Despite being one of tennis' top players and lamenting the lack of tactical variety in the sport, Rafael Nadal.
The 36-year-old has won a record 22 Grand Slams and hasn’t dropped out of the top ten in the ATP singles rankings since 2005. Despite being close to 30, