'Never seen that': Rafa Nadal shocks after drastic Aus Open switch

Riley Morgan
·Sports Reporter
·3-min read
Rafa Nadal (pictured) during practice.
Tennis legend Mats Wilander was stunned at how Rafa Nadal (pictured) had changed tactics to hit the ball on his backhand wing harder than his forehand. (Getty Images)

Tennis legend Mats Wilander said it was ‘incredible’ to see Rafa Nadal switch his game plan at the age of 34 while injured during his first round victory at the Australian Open.

Nadal has entered the Australian Open under an injury cloud after pulling out of the ATP Cup due to a back injury.

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"It's true that for the last 15 days I have been suffering with the back," the World No.2 told reporters.

But Nadal was able to comfortably sweep aside opponent Laslo Dere 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 to advance to the second round.

Nadal was certainly more aggressive in his approach to the match, a tactic the 34-year-old has used later in his career as a result of numerous injuries.

The Spaniard has had various injuries throughout his career, including knee issues, which Wilander mentioned could be exacerbated by his rugged playing style on hard court.

And Wilander said his aggressive style and his backhand switch was what surprised him, but agreed with the tactic.

"The first time I've seen that,” Wilander said on Eurosport.

“He has been hitting the backhand harder than his forehand, and that is incredible.

Rafael Nadal celebrates his victory over Laslo Djere during day two of the 2021 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on February 09, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia.
Rafael Nadal celebrates his victory over Laslo Djere during day two of the 2021 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on February 09, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by TPN/Getty Images)

"He's hitting it harder on the backhand side than on the forehand, and part of that is Nadal wanting to shorten points; the courts are quicker so he doesn't have time to run around and hit forehands. So he needs to hit flat backhands."

Nadal admitted he was struggling to serve in the lead-up to the match and Eurosport analysis Alex Corretja said it was unclear what type of performance we were going to see from the World No.2 after time off.

But said Nadal should be pleased with his first match of 2021.

Nadal building momentum

Nadal said he was hoping to work into the Australian Open little-by-little and build momentum.

"I'm happy to be through to the second round. I think I did a good job today," Nadal said.

"Straight sets, that's what I needed."

The world No.2 will move past absent Swiss Roger Federer to become the all-time grand slam leader with 21 titles if he takes the crown at Melbourne Park.

Rafael Nadal attends a training sessions at the Melbourne Park on day three of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on February 10, 2021.
Rafael Nadal attends a training sessions at the Melbourne Park on day three of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on February 10, 2021. (Photo by DAVID GRAY/AFP via Getty Images)

That feat looked very achievable, although Nadal said he had to alter his serve in his first official match in three months against the world No.56 due to his injury.

"Today it's not great and I needed to change a little bit the motion of my serve," the 34-year-old said.

"That's what I tried to survive that condition today and tomorrow a day off.

"I need to go day-to-day and just try to stay positive.

"Every day that I'm able to go through there are more chances to get better."

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