How Has Nadal Improved?


By Scoop Malinowski

One of the popular player lines you hear repeated a lot today is that they want to improve something in their game each day.

But thinking about it, how can a player practice and work on aspects of his or her game and actually concretely know if they actually did improve or regress or stay exactly the same?

Perhaps if a player is working on his or her net play and they win a lot of good points in practice at net. It will feel like improvement. But then we all know practice is not like a real match and if it was Pete Sampras would have never won a major or cracked the top ten. (Sampras was well known as a mediocre practice player.)

It’s impossible to know if you are improving as a player just by practice shots. You have to do it in a match. You have to win the important match. Until you win the important match there is no real way of knowing if you are improving.

Cameron Norrie of England has been skyrocketing up the rankings lately winning over a dozen matches in a row and two consecutive Challengers. Obviously, Norrie is improving. He said in an interview recently, doing a drill of playing points while standing on top of the baseline has helped his play and his ability to put away short balls.

But a player could make every shot for two hours in practice and play perfect tennis and feel like he or she has made massive improvements. But if this player loses the next match, they didn’t really improve did they?

Marin Cilic said this week “Tennis is a sport of infinite possibilities.”

A player can suddenly improve and shock the world like Norrie or Diego Schwartzman or Ashleigh Barty. Or the player can work 20 hours a day and then unfortunately play terribly when it really counts. And lose confidence.

World no. 1 Rafael Nadal was asked this interesting question this week in Shanghai: You have been turning back time this year. Do you ever go back and watch video of yourself when you were younger? If so, how do you compare yourself now? What do you think about your younger self playing?

RAFAEL NADAL: “No one plays the same. No, no, you can put a video of Novak six, eight years ago and today and he’s playing different. You can put the video of Federer, and it would be the same. For me is the same. No, of course I’m not playing 100% the same. Of course the essence of my game is probably the same, but during the years and during your career, I always say the same, of course you lose things. You know, on your way you lose things that you have when you are younger, so you need to act on other things to keep being competitive. The best news for me is after a lot of years I still competitive, I still enjoying tennis. I think I am able to adapt my game to the new times. That’s important thing for me, and I feel lucky for that. But at the same time, I feel that I worked all my life with the right attitude and passion for and love for this sport to try to make that happen. Until when that gonna happen, I don’t know, and it don’t worries me much.”

Maybe Rafa gave us the answer, in simple terms. Maybe the key to improving your tennis is to continue to enjoy and love to play.



  • Doug Day · October 14, 2017 at 10:25 pm

    Rafa healing knees,etc with PRP: Platelet rich plasma “blood spinning”. Completely legal and it seems, effective.

  • scoopmalinowski · October 15, 2017 at 5:13 am

    Doug. Are you sure about blood spinning? I never heard this. Moya is an upgrade coach. Far more Tour exp then Uncle Anthoni.

  • catherine · October 15, 2017 at 7:57 am

    ‘Blood spinning’ is a treatment to help injuries heal faster. As far as I can see it is, as Doug says, completely legal and an established medical procedure. Can’t see why it should be banned.
    May be widely used in sport – I don’t know.

    Anyway, nothing helped Nadal in Shanghai.

  • Joe Blow · October 15, 2017 at 8:44 am

    Uncle Toni’s lack of tour experience was a big problem, only got him to 15 Majors. Maybe, in all of Nadal’s losses, Toni had him unconsciously, or subconsciously tanking?



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