Rafael Nadal has called for fewer hard courts and a reduced season on the ATP tour. You can read all about it here. After taking advantage of the base line friendly conditions of the ATP Tour to dominate the tennis world he has now gone one step further like the true opportunist that he is and called for less hard courts and a a reduced schedule. I think it’s pretty obvious that Rafa is thinking of self preservation rather then the tour as whole and I can’t help but questioning his integrity here. There is many lesser ranked players that needs to play a lot of tournaments to get ranking points who I am sure are not very happy about Rafa’s comments. It’s no coincidence that these comments from Rafa comes after his latest injury problems.
Rafa realizes that his body won’t withstand the wear and tear forever. Already his knees are looking like it could become a long term problem that he might not shake off. So first of all this plead from Rafa shows us that his body is feeling the pressure. But lets look at it from a purely objective viewpoint. Does these comments carry any weight? Lets take Roger for instance. How often have we seen him injured over the course of his prolific career? Not often have we? Other then his back that started to bother him towards the back end of last year I honestly cant remember any injuries. He struggled with monocluosis at the start of 2008 but that is hardly an injury, it could happen to anyone. Same with Murray this year, the virus he has been struggling with have very little to do with hard courts.
It’s hard to say why exactly players get injured. Some players are more prone to injury due to the way they play and some players don’t take care of themselves well enough. Rafa falls into the first category. He plays every point as though it’s match point and he doesn’t have the ability to get many cheap points. He stands three meters behind the baseline and hits the ball three meters over the net. Of course this makes it hard for opponents to attack him but it also draws out the points. Rafa lacks a big serve and volleys that would allow him to shorten points and he stands too far back during base line rallies. He has improved his attacking game to a great extent but with limited talent you can only improve it that much. Rafa is not a naturally attacking player.
At age 22 Rafa has had more injury problems in his career then Roger has had at age 27. I don’t see Roger’s back as a recurring injury, I’m not even sure he is injured at present as I stated in previous posts. But I can definitely see Rafa having an ongoing problem with his knees. When he reaches Roger’s age he might have to seriously look at retirement, if he hasn’t already retired by that age. Roger on the other hand is looking at playing another seven or eight years. A lot of people keep saying that Rafa has won so many more grand slams at his age then Roger did at the same age but what they don’t take into account is that Rafa will burn out long before Roger. So if he wants to come close to achieving what Roger did it the game he needs to do it early in his career.
If there is even one player(like Roger) whose physique can cope with the schedule then I don’t see any reason why the season should be reduced. One thing that I would like to see is faster courts. I would like to see the indoor tournaments being played on carpet and the grass court season extended, but not if the grass is going to as slow as Wimbledon’s! The reason why there is such a short grass court season is because grass courts are a lot more difficult to maintain. It would be worth it though because as long as the grass is fast the tour would be a lot more balanced, and you would see fewer injuries as well. There are clay court tournaments throughout the year but the grass court season is about a month long. This is one of the reasons the tour is favoring base line play, along with the fact that there just isn’t many fast courts around.
If anything the ATP should look at this to bring some balance back to the game. Lets face it, the amount of tournaments isn’t all that important, players don’t have to play every single tournament out there to sustain their rankings. Besides ranking isn’t everything, the way you perform at the big tournaments is more important then a few ranking points. Already Roger has reduced his schedule this year so his career can last longer, why can’t Rafa do the same? Rafa is just being the ultimate opportunist as always. To be honest he should be the last person to be making demands from the ATP since conditions are in fact heavily favoring him at the moment. Sorry Rafa, I’m afraid this time you are pushing your luck, no?