- Rafa Nadal is a tennis master when it comes to clay competition.
- Nadal has an 11th French Open title in his crosshairs this month and a former Grand Slam champion has identified three factors that drive Nadal’s success on the soft surface.
- Those factors will all likely be in play when he contests the Round of 32 at Roland-Garros on Saturday.
A former Grand Slam champion has explained the secrets to Rafa Nadal’s success on clay.
Nadal’s all-time performance on the soft surface makes for impressive reading. In 444 matches on clay, Nadal has returned an extraordinary winning ratio of 92%, which has yielded 56 titles to date.
Nadal has been a tennis professional for over 15 years. He won his first French Open title in his first attempt in the competition in 2005, and enters the 2018 tournament in hot form as he has won three ATP titles on clay this season.
With 10 French Open trophies already, Nadal is the clear favourite to win an 11th this month – and Pat Cash, a Grand Slam winner having triumphed at Wimbledon in 1987, provided three reasons behind his success in a report on CNN on Friday.
Cash said Nadal is virtually unstoppable because of:
- His athleticism and footwork
- The top spin he is able to generate on the ball
- His mental strength
“He’s unbelievably fast, and he can keep going forever, which helps on the clay,” Cash said. “His speed and athleticism is just phenomenal. His footwork on the clay is amazing – I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody move that quick on the clay.”
In addition to the athletic advantages Nadal has, the Spaniard also possesses an edge because of the way he hits the tennis ball.
Cash said: “We have never seen a player hit so much top spin before. The power he puts into the shots and the top spin is just very, very hard to control on a slow court over five sets.”
When Nadal is able to hit the ball with great top spin, he is able to “bounce the ball higher and push the opponent around.”
Finally, Nadal has a fierce mental strength. Perhaps, with good reason. After all, Nadal has played 83 French Open matches since his Roland-Garros debut in 2005 – and he has only ever lost twice.
Cash explained: “Mentally, he’s just ferocious. Clay is one of the toughest surfaces to be successful at, because you have to be focused all the time, the momentum can change very quickly.
“On grass or other courts, you can hold your serve, or hit a couple of big serves and stay in it, but not on the clay, you have to be persistent all the time.”
Nadal’s athleticism, top spin, and mental strength will next be put to the test against French competitor Richard Gasquet,ranked 32nd in the world, on Saturday.
But, judging by his past form, it will be a test he passes with flying colours.
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