was a kid, Rafael Nadal has technically worked on his serve on a regular basis.
His goal has been to become more efficient with this shot and in this video, I will look at the evolution of his serve.
When he was 11, we can see that his serve is just a harmless way to start the point. He's hitting the ball with no real purpose and just puts minimal effort in.
He's not trying to hurt his opponent with this shot, nor searching for a tactical advantage with eventually opens up the court for an attack. It's just a way to start the point.
He's barely using his legs and there's not much intensity.
In 2005, when he won his first French Open, his movement had already changed
in order to gain more efficiency.
At this time, he's mainly shining on clay and influenced by all the best
clay players, he's using his serve to either make his opponent step back or to
open the court so he can dictate the point from the very beginning.
His priority is to keep a high first serve percentage.
Let's have a look to Nadal in 2008 and the technical changes to his serve
are now huge.
As soon as he won the French Open, he decided he wanted to claim Wimbledon
and with this goal in mind, he knew he had to shorten points and gain more free
At the same time, he had changed his forehand with a quicker motion in order
to be more reactive to fast balls and to become a better counter puncher.
As far as his serve, he has acknowledged he will have a lower first set
percentage but that is a compromise so he can reach higher speeds, to have a
crushing serve and so to win free points.
But as I'm showing you in this video, you can see his technique is still not
the best - he still doesn't utilise his full potential with the serve. Despite
that he has still managed to win Wimbledon and the Australian Open.
This year was the culmination of five years work on the serve - the desired
speed, efficiency and flow of aces. His technique is spot on with a way better
transfer of his body weight forward.
His speed is improving a lot too. At the US Open everybody was amazed by how
powerful and efficient his serve had become.
But Rafa is aware that he shouldn't overindulge in changes. A shot will
always be more efficient if it remains natural. If you keep changing it, the
player is risking losing the automation and feeling.
So each time a technical evolution is needed, it's essential to weigh the
good that will come from it, but also the risks taken.
Every time a coach givies his input, positive and negative consequences will
happen. It can't ever be neutral. It's like when doctors decide on a course of
A good coach will always weigh the pros and cons and to effect a change only
if what his player can achieve is much higher than the possible side effects.