Move over, Ernests Gulbis. Pat Cash thinks this generation of players is boring, too. But for entirely different reasons.
In a blog post for CNN.com, the Australian champion says the type of grinding baseline tennis that Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic play lacks skill.
“It’s not boring to see two great players like Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic compete in a final,” Cash writes. “What is getting mundane is watching the same tactic in every single match of every single grand slam for the last five or six years. Nowadays they all settle down and say ‘OK, this is going to be two hours of baseline rallies.’ The guy who outlasts the other one wins. It’s taken a lot of the skill out of tennis.”
“They are not better all-round players than the likes of Boris Becker or Pete Sampras,” he continues. “Boris and Pete were baseline players, they were attacking players and they could do it against baseliners like Mats Wilander or Andre Agassi. Now that was entertainment. You never knew which way it was going to go.”
I’m going to have to assume that Cash meant Becker and Sampras weren’t baseline players and that he’s lauding the contrasting styles that the were more prevalent before racket and string technology made pure attacking serve-and-volley tennis a suicide mission. That style contrast is still the reason why Roger Federer’s rivalry with Nadal remains the supreme modern rivalry in many people’s minds. The irony though is that with Nadal-Federer you actually do know which way the match is probably going to go (hint: Rafa will win), while nowadays baseliner vs. baseliner matchups, such as Nadal-Djokovic or Djokovic-Murray, are much harder to call.
Cash also doesn’t buy the argument that today’s players are better athletes than the players of his generation.
“Nadal and Djokovic are exceptional athletes, there’s no doubt about it, but to say they are better athletes than past greats like Bjorn Borg and Stefan Edberg is just nonsense. This is some crap drummed up by somebody and I think it’s an insult to past players. Modern players don’t dive around the net, they don’t deliver backhand smashes, they don’t have to twist and turn like past generations.”
“Could modern players do that? We don’t know. What we do know is that they are incredibly good at retrieving shots from the back of the court.”
I don’t know, Pat. I think we do know if today’s players can do all those things: