Men's tennis star Rafael Nadal had some harsh criticism for the ATP on Tuesday, in which he called out the organization for caring too little about the health and well-being of its players, according to the Associated Press via ESPN.com.
But as one of the best clay-court players of all time, Nadal's criticism of the demanding hard-court season must be put into proper perspective. After all, these comments would be received much differently if they were coming from Roger Federer, a player who has won nine of his 17 career Grand Slams on hard courts.
Nadal has only won two of his 11 career Slams at hard-court majors and has built a majority of his legacy on the red clay at Roland Garros. With that in mind, is it really that surprising that Rafa would be willing to cut back on the amount of tennis played on hard surfaces?
Here are Nadal's comments from Sao Paulo on Tuesday (per the AP via ESPN.com):
The ATP worries too little about the players. It should care more for them. This is not a subject for the players, it's a matter for doctors. The ATP has to start thinking about ways to lengthen the players' careers. I can't imagine football players playing on cement, I can't imagine any other sport involving aggressive movements such as tennis being played on such aggressive surfaces such as ours. We are the only sport in the world making this mistake, and it won't change.
Nadal brings up excellent points throughout his response, but each should be taken with a grain of salt.
As a dominant clay-court player, reducing the amount of hard-court tournaments and responsibilities for players wouldn't negatively impact Nadal. On the other hand, if the ATP began reducing the amount of clay-court competitions in order to lessen the demand, perhaps Nadal would cry foul.
That's not to put words in Nadal's mouth, but to raise a fair counterargument.
Clearly Nadal's seven-month layoff and current knee issues are the product of tennis' demanding schedule. He's been a professional for more than a decade now and has been competing consistently against the world's best on the top stages for nearly just as long.
But where was this criticism when he was dominating men's tennis as the world No. 1 in 2010?
As one of the sport's greatest champions, Nadal is more than qualified to speak on the subject and offer up criticism for the ATP. But perspective is key, and Nadal's comments come right after he was forced to sit out seven months to rest his aching knees. Not to mention Rafa is making his return on clay this February, opting for his favorite surface rather than other hard-court tournaments being played in Europe this month.
Just as I stated before, if Federer came out and supported Nadal's comments, it would add to the legitimacy of the criticism.
For now, the complaints are coming from the king of clay, whose bias is obvious in this case.
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