Here’s How Nadal Plays Tennis Like A Chess Grandmaster

Rafa dictates patterns of play in 5-8 shot rallies

The perfect storm in a tennis match is Rafael Nadal hitting either three of four balls into the court.

Not more. Not less. 

Just three or four moves is all it takes for the Spaniard to lure his opponents into checkmate.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis shows that Nadal is in a class of his own in mid-length rallies of 5-8 shots. The data set is comprised of players who competed in a minimum of 20 matches at ATP events on Hawk Eye courts from the beginning of the 2018 season.

The three rally lengths commonly measured in tennis are:

•0-4 Shots (First Strike)
•5-8 Shots (Patterns Of Play)
•9+ Shots (Extended Rallies)

It’s important to note that rally length in our sport is predicated by the ball landing in the court, not hitting the strings. So a “three-shot” rally is a serve in, a return in, and a winner, while a “two-shot” rally is a serve in, a return in, and an error. That explains a “zero-shot” rally, which is a double fault. The ball simply didn’t land in the court.

The inner workings of Nadal’s formidable game can be best understood when it’s dissected by how many shots he ideally desires to win a point. It highlights efficiency and intent.

Nadal won a head-turning 59.7 per cent (652/1092) of points in the 5-8 shot range from 33 matches. Next best is Diego Schwartzman at 55.9 per cent (547/978), putting the Spaniard almost four percentage points higher than his closest rival. Novak Djokovic sits in third place, having won 55.5 per cent (1043/1879) in 5-8 shot rallies.

Source: ATP Tour

Ask the Pro: Dubs 101

Here’s a quick guide to the art of doubles play:

  1. Manage the ‘real estate’ by understanding the 80% Rule.  80% of shots are in a 2-metre circle around the centre serve box!  Given a choice to defend always move to protect the centre of the court.  You might not make the shot even so you’ll have a play most times!
  2. Doubles is a Team Sport because one player gets to stand in a winning position without hitting a ball! The server’s, and the receiver’s job is to get the ball to their partner at the net. So much easier to win points at the net!
  3. Be a  ‘Threat” by your court presence.  Impose yourself when you’re at the net to intimidate the opposition.  For example Thomas  (“blitzkrieg” big guy dominating the net) or Netto (fast guy moving around on the net) can cause opponents to make more errors!
  4. 80% First Serves.  Take a little off your first serve to start the point. Statswise, you’re more likely to win the point, you have more time to reach your volley position AND your partner has a greater chance of hitting a winning volley — a threefer! Besides your opposition is much more apprehensive about returning the first serve.

Great to see a slow and steady improvement in our players in our Ladies Clinics practicing these tips.

The Tennis Whisperer


Finding a way to win! Inside The Joker’s Head @AO

Djokovic won his 17th Grand Slam at the Australian Open. And while I’m not a fan, there are some key lessons for us tragics!

Conventional wisdom tells us that on big points, we should play to our strengths. Djokovic admitted that when the big points came in the AO final, he did the opposite. Both times this baseliner rushed the net, and both times he came up trumps with the backhand volley he needed. [Coach Goran believes stats can sometimes be overrated particularly on big points and has caused Federer to lose two Slams.]

What does that tell us? That Djokovic has a strategic sixth sense? That fortune favors the brave? I would say it shows that in tennis, execution is underrated. By making those crucial volleys, Djokovic turned a tactic that was at best counterintuitive, and at worst reckless, into a winning one. And he turned what easily could have been his third straight loss to Thiem into his 17th Grand Slam title.

Champions execute, and, yes, while it may not be as simple as it sounds, they do rise to the occasion. In his own complicated way, Djokovic proved it again last night.

Paraphrasing Tennis Magazine, here’s how the match unfolded…..

In the first set, he tried for an early knockout punch. He took the ball early, peppered Thiem’s backhand, and broke the Austrian in his first service game. Thiem got off the mat and broke back, but Djokovic won the set anyway with a brilliant stab return, and a Thiem double-fault, at 4-5.

At that point, you might have expected a player of Djokovic’s stature and experience to relax and run away with a straight-set victory. That’s essentially what he did against Roger Federer in the semis. Instead, he spent the next two sets running out of gas. Thiem was the guy who had worked harder and longer to get here, but it was Djokovic who was suddenly dazed, slump-shouldered, and staggering, and who needed a refrigerator’s worth of food and drinks to revive him.

