Rafael Nadal is an interesting tennis player, never before has there been someone whose game and style are affected so much by the court’s surface. To learn why he’s so much better on the clay, we have to delve back I to his early tennis career. At age 12, the Spaniard won the national and European tennis competitions for his age group. This got him noticed by the Spanish tennis federation, who wanted him to move permanently from Mallorca to Barcelona. Yet, due to fears his education would suffer, and because uncle and coach Toni Nadal felt that you shouldn’t have to go to a large city to become one of the best at a sport, he and his family remained on the largest island in the Balearic Isles, off the East coast of Spain. Nevertheless, his father and uncle’s stubbornness may have had a negative impact on some aspects of his tennis, as they would have had hard courts in Barcelona, and maybe even grass, whereas I doubt he would have had anything other than clay in Mallorca. Also, he was not given funding by the Spanish tennis federation, due to him not moving to Barcelona – meaning he was stuck with the run-down courts Toni Nadal had trained him on from the age of three.
Nevertheless, that’s not much of an excuse for him being knocked out of Wimbledon at the first round – considering he’s won it twice in the past. In my opinion, he was probably not pushing himself too hard in 2013 – the 127th Championships – due to his injury last year. He was intelligent against Stephen Darcis and in my opinion Rafa still displayed a lot more talent, going up to the net to try and control the rallies. But where he hit impossible forehand winners at Roland Garros a fortnight earlier, there were numerous points where he just wouldn’t put his body on the line on Wimbledon’s grass. For more on his shock first round defeat, click here. But what’s the difference between the three surfaces? In my opinion, it’s about sliding, at Roland Garros everyone has seen Rafa with a little slide just as he’s about to his the ball, on grass, and even more so on hard courts, there is a large probability of injury if he tried to replicate this. Remember, he’s won the French Open eight times, Wimbledon twice, and the the US and Australian Opens once each.
Of course, another factor to take note of was that he didn’t partake in either of the main warm-up events in either Halle or the Queen’s Club – a point which both of us at TPF Tennis believe is a big problem with the modern game. – Jacob Lee
The 2013 grass court season has been one to remember, particularly from a British perspective but also for the neutrals that were gripped to some amazing shocks and tennis at Wimbledon. We all know how fantastic the historic Wimbledon event is and what credit it deserves as possibly the best major but what about the ATP Tour events on grass?
The Queen’s Club always put on a good show but it’s only an ATP 250 tournament (meaning only 250 ranking points are awarded to the winner, the smallest type of event on the main men’s Tour, not including Challengers and Futures events). The other events on grass are the tournament in Halle, Germany, the Topshelf Open in Holland, the sea-side tennis event in Eastbourne and the post-Wimbledon tournament in America – know as the Hall of Fame Championships. All of these events are all ATP 250s, there are no ATP 500s or Masters events on the surface.
So few weeks are in the grass swing compared to the two hard court stretches and Nadal (whoops, I mean clay) season. I think it’s disappointing that, other than the superb Wimbledon title, grass isn’t given longer on the calendar. However I do realise how difficult a complete reshuffle of the calendar would be, I’m merely suggesting that that the traditional surface should be given more recognition and more major Tour events. – Nathan Morley