Ivan Lendl, 8 time Grandslam champion said that he would find Rafael Nadal the toughest to play against out of the Big 3, namely Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. The 60 year old made this statement while he was on the podcast, The Holding Court hosted by Patrick McEnroe who was a former top 30 ranked player in singles and ranked 3 in doubles.
Ivan Lendl claimed that he was never comfortable playing against the left handers and would find Nadal the toughest to play against. The former Czech- American tennis star said that for this reason of him struggling against southpaws, he had hired Australian Tony Roche as his coach in mid 1980s. Roche was himself a left hander and he could help him in understanding a southpaw’s mentality when the majority of the players in the top 10 comprised them including his two main rivals, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors.
Ivan Lendl said,”The most difficult for me to play against would be Rafael Nadal because as a kid, I never got to play against left-handers. We had no left-handers at our club. That’s also why I hired Tony Roche as he was a leftie. He could tell me what left-handers liked and did not like.”
Lendl claims Nadal was unusually aggressive in the French Open final against Djokovic
Ivan Lendl also weighed in on his views regarding the French Open final and claimed that Rafael Nadal was unusually aggressive in his victory over Djokovic on Sunday. He praised Nadal for his ruthless down-the-line forehand and crosscourt backhand which caught the Serbian off- guard. “Few things stuck out right away from the beginning of the match,” Lendl said. “No. 1 – Rafa was using his forehand down the line a bit more than he usually does. No. 2 – his backhand crosscourt was extremely aggressive. Rafa was looking to be aggressive and not let Novak sit in the backhand corner.”
Ivan Lendl also praised the Spaniard for hitting occasional moon balls to disrupt Djokovic’s rhythm. The 8 time Grandslam winner said, Anytime Rafa was in big trouble, he would throw up a lob, make up and get back into the point because Novak wasn’t putting the overhead away. It was part of the strategy. Novak’s overhead is not his best shot. He prefers to place it rather than hit it. If you are as quick and defend as well as Rafa, you get back in to the point, and Rafa was very successful at that.”
Lendl draws similarities between Rafael Nadal and Björn Borg
Ivan Lendl drew similarities between Björn Borg and Rafael Nadal, due to their prowess on clay courts. Prior to Nadal, Borg was regarded as the greatest clay court player of all times and had won 6 French Open titles. The Swede’s record was broken by Rafael Nadal in 2012 after he won his 7th French Open title and would later add 6 more to his tally.
Ivan Lendl said,”Bjorn was in those days like Rafael Nadal,” Lendl said. “He had won six French Opens. That was unheard of. Bjorn was like today’s Rafa. Of course, Rafael winning 13 French Opens now makes Bjorn Borg look like an ordinary player but believe me Borg was no ordinary player.”
The conversation led to fantasy match which featured Rafael Nadal against Borg on a clay court. Lendl believed that it was unfair to compare the two great clay courters irrespective of whether they used modern technology or the wooden rackets in Borg’s time. Lendl said, “It’s an unfair comparison whichever way you go. However, if Rafa had to play with a wooden racket with a small head, I don’t know how he would hit his forehand. It would surely be a long match. It would take a while.”