“Turbulent, I would say,” is how Djokovic described his evening.

“It started off really well; I broke his serve right away. I felt the experience on my side playing many Australian Open finals. For him, it was his first.”

“After I lost the second set, I started to feel really bad on the court. My energy dropped significantly. To be honest, I still don’t understand the reason why that has happened, because I’ve been doing the things I’ve been doing before all may matches. I was hydrated well and everything. Apparently doctor said I wasn’t hydrated enough.”

Like Nadal in New York, though, Djokovic found a way to right himself just in time. The fluids kicked in during the fourth set, and his body language and stamina immediately improved. From that point on, Djokovic went back to doing what he does best: digging in and forcing his opponent to hit a perfect shot, and then another, and then another. Thiem, whether it was because he finally grew tired or finally tensed up, began to misfire on his biggest weapon, his forehand. He made Djokovic work to the bitter end, but he could never get his nose in front again.

“He was a better player,” Djokovic said of Thiem. “Probably one point and one shot separated us tonight. Could have gone a different way.”

Djokovic then alluded to the two most important moments in the match: The break points that he saved early in each of the last two sets, and that kept the momentum on his side of the net. Djokovic saved them both in the same, completely unexpected way: with a surprise run to the net.

“I served and volleyed when I was facing break point in the fourth and in the fifth,” Djokovic said. “It worked both of the times. It could also have been differently. Serve and volley is not something I’m accustomed to. I’m not really doing that that often.”

“I kind of recognized that as an important tactic in those circumstances, and I’m really happy it worked.”


The Big Takeaway From Australia: Men’s and Women’s Tennis Are in Very Different Places

While men’s singles is dominated by the Big Three of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, it is anyone’s game on the women’s side.

Sofia Kenin won the Australian Open, becoming the eighth woman to win a Grand Slam championship for the first time in the last 12 tournament.


Perhaps the heart — and a tremendous amount of practice and conditioning — helps explain why men in their 30s continue to dominate. Younger stars like Dominic Thiem have to know in their heads by now that they have the firepower and skills to rival the Big Three: Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

Thiem, 26, has beaten each of them on more than one surface and has beaten Nadal and Djokovic in best-of-five-set Grand Slam play. But he is now 0-3 in Grand Slam finals after his loss to Djokovic late Sunday night.

It was a five-setter that was more epic in length than mood, with Thiem failing to push Djokovic for long at the end of the fourth set or the fifth. The suspense never approached the high-anxiety levels of last year’s Wimbledon final, when Djokovic beat Federer in a tiebreaker after they won 12 games each in the fifth set, a first for a Wimbledon final. Sunday’s duel also fell short of the five-set United States Open final in September, when Daniil Medvedev, 23, rallied from two sets down to push Nadal remarkably close to his physical limits.

But the theme remained the same: the old guard holding off new blood, though now just barely.

“I think it’s only small details,” Thiem said. “It could have gone either way for Daniil in the U.S. Open and for me here.”

The blockade of Grand Slam ports is still real.

“It’s unique in sports history that the three best players by far are playing in the same era,” Thiem said. “That’s what makes it very, very difficult for players to break through.”

Read more —->

Could a Keto Diet Be Bad for Athletes’ Bones?

Race walkers on a low-carbohydrate, high-fat ketogenic diet showed early signs indicative of bone loss.

A low-carbohydrate, high-fat ketogenic diet could alter bone health in athletes, according to a thought-provoking new study of elite race walkers and their skeletons. The study, one of the first to track athletes during several weeks of intense training, finds that those following a ketogenic diet developed early signs indicative of bone loss.

The study adds to the considerable existing evidence that how we eat can affect how exercise affects us. It also raises concerns about possible, long-term health impacts from popular diet plans, including a high-fat, ketogenic diet.

Anyone interested in health, wellness, weight loss, exercise, food or best seller lists is familiar, by now, with ketogenic diets. Known more familiarly as keto diets, they are extremely low-carbohydrate, high-fat regimens, with as much as 90 percent of daily calories coming from fats.

