, both using drive and two-handed backhand.

But Rafael Nadal proved once more something which has been known for years: he is the best player on clay court in the history of this sport,

a full-fledged machine possessing the best drive of all time, which he handles with amazing accuracy and power, thanks to his extraordinary physical condition, strength and stamina, enabling him hitting the ball with tremendous power, applying it a topspin effect load far superior to the rest of ATP Top Ten players, because of his left arm uncommon strength.

The Spanish player born in Manacor is a 1. 85 m tall and 86 kg (14 more than Bjorn Borg, who was 1´80 m tall with a weight of 72 kg during his halcyon days between 1974 and 1981) of pure muscles true boundless force of nature, merging incredible power and precision of shots with a physical capacity and resistance to fatigue more typical in an Olympic decathlon athlete, which allows him to play at the same level from the first to the last game of the five sets in Grand Slam tournaments and arrive at balls that are unreachable for the other players of the ATP circuit, thanks to his great speed of movements and sense of anticipation.

Moreover, Rafael Nadal has devoted himself to very hard daily seasons of intensive training since the beginning of his career, making a very wide range of physical exercises aimed at adapting his body to the very exacting conditions of ATP Circuit (with constant travels all over the world, uninterrupted calendar of games and surface changes stressing the players muscular balance to the utmost) and developing brutal routines of compensatory work focused on specific areas of his anatomy, whose goal is to avoid body unbalances and all kinds of injuries always haunting tennis players, particularly shoulder ones.

It all makes that Nadal features an unmatched combination of muscle coordination and explosive strength within the tennis world, complemented by a unique mobility capacity bearing in mind his height, weight, and very powerful musculature, along with a resistance to fatigue (50 heart beats/minute resting and 72 mm of oxygene consumed per minute and kg) comparable to a professional marathon runner of cyclist specialized on mountain stages.

Until now, trhoughout the whole history of tennis, only the Swedish player Björn Borg (72 kg) had been able to gather such qualities of speed of movements and endurance to fatigue, but Nadal (86 kg) is physically far superior to Borg in all,and every evaluable parameter, and above all, he has a much stronger power and accuracy of shots, pareticularly with his drive, along with a much better volley both with his forehand and his backhand.

Rafael Nadal is the Robocop of ATP, and he masterfully uses his high-tech graphite/tungsten Babolat Aeropro Drive GT racket featuring a RPM Blast 135/15 cord at 25 kg to steadily send very powerful and accurate winning shots aiming at the lines or clobbering the rival players approaching the net with his fabulous passing-shots, both through drive and backhand, from every conceivable angle, which dumbfound people on the bleachers, as happens in this example:

1) Novak Djokovic has just approached the net attacking Nadal´s backhand. The Spanish player waits for the ball bounce while he stares at it and begins to flex to get the best possible position before hitting the ball with his two-handed topspin backhand, supporting most of his weight on his left leg.

2) Just after the bounce of the ball, the body of Rafael Nadal acquires a remarkable tension. He has turned his torso and hip backwards, in the same way as his racket, in a movement previous to ball hitting. Nadal goes on staring at the ball.

3) Nadal´s left hip and shoulder are perpendicular to Novak Djokovic, while the racket of the Spanish player is fully backwards and about to start its lightning speed forward trajectory just before ball hitting, which Nadal keeps on staring. Stress in Nadal´s body increases by leaps and bounds, with all of his latent explosiveness still without unfolding.

4) Key moment of the play. Novak Djokovic tries to guess the trajectory that Rafael Nadal is gointg to give to the ball, striving after discerning whether the passing-shot will be parallel or crossed. The Spanish player from Manacor hides the shot until the last moment. Both players know very much each other. Stress is maximum, both on court and in the bleachers, and concentration in both sportsmen is top.

5) Thousandths of second later, Rafael Nadal hits the ball with tremendous power and load of topspin. He has chosen the crossed passing-shot. Novak Djokovic, with his legs utterly in tension and leaned on the tip of his feet looking for maximum mobility near the net, has guessed the intention of the Spanish player in the last moment.

