I think Rafa is going to win the Miami Open, which he never has before . I saw him lose in straight sets to Davydenko a few years ago in the final. But he looks very determined this year and his play is superb. Which brings me to my main point: why don’t more players use his type of heavy top spin forehand? This kind of spin keep the ball in and also allows greater net clearance, as well as causing a nasty upward bounce. Is it that they just can’t spin the ball that much (his ball has far more rpms than anyone else)? Here is my answer drawn from personal experience: when I try to play like that I can get the ball to move Rafa-style–lots of height, dips down into the opponent’s court well short of the baseline, and gives an awkward high bounce–but I lose power. Why? Because you can’t hit through the ball that way–you have to hit up on it to get the spin. So that’s the reason: no one else can get that kind of spin and still get good forward momentum, because those two things are in tension with each other. But that doesn’t settle the question of how he manages to do it. The Rafa magic is tons of spin and good forward momentum. I’m working on it.
I went to the opening rounds of the Sony Open the other day, where lesser known players qualify to compete. But at the same time top players practice on outlying courts and spectators can view them from close up. I had the pleasure of watching Gasquet from only a few feet away, paying particular attention to his legendary backhand. It is indeed gorgeous to behold. I tried to absorb the entire Gestalt and indeed the next day hitting on the court I felt a bit of channeling from him. They key is not lose your nerve and revert to the slice. Also noteworthy I observed Li Na hitting with her rather tubby husband, who smiled sweetly whenever she ripped one by him, which was often. Behind them Gulbis and Dolgopolov traded serves and returns of incredible power and style: the Latvian and the Ukrainian enjoying themselves in Miami. I thought : this is a lot more fun than philosophy!