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FedEx Reliability Zone: Lethal Against Lefties

FedEx Reliability Zone: Lethal Against Lefties

Nadal© Getty ImagesRafael Nadal has a 60-5 lifetime record (.923) against fellow left-handers.

There are just 13 left-handers in the Top 100 of the South African Airways ATP Rankings. Using the FedEx ATP Reliability Index and with exclusive analysis from former and current players, takes an in-depth look at the challenge of facing left-handed players.

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Rafael Nadal, a natural right-hander, is professional tennis' chief tormenter as a left-handed player. The World No. 2 is joined by fellow lefties Feliciano Lopez, Jurgen Melzer, Fernando Verdasco, Donald Young, Michael Llodra, Jarkko Nieminen, Thomaz Bellucci, Albert Ramos, Alejandro Falla, Gilles Muller, Cedrik-Marcel Stebe and Andreas Beck among the sport's elite.

When asked what advantages left-handed tennis players have, Roger Federer said, "Left-handers always get the break points on their favourite side. With their swinging serves, it makes it extremely difficult, especially with a one-handed backhand. It is tough getting used to left-handers' serves early on. But you must stay calm and find a way to break down their games."

Nadal, a winner of 10 Grand Slam singles championships, leads the FedEx ATP Reliability Index (since 1973) with a 60-5 record (.923) against left-handers. Only two other current players, who are also former World No. 1s and right-handers, make the all-time Top 10 list. Lleyton Hewitt is third overall, behind Pete Sampras, with a 79-18 (.814) mark, while fourth-placed Andy Roddick is 70-17 (.805) lifetime. Federer is 86-29 lifetime (.748) and No. 12 in ATP World Tour history.

Doubles specialist and left-hander Jamie Murray admitted to, "Left-handers are used to playing right-handers, but a right-hander isn't used to playing a left-hander. Sometimes that gives a left-hander a psychological advantage. Of course, if you have a good lefty serve you can put your opponents under pressure right from the beginning of matches."

McEnroeLeft-handers can quickly make their opponents feel extremely uncomfortable. A good left-handed server has the ability to take their opponent three to four feet outside the tramlines on the Ad court to return serve. The error count can also increase, when a left-hander hits a forehand into a right-handers' backhand, which is traditionally the weaker groundstroke for any tennis player. A poorly timed response, may then allow a left-hander to move up the court. Great lefties such as Rod Laver and John McEnroe were quick to use these tactics during their careers.

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Left-hander Petr Korda, the 1998 Australian Open champion and a former World No. 2, told, "When you play tennis you build up your muscle memory and your brain gets trained to hit to one side. So when you do play a left-hander, it often takes a couple of games to figure out the angles and how you will cover the court. A good left-hander can hit a wide serve in the Ad court and open up the court. The ball bounces differently and it doesn't make you feel comfortable."

When a player's favourite shot comes back as a winner you can lose your confidence quickly. When you lose games in succession, it signals a need for Plan B. In order to regain supremacy against a left-hander, a right-hander may attempt to run around their backhands in order to hit forehand. But this tactic, more often than not, opens up the court and allows a left-hander to attack the net and finish the point.

Former World No. 1 Carlos Moya, speaking from an ATP Champions Tour event in Delray Beach this week, admitted to, "I always tried to practise very often with left-handers, because I never liked playing them. But left-handers don't tend to like playing against left-handers either. Their wide serve on the Ad side is very tough. You have to move one step to your left, but then you can expose the middle. You always have to try to adjust little things."

LaverSo how can a right-hander, making up 87 per cent of the current Top 100, level the playing field? They can step into the Ad court and attempt to return a left-handers' serve a little earlier or cover the wide angle at the expense of the centre of the service box. If your opponent hits an ace down the middle, then too good. A right-hander can also slice their own serve out wide in the deuce court to a left-hander and also hit crosscourt forehands, rather than down the line.

Certainly, it is a tricky proposition and it is an advantage to play tennis left-handed. Interestingly at The Championships, the sport's oldest tennis tournament, only eight left-handed male players have won the Wimbledon singles title, including Norman Brookes, Jaroslav Drobny, Neale Fraser, Laver, Jimmy Connors, McEnroe, Goran Ivanisevic and Nadal.

So who is the best left-hander of all-time? For Moya it's simple. "Rod Laver is the best left-hander in the sport's history. But, Rafa is not done yet. So we'll have to compare when he quits."

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January: Grand Slam Records

January: Fifth Set Career Records
February: 52-Week Clay-Court Records
March: Current ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Records
April: Career Clay-Court Records
June: Career Grass-Court Records
July: Career Hard-Court Records

August: Career Tie-Break Records

September: Current Hard-Court Records
October: Career Indoor Records
November: After Losing The First Set Records
December: Finals Records

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FedEx ATP Win/Loss Index

Performance Left Handed

Current* Index Career Index
1. Rafael Nadal .500 .869
2. Pete Sampras .000 .841
3. Andy Roddick .000 .811
4. Boris Becker .000 .804
5. Mats Wilander .000 .794


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