SECRETS OF SPANISH TENNIS--ACCELERATION TRAINING
Published in Florida Tennis Magazine
Spain has had unparalleled success in the last 30 or so years, developing many world-class players and more male players in the top 100 than any other country. Not bad for a modestly sized country who didn't have a single male Grand Slam winner from 1975 to until1993--an 18 year drought-- and only a scattering of top professional champions in the decades before the 90's.
There are a number of "secrets" in the Spanish training system that have propelled the country to the pinnacle of international tennis.
Acceleration training is one unique aspect of the Spanish approach that I have never seen trained similarly in other countries, except perhaps in some South American systems like Argentina.
In general, there is an obsession in Spain with generating racquet speed and usually using such racquet speed to maximize RPM on the ball--i.e. TOPSPIN! This is typified by male players from Spain like Rafael Nadal, Carlos Moya and Sergi Bruguera who demonstrate the prototypical Spanish forehand: big acceleration and heavy spin and power combined.
On the women's side, some players demonstrate the same approach, Carla Suarez Navarro, Conchita Martinez, and Aranxta Sanchez Vicario, for example. However, some more recent Spanish champions like Garbine Muguruza drive the ball in a flatter style.
As a general rule, though, Spanish coaches are obsessed with whip of the arm and topspin. Players are taught systematically to generate racquet speed and the heavy ball with specialized hand-feeding acceleration and technical drills that overload the arm and develop a more explosive kinetic chain. Spain discovered a way to generate more racquet head speed while also maintaining control of the body--which is critical. I featured many of these drills in my last book, The Secrets of Spanish Tennis. Spanish coaches and players are particularly obsessed with developing RPM for a massive forehand weapon and using the forehand to dominate the opponent.
Spanish players have a very simple and effective tactic that develops from their superiority in racquet speed. The tactic is to play with maximum whip from the forehand to the backhand of their opponent. Almost all Spanish players use this pattern to dominate the baseline. It was a pattern made popular by 2-time French Open champion Sergi Bruguera, who was one of the first Spanish players to play with extreme topspin and racquet speed (and who ended the 18 year Grand Slam drought in Spain!)
Interestingly, Sergi and his father Lluis modeled his game after the Swedish great Bjorn Borg, who also leveraged this simple tactic.
The Spanish players know this tactic is tough to beat because the opponent only has two options, and neither is ideal:
1. He can give ground, go back deep in the court and return, usually with topspin and height
2. He can hold ground by the baseline and take the ball on the rise, usually with a drive.
Option one is not as ideal because generally players who have not been Spanish trained don't have the same acceleration skill and cannot generate the same RPM as Spanish trained players. Therefore, in this scenario, the Spanish built player has the edge because his ball is heavier and he has better muscular stamina from years of racquet speed training--he can swing faster for longer!
Option two is risky because it is very difficult to consistently take a heavy topspin ball on the rise and drive it well. It's hard to be consistent this way, especially on clay courts.
So it becomes a check-mate situation, but only if the players using this tactic has more racquet speed and RPM than the opponent.
Spanish players have combined a unique system of acceleration training for all of their young players, emphasizing the forehand weapon. They learn to generate more RPM than anyone else and then leverage this by utilizing a very smart strategy--playing heavy to the backhand.
It's a proven and simple approach that you can still see on the professional tour today. With the diaspora of Spanish coaches around the world and the increase of foreign players training in Spain, more and more players from around the world--not just Spanish players themselves--are now learning this unique Spanish method.