Rafael Nadal’s forehand is one of the best in modern tennis.
He is even considered by some as one of the greatest tennis players of all time. He is named as the “King or Master of Clay” due to his phenomenal domination in tennis clay matches. Some experts even called him as the greatest player on clay.
He has won several titles, eighteen (18) ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) World Tour Masters Master Tours, nine (9) grand slams. He won two (2) Wimbledon titles in 2008 and 2010, he also won one (1) US title in 2010, one (1) Australian open in 2009 and 6 French open in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2010. He did not win the 2008 but he was not in the final because of some injury. Because of this achievement, he now belongs to the elite group of tennis players like Roger Federer and Andre Agassi who won all the grand slam titles.
Rafael Nadal is the present top ATP player and this is made possible because of the Nadal forehand which is one of his most powerful assets either as an offensive or defensive weapon. The Rafael Nadal forehand creates so much power and topspin that it enables him to outplay his opponents. Nadal’s forehand combined with his excellent foot speed allows him to execute the topspin forehand perfectly.
Grip type and backswing technique
The Rafael Nadal forehand is considered as one of the fiercest forehands in modern tennis and this contributes to his wins and many titles. He hits a strong and powerful topspin forehand and as the result, a very sharp brushing effect is created as the back of the ball comes in contact with the racket head.
Rafael Nadal uses a forehand grip close to a full western, which places the palm of the hand underneath the racket handle. Rafael Nadal’s forehand allows the ball to clear the net with a high net clearance as Nadal uses an upwards swing; as a result more topspin is produced. This means that the Nadal forehand is hit the ball from underneath creating the topspin.
The way Nadal grips his racket enhances the downward inclination of the racket face when he does the backswing. Then as he swings his racket forward, the face of the racket is positioned in vertical manner.
Semi-Open or Fully Open Stance
Nadal forehand stance or posture is one of the most amazing stances in tennis. When Rafael Nadal is executing a forehand groundstroke, the majority of the time he uses a semi-open and fully open stance. In this way, he is able to exert more rotational energy as he swings and at the same time allowing for his legs to produce linear force to move forwards at a very fast pace.
Backswing and Preparatory Racket swing
The Nadal forehand is also unique in some sort. The early part of his swing is characterized with the uncoiling of this body which is very evident the way his upper body twists during the shot. Nadal positions his racket below the ball to allow him to be able to brush the ball with his racket face in upwards direction producing spin. In the same instance, his legs lift from the ground pushing his body upwards resulting in the heavy topspin Nadal forehand.
When Rafael Nadal is already suspended in the air, his whole body tends to rotate towards the net but at the same time, he is able to position his head that it is locked to where the ball is. This is called the open stance which is very critical because if the player loses sight with the ball before the contact (ball hitting the racket face) it can result to mishits.
Nadal’s forehand spinning with heavy topspin makes it difficult for his opponents to return, resulting in short balls that Nadal can attack.
A couple of seconds before the ball contact, the gap between Nadal’s racket and the ball is about 6 inches but in an instant he accelerates his swing and hits the ball. This shows his speed in hitting the ball resulting in a very powerful forehand shot. If you watch him play you will notice the “flicking” effect when he executes this part.
Nadal’s wrist lays back during the forward swing. During this phase, the racket is not perpendicular to his forearm. At the time of contact, the layback position of his racket disappears as he accelerates the forward movement of his racket.
Point of contact
As the ball touches the racket face, Nadal automatically adjust his racket face from an angled one (during his backward swing) to a vertical position. In this instance, he is already using a ¾ grip, which is ideal to meet the ball at a perfect distance from his body.
Just after point of contact
Immediately after the ball hits the racket face, Nadal’s forehand quickly raises his racket with the same speed as his return indicating how powerful his topspin is. Nadal is very clever in using his topspin which produces strong drives and creates high bouncing shots making his opponent vulnerable. This results in mistakes from his opponents, giving Nadal the advantage.
Reverse Follow Through
Another unique element of Rafael Nadal’s forehand is his reverse forehand. The reverse forehand is hit the same way as his usual forehands, the only difference is that his follow through moves to the opposite side of this head. This follow through wraps around creating additional topspin. Amazingly, he is still able to fixate his head at the point of contact despite the massive rotation. He also uses his back foot to support his body. This forehand variation is used when Nadal wants to create extra topspin.
Windshield Wiper Follow Through
Nadal’s forehand utilizes a same side follow-through wherein his racket swings exactly in the same side after he hits the ball. He usually uses this follow through as he moves his racket back.
Another interesting aspect of Nadal’s follow-through is the windshield wiper forehand follow through. He normally use this finish when he hits the ball in a more forceful way then he normally does. The result is a heavy topspin ball in combination with massive racket head speed.
As a counter attack to the Nadal forehand, his opponents try to outwit him by forcing him to hit low balls to his forehand side. This is because, with the type of Nadal’ grip which is ¾ western grip, it is awkward for Nadal to produce a topspin since he has to position himself low. But Nadal is still excellent in counteracting this tactic by bending his knees quickly to hit the ball underneath and still producing enough topspin to hit the ball.
As Nadal bends his knees for the forehand, he often executes the neutral stance. He only uses this stance when the ball return of the opponent is low. The good thing about Nadal is he is a very quick player, so he can arrive to the ball in position and still hit an aggressive shot that some players cannot equal or surpass.
Nadal’s Forehand on the Defensive
Rafael Nadal’s forehand is not only excellent as an attacking shot, but he also uses his forehand as a very effective defensive weapon. Because of his speed, Nadal can outrun any opponent at the professional level. Even Roger Federer has a hard time keeping Nadal on the defense.
Nadal’s forehand allows him to be one step ahead of his opponents, frequently turning the situation of being the defensive player into the offensive one. This is one of the reasons why Nadal’s forehand is such a dominating weapon in the modern game and why tennis fanatics all around the world enjoy watching him play.
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