So if this is Rafael Nadal’s year to win the US Open, we figured we ought to take an in-depth look at the world No. 1’s game for some insights into his genius.
Let’s start with something everyone could stand to benefit from, the pre-service ritual. A service routine can help calm you down before an important point. It allows you to maintain a set of familiar steps that can get you through tough points and keep you on track even when you’re ahead.
Here’s how Rafa does it from start to finish. Every single, painstaking time:
Step one: Towel off. Wipe down your face, your arm and the grip of your racket.
Step two: Field a couple of balls from the ball person. Inspect them closely for nicks, blemishes or signs of voo-doo that might jinx the point. Discard any bad vibes.
Step three: Position yourself on the baseline with your good foot forward.
With your right hand, stick the extra ball in your pocket. Bounce the service ball with your racket incessantly while you perform steps 4-7.
Step four: Pull the wedgie out of your ass. It doesn’t matter if you’re on a practice court or Arthur Ashe stadium, if you’re choosing a routine, be a man and stick with it. Nobody likes a quitter.
Step five: Wipe your nose, then your forehead, then tuck your hair behind your left ear, then your right. In that order. Feel free to sniff your finger in the process if you like.
Step six: Make sure the ball in your right pocket is secure. Even if it is, push it down a little deeper just to be sure.
Step seven: Wipe extra moisture from your right-hand fingers onto your shorts.
Step eight: Bounce the ball 6-8 times if it’s your first serve, four times if it’s your second.
Step nine: Bring the racket and ball into ready position. Slowly. No need to rush now.
Step ten: Focus. Then focus again. Imagine yourself back in your mansion in Mallorca with the trophy safely on the shelf. Rock back and forth on your heels if you feel it will help you visualize.
Step eleven: Finally, you are ready to serve. If your opponent is asleep, serve it right into his body to wake his ass up.
If you skip any of these steps, or if you feel anything was short changed or improperly executed, start over. It’s better to risk a time violation than to rush the shit and double fault.
[AP Photo/Charles Krupa]