Rafael Nadal: 10 Reasons Why He Is Still the Dominant Player in the Game

Chris Siddell@@siddellcCorrespondent IIIOctober 25, 2011

Rafael Nadal: 10 Reasons Why He Is Still the Dominant Player in the Game

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    Rafael Nadal is the best player in tennis, and at only 25, he is set to dominate for a few years longer.  Novak Djokovic may have had an unbelievable season, but one year does not make a great player, and even in the shadow of Djokovic's career season, Nadal has still shown he is the most dominant player around.

    With Andy Murray frequently knocking but seemingly unable to open the door to major success and Roger Federer fading away as he heads into retirement, it is Rafael Nadal who remains the dominant player in world tennis.

    Rafael Nadal is still the dominating force in tennis and will remain so as he makes his way to the records set by Federer, winning more and more to ensure there is no doubt he is the greatest player in this generation, if not of all time. Here's why.

10. One Season Wonder

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    Novak Djokovic is a one season wonder.  He shocked the tennis and sporting world during 2011 with his incredible run of results, winning 10 titles during the year.

    Had Nadal won 10 titles, would anyone be shocked?  I think not.

    Djokovic is one of the best players in the world, and on his day, he is capable of beating Nadal, but in the long run, Nadal is the dominant force in world tennis.  If Djokovic can continue his run of form and keep winning well into 2012, then he will have a case, but at the minute, Nadal is still king. 

    Tennis is often seen as a game of form and confidence, and that is what Djokovic has had this year: some great form and a lot of confidence.  Unfortunately, form and confidence don't last forever.

    Once Djokovic returns to "normal," it will be Nadal who regains the top spot in the ATP Rankings once more.

9. He's Won More Than Djokovic in 2011

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    Novak Djokovic may have stolen the tennis headlines in 2011, but there is a player who has won more tennis matches than him: Rafael Nadal.

    Having only lost three times all season and beginning the year with an incredible winning streak, Djokovic has proven he is the man in form this year, but as the year has progressed, Rafa has also kept winning and winning.

    He may have lost a in a pair of major finals to Djokovic, but it looks likely that it will be Nadal who finishes the year with more matches won, and if you count the upcoming Davis Cup final, then they have both reached the final of 11 tournaments this year. 

    Incredible to think that even with a 64-3 win record and having a career defining season, Djokovic has still not won as many tennis matches as Nadal, who currently has 66 wins in 2011.  It would be impossible not to admit that Djokovic has had the better year, but to claim he is dominant would be excessive.

8. Left or Right?

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    Switching away from results this year, looking at the top four in the world, Rafael Nadal holds one major advantage over his competitors for the number one spot: He plays left handed.

    Being left handed is said to give an advantage to tennis players in the first instance, but Nadal holds an even greater advantage: He's naturally right handed.  

    That gives him an even bigger boost, with his backhand becoming almost as deadly as his forehand with his naturally strong right arm controlling the shot, allowing him to return and even attack backhand shots he has no right to.

    The foresight of his uncle and coach to develop Rafa into a left handed player has given him a unique advantage over his rivals that has enabled him to dominate tennis.

7. The King of Clay

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    Rafael Nadal is the undisputed king of clay.  Nadal has proved to be almost unbeatable when playing on clay, and he loves to prove it during the midseason clay run in Europe.

    Since 2005, Nadal has won at least three clay tournaments every single season, with 2011 being no exception.  

    This total dominance of all things clay has been the foundation of Nadal's success over the years, and remains there as a solid base on which Nadal will use to stay top of the game.

    Nadal has reached five non-clay finals in 2011 to go with his five clay appearances, proving he is still one of the best whatever the surface.

    His dominance of tennis is founded on his performances on clay, and until he stops winning on the red stuff, he will continue to build on that success on all surfaces.

6. The Davis Cup

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    The dominance of Nadal stretches beyond standard tournaments. He is one of the few players to really dominate the Davis Cup.

    Spain have only ever won the title four times, but three of them came with Nadal as the leading player.  Whilst many players choose to rest during the Davis Cup, playing only enough to ensure eligibility for the Olympics, Nadal plays to win.

    A perfect example was earlier this year, when, after losing the US Open final, Nadal traveled to Spain immediately to ensure Spain beat France in the semi-finals.  His domination means Spain are once again in the final, where they will face Argentina, giving Nadal the chance to win his fourth title.

    Nadal has proven, and continues to prove, that he is a great player, either dominating as an individual, or as part of a team.  Not even Novak Djokovic could lead Serbia to another final this year.

5. Best in Class

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    One thing we have already mentioned is the fact Nadal plays left-handed, giving him something of an advantage over right-handed players and making him a difficult opponent for them, especially when combined with being a natural right hander.

    But what happens when Nadal himself comes up against a left handed opponent?  He shows his class.

    When playing right handed opponents, Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are evenly matched, with win records of 80-81 percent respectively.  Andy Murray isn't too far behind, either.

    But when up against a lefty, it is Nadal who comes out well ahead of the field.  Nadal has an incredible win record of 92 percent when up against left handed opponents.  His nearest rival is Andy Murray, who has won 72 percent.

    Nadal not only holds the best win record for any left handed player when up against right handed players, he completely dominates all other left handed players.  Nadal truly is the best in his class.

4. Top 10 Record

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    The real test for any tennis player is when they come up against an opponent from the top 10 in the world.  Consistency is key here, and the best in the world will win against the best of his peers regularly.

    Both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer outshine the rest of the tennis world in this category, and it is Nadal who is maintaining his record as Federer fades.

    Both men have a career win record of 65 percent when up against top 10 opponents (both top five in all-time list), whilst Novak Djokovic sits way back on 53 percent, behind Andy Murray (57 percent).

    Where Nadal sticks out, though, is his consistency.  Even this year, his win record is 66 percent, well ahead of the fading Federer down on 53 percent for 2011. 

    Nadal will continue to be consistent, winning around 65 percent of his big matches against big opponents, something Murray and Federer couldn't manage in 2011, and something Djokovic has managed only this season.

    Djokovic is a class act, no doubt, but the win record of 91 percent he has in 2011is highly unlikely to be sustainable, and he is more likely to fade into the 60's, which will see him battling with Nadal for domination in the game.

3. Unique Forehand

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    One area that Rafael Nadal has made his own in tennis is the spin and bounce he can create, especially through his forehand.

    Nadal has the ability to not only return almost anything at incredible speed, but he can also produce a phenomenal amount of spin on the ball, often causing it to bounce higher than usual.

    Characterized by his strange looking follow through that is rarely seen anywhere else, Nadal has the ability to whip his arm through the ball and bring his follow through up over his head on the hitting side as oppose to across his body.

    The extra spin this generates makes things very difficult for any opponent, often forcing them back in the court and opening up the chance for Nadal to hit either one of his equally successful drop shots, or a flat winner.

    As long as Nadal keeps troubling opponents with his topspin, then he will dominate tennis.

2. Mentality

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    Rafael Nadal not only has the ability to dominate tennis, he also has the mentality to go with it.  Tennis is often a game played as much in the head as on the court, and Nadal seems to have mastered the mental side of the game. 

    Of course, he is not perfect, and still suffers from lapses in concentration and confidence; his recent results in the far East are testament to that.  But coming off the back of a very difficult season who can blame him for a little lapse.

    Nadal has a proven record in difficult situations, and his ability to keep a cool head and remain focused have helped him to not only rise to be among the best, but the outshine his peers.

    Looking at tiebreak situations in the past 12 months, Nadal is the best in the game, with a win record of 73 percent.  Djokovic, even during the best season of his career, has struggled in these pressure situations, winning just 53 percent of his tiebreakers in the same period. 

    If that doesn't convince you, then look at Nadal's record when it comes to going behind.  While many players struggle to come back into a match, Nadal has the best record for any current player (and top 10 of all time) for winning after losing the first set.  Djokovic is fifth.

    This ability to remain calm and win the mental side of the game will help Nadal to remain as the dominant force in tennis for a few more years.

1. Power and Aggression

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    The most obvious reason Rafael Nadal has and will remain dominant in tennis is his power.  Watch the Spaniard a few times, and it is clear to see he can out-muscle any player on the circuit.

    Add to that power an aggressive style of play, and you have a very intimidating opponent.  Nadal will continue to work from the baseline, unleashing incredibly powerful strokes with his incredible amount of topspin, as well as bashing out clear winners whenever he sees the opportunity.

    Not always the most gracious on the court aesthetically, fans of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and even Andy Murray will claim their player has more tennis ability, but the fact is, they just look better when playing.

    Nadal has proven that he has an incredible amount of ability and skill when it comes to tennis, and it is this power and aggression that has allowed, and will continue to allow, him to dominate the game.