Rafael Nadal crowned his longest pursuit of Roger Federer last Sunday when he won the 13th Roland Garros of his extraordinary career. The Spanish phenomenon has thus posted his 20th Grand Slam, equaling the record of the Swiss, who will return to the field only at the beginning of next season after a double operation on his right knee.
For the fourth time, the Majorcan won the Parisian Grand Slam without giving up a single set, leaving the misery of seven games to Novak Djokovic in a one-way final. Interviewed by Patrick McEnroe in the latest edition of the 'Holding Court' podcast, eight-time Grand Slam champion Ivan Lendl explained how Nadal would have been a tough opponent to face in his day.
His left-handed tennis would in fact have created serious headaches for the former ATP number 1.
Lendl on Rafael Nadal
"The most difficult for me to play against would be Rafael Nadal because as a kid, I never got to play against left-handers.
We had no left-handers at our club. That's also why I hired Tony Roche as he was a leftie. He could tell me what left-handers liked and did not like," Ivan Lendl said. Lendl talked about how unusually aggressive Nadal was with the down-the-line forehand and crosscourt backhand, which prevented Novak Djokovic from using his normal patterns.
"Few things stuck out right away from the beginning of the match," Lendl said. "No. 1 - Rafa was using his forehand down the line a bit more than he usually does. No. 2 - his backhand crosscourt was extremely aggressive.
Rafa was looking to be aggressive and not let Novak sit in the backhand corner. And the third, which was interesting. Anytime Rafa was in big trouble, he would throw up a lob, make up and get back into the point because Novak wasn't putting the overhead away.
It was part of the strategy. Novak's overhead is not his best shot. He prefers to place it rather than hit it. If you are as quick and defend as well as Rafa, you get back in to the point, and Rafa was very successful at that," he added.
"Bjorn Borg was in those days like Rafael Nadal," Lendl said. "He had won six French Opens. That was unheard of. Bjorn was like today's Rafa. Of course, Rafael winning 13 French Opens now makes Bjorn Borg look like an ordinary player but believe me Borg was no ordinary player.
It's an unfair comparison whichever way you go. However, if Rafa had to play with a wooden racket with a small head, I don't know how he would hit his forehand. It would surely be a long match. It would take a while," Lendl finished.