6) Rafael Nadal has just hit the ball. His motion and muscular explosiveness has burst in a fraction of a second. His body, fully leaned on his left leg, reveals maximum convulsion and strenuous effort on using his two-handed bakhand. His racket is already behind the left area of his head. The ball speed is huge, in the same way as its topspin load. Novak Djokovic looks at the ball and tries to change his position towards the left, striving for reaching with his backhand volley to the shot sent by Nadal.

7) Nadal´s racket is already fully backwards, after having finished all the stage of prehitting, hitting and posthitting of his two-handed backhand. The ball goes on advancing at lightning speed towards Djokovic field. The Serbian player keeps on staring at the ball and is already fully aware that Nadal has opted for crossed trajectory in his passing-shot.

8) The Serbian player fights to his limit to reach the ball sent by Nadal (advancing at around 4,000 rpm), stretching his right arm and trying to connect his backhand volley, but the huge speed of the ball makes that Djokovic is not able to arrive in time.

9) The tremendous two-handed backhand crossed passing-shot sent by Rafael Nadal has finally a devastating effect and clearly beats Djokovic approach to the net, to such an extent that in spite of having guessed the trajectory of Nadal´s ball, when the Serbian player places his racket in position to use his backhand volley, the ball is already a lot of meters behind him, very near the base line.

Rafael Nadal has achieved something which deserves high accolades and was deemed almost impossible: to improve on clay court not only the mark of six Roland Garros attained by the Swedish player Bjorn Borg in 1974, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1980 and 1981 but also his playing from base line: Nadal´s topspin drive (with full Western grip) is the best in history, greatly beating in this regard the drive of legendary experts in this shot like John Newcombe (flat), Rod Laver (flat), Bjorn Borg (topspin), Ivan Lendl (flat) and Roger Federer (topspin), opening exceptional angles even under the most extreme and unfavourable match circumstances.

Nadal has an average ball impact speed with his topspin drive of 3,200 rpm, in comparison with Roger Federer´s 2700 rpm, but during decisive points or moments of maximum danger for him, he is able to hit the ball with his topspin drive at a speed of 5,000 rpm, stronger than the most powerful players with flat drives, but with a much higher control and accuracy.

But besides his drive, turned into an authentic lethal weapon, RAFAEL NADAL, a man featuring great self-discipline and working capacity, has greatly improved his level of tennis through very hard work and perseverence of years and currently has probably the best two-handed topspin backhand in the world (along with Novak Djokovic one, which is sometimes flat), with which he can also hold sway over the decisive points and stages of the matches at any moment, having likewise developed a very good sliced one-handed backhand which he makes perfectly, flexing to the utmost and enabling him to win some very valuable split seconds in moments of difficulties, when the rival is taking the initiative and makes him run after having hit two or more balls near the lines.

In the same way, his service has significantly improved as to power and location.

Obviously, Nadal is essentially a base line tennis player, and therefor, his service doesn´t have the tremedous cannon ball profile of historical gunners like Lewis Hoad, Pancho Gonzales, Roscoe Tanner, Steve Denton, Kevin Curren, Boris Becker, Pete Sampras, Marc Phillippousis, Goran Ivanisevic, Roger Federer, Andy Roddick, Ivo Karlovic and others, but it is a sliced service (very similar to the one developed by Bjorn Borg from 1975) with enough strength and above all placing that allows him to lead ahead in the game and even make aces in key instants, besides hiding very well, up to the last moment, the trajectory he´s going to apply to the ball.

On the other hand, both forehand and backhand Nadal´s volley is currently far better than usual in base line players, and has become a great weapon with which he wins a lot of important points in key moments.

It shouldn´t be forgotten - and this is very praiseworthy - that Rafa Nadal (who learned to play tennis on clay court) has managed to also perform at a top-notch level on the lawn of Wimbledon (where he has already won two titles in 2008 and 2010) and on very fast courts (he won the U.S Open Flushing Meadow in 2010 and the Australian Open in 2009) after having added to his repertoire of shots a very good drive and bakchand volley, improved through hard toil and exhausting training, because Nadal combines the best assortment of powerful and accurate base line shots in the world with a proved ability for the subtle touches when he is near the net, and even a remarkable ability for the making of drop-shots with which he breaks the pace of his adversaries, without forgetting that - in the same way as happened with Rod Laver during sixties - Nadal has a huge strength in his wrist and forearm enabling him to hit the ball with tremendous power and accuracy, even in full sprint, both by means of parallel and crossed shots, with the constant choice of using his famous ´ banana shots ´ (for example, in 2:56 of this video) full of lateral effect which makes the ball describe an external path outside the net, passing the rivals attacking him with the aim of volleying, and then progressively veering into the court towards the very line or near it.

The Babolat Aeropro Drive GT graphite/tungsten high-tech racquet and and strung at 25 kg becomes a lethal weapon in Rafael Nadal´s hands.

The upshot of it is that this huge versatility and utter adaptation of Rafa Nadal playing to clay, lawn, concrete and Deco-Turf II tennis courts have enabled him to win dozens of tournaments on every kind of surface and nothing less than eleven Grand Slam titles (Roland Garros 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012, Wimbledon 2008 and 2010, U.S Open 2010 and Australian Open 2009), having greatly overcome Ivan Lendl (another versatile player who conquered eight Grand Slam tournaments: Roland Garros 1984, 1986 and 1987, U.S Open 1985, 1986 and 1987, and Australian Open 1989 and 1990), equalling Bjorn Borg (winner of 11 Grand Slams: Roland Garros 1974, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981 and Wimbldon 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, and 1980, but who wasn´t able to ever win either the U.S Open or the Australian Open ), and being very near of surpassing the two historically benchmark players in this regard of winning important titles on clay, lawn, and concrete surfaces: Roy Emerson (champion in 12 Grand Slam tournaments: Wimbledon 1964 and 1965, Roland Garros 1963 and 1967, U.S Open 1961 and 1964 and Australian Open in 1961, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966 and 1967) and Rod Laver (champion in 11 Grand Slam tournaments: Wimbledon 1961, 1962, 1968 and 1969, Roland Garros 1962 and 1969, U.S Open 1962 and 1969 and Australian Open 1960, 1962 and 1969), and even to try to reach in the forthcoming years to Roger Federer, who goes on being the absolute monarch on all kind of surfaces, with his 14 Grand Slams (Wimbledon 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and the Australian Open 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2010).

On his turn, Pete Sampras, another of the greatest players of all time, won also 14 Grand Slams (7 Wimbledons, 5 U.S Opens and 2 Australian Opens), but wasn´t ever able to win Roland Garros.

On the other hand, Nadal always fights each point to the death and his rivals do know that they will have to die on the clay court to win him, since his mental strength is huge and besides, he knows very well how to play the important games.

The final of Roland Garros disputed between yesterday Sunday and today Monday between Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic has been one of the greatest tennis matches in history, without reaching the level of 1980 Wimbledon Final between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe or the 2008 Wimbledon Final with victory of Rafael Nadal on Roger Federer, but with levels of stress, expectation, frequent points of stratospheric level and above all a ruthless battle carried out from the base line at a crazy pace from beginning to end of the match and in which both players fought up to their very limit of his stamina while displaying immense tennistic gift and being the main characters of a brutal artillery duel from the base line, hitting the ball with huge power and accuracy, with forehand and backhand alike, and constantly aiming at the lines.

Nothing similar had been seen in the scope of tennis since the brutal and mythical matches Bjorn Borg-Jimmy Connors held from base line in the 1976 and 1978 U.S Open Finals (with victory of Connors), the 1977 and 1978 Wimbledon Finals (with victory of Borg), and the 1977 Masters Final (with victory of Jimbo), with both players steadily touching the lines with their shots.

And finally has prevailed the greater mental strength and physical freshness of Rafael Nadal in the most decisive moments, after developing an outstanding play during the whole Roland Garros 2012 tournament (he has only lost a set - before Djokovic, in the final - ), whichhe has finished today with this seventh title in Paris who undoubtedly crowns the Spanish player as Best Ever Tennis Player on Clay Court.

Now, the great question of tennis fans is if Rafa Nadal will be able to recover the Number 1 of the ATP who he had held for the last years and lost in 2011 in favour of Novak Djokovic, that is currently still the Number 1 of the Circuiot and the player to beat on quick courts.

It won´t be easy, but it seems clear that Rafa Nadal is able of everything.

As a matter of fact, the seventh title of Roland Garros he has just won in Paris is one of the most important feats in the history of sport.