Great to see the great man Rafa back on court after a lengthy break, the game needs his intensity as a bench mark, especially for the younger players.
The thing that I love most about Rafa is his return of serve, almost from the Bjorn Borg era. Now the Swedish Champion had a rather unique way of returning serve that you really don't see much of these days but it is remarkably similar to Nadal.
Most players now days seem to stand on the base line and take the ball as early as they possibly can and sure I can see the merit in this, but look at Rafa's way. The reason why his return is so effective is because he hits up on it and gives it a huge loop making the return uncomfortable to play. Same as Borg.
The more standard way of return is now a flat shot with little margin for error, the timing on this type of shot needs to be precise. Rafa's way gives him a swing at it from sometimes four or five meters beyond the baseline.
Nadal does also own the shortened version of the return from closer in but off the second serve he never plays the ball around his ears, he lets it drop, he stands back. I believe this is why he has won so many French Open titles, his return is almost just another ground stroke, his rhythm is always the same. He is never jumping into a service return as some players do.
Bjorn Borg had possibly the greatest service return of the mid to late 70's but I believe it was because it wasn't risky, it was a safe way to return the delivery. Rafa's is different from Novak's however they are both brilliant in their own ways.
I am a firm believer in letting the big kick on the second serve drop, it allows a player valuable time and gets them into a 50/50 situation from a return. Too many returns are missed through lack of time to prepare.
If it was good enough for Borg and is still good enough for Rafa then surely the technique has merit.........