Rafael Nadal – the Raging Bull from Majorca

Feb 1, 2009

The Final is already underway, but there’s still time to have a look at the two titans who have come together today to try and gain the Australian Open title. Who do I put my money on? Rafael Nadal. ‘Of course you would’ I can’t help but say to myself; I am a self-confessed Rafa fan after all. The Spanish player caught my attention in the 2007 Wimbledon final. I found him such a contrast to Federer’s neat, effortless quality. With Nadal, there is a rawness that challenges his opponent to dare get in his way. Whereas Federer hides his power to a certain extent, Nadal wears his on his sleeve; to watch Nadal play increases the blood pressure, and when you hear of blistering backhand getting into some far unreachable corner to win the game, you know it was the world number one in action.

There are a number of elements as to why I enjoy watching Nadal’s game, which I think could also stand him in good stead this afternoon. Besides the raw power and barely contained energy, there are the skill of his strokes. In particular, his back hand. My own love of his double-handed backhand may just be simple ‘backhand envy’ – my own backhand shots go horrifically haywire and are woefully inaccurate. But as anyone who has watched Nadal will know, backhands are his speciality. They are powerful, and move at an impossible angle to make reaching them tricky to say the least. This will be one important weapon against Federer; making the Swiss reach for the hard shots will prevent him from commanding at the baseline.

It is the baseline where Nadal is king; although Federer is a dangerous opponent in that area too, Nadal can move in to the bigger shots with a determination that puts away points. For this, we need to say ‘thank you’ to Uncle Toni Nadal. Nadal’s uncle, now his coach, advised young Rafa to play left-handed despite being naturally right-handed. The advise soon became a way of playing, and now he is arguably the best left-handed player in tennis today.   

As I write this (I have my eyes eagerly glued to my computer to watch this match) Nadal has taken the first set 7-6 but is one game behind in the second set 3-4. Federer is struggling with his serve but otherwise his game looks good; Rafa is playing the game he knows best and apart from one double fault, his serve is holding well. I’m sure the mixture of the world number one and the world number two will soon start to make this game a lot more interesting…

But whether he wins or loses today, just to watch Nadal play another legendary tennis figure will be enough. I know that many out there find Nadal a little too ‘rough’ with regards to his game; many prefer the quiet brilliance of Rodger Federer. There are also numerous people who have made it their sole mission to find some underwear that fits Nadal so that they don’t have to see him fiddle with it between every point. But regardless, the fans of Rafa are always happy to watch his matches, to support and marvel. The searing backhands, the rippling energy. To watch him play one of his biggest rivals today will, as always, be a pleasure.

 

-          SophieG

 

Written by: SophieG

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