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Coaches Corner - tip of the month

APRIL 2009

Insights to Mastering your Game, from Jak


Upon first viewing Rafael Nadal’s movement, both to the ball and in defending the court against Andy Murray in the recent Indian Wells final, I immediately thought that his problematic knee must be acting up. Rafa was a non-stop shuffling, stutter-stepping machine on a mission. Surely, I decided, he must be hurting to such an extent that he can’t run normally. Then the announcing crew let it be known that the players were experiencing swirling wind gusts up to 45 mph in the sunken stadium.

Murray, perhaps the smoothest mover in the game today, is a glider who barely appears to touch the court, an incarnation of the the “Big Cat,” Miroslav Mecir. Yet, in the conditions being produced in the California desert, this normally exceptional ability is not rewarded in the wind without serious adjustments.

Even with coach Uncle Toni not present, Nadal’s team had him impeccably prepared to deal effectively with the challenge: 1) never stop moving your feet to adjust to each balls varying and erratic flight, 2) stay aggressive with shot pace to minimize the winds effect, 3) watch the ball exceptionally well all the way into the racket, 4) keep the balls safely away from the lines for extra safe margins. In the spirit of the legendary Rod “Rocket” Laver a reminder: “It’s a simple game. It’s just not easy.” Nadal wins “easily” 6-1, 6-2 over the currently recognized world #2!

Coastal Punta Gorda, Florida takes no backseat to the desert when it comes to having to play in the wind. Accept the fact that you will be hard pressed to play your A-game. Know going in that you’re in for a physically punishing day if you’re truly committed to following Nadal’s lead. If it’s doubles that you’re playing keep it simple and be willing to engage in conservative cross court exchanges to repeatedly give less physically and mentally resilient opponents another chance to give you a free point with an unforced error. Love to watch them unravel!

I believe Andre Agassi stated something like this: “I don’t mind playing in the wind because everyone else hates it.”

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