Saturday, 25 June 2011

Rafael Nadal - Sampras wasn't fun

Oh Rafa, please don't start this argument. Everyone has different tastes. To some people hitting the ball as hard as you can and forcing errors from your opponent or just running them into the ground with superior fitness is also boring.

Courtesy: London Evening Standard

Rafael Nadal believes previous tennis eras cannot match the excitement generated by the current stars of the sport and dismisses the idea that slower courts have allowed him to triumph at Wimbledon.

Nadal, the defending champion, is looking to extend his 16-match unbeaten run on the grass here as he faces wild card Gilles Muller, of Luxembourg, in the third round today.

Retaining his crown will take him to 11 Grand Slam titles at a time when Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are also illuminating the sport with their skills.

The Spaniard's view on the type of tennis that allowed Pete Sampras to win seven Wimbledon titles will spark a lengthy debate. He said: "Personally, to watch a Pete Sampras versus Goran Ivanisevic match, or one between those kind of players, is not enjoyable. It's not really tennis, it is a few swings of the racquet.

"It was less eye-catching than what we do now. Everyone enjoys the tennis we play much more. I am not saying we are playing better tennis, just more enjoyable tennis. For me, in the past it was just serve, serve, serve.

"I started playing at Wimbledon in 2002 and since then the court has been exactly the same. Before then, I can't make a comment. But to say it has been getting slower since then is wrong.

"Before my time, perhaps the conditions were faster. But, for me, the difference now is that the best players in the world will strike the ball past you if you go to the net. If people see a player practising serve-and-volley tactics, they say it is fast and if they see baseline play, they think it is slow.

"The truth is that now the players are so good that if it is a fast court, then when you serve and go to the net the ball flies past you even quicker."

Mats Wilander, the seven-time Grand Slam champion, played in the era of Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors and mounts a strong defence of that period of the game, although he admits the current men's competition has greater strength in depth.

"If you go down to the 100th-ranked player, we weren't as deep as they are today," said Wilander. "But the first seven or eight guys were at the same level and produced great rivalries. Looking back, it was really special."

Nadal, who normally steers clear of controversy, has also dismissed the notion that one of the top men's players could be ruled out for as long as Serena Williams has been this year and then come back with a real chance of winning Wimbledon.

Williams is defending her title having only returned to action this month following a life-threatening blood clot in her lungs and a serious foot injury.

Nadal added: "It would never happen. Look at Juan Martin del Potro, he won the US Open and was one of the best players in the world. He has missed a season through injury and he is not considered one of the favourites. But the men's game is a different world."

However, the 25-year-old's only focus today will be on accounting for Muller, who is tied 1-1 in career matches with the Spaniard. But that statistic is misleading as both matches were in 2005, although Muller can take some comfort from the fact his win came in the second round of Wimbledon.

Since that defeat, Nadal has won the title twice while Muller, the world No92, has failed to live up to his early promise and now mostly plays on the second-tier Challenger Tour.

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