How To Beat Rafael Nadal On Clay

How To Beat Rafael Nadal On Clay

Thanks for the Tennis Strategy ebook, I’ve started reading it this morning.

It’s so simple and concise; I appreciate your ability to convey information that makes sense.

One of my bonus questions is: How do you beat Rafael Nadal on clay?

Let’s check all 4 major parts of tennis and see what you need:

a) Physical
You need to be very fit of course, but that’s not the critical issue with top players.

I believe most top 200 players are fit enough to play at least 4 set match with Nadal without getting tiredness affect their movement and reactions.

Stamina will be of higher importance than speed since rallies will least a few shots on clay even with a serve & volleyer type of play.

b) Technical
The ability to handle high balls and balls with lot of top spin will come into play.

A player who has been playing low, fast sliced shots for years will not be able to adapt to Nadal’s top spins and will often mishit them.

An all court player (like Federer) is best suited to play Rafael Nadal since it can mix the shots (spin, slice, drop shot, flat, …) and prevent Nadal getting into the rhythm.

c) Tactical
There are 4 typical playing styles in tennis: baseline counter-puncher (Hewitt), aggressive baseliner (Agassi), serve & volleyer (Rafter) and all court player (Federer).

I think Nadal best handles aggressive baseliners since he forces them to go for too much. I don’t see this type of player succeed in the long term.

An even more patient counter-puncher than Nadal could force him to go for the shots and start making mistakes.

Someone like Guillermo Canas or David Nalbandian could break Nadal in his own game.

All court game seems best suited to beat Nadal and Federer may have lost to him many times, but his game is very dangerous to Nadal.

I think Federer would need to serve & volley a little more (especially with fast body serves) to get the edge.

There are no serve & volleyers that I see could hurt Nadal at the moment but a player like Edberg or Rafter in their prime was able to totally disrupt the rhythm and focus of a baseline player like Nadal.

I remember Stefan Edberg demolishing Sergi Bruguera’s game in Madrid final on clay in 1993. The final score was 6-3, 6-3, 6-2.

d) Mental
Rafael Nadal mental toughnessThis is the key to winning against Nadal. 99% of players lose the match against him before they hit the first ball.

They don’t REALLY believe they can beat him on clay and thus don’t give 100% of effort. Then of course they really cannot win.

There is too much hype about Nadal and even top players play too much (in their minds) against Nadal’s name instead of playing the ball.

This creates his aura of invincibility and makes it easier for him to win.

This of course reinforces his status and now it’s even more difficult to beat him.

Someone will have to break the cycle and convince other players that Nadal is not a superhuman.

Similar to Canas and Volandri beating Federer this year…

There are at least 50 players in the world who are technically, tactically and physically ABLE to beat Nadal, but it’s their mind that lets them down.

Related posts:

Why Roger Federer Lost To Nadal
Roger’s Revenge
Nadal – Federer Grand Slam Final #8 – And Win #6 For Rafa
5 Reasons Why Nadal Beat Federer in the Wimbledon 2008 Final
Rafael Nadal Out Of The French Open 2009

Essential Tennis Instruction – FREE Video Lessons on How to Improve Your Serve

This entry was posted on Friday, August 31st, 2007 at 11:28 pm and is filed under Rafael Nadal. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “How To Beat Rafael Nadal On Clay”
Mel Says:
June 29th, 2008 at 3:12 am
I believe that most players lose to Rafa on clay because they believe they can win using their own tactics. They are wrong. They need to use Rafa tactics. they need to emulate him- play clay coort tennis like he does. The slide into the ball rather than sliding after hitting the ball. Beat him at his own game. Maybe Federer should use a double-handed backhand on clay, so he can use the slide that Rafa uses with his backhand


Rick Sudborough Says:
May 1st, 2009 at 11:12 am
THE WAY TO BEAT NADAL. Please send money later.
Unless you are Borg or Vilas forget it, but you will need their strength and patience. Rafa is baseline lover. He loves to run. So run his ass.
THE KEY: Mix it up.
1. Hit a forcing shot on all short balls. PRESSURE.
2. Drop shot a lot, and hit a winner or a lob. Make his ass run. Make him feel it at the end of 5 sets. Make him cramp. Break him down. He wants to be tested. Test him.
3. Serve an volley to keep constant PRESSURE. Taking the net forces him to pass. Think Verdasco or Gonzalez as serve and vollyers.
4. Do not go for winners all the time because Nadal’s defense is superior.
This is why you have to take the net and drop shot. You have to take him out of his comfort zone. Most morons try to hit him off the court, ie , get hot and lucky. That will not work very often.
5. If you stay back against him you must have patience, but always come in on a short ball.
6. Once Nadal realizes you are smarter and have the tools, his head will slowly come unglued. This will take 3 consecutive wins. Good luck.
7. Tilden would tell you to hit slices back against his topspin. Just like table tennis.
8. The key is negating his topspin and endurance. If The Fed does the above I guarantee victory. RF tries to out hit Nadal. Nice try, but why suffer. His topspin will get you in the end.


Tomaz Reply:
May 1st, 2009 at 12:24 pm

Thanks for sharing Rick,

Those are some great tips!