How Lukas Rosol shocked Rafael Nadal - and the tennis world

 
on July 10 2012 9:16 AM
How Lukas Rosol shocked Rafael Nadal - and the tennis world

 

Despite the hysteria and heroics of Murray's trip to the Wimbledon final, the tactical highlight of the tournament was without question, Lukas Rosol's defeat of Rafael Nadal in Round Two. While most discussion focused on the magnitude of the shock, it is must more interesting to look at the method and means which Rosol used to topple the best defensive player in the history of Tennis.

To put it in context, I have only seen Nadal tactically beaten so thoroughly twice - which I will outline below.

#1 2008 Australian Open, Semi Final vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Tsonga came into the tournament an unknown - but after beating Murray in Round 1, and Nadal in the semis, he lost to Djokovic in the final in 4 sets. This was Jo at his absolutely doubt-free best. He just fired and smashed at everything that moved without fear. He peppered the line and hit winner after winner against Nadal; who played a more defensive style in 2008 and was in the midst of grinding everyone into a pulp on all surfaces, in 2008 he would finally overcome Roger Federer on grass to become world number 1. Tsonga though showed no fear and avoided getting into long rallies where Nadal eventually draws an error out of you by circumventing the problem entirely, by just hitting everything that moves. Nadal was flabbergasted, and couldn't get into the rallies. A much easier strategy to plan than execute.

#2 2009 Roland Garros, Round 4 vs Robin Soderling

Rafael Nadal's record at the French open is 52-1. He has entered the competition 8 times, and won it 7 times. The only defeat felt like the Berlin Wall coming down it was so monumentally massive. I think the only other moment in Sport i've felt that same "where were you when..." feeling about was when Brett Favre decided before a Minnesota Vikings game in December 2010 that he wouldn't start as he had a separated shoulder, ending his consecutive starts streak at 297, dating all the way back to 1992. The way Soderling achieved it was with his unusual action. Soderling, instead of a natural sweeping forehand, winds up, brings his arm back and pauses for just a split second longer than your average tennis player, giving Nadal less time to read the eyes and body language and react in time to recover balls, a significant asset in his game that was completely taken out of action. Whether this action is repeatable, or simply natural, is open for debate.

Lukas Rosol vs Rafael Nadal, Wimbledon 2012, Round Two

 

Lukas Rosol (CZE)

 

Rafael Nadal (ESP)

22

  Aces

19

3

  Double faults

2

92 of 137 = 67 %

  1st serves in

93 of 139 = 67 %

76 of 92 = 83 %

  1st serve points won

73 of 93 = 78 %

26 of 45 = 58 %

  2nd serve points won

29 of 46 = 63 %

134 MPH

  Fastest serve

130 MPH

124 MPH

  Average 1st serve speed

118 MPH

101 MPH

  Average 2nd serve speed

95 MPH

22 of 28 = 79 %

  Net points won

14 of 21 = 67 %

4 of 8 = 50 %

  Break points won

3 of 4 = 75 %

37 of 139 = 27 %

  Receiving points won

35 of 137 = 26 %

65

  Winners

41

29

  Unforced errors

16

139

  Total points won

137

 

What Lukas Rosol did at Wimbledon 2012 was a combination of the two strategies. He went for his shots, but he also wound up his forehand a little bit longer than the average player which gave Rafa less time to react, and was why you saw so many winners past a player who normally gets a racket on almost everything. In addition, what was really interesting was Rosol's hitting zone - he stepped in from the baseline against Rafa's top spin and took the ball early, and clean, without being affected by the spin or the pace of the ball - Rafa just didnt have an answer.

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