martes, 10 de septiembre de 2013



Rafael Nadal has won the U.S Open 2013 (the thirteenth Grand Slam championship of his career) after beating Novak Djokovic 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 and 6-1, crowning an amazing season in which he has won ten titles ( Montreal, Roland Garros, Roma, Madrid, Conde de Godó, Indian Wells, Brasil, Mexico, Cincinnatti, U.S Open) with a 22-0 record on hard courts and 60-3 through the year on any kind of surfaces.

This is specially praiseworthy and unusual if we bear in mind that Nadal has particularly excelled this year 2013 on fast and very fast courts, as proved with his victories in Montreal, Indian Wells, Cincinnati (in which she defeated the 2,08 m American giant John Isner - a great player who performed a remarkable performance in the final match- through a double 7-8 tie-break) and the U.S Open he has just won.

As if this were not enough, it´s also important to bear in mind that it all has come after a seven month hiatus without playing tennis because of a serious knee injury.

But RAFAEL NADAL has managed to come back in a highly successful way, through very hard work, unutterable love for the game and an incredible mental strength.

He has already attained 13 Grand Slam championships. Only Roger Federer (17) and Pete Sampras (14) are over him in this regard, so Nadal is currently the third most important tennis player in the history of this sport and undoubtedly the best one ever playing from the baseline and on clay courts, as proved by his stunning 8 Roland Garros titles, to which must be added an impressive versatility and adaptability to all kind of surfaces which has enabled him to win hitherto nothing less than 5 Grand Slams (2 Wimbledons, 2 U.S Opens and 1 Australian Open) on fast courts.

On the other hand, Nadal has attained something which was deemed very difficult to accomplish: to improve the play from the baseline of the great Bjorn Borg (6 Roland Garros and 5 Wimbledons), the most important pioneer in the topspin play and a player whose physical capacity was awesome.

Nadal is with great difference the best tennis player in history regarding shots from the baseline, able to dominate the points once and again fro that area. 

His drive is a lethal weapon, the most powerful and specially controlled ever, with a brutal and unrivalled topspin effect, acceleration and accuracy, enabling him to dominate the game almost at every moment.

In addition, Nadal´s astounding speed of movements and fighting spirit makes him reach the balls sent by his rivals in the best possible conditions, with a very comprehensive arsenal of resources including his famous BANANA SHOT with which he opens incredible angles and that he has even been able to sometimes connect on the bounce-up, the PARALLEL PASSING-SHOT WITH SLICED SMASH, etc.

His two-handed backhand is very good, both offensively and defensively. Nadal is able to also connect it with very high levels of power, topspin effect and precision, and besides, he has developed a one-hand masterful sliced backhand stroke that sometimes uses as a reserve choice when he needs to slow the pace of the points when facing rivals generating very powerful flat shots in specific moments of the rallies like Novak Djokovic or the genius Roger Federer (the best tennis player ever).

Rafael Nadal has even been sometimes able to perform SLICED BACKHAND BANANA-SHOT PASSING-SHOTS, something extremely difficult and requiring a masterful touch of ballnot to say if it is carried out on the bounce-up.

Regarding his volley, this is another of the strongest sides in his repertoire. It´s excellent both forehand and backhand, and an unusual asset for a baseline player, being far better in this regard than the volley of historical topspin baseline specialists like Guillermo Vilas, Bjorn Borg, Mats Wilander, Ivan Lendl, etc.

Though not reaching the level of legendary volley masters like Roger Federer, John McEnroe, Rod Laver, Pete Sampras, Lewis Hoad, John Newcombe, Stan Smith and some others, Nadal´s volley is top-notch and effective, and he makes extensive use of it when playing on hard courts of the ATP circuit. Moreover, Nadal is very intuitive guessing his rivals´ passing-shots trajectories, so he wins a lot of points with his volley.

As to his service, this is one of the aspects Nadal has improved more significantly, in terms of consistency and precision, specially throughout key stages of the matches. Of course he doesn´t belong to the club of service superspecialists like Roger Federer, John Isner, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Marin Cilic, Ivo Karlovic, etc, but he makes up for it with effective accurate placing and a non brutal but enough power and regularity, to such an extent that he wins a lot of points with his sliced service, very similar to the one performed during seventies and early eighties by Bjorn Borg, who received service classes by the Romanian genius Ilie Nastase in mid 1976, which would be decisive for the triumph of the Swedish player in the Wimbledon final of that year.

Needless to say that the matches Nadal-Federer and Nadal-Djokovic have already became a classic and a relish for tennis enthusiasts all over the world, in the same way as other famous battles of previous decades in this sport: Bjorn-Borg/Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe-Ivan Lendl, Pete Sampras-Andre Agassi, etc.
Anyway, though I do believe that Roger Federer has been a step above and is undoubtedly the best ever, in my opinion Rafael Nadal has been and still is the best player in the history of tennis concerning three important scopes:

a) He has got the best range of strokes from baseline ever, being able to perform his awesome ´impossible shots´ from any spot of the court.

b) He has got an unmatched mental strength enabling him recovering from virtually lost contexts, injuries, and even audiences supporting his rivals (he has proved to steadily increase the level of his game and play better under such pressure).

c) He´s the the tennis player featuring more physical capacity ever, both from the viewpoint of power and strength and movements speed, able to play at the same level during the five sets of a Grand Slam tournament, being able to reach impossible balls, fighting each point to the end of his tether. 

Besides, Rafael Nadal complements his formidable physical talent more inherent to an Olympic decathlon specialist with a praiseworthy ability of sacrifice during the BRUTAL DRILLS in which he puts himself through his paces at the limit of heart beats, proving an extraordinary willpower, tons of stamina and an unusual level of self-commitment.

d) His movements speed is astounding, in the same way as his power of shots (certainly tremendous, specially with his legendary topspin forehand, a masterpiece of strength and accuracy), stamina, resistance to fatigue, etc. 

He´s a kind of Robocop on the court and any rival player will have to fight to the death to win him a point.

e) His intelligence to read the games and know which are the most important phases and points of them. His level of concentration during these key stages is unmatched.

f) His humbleness. RAFAEL NADAL loves this sport, he is an exceedingly hard working man living for tennis and sports a great respect for his rivals, many of whom are true friends of him.

g) His emotional intensity living the games. He puts all of his life and soul in every point. Audiences realize it and this is one of the many reasons for which to watch Rafael Nadal play tennis both live or on tv is a real treat for any lover of this sport, above all when he faces geniuses of the racket like ROGER FEDERER, because then two top-notch rather different styles of conceiving tennis highlight.   

On the other hand, this great triumph accomplished by Rafa Nadal has been highly meaningful, since he has faced a very strong Novak Djokovic which has played full blast in the second set, nailing it 6-3, keeping the fight in the third one whih has lost 6-4 and being overwhelmed by Rafael Nadal in the fourth and decisive one.

It has been an extraordinary final match of the U.S Open 2013, with plenty of points disputed from the baseline, and a frantic pace of rallies by both players, in which the attitude of the Serbian player, who has struggled to his limit against a plethoric Nadal, has likewise been laudable.

José Manuel Serrano Esparza