A right-hander playing against a lefty is never going to be easy – their natural topspin that pulls a righty out of the court on the backhand side is a very effective weapon.
Although lefty’s are not exactly common on the ATP and WTA Tours, there have been some outstanding players taking advantage of the edge that is gifted a lefty.
Currently, 14 ATP lefty’s in the top 100 rankings. It is interesting to take a look at some of the great lefty’s – both current and past.
Rafael Nadal, the king of clay, can well lay claim to the title of the ”greatest” lefty.
The Spanish sensation has won 21 grand slams and still counting with an amazing 14 wins coming from Roland Garros. He has not only been a dominant force on clay throughout his entire career but has demonstrated great versatility by winning at all four slams.
Nadal has a very unique style which is personal to him and not easy to copy. It starts with his extreme grip and continues into the stroke with its very sharp upward loop imparting massive topspin to the ball.
When he burst onto the scene back in 2001 he was notable for his physicality and energy – at the same time, you got the impression that his style of game was probably going to produce a lot of injuries.
But that hasn’t been the case and his record of wins and tournament attendance has been high and consistent.
His sheer determination coupled with great humility has won him fans the world over, but one of the most recognizable features of Rafa Nadal’s game is his topspin.
His unorthodox technique allows him to rip up the back of the ball with incredible speed – this produces a high looping shot that allows a lot of margin for error.
The ball clears the net high and then dips sharply into the court producing a short and well-angled shot frequently to the backhand of a right-handed player.
The major issue for a righty when suddenly having to play a lefty in a tournament is the serve to the backhand from the ad court.
The slice and sidespin can take the righty way off the court – Nadal used to give Federer’s one-handed backhand a hard time in the ad court – particularly with a high-kicking topspin serve.
Federer concluded the only way to return this difficult serve was to move in and take an early hit – playing the ball on the rise before it got too high.
This shot is playable only if you have Federer’s skill!
John McEnroe is another well known and charismatic lefty – although more famous for his angry outbursts on court and poor sportsmanship when things didn’t go the way he wanted them to!
Since his playing days came to an end, he has become a very popular tennis commentator.
McEnroe had a creative serve and volley game and was famed for his touch around the net, incredible shot-making and athleticism.
His most infamous ”you cannot be serious” line is still remembered and quoted.
His match-ups against Bjorn Borg were especially memorable because of their opposite styles of play – Borg the baseliner and a righty, against the lefty serve and volleyer.
Borg the ice-cold Swede with a then unusual, two-handed backhand and the volatile one-handed backhand McEnroe.
A wonderful female lefty is Martina Navratilova. One of the greatest players of all time both at singles, doubles and mixed doubles. She won 18 grand slam singles titles, 31 women’s doubles and 10 mixed doubles.
This achievement may never be overtaken! She also won the end of year WTA tour finals 10 times and the Fed Cup 4 times.
Martina revolutionized the women’s game back in the 1970s and 80s as she brought a new level of athleticism and skill to the sport. She was an aggressive serve and volleyer that liked to win or lose points on her own terms.
She was renowned for her cross-training techniques which were then adopted by many other players that attempted to replicate her success.
Navratilova, originally from Czechoslovakia, has already cemented herself in the history books and is certainly one of the greatest left-handed players ever.
Other famous lefties worth mentioning are Jimmy Connors, Rod Laver and Monica Seles.