Fantasy Tennis: Crafting the Ultimate Player, Part 2: Fitness of Rafael Nadal

Nick NemeroffCorrespondent IIApril 8, 2012

KEY BISCAYNE, FL - MARCH 25:  Rafael Nadal of Spain in action during his match against Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic  during day 7 of the Sony Ericsson Open at Crandon Park Tennis Center on March 25, 2012 in Key Biscayne, Florida.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Tennis is sport that requires a tremendous amount of physical and mental exertion.  A season that spans virtually the entire calendar year with various breaks dispersed here and there, the ATP World Tour leaves absolutely no space for those unwilling to place forth titanic efforts on and off the court.

In the month of December, which is considered the tennis offseason, many of the top guys focus on elevating their fitness levels.  A perfect example of this is Andy Murray.  Murray spends the month of December in Miami conditioning through the repetition of various intense workouts.  

Read this article to see exactly what Murray did following the 2010 season to prepare for the upcoming year.

With all of this said, lets not forget the goal here—to create the ultimate tennis player.  As is such, I think it is clear that if we needed to extract the fitness of an individual player to place into our fantasy prototype it would have to be that of Rafael Nadal.

Rafael Nadal, or The Bull as he is commonly referred to, leaves it all on the court.  Glory supersedes pain without fail.  Every individual point is a new stricken battle, an opportunity to seize victory.  

To Nadal, all points are created equal—the scoreboard means nothing.  In his eyes, every point is a match point and to treat it otherwise would be to do an injustice to himself and the game of tennis.  The amount of energy and passion injected into each shot is truly breathtaking.

Despite the fact that Nadal has been forced out of several notable matches and tournaments due to injury, most notably during the 2009 Wimbledon and the 2010 Australian Open, fitness has always been a forte of the vicious Spaniard.

Let's do a little bit of case study.  In the 2009 Australian Open, Nadal took out fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdsaco in a five-hour, five-set semifinal that became an instant classic.  

His next task was to best longtime rival Roger Federer.  A seemingly impossible task.  How could Nadal come back on just a day's rest and beat arguably the greatest player ever?

Well, as we all know now, just a short two days later, Nadal took out Federer in 4 hours and 22 minutes.  Most players will never play a four hour match in their entire lives, so to win back-to-back matches in such a fashion is a true testament to the fitness of Nadal.

The fitness of Nadal was also exhibited in the 2012 Australian Open.  Nadal had two extremely vigorous, drawn-out matches spanning nearly eight hours in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds against Federer and Tomas Berdych.  He then came back two days later and dueled it out with World No. 1 Novak Djokovic for just under six hours in the longest and most memorable Australian Open final to date. 

Nadal's success on clay can, in part, be explained by his fitness.  Clay courts are traditionally slower and higher bouncing, thus yielding longer points necessitating a heightened level of physicality.  So, as common logic would tell us, the player with the most physicality should have the upper edge on clay and as the results have elucidated, that player is none other than Nadal.

At any level of tennis, having better fitness than your opponent is an invaluable.  It allows a player to win through a balanced integration of offense and defense.  The physical and mental implications of increased fitness are incredibly positive and worthwhile.  Next time you are deep into a third set, think like The Bull, push your opponent to the absolute limit and give yourself the best chance to come out on top.