I wrote this almost a year ago and I felt that with the clay court season just around the corner it was worth reposting. It is unfinished, as many of my posts are but you will get the idea of what I am trying to say.
I feel I could elaborate on this particular topic and I am sure that I will as the season unfolds. The particular match that I wrote about was quite remarkable even though it was a straight sets win to Nadal.
What strikes me is the mindset of a player like the Spaniard who basically says to his opponent 'If you can make less errors than me, you can have the match'. Fifteen French Open titles later I still believe that between Nadal and Borg, well that is the way to win on the dirt.....
The French Open Tennis Tournament usually holds records that no other tennis tournament does, it's pretty obvious why, it's a tournament played on a slow surface, clay. If ever there is a doubt as to what a player should be training on to refine their ground strokes look no further than the European clay court specialists, their error count is minimal.
These players are technically brilliant especially from the back of the court but some struggle on quicker surfaces, naturally.
If you look at the way Rafa hits his forehand then you will see that this style can only really be taught on a slower surface , one that gives a player time to hit it to it's full potential. If a kid trains on a grass or synthetic court the style will be abbreviated, the ball will come through too quick, even on some hard courts. Clay is the answer to refining ground strokes, Rafa is the greatest exponent of this fact.
In the French Open this year in round three the Spaniard played Leonardo Mayer , ranked 65 in the World , a sensational tennis player from Argentina who has won over two million dollars in prize money. The score was 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 but the most impressive thing about this match was the amount of unforced errors that Nadal hit. He missed 2 in the first set, 3 in the second and 5 in the third, that's pretty impressive, so why doesn't he miss ?
Rafa hits the ball so high over the net that he invariably only hits long if he misses , many people don't realize this fact, they just see him hitting it hard, they don't see the height. The net clearance of Rafa is not unlike Borg's, if you don't pick it early it will be up around your ears, every tennis player's worst nightmare.
Rafa has won the French on 9 occasions because he rarely misses, Borg won it 6 times, he missed a hand full of shots each match also, there must be something in this way of playing.
Clay court tennis training will separate the great from the good, it's what needs to happen in each Country if they are to keep up with a nation such as Spain who have I believe 14 players in the top 100 men, give or take one or two . It is a surface that will develop ground strokes and a thinking man's game like no other, the proof is in the rankings.
Maybe one day other countries will follow Spain's lead before they have a strangle hold on the game that will be difficult to catch up to.
The art of not missing is what will take a player to victory, not the winners. You don't have to hit a winner, just don't miss and you will be pretty hard to beat........