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The Rafa Serve: An Illustrated Commentary


Rafael Nadal is a fierce competitor. Just before he serves, he often gives his opponent a look reminiscent of a snarl. But contrary to what some of us might be thinking, that doesn’t mean he’s about to try to serve that opponent off the court. More often than not, he’s just looking for an effective serve that’s going to set up an awesome reply to an average return. That’s something I’m a big fan of – percentage tennis.

I’m also a fan of Rafa’s serving technique. He doesn’t toss the ball up any higher than it needs to be to make contact. And it’s very compact…very little can go wrong with it. The name of the game is effective consistency.

But that consistency didn’t come easy or cheap. Over the years, Nadal has tinkered with various grips and stances to improve his serve. But inevitably (because it works), he keeps relying on what basically is a clay court serve. The difference is he has power whenever he chooses to use it. And to compound the effectiveness, he also mixes up his serves beautifully, changing the speeds and placement with pinpoint accuracy – especially on the big points. Another thing that makes Rafa so hard to break is that when he finds a winning pattern he doesn’t stray away from it.

This can work for you too. To improve your chances of winning, be like Nadal and try using more spin on your serve.  Don’t worry if you get broken a few times at first. The accuracy and placement we all desire will come with practice.

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Comment by Tim Prapong on November 11, 2013 at 2:30pm
Yeah, Steven. I certainly think at times Rafael gets the job done better than Raonic or Isner. He has the wile of McEnroe and the consistency of Wilander.

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