As a baby, Rafael Nadal hit with two palms from either side till he was informed to decide on one aspect so he would have a single-handed forehand. Though the boy did most issues right-handed, he instinctively began taking part in tennis as a lefty.
Along with his expertise and his tenacity, Nadal probably would have been an all-time nice it doesn’t matter what, however being left-handed might need given him an edge — most notably, his excessive bouncing serve to a right-hander’s backhand has proved particularly difficult for his rival Roger Federer. A win at Roland Garros would give Nadal 21 Grand Slams, yet another than Federer. And since Nadal has won the French Open 13 instances, together with the final 4 years, he’s the heavy favourite once more in 2021.
The traditional knowledge is that being left-handed is a bonus in tennis. Lefties naturally hit with a slight aspect spin and might serve large to a righty’s backhand within the advert service field on probably the most essential factors, and right-handed gamers instantly discover they should alter their ways in rallies after days or even weeks of taking part in solely righty opponents. Switching gears in the course of the match makes lefties “actually annoying” to play, the participant Matteo Berrettini mentioned.
“Everyone doesn’t wish to play lefties as a result of it takes extra pondering,” added Petra Kvitova, a two-time Wimbledon champion and the highest lefty on the ladies’s tour. Even she will get thrown off when dealing with a fellow southpaw. “It’s a bit bizarre, since you need to hit to the backhand and instantly their forehand is there,” she mentioned.
Filip Krajinovic mentioned he confronted lefties as soon as each month or two and had hassle with the adjustment. “It’s tougher to play a lefty,” he mentioned. “They’ve a distinct fashion of play, and it’s somewhat tougher for me after they play their cross-court forehand excessive to my backhand, so I’ve to focus extra on that aspect and actually hit it deep cross courtroom.”
There are exceptions, like Cristian Garin, who mentioned: “I actually wish to play lefties. I believe my serve is healthier in opposition to them.”
It’s troublesome to show statistically whether or not lefties actually profit — most righties would lose to Nadal just because he’s higher, and most lefties would have the identical destiny in opposition to Federer or Novak Djokovic. However lefties do attain disproportionate success, particularly on the lads’s tour the place the serve is such an important weapon.
Whereas lefties are about 10 % of the world’s inhabitants, three of the Prime-10 winners of Grand Slams within the Open period are males (Nadal, Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe), which doesn’t even rely Rod Laver, who gained the ultimate 4 of his 11 majors within the Open period.
In doubles, the 4 males’s groups with probably the most Grand Slam wins within the Open period all had one lefty. On the present ATP Tour, there are 15 lefties within the Prime 100 and 7 within the Prime 50. Two of the best Grand Slam champions amongst girls — Martina Navratilova and Monica Seles — are lefties, however the 10 lefties within the WTA Prime 100 are in stability with the general demographic.
Most lefties usually are not Nadal, in fact, but dealing with a southpaw nonetheless requires somewhat one thing additional.
“You need to plan for the match otherwise — there are totally different spins and totally different angles it’s a must to play,” mentioned Elena Svitolina, who just lately beat the lefties Angelique Kerber and Kvitova back-to-back in Stuttgart, Germany, however then was upset by one other lefty, Jil Teichmann, in Madrid.
Some gamers are extra blasé about it then others. Svitolina mentioned the most important situation earlier than dealing with a lefty was working towards return of serve, however Ashleigh Barty mentioned that whereas she would search out a lefty in observe earlier than a match in opposition to a lefty, years of partnering in doubles with the lefty Casey Dellacqua meant returning “tens of millions of her left-handed serves, so it’s not one thing that actually issues me.”
When Jan-Lennard Struff shouldn’t be taking part in in a match, he tries mixing in observe in opposition to a lefty as soon as every week. Garin’s coach is a lefty, which helps him observe serve returns, but when Garin has a lefty opponent arising he’ll search out one other lefty from the draw to observe with or ask the match to discover a sparring companion.
“It may be troublesome to seek out somebody, however you may normally entry a hitting companion offered by the match,” the participant Caspar Ruud mentioned.
Service returns would be the greatest problem, however Struff mentioned that general, “It’s good to alter your patterns to play lefties.”
Dominik Koepfer, who’s a lefty, mentioned, “What I normally do in opposition to righties doesn’t work in opposition to lefties, so I want totally different ways.”
At the same time as they make changes, the gamers mentioned they tried to not get too caught up within the shift. “You do have to vary up your sport somewhat, however you may’t be too frightened to play to their forehand,” Ruud mentioned.
Berrettini mentioned he finally needed to play to his sturdy fits. “I attempt taking part in to the weakest stroke of the opponent, but when I need to serve to the T on the deuce aspect the place it’s a lefty’s forehand, I’m going to belief my weapon,” he mentioned about serving down the center of the courtroom the place the service field strains intersect.
Denis Shapovalov, the highest-ranked males’s left-hander not named Rafa, mentioned, “I simply play my sport and go for my pictures, so it doesn’t actually matter, lefty or righty.”
However there are lefties, then there may be Nadal, and there may be Nadal at Roland Garros, the place he has misplaced solely twice. Even for somebody as assured as Shapovalov, that may be intimidating. “I’ve by no means needed to play Rafa there, however I think about it’s not an excessive amount of enjoyable,” he mentioned.
Krajinovic mentioned he hoped that he wouldn’t get assigned to play Nadal initially of the match.
“If I see him within the draw I cannot be completely happy,” Krajinovic mentioned.
Koepfer would love the problem, however solely beneath sure circumstances. “I hope it’s not the primary spherical. I’d wish to play righties within the first three rounds earlier than taking part in Rafa.”
For anybody who has the misfortune of matching up with Nadal, Ruud advised calling Robin Soderling or Djokovic, the one gamers to have crushed him at Roland Garros, for recommendation. “And then you definately simply pray he doesn’t have his finest day.”