Tennis Player Analysis by OAC Tennis Pros

Tennis Player Analysis: Rafael Nadal

Here at the OAC we declare that fully enjoyable and really successful tennis is the combination of three main elements: Consistency, Quality and Variety (this is in line with the Noble Tennis Methodology). Consistency is the ability to keep the ball in play. Quality is composed of Precision and Power. Variety involves purposely changing the shots we send.  

Rafael Nadal

To understand these essential elements and how they operate, let us take a familiar example – Rafael Nadal. Nadal is a paragon of consistency, making very few unforced errors. He achieves this consistency because of his great determination, his incredible mobility, and because he hits the ball very high over the net, often 5 feet or more during rallies. The quality of Nadal’s play is also very impressive. He employs both precision and power to a high degree. His groundstrokes exhibit immense speed and topspin, which causes the ball to “jump” very high after hitting the ground. Nadal is also very precise in hitting to the deep corners, so his opponents must run a long distance and then deal with a very fast, lively ball. Variety is not as central a part of Rafa’s game. He tends to aim mainly to the deep corners, and sends the ball with a similar degree of speed/spin/height in any particular situation.  

Analyzing strengths and weaknesses

Based on such an observation and analysis, we can see the strengths and weaknesses of any player in the broad sense, and make recommendations. In the case of Nadal, for instance, we can observe, as many commentators have, that he sometimes becomes too passive, relying too much on the element of consistency, while backing away from the quality element. We see this especially on his serve, and in the tendency, at times, to move way back behind the baseline and “just rally,” waiting for his opponent to miss. Nadal himself has been aware of these tendencies, and has made an effort to do more with his serve by increasing its power and hitting up the tee more often, and also to stand closer to the baseline and use his powerful groundstrokes more pro-actively. Lastly, Nadal might be encouraged to use a little more variety, especially on faster surfaces, and he has again shown signs of this, coming to the net more often at Wimbledon, for example, and throwing in more slice and the occasional drop-shot. As he stabilizes these improvements, his great game becomes even greater!  

Tennis Player Analysis: Roger Federer

We continue our analysis of great players in light of the three elements of successful play: Consistency, Quality, Variety.

Roger Federer

Federer’s game is built mainly on Quality and Variety, and not so much on Consistency. The Quality of his shots is so high that he is able to force errors and hit winners, without needing to endure long rallies and rely on unforced errors from his opponent. Federer’s wonderful blend of precision and power is most evident on his serve, which he is able to hit at 130 mph or more, but which he usually chooses to send between 115-125, but very precisely and with a great variety of targets. This synthesis of Quality works better than raw power. Federer’s great serve is backed up by a forehand that is a virtually perfect weapon, able to produce sizzling speed one moment, and a supremely delicate drop-shot the next. And he uses his one-handed backhand to add yet more Variety, mixing up topspin and underspin, shorter and deeper, higher and lower shots. Federer is able to execute such high Quality shots and employ such immense Variety because his strokes are technically perfect, he is amazingly mobile, and he has cultivated an unchangingly calm, confident mentality.  

Analyzing strengths and weaknesses

So what could one possibly suggest to Roger Federer, the most successful player in tennis history, in terms of improvements? Well, there are times when he could respect the principle of Consistency a little more. He is so determined to make things happen with the Quality and Variety of his shots that sometimes he makes too many unforced errors. Extremely consistent players, like Nadal, (link to previous post) have sometimes been able to defeat Federer because of this impatience. Also, there are times when he could make what he does revolve around the strengths and weaknesses of his opponent a bit more. For instance, when playing Novak Djokovic, Federer could try and force him to the net more often, using short slice and drop-shots, rather than trying to beat him from the back-court. In this way, Federer’s capacity for Variety will be put to maximum tactical use. Lastly, Federer could look to come to net more often, after his serve, after returning, and during rallies. This is something he has been doing recently, to good effect.   Great players like Roger Federer are always looking to improve. Are you? See you next time!