Ketogenic diets, if followed scrupulously, reshape how our bodies fuel themselves. Because carbohydrates can be rapidly metabolized, our bodies typically turn to them first for energy, whether the carbohydrates come from our diets or stored sources in our muscles and livers.

But if people follow a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet, they soon burn through their stored carbohydrates and their bodies start relying on fat for energy. The fat must be broken down first, however, and, as part of that process, the liver creates substances known as ketone bodies that can be converted into energy.

Ketogenic diets are popular now — as they have been off and on in the past — among people hoping to lose weight, control blood sugar or otherwise regulate their health. Some athletes also follow the diet, hoping that it will improve performance, since fat, as fuel, is ample, slow-burning and long-lasting.

By Gretchen Reynolds NYTimes


MTC announces its Tennis Whisperer Ladies clinics.

For Term 1, we have two Ladies Clinics:

  1) Monday Ladies Clinic 9:00 – 10:30 am

  2) Wednesday Ladies Clinic 9:00 – 10:30 am

Numbers are limited and players must meet a minimum playing standard.   Other Whisperer clinics may be held upon request.

MTC charges $30 for our Tennis Whisperer clinics.

Click here to learn more about, and sign up for, our Tennis Whisperer program.

MTC Whisperer-Cross Dominance

Helping you to play better with the skills that you already have is the primary goal of our Tennis Whisperer program. In this missive, we focus on overcoming your natural dominance, and in particular your feet.

We’re hard-wired neurologically from birth to being right- or left-handed. We prefer using one dominant hand, and for most of us, one eye.  And when we first learned tennis, our coach inadvertently focused on our dominance.

What isn’t well-known, however, is that you can be right-handed but have a dominant left foot or left eye —  “cross-dominance.” 

Forehands are preferred if you’re right-handed and left-eyed (or vice versa) because you can stroke the ball comfortably in the sight of the dominant eye. Backhands are a challenge though. Right-handed, left-eyed players, for example, sometimes lose the correct backhand stance, because they have to turn to keep sight of the ball.  The ‘fix’ so to speak is to open up your stance to take away your eye dominance. 

While strength training can build muscle on your nondominant side to improve your balance, strength training will not address the eye, hand and foot coordination required to consistently hit a tennis ball well.

But what about return of serve which requires you to move to the ball from a standing start while maintaining your balance? Foot cross dominance is now key, effecting your stance, stroke and footwork.

In our short video below, we show you how to build the neural pathways to ‘balance out’ your foot dominance. Notice how our model, Pamela, uses a basic crossover step to trap the ball on either side. Note, a partner is probably preferred but you can use a wall if you want to practice alone.

Remember to start slow, and be patient with yourself. It takes time to repave the neural pathways, particularly if you’ve played for many years.

The good news: you can teach an older dog new tricks. And remember, have fun while you’re learning your new tricks.

The Tennis Whisperer

Whisperer Basic Crossover Step Exercise

Sweet spot: how a racquet can make or break a player

How do the stars set up their racquets to enhance their game? And how has the evolution of racquets changed tennis itself? 

By Anthony Colangelo

JANUARY 20, 2020

is perfect hair held by a perfect headband against a pressed polo shirt, Roger Federer walked on to centre court at the Queensland Tennis Centre for his first tournament of 2014 to an adoring crowd.

A real-life glimpse of Federer was enough to transfix even the most casual tennis fan but, on this occasion, if you were in the know, it was his equipment that would have held your attention as much as the tennis God himself.

Federer had broken with a decade of tradition and got himself a new racquet.

The whole of 2013 had been a career low for the Swiss champion. Usually No.1 or No.2 in the world, he’d ended the year ranked sixth. A premature exit from Wimbledon, in the second round, had marked the first time in 36 consecutive grand slams that he had not made a quarter-final. He’d lasted until just the fourth round in the US Open, a tournament he’d won five times before.

These results represented, in the minds of some, the start of a career plateau for the then-32-year-old, with back injuries among the factors blunting his dominance.

But Federer arrested the slide.

He hired a new coach – his childhood hero, six-time grand-slam winner Stefan Edberg. He set about mending his body. And, perhaps less obviously until he appeared on court in Brisbane, he changed his magic wand – the racquet he’d wielded through his rise to tennis legend.

For a certain weekend warrior type of tennis player, changing racquets might offer a seductive solution to a subpar game. After all, it’s easier to spend a few hundred dollars on new equipment than it might be to work on a weak backhand or sluggish legs.

And a change can’t do much harm, right?

At the elite level, there is nowhere to hide. Just as any adjustment in stroke will be identified and perfected so will every variable gram, inch or centimetre in a racquet be scrutinised. The racquet is the player’s key weapon and one with which he or she has a symbiotic relationship. If a change is to be made to this set-up, it will be for good reason. And even an improvement of 1 per cent is a good reason in international tennis.

For Federer, at that moment in Brisbane, the stakes could not have been higher.

More recently, in the lead-up to this year’s Australian Open, eagle-eyed fans might have noticed that Serena Williams has stepped out with a new racquet.

How do stars such as Federer, his on-court arch rival Rafael Nadal and Barty and Williams set up their racquets to boost their games? And how have changes in racquets over the years changed the game itself?

Click here to

How did Nadal solve DeMinaur’s ATP Cup challenge?

Nadal found an extra gear to cruise to a comfortable 6-1 win in the deciding set.

And De Minaur had the chance to see first hand what it takes to make a top-10 player, with Nadal explaining how he had turned the match around.

“Well, you need to have the mind open and clear to find solutions, and I was not able to win many points on the return during all the second set,” Nadal said. “I needed to change something, and that’s what I did.

“I think I advanced my position around one metre, one metre and a half on the return, on the deuce especially, and I take the first point. And then game change, because then the pressure is on the other side of the court.

“So just tried to change a little bit the dynamic, tried to change a little bit the energy of the match in that moments and tried to make feel the opponent something different that is not going the same way that have been going for the last 30 minutes.

“So that’s what I tried. And today it worked.”

Source: SMH

The Quiet Brain of the Athlete

The brains of fit, young athletes dial down extraneous noise and attend to important sounds better than those of other young people.


Top athletes’ brains are not as noisy as yours and mine, according to a fascinating new study of elite competitors and how they process sound. The study finds that the brains of fit, young athletes dial down extraneous noise and attend to important sounds better than those of other young people, suggesting that playing sports may change brains in ways that alter how well people sense and respond to the world around them.

For most of us with normal hearing, of course, listening to and processing sounds are such automatic mental activities that we take them for granted.

But “making sense of sound is actually one of the most complex jobs we ask of our brains,” says Nina Kraus, a professor and director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., who oversaw the new study.

Sound processing also can be a reflection of broader brain health, she says, since it involves so many interconnected areas of the brain that must coordinate to decide whether any given sound is familiar, what it means, if the body should respond and how a particular sound fits into the broader orchestration of other noises that constantly bombard us.

And they have found interesting variations in proficiency. The brains of trained musicians, for instance, tend to show greater spikes in processing activity when they hear the “da” than do the brains of other people, indicating that learning and practicing musicianship also hones and refines the portions of the brain that process sound.

Some of the athletes’ acoustic agility most likely developed during years of attending to crucial sounds despite clatter, Dr. Kraus says. “You have to be able to hear the coach yelling something or what a teammate is saying,” she says. “Brains change in response to that kind of repeated experience,” and the sound-processing components within the brain strengthen.

But many of the athletes played sports that, typically, are not noisy, she points out. Cross-country running and golf, for instance, most likely demand less sound filtering during most practices and competitions than a sport like football or basketball. But the university’s runners and golfers had brains just as quiet as those of linemen.

For them, “fitness and regular movement of the body also change the brain,” Dr. Kraus says. And sports that seem quiet can still demand a focus on subtle sounds and signals, like the whoosh of a breeze through branches alerting golfers and runners to wind speed or a creak in a joint that could warn of early injury.

Over all, the results suggest that being active, whether as part of a team or on your own, may alter how well brains respond to and understand sounds.

This kind of study cannot tell us definitively, though, whether being an athlete changed the young people’s brains or whether they succeeded as athletes because they were better at sound processing from the start. Dr. Kraus hopes that her continuing research with the university’s sports teams will help to answer that question, as well as whether older people can reshape their sound processing by becoming active.

Read more