At the age of 32, Rafael Nadal has plenty of new tricks up his sleeve
Staying at the top of any sport for more than 15 years means you constantly have to evolve your game, and that’s exactly what Rafael Nadal is doing.
The Spaniard is 32, but there is no sign of letting up as he proved during his demolition job in the semi-finals of the Australian Open where he brushed aside 20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-2, 6-4, 6-0.
His coach Carlos Moya revealed at the end of 2018 that he would be more aggressive come the new season.
“Joan Forcades (Nadal’s physical trainer), Francisco Roig and I are preparing Rafa to be a more aggressive player – even more so than he has been throughout his career,” he told ATPTour.com.
It is one thing to say you will be more aggressive, but another thing to pull it off during matches.
Unless of course you are Rafael Nadal.
“Is nothing new that I am aggressive,” the 17-time Grand Slam winner said after his win over Tsitsipas.
“The problem with myself is because I had a lot of success on clay people probably think I am not aggressive. People (who) think that are completely wrong. That’s the real thing, no?
“Of course, I am not doing serve and volley. I am not hitting winners every ball. But I play all the shots with a goal. There is not better way to be aggressive than hit every shot with the goal to create damage on the opponent. That was my goal during all my career.”
Then there is the serve. He knows he has never had the first serve of a Roger Federer, but he admitted before the Australian Open that “the serve was always a thing that I tried to improve, and I think I did. Maybe it was the time to try to make one more step, no? That’s what we are trying.”
So far he certainly practiced what he preached during the first Grand Slam of the year.
“Today I can do that damage little bit earlier than before because during this event I have been serving great,” he said.
“So when you serve great, then the first ball normally is a little bit easier. That’s probably the only reason. I had the determination to make that happen. That’s all.
“I can’t play like Roger when I don’t have the serve of Roger. You know, Roger have a lot of free points, have lot of times that he starts with the serve, then he have a not-very-difficult forehand. Was not my case during all my career because I never had that serve.
“But today I’m serving better. That’s why I’m able to create more winners on the first ball.”
The Nadal of this year is of course different from the one from the one who dominated a decade ago and he doesn’t like to compare the two.
“We can’t compare the rest of my career with today. I am playing well today. I am doing a lot of things well. (But) the results say during my career I did a lot of things very well, too. We can’t say now I am playing better than never, no. I did a lot of things well during my career,” he said.
“Today I have to adapt my game to the new time and to my age, that’s all. That’s what I did during all my career, just try to adapt my game with the circumstances that I went through. That’s the only reason why at this moment I’m still here competing at high level.
“I know during that 15, 16, 17 years of my professional tennis career, I (was) going to lose things on my way, so I need to add new things. That’s what I tried to do during all my career, to improve the things that I can improve.”
More from Tennis365:
Boris Becker on what happens next for Alexander Zverev after a turbulent 2020
German legend Boris Becker is backing Alexander Zverev to win his first Grand Slam title in 2021.
Dominic Thiem dismisses calls for the Australian Open to be cancelled
US Open champion Dominic Thiem insists next month’s Australian Open should go ahead despite players being in quarantine.
Timeline of Andy Murray’s injury nightmare as he pulls out of Australian Open
Andy Murray is out of next month’s Australian Open here we look at the timeline of Murray’s injury troubles since 2017.
Andy Murray ‘gutted’ as he shelves plans to play at Australian Open
Murray has been unable to solve a quarantine conundrum.
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal learn their fate in ATP Cup draw
Serbia will begin…
‘Really unjustified’ – Boris Becker leaps to Novak Djokovic’s defence over his quarantine pleas
Boris Becker believes world No.1 Novak Djokovic has come in for unfair criticism after writing a letter to Australian Open chiefs.
Umpire suffers heart attack as another Australian Open player tests positive for Covid-19
Spanish player Paula Badosa has announced she has tested positive for coronavirus during quarantine in Australia.
Laura Robson unsure about tennis future after third hip operation
The 27-year-old said her priority now is to live a pain-free life.
Andy Murray believes he can still play at the Australian Open as he plots return to action
Former world No.1 Andy Murray is still hopeful of playing in next month’s Australian Open.
Players are urged not to feed the mice in their hotel rooms as Heather Watson turns to Tik Tok
Britain’s Heather Watson has turned to Tik…