Monday, June 12, 2006

A Spaniard chewing the cud? Maybe

Now that Rafael Nadal has successfully upended Roger Federer to win his second French Open in a row, the question is: What's next? Nadal has shown unprecedented enthusiasm (for a clay specialist) to play well at Wimbledon. A breath of fresh air for fans who are used to seeing Spaniards cite various make-believe injuries an excuse to pass on Wimbledon, which is, regardless of the surface, the biggest tournament on the tennis calendar. That attitude is unbelievable from a pro, from someone who makes money playing tennis. To already brainwash yourself into believing you can't play on a certain surface is why those in question (the Gaston Gaudios and Carlos Moyas out there) win one, and then they're done.
Nadal likes to deflect talk about how he ranks against Federer. "I can't say I am better than him because that's not true," Nadal says, and he has a point. Federer is better rounded, and possesses a complete arsenal, but when you can beat that kind of player six times, while he's only tagged you once, it's time to give yourself some credit.
Federer is the favorite on any other surface against Nadal or anyone else. However, Nadal has taken him out a couple of times on a hard court. In the past few years, players have noted that the surface plays more hard-court these days. If so, that could help Nadal a lot. He plays with lots of topspin, and it's hard to hit a ball with topspin when it's barely bouncing off the court.
It's too early to tell if Nadal will ever succeed on a Grand Slam level on a surface other than clay, but his determination is definitely a good sign. Let's keep an eye on him during Wimbledon warm-ups.

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