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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Did Nadal really declined on clay ?
Yes he is maybe slower than before, but on clay it no matters. He has still all the time to chase all the shots of the world and be on position to hit his topspin FH (a weapon that nobody resolved). Maybe his stamina has declined (proved against Tsitsipas at Melbourne), but if no one is able to grind with him, it no matters sadly. Sinner is only 19 years old and was the one who cracked mentally and physically, Schwartzman too. In the fourth set, he was totally done and he is younger that Nadal
Nadal could be have 50 y.o and still exhaust his opponent with his FH . His FH is the most cheated weapon in the history of tennis. No one is able to handle it. It's why he is still dominant as ever.
I think his shotmaking and serve are better than ever. Look Highlights on Youtube. His BH was a defensive loopy shot, and now Nadal has one of the best BH of the ATP, able to make outrageous winners with sharp CC angles. And since when Nadal is able to serve between 83% (against Djokovic at Rome) and 88% (against Schwarztman) first serve ? Insane !
I think too the aura of Nadal at RG made him more dangerous and invincible than ever. Before, journeymans like PHM, Brands, Grosjean were not afraid to take a set from him or push him hard. Now, it's became a true feat to take a set from Older Nadal.

I would think that this Older Nadal would have beaten Peak Federer even easier than the Younger Nadal because he has the artillery to directly maul his opponent. Younger Nadal was winning mostly by a war of attrition, grinding his opponent to death with his impossible defense abilities (and of course, when he could, he would be offensive with his FH)

Did Nadal really declined on clay or the current competition make him look better than he is ?
 

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He’s not the same player, he has adjusted his game to make up for obvious (but not extreme) age-related physical decline
The gap between him and the field is pretty much equal
 

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I would say it is hard to say, but for sure an interesting topic. I think he is slightly better nowadays compared to his 2005-2007 version. I think when he was younger he had less bad days, but his peak level for me is higher nowadays. So I think it is harder for someone to beat him at RG, but easier at MC or some other clay tournaments. Aldo in a period from 2011-2016 Rafa had much more problems with Djokovic then now.

Djokovic, Nadal and Federer all had advantage when they were young that the old good players were retiring much earlier then nowadays. Already in the early 30s players like Sampras did not have motivation to play. People were not that obsessed with the records like nowadays. Also tennis changed much much more in the early 2000s (from 2000 to 2005) then in the last 15 years. That is also advantage older players! Imagine being Sampras, dominating for so long, and then in 2-3 years time surfaces are 10 times slower. What I wanted to say is that young Rafa did not have so hard opposition. It was new type of tennis for all of the players, and younger one did better of course.

We can talk about Borg in similar way. For me he was dominating clay even more then Rafa ( at least best 5 years period). Then he lost motivation, but the main problem was that rackets changed. So players like him or McEnroe of course had a hard time. With the old rackets and with right motivation I think Borg could easily have won 10 Roland Garros.

All in all all Roger, Novak and Rafa were incredible lucky. Sure they are great players, but they were born in the right time for this sport.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I would say it is hard to say, but for sure an interesting topic. I think he is slightly better nowadays compared to his 2005-2007 version. I think when he was younger he had less bad days, but his peak level for me is higher nowadays. So I think it is harder for someone to beat him at RG, but easier at MC or some other clay tournaments. Aldo in a period from 2011-2016 Rafa had much more problems with Djokovic then now.

Djokovic, Nadal and Federer all had advantage when they were young that the old good players were retiring much earlier then nowadays. Already in the early 30s players like Sampras did not have motivation to play. People were not that obsessed with the records like nowadays. Also tennis changed much much more in the early 2000s (from 2000 to 2005) then in the last 15 years. That is also advantage older players! Imagine being Sampras, dominating for so long, and then in 2-3 years time surfaces are 10 times slower. What I wanted to say is that young Rafa did not have so hard opposition. It was new type of tennis for all of the players, and younger one did better of course.

We can talk about Borg in similar way. For me he was dominating clay even more then Rafa ( at least best 5 years period). Then he lost motivation, but the main problem was that rackets changed. So players like him or McEnroe of course had a hard time. With the old rackets and with right motivation I think Borg could easily win 10 Roland Garros.

All in all all Roger, Novak and Rafa were incredible lucky. Sure they are great players, but they were born in the right time for this sport.
Very good post.

Nadal speed declined, but it was only irrelevant on grass/hard (the reason why he is clueless with Fedovic right now, and Thiem and the Next-Gen too). On clay, it change nothing. It's too slow and Nadal can still be in position to reset the point at will or hit DTL FH. No one has truly the combination of artillery, athleticism and consistency to overpower Nadal on clay. Even Thiem finally was not really a true challenge (only one set took, and it was a 7-5 set, and then Thiem was double breadsticked after that)

Who predicted than Nadal would be still dominating as ever at 35 years old with his mileage while the others were already done at 30 with injuries or because they simply declined too hard ?
When MTF are saying that Djokovic has nearly no chance against Nadal while he is a ATG and one of the most complete players ever on all time, it's quite astonishing.
The true reason of Nadal success is his tailor-made topspin FH.

In comparaison, Federer has maybe the best FH of all time on grass and hard but it has more declined than Nadal FH and he cannot boss his opponent anymore. Federer FH is just a normal shot right now and even Djokovic can dominate him in FH CC exchanges.
 

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All the players have better ground strokes now than they had in the past. They practiced them over and over again. That's not something you lose until you get much older. You lose maximum speed with a loss of elasticity, as you see with pitchers in baseball, but nobody is hitting 100% on every shot, and groundstroke quality is more about depth, accuracy, and hitting the ball cleanly than racket head speed.

Their movement hasn't declined as much as people think...if it has at all.
 

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Yes, in terms of raw foot speed; he has, however, countered this in various ways:

Has bigger, more accurate serve.
Bigger backhand, and a much increased willingness to go up the line from that wing.
An increased willingness to use the FHDTL
A willingness to stand closer to the baseline, and take the ball earlier.
A willingness to finish points off at the net (particularly using drop volleys, drop shots etc).

Where the decline in foot speed is noticed most:
When stretched out defending the FH side (see comparative lack of spectacular FH passing shots).
Reduced amount of inside out forehands hit from BH side (these require speed and great footwork).
General decrease in number of long rallies won, and points won from counterpunching and out and out defensive play.

An obvious point to make is that, whilst Nadal has declined, the rest of the tour has declined more: Berdych, Del Potro, Tsonga, Murray, Soderling, Monfils, Federer, Coria, Gaudio, Ferrero, Ferrer, Wawrinka, Agassi, Thiem (?), Djokovic (?) etc etc
 
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To provide an MMA analogy: compare with the ATG Jose Aldo. Young Aldo and young Nadal were absolute physical monsters with plenty of intelligence and skill. Old Aldo and old Nadal have declined heavily physically, but their intelligence and skill has improved. Unfortunately for Aldo, physicality is a far bigger factor in MMA because one shot can change the fight and stamina is paramount.
 
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