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Here’s How Nadal Plays Tennis Like A Chess Grandmaster

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Just three or four moves is all it takes for the Spaniard to lure his opponents into checkmate.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis shows that Nadal is in a class of his own in mid-length rallies of 5-8 shots. The data set is comprised of players who competed in a minimum of 20 matches at ATP events on Hawk Eye courts from the beginning of the 2018 season.

The three rally lengths commonly measured in tennis are:

•0-4 Shots (First Strike)
•5-8 Shots (Patterns Of Play)
•9+ Shots (Extended Rallies)

It’s important to note that rally length in our sport is predicated by the ball landing in the court, not hitting the strings. So a “three-shot” rally is a serve in, a return in, and a winner, while a “two-shot” rally is a serve in, a return in, and an error. That explains a “zero-shot” rally, which is a double fault. The ball simply didn’t land in the court.

The inner workings of Nadal’s formidable game can be best understood when it’s dissected by how many shots he ideally desires to win a point. It highlights efficiency and intent.

Nadal won a head-turning 59.7 per cent (652/1092) of points in the 5-8 shot range from 33 matches. Next best is Diego Schwartzman at 55.9 per cent (547/978), putting the Spaniard almost four percentage points higher than his closest rival. Novak Djokovic sits in third place, having won 55.5 per cent (1043/1879) in 5-8 shot rallies.

The leaders in the three rally lengths are:

•0-4 Shots: Daniil Medvedev (55.0%)
•5-8 Shots = Rafael Nadal (59.7%)
•9+ Shots = Yoshihito Nishioka (56.6%)

Mid-length rallies of 5-8 shots (3-4 shots for each player) are all about specific patterns of play, much like moves on a chess board. The first shot involves the serve or return, where Nadal is typically targeting his opponent’s backhand return, or moving way back in the court for his own return to enhance his chances of putting it successfully back in play. His second shot is all about taking a 50-50 battle and “arm-wrestling” it in his favor.

Nadal’s third shot of the rally typically involves a potent cocktail of two or more of the control factors, mentioned above, infused into the same shot. For example, he loves to hit a run-around forehand standing in the Deuce court directed cross court past his opponent’s outstretched forehand wing. That specific shot, which he has executed tens of thousands of times in his career, is a crushing mix of direction, spin, power and court position.

If Nadal needs a fourth shot to reach “checkmate”, his court position is typically inside the baseline taking time away with wicked spin and direction back behind a running opponent. Nadal is much better off running these three- and four-shot combinations than trying to end the point quicker, or trying to outlast his opponent.

Nadal Win Percentages By Rally Length

•0-4 Shots = 52.9% (1126/2127)
•5-8 Shots = 59.7% (652/1092)
•9+ Shots = 55.3% (412/745)

The Spaniard’s game is not built around massive power in the first two shots. It is also not best suited to grinding endlessly in long rallies, where win percentages naturally gravitate closer together than further apart.

It’s all about patterns. It’s about a successful sequence of shots that out-smart and out-maneuver opponents to achieve his desired end-game with three or four moves.

Nadal is our sport’s Grandmaster chess champion. n

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Rafael Nadal Says “No Chance” Statement Was “Arrogant” From Novak Djokovic’s Coach

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Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 French Open was postponed to September. The cooler conditions at that time didn’t suit Rafael Nadal, and many thought he wouldn’t win. One of those people was Goran Ivanisevic, who said that the Spaniard had ‘no chance’ against Novak Djokovic in the final.

The Former Wimbledon Champion was proved wrong as Rafa thrashed Djokovic 6-0, 6-2, 7-5. It was clearly a one-sided contest and the 20-time Grand Slam champion had his own opinion on Ivanisevic’s comment. He said:

” I swear that I hadn’t heard what Ivanisevic said before the final. Someone told me after. It was a bit arrogant from him. But in fact, the conditions were better for Novak.”

Rafael Nadal trying to end 2020 on a high note

After proving Goran Ivanisevic wrong and winning the French Open, Rafael Nadal equaled the record for the most Grand Slams. This achievement has made 2020 a memorable year for him, and now he can make it even better at the upcoming Paris Masters and ATP Finals.

These are two events that Rafa has never won, and that is largely due to the scheduling. Since these events are played at the end of the year, Nadal has often injured himself before them. However, that is not the case for him in 2020.

Many events were canceled due to the pandemic, and hence, Rafa has not strained his body. He will be arriving at both events in the best of health, which surely going to give him an advantage. This will be his best chance to win both titles, and all of his fans are hoping that he will do so.

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