I Remember You

Friday, July 02, 2010 /by
Rafael NadalI remember this Rafael Nadal. The one whose forehand curves and bends and drops from the sky. The one who knuckles down on break points. The one who won Wimbledon in 2008 while playing some of the best tennis ever played.

A mere five months after suffering another injury and inspiring doubt among his fans the world over, Nadal is at his peak again. He's back in the Wimbledon final after a 6-4, 7-6 (6), 6-4 defeat of Andy Murray. One more victory and he'll win the French Open-Wimbledon double for the second time in his career.

What did we learn from this match? Rather than learn, maybe I should say learn again. Here's what I think many of us had forgotten about Nadal on grass.

He's a phenomenal volleyer. Nadal won 88 percent of his break points today and hit all manners of drop volleys, stretch volleys, high volleys and low volleys. On the most important point of the match, with Murray serving for the second set at 6-5 in the tiebreaker, Nadal worked his way forward and hit a perfect backhand drop volley winner.

Footwork matters. Nadal has reached the final the last four times he has played Wimbledon. His feet are the biggest reason. It's not just speed, but his impeccable balance, his ability to change directions and his ability to adjust to tricky bounces at the last millisecond.

Nadal hardly ever misses an overhead. And he rarely hits one anywhere near his opponent.

His spin serve. Nadal's serve might be he worst stroke, but it's effective at Wimbledon. Murray explained why: "His serve is a lot harder to return than a lot of people think. A lot of slice, a lot of spin, and it's heavy."

He doesn't worry when he screws up. In the second set tiebreaker, Nadal double faulted to give Murray a 6-5 lead. He played three brilliant points to win the set.

His slice backhand is one of the best, if not the best, in the sport. On the lawns of the All England Club, it stays low and curves. Few players can punish it.

After his win, Nadal made the rounds: Television interviews, print media interviews, radio interviews and finally more television interviews. His last batch took place on the terrace overlooking St. Mary's Walk. As Nadal tried to answer questions, a crowd below called for his attention. "Give us a smile, peachy ass," one of them shouted, admiring Nadal's rear. When he did turn and smile, they roared. And then he signed autographs (sometimes on scraps of paper) and posed for pictures. If he has to do that again, it will mean he's the king of Wimbledon once again.

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