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When Rafael Nadal stepped up his game to prolong his career
At age 36, Rafael Nadal is still one of the best tennis players in the world. This year, Rafa won two Major championships and took the lead in the ATP Race over his nearest rivals. The Spaniard’s career has been plagued by setbacks from injury, and many people thought he would retire much earlier.
Rafa proved them all incorrect because he strove to consistently hone the components of his game and alter his strategy. After a number of challenging seasons hampered by injuries and poor performance, Rafa made a strong comeback in 2017. He won two Major championships and regained his position as the best player in the world.
In 2018, Nadal won five ATP championships, including three Masters 1000 titles and Roland Garros. However, the Spaniard found it difficult to avoid injuries and commit to a full schedule. Following the US Open, he skipped the final few weeks of the season after winning 45 of his 49 matches.
Rafa put a lot of effort into improving his game in the following months, coming back at the Australian Open in January 2019. Significant adjustments were made to the Spaniard’s serve and game mentality. He adopted a new service motion and began attacking from the first groundstroke to take the upper hand and shorten points.
In Melbourne in 2019, Nadal strolled into the final after winning all 18 sets thanks to that new package. Rafa chose Novak Djokovic as his opponent for the championship match, but he had little chance and lost in straight sets. After defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semi-final, Nadal discussed significant adjustments to his game and how happy he was with his performance after such a long absence.
In the next years, he desired more of the same, which he got.
Rafael Nadal discussed his new strategy during a 2019 Australian Open interview.
“The fact that I’m back in the Australian Open semifinals makes me feel really emotional.
At this event, I occasionally ran into issues throughout my career. This outcome means everything to me after a lengthy absence from the court, and I want to thank the supporters. I’m happy with how I fought tonight. Playing on this court at Rod Laver Arena is always special.
I consider myself fortunate to be where I am now after everything I went through since the chances of playing at this level after such a long absence were not that great. In the off-season, I practiced my serve and first shot.
Here in Melbourne, I have forehanded numerous winners immediately following the serve, which is crucial for me. Finding lots of free points and continuing to work on them in the future will be necessary for me at this point if I want to extend my career for a few more years.
I like my new serve and first forehand; I used to utilize them to set up the point, but they’re now more effective. When Carlos Moya joined my staff, he and Francisco made a fantastic combo. He provided me with the opposing perspective on the game, and having him at the table made it necessary to make certain adjustments.
We are a wonderful squad that works well together; we are well organized and have strong match preparations. Even now, despite working with essentially the same team for 20 years, I still believe in long-term projects “said Rafael Nadal.