Rafael Nadal is by far the greatest clay court player in tennis history and Hubert Hurkacz's coach Craig Boynton offered some insight into what makes the Spaniard such a dominant force on clay. Nadal has been dominant on clay ever since he arrived on the tour as he is a record 13-time French Open champion and also owns the record number of titles at the Masters events in Monte Carlo, Rome and Madrid.
"You've got to be able to transition from defense to offense and offense to defense is the short answer. When you watch Rafa, he played way behind the baseline, and then he will hit a ball and quickly establish the middle of the court with the forehand to get on the offense.
Don't watch the ball, watch the court position of each player," Boynton explained.
Boynton on how Nadal's health will impact how he plays on clay in 2022
Nadal sustained a rib stress fracture at the Indian Wells Masters and the injury forced him to skip the Monte Carlo Masters and Barcelona Open.
"Basically we will see how he is with his health and where he is, but normally, if you look at the prototypical clay courter back him in his day, I mean, if it was there, he would take it. If it is not there, he would just hit the forehand heavy to get the ball to the strike zone and now his opponent has to move back, let the ball drop so he is giving up space and time and then if he drops it short, Rafa or good clay courters will then be happy to take that time and space and get their opponent on the defense or push him back and hit the drop shot," Boynton said of Nadal.
After sitting out Monte Carlo and Barcelona, Nadal returned to the practice court this Monday. The Madrid Masters kicks off on May 1 and Nadal is hoping two weeks of practice will be enough for him to be ready to return to competitive action.
Nadal is already behind in his French Open preparation and not being able to play Madrid would put him in a tricky spot ahead of Roland Garros.