Rafael Nadal won an unprecedented twelfth La Coupe des Mousquetaires with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 thrashing of Dominic Thiem at the 2019 Roland Garros.
💥 Rafa Nadal: The Origin Story 💥 pic.twitter.com/g0Vqfq19QJ
— ATP Tour (@ATP_Tour) June 8, 2019
Is Nadal getting better with age?
Nadal’s backhand is significantly better than it was in his twenties. He strikes it earlier and flatter than before. Nadal can also create better angles with his backhand now. The transformation may not be as revolutionary as Federer’s retooled backhand of 2017, but the new version of Rafa’s backhand has made his game stronger from both wings.
Rafa has also been hugging the baseline, lately, which allows him to play more aggressively and take time away from the opponent.
Nadal’s technique on the volleys was always good and, unlike Djokovic, he was quite good at approaching the net too. He, however, just wasn’t approaching the net enough. In the 2019 Roland Garros final, against Thiem, Rafa did not hesitate approaching the net and won 23 of 27 points at the net.
The improvements helped Rafa win his 12th French Open in 2019.
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) June 9, 2019
Relentless intensity has helped Rafa improve over the years.
Rafa Nadal is known more for his relentless intensity and the ability to track down balls than his timing while executing shots. With age, however, he has adjusted his game to stand closer to the baseline, strike the ball earlier, and dominate rather than retrieve only. Against Roger Federer and Dominic Thiem, Rafa showcased the kind of aggressive tennis we expect from Federer or Goffin.
The clay, as we know, gives Rafa the comfort and time to attempt playing styles and shots he may not on faster surfaces. Nadal is in luck because there are not faster surfaces left on the tour and it shouldn’t be difficult for him to carry the newfound, baseline-hugging aggression onto the grass and hard this year.
Crazy dreams take crazy effort.
— Nike (@Nike) June 9, 2019