When we think of Rafael Nadal we immediately think of his amazing forehand, but don’t underestimate the Rafael Nadal backhand. Nobody wins 3 French Opens on the bounce without possessing a fabulous backhand.
He is blessed with a very simple and uncomplicated back-swing. Like all the top pros, Nadal can shorten the swing when needed and turn the shot into whatever abbreviation is called for. When he has the time, he’ll unleash the follow-through over his shoulder with breathtaking speed. (see ‘Service return – when to abbreviate the drive!‘)
He has fantastic hand skills and racket head control, which enables him to produce outrageous passing shots from ridiculously difficult angles. Of course his deft movement helps make this feasible. Rafa has that inbuilt ability to scrap one last shot out of a rally when he’s under pressure and 9 times out of 10 he’ll punish his opponent with it. He uses the open stance slide with great effect on the clay and adapts brilliantly for the unfamiliar grass. (see ‘Two-handed backhand – the step in or open stance debate!‘)
It’s fascinating to see how he adapts his backhand from clay to grass. On clay he hits masses of topspin with a lot of net clearance and is not as concerned about pin-point length. He hits lower with deeper length on grass and a little less topspin.
Like Borg before him, Rafa is surprisingly comfortable on grass due partly to his great service return and passing shots. He likes a target and so is happy to see his opponent at the net.
Rafa demonstrates superb racket head control allowing him to pull the ball short and wide with great whip. This is often the set-up shot, as these angles leave him with an open court to blast his trademark winner.
He possesses an excellent drop shot which is played with great disguise. The fact that his slice shot is technically great, makes the transition to a drop shot look easy.
Like so many of today’s top pros, Rafa spends the majority of his time hitting massive forehands from every part of the court, but his backhand certainly plays a fantastic supporting role.
I can’t help thinking that there just might be a few more Grand Slam titles in the pipeline for this young star. Good luck to him – he deserves every bit of his success.