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Rafael Nadal: New ATP enforcement of time violation rule “a disaster”

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Rafael Nadal says new time penalties ignore the time that players need to recover in humid environments. (AP)

Rafael Nadal says new time penalties ignore the time that players need to recover in humid environments. (AP)

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Rafael Nadal continues his assault on the ATP’s new enforcement of the amount of time players are allowed to take between points, calling it “a disaster.”

The ATP approved the new policy in November with an eye toward speeding up the game and providing more uniformity in the rule’s traditionally haphazard enforcement. The new rule relaxed the penalty for repeated violations in order to encourage umpires to crack down. Umpires now have the ability to warn a player if he takes more than 25 seconds between points and then issue a “fault” penalty for any subsequent violations.

Nadal, a notoriously slow player who can take in excess of 30 seconds between points, played noticeably quicker during his second-round win over Ryan Harrison at the BNP Paribas Open, where the conditions were dry and and cool at night. That doesn’t mean Nadal is happy about the change, which he called “a disaster” in more humid conditions where rallies are more taxing and players need time to wipe their sweat between points.

“I am [playing faster] because somebody very smart puts a new rule that is a disaster, in my opinion,” Nadal told reporters. “Not in places like here that is dry, not very humid place, but is completely disaster when we are playing in tournaments like Acapulco, Brazil or Chile.”

Nadal’s main gripe is that the shorter recovery time will mean an end to the long, grueling rallies that have been the hallmark of his career and entertain the fans. Nadal says he went back to watch tape of some of his most memorable performances at the Slams and the points that whipped the crowd into a frenzy and litter the highlight reels to this day were 30-plus-shot rallies that required him and his opponent to take 30-40 seconds to recover.

“The rules go against the great points of tennis,” he said. “Because if you see the highlights of the end of the season, I didn’t see not one highlight, the best points of the season, I did not see not one ace. The best points of the season are long rallies and amazing points. With this 25 seconds, you play a long rally and you think you can play another long rally next point? No. So go against the good tennis.

“The guy who really accepted this rule was not very smart, in my opinion.”

Nadal added: “You have to see the third set of the U.S. Open 2011 against [Novak] Djokovic, and you tell me if the crowd was very happy about what happened in that set or not, and tell me if with this new rule that can happen again.”

Those sorts of points may still be a common occurrence at the Slams, however, as the ATP’s new enforcement policy only applies to ATP tournaments. The ITF’s shorter but more relaxed 20-second rule, which remains unchanged, applies at the Slams and has traditionally been applied with more umpire discretion. So if Nadal needs the time to recover from a crowd-charging rally at the French Open in May, he’ll probably get it.

Nadal also hit back against claims that his repeated call for fewer hard-court tournaments stemmed from his own self-interest in protecting his body and encouraging more tournaments on his beloved clay.

“Anything that I will say is not going to affect my career,” Nadal said. “That’s not going to change during the years that I will be playing, no? I think it’s more medical things than players think. Hard courts are aggressive for the body.”

This isn’t about him, he says. It’s about the future of tennis and his desire to see the ATP put the health of the players first and protect them from the career-threatening effects of playing too much on hard courts.

“If the next generations want to have longer careers and want to finish careers with better conditions physically, that’s my humble opinion,” Nadal said. “ATP have to find a solution and not continue playing more and more tournaments on this surface that is the harder one for the joints and for the knees, for the foot, for the ankles, for the back, for everything.

“If the volume of the tournaments on hard are more than in the rest of the surfaces, it is normal the top players are specialists on hard courts. So they are not going to go against the hard court. That’s why I say it’s not another player’s thing, it’s a medical thing. Somebody has to think not for today.

“I repeat: I’m not talking about my career. My career is done. We’re going to finish my career playing on the same or more tournaments on hard, because that’s the dynamic. But my opinion is for the next generations that something has to change.”

  • Published On Mar 10, 2013
  • 8 comments
    Ninkosen
    Ninkosen

    So Nadal is saying that Federer's tennis isn't great ? And he never goes crazy in the time limits, he is having a long career on hard courts, without ever missing a grand slam. And he isn't the only one. You don't see Federer whinning because there is only 2 tournaments on grass the entire year. Nadal went again well over 25seconds several times at the first round of FO '13, and now he even do the 2 towels thing, one for each ball boy, before each game to grind even more time. This guy is ridiculous. And if they were enforcing the rules between each big points, they take always well over 30seconds to serve. What doesn't make sense is to try to gain some extra rest time, right before the start of the game, and in between "normal" points. Nadal does it to every point not just the big one. And he rarely gets a warning. ATP was like "in 2013, there will be no tolerance", but it's the same as last year.

    pat.davis148
    pat.davis148

    Frankly I can't imagine watching endless endless baseline rallies, like the final last week of IW.  I like to see some variety, guys coming to net at least once in my lifetime.  Nadal for me is the most boring player to watch, apart from his actual playing style.  Picks the butt, wipes the hair, smoothes the lines, enuf already I say.  And now he's whining about the time warnings!  And he objects to hard courts, which is sad, because they offer the most consistent play.  Rather than whine about that, Rafa, maybe it's up to you to change your playing style to accommodate the different surfaces.  It's your style of play that is ruining your body, not the fact you play on hard courts. 

    garykpdx
    garykpdx

    I guess I lump hard courts into the same category as the old astroturf. It was predictable and unpleasant for players and led to many career shortening injuries. I haven't done an exhaustive search but it looks to me like there are many variations of "hard" surfaces that would be easier on the joints. Combine those possibilities with ball and racquet tweaks and we may see something emerge that would really make sense for those playing the brutally physical game that is pro tennis today.

    Ali Akhtar
    Ali Akhtar

    Nadal's really been griping and whining a lot since his return... could really start turning off some of his fans.  He's griped about hard courts (yeah, I'm sure he would love even more tournaments on clay!), griped about time delay rules (he is the most egregious offender, with Djokovic a distant 2nd), griped about scheduling (same thing we hear every year), and whined about his lack of confidence/fitness since his return (just shut up and play... we don't want to hear pre-emptive excuses!).

    snoop9
    snoop9

    Long gruelling rallies with little else in a match are a bore and reduce matches to wars of attrition.  Artistry went out the window when the USTA and ITF conspired to get ALL courts to be congenial to pushers, retrievers, topspinners and grinders.  We used to see fast courts, slow courts and everything in between.  No more.  To the present state of courts, I say, "No más."  The men's game, with a few exceptions (Fed, Tomic, Dimitrov, Gasquet) has become prosaic and numbing.  Among the women, Kirilenko, Kvitova, Date-Krumm are exceptions.  There is artistry in their games.  Let's have more.  Clay has always been variable, mostly slow.  It will remain so, but hard courts and grass courts should have great variety in speed and bounce from tournament to tournament.  We'd see who is best OVERALL, based on all sorts of different courts.  The stupidity of having slowed all courts is mind-boggling.  Jeez.

     

    SingleAlley
    SingleAlley

     @Ali Akhtar

     Expressing opinion is good for the game.  I think his opinion on the hard court is valid - this is a known issue and nobody cared to raise it and eventually it got silenced.  As for the clock - well I would like to see a stop watch/clock on the court to do the count down and take all the ambiguity out of the situation.

    Ali Akhtar
    Ali Akhtar

     @snoop9

     I've been watching tennis closely since the mid-'80's, and I remember back when they were making the opposite point: that too many matches were being decided by big serving and fast points, and we needed to slow down the surfaces, change racquet technology, etc. etc.

     

    There has to be a happy medium somewhere.  The best thing is the era of the 90's, when you had fast grass at Wimbledon, moderately fast hard at US Open, slower hard at Australian, and slow clay at French.  The courts are a little too much alike now.  The career Grand Slams of Federer and Nadal (and soon to be Djokovic also, I'm sure) don't mean as much to me as, say, the career Slam of Agassi, because Agassi won on 4 truly very distinct surfaces.

     

     

    shelley
    shelley

     @Ali Akhtar So does that mean that Laver's grand slams don't mean anything to you?  Three of the four were all on grass with one on clay so I guess his records should just be written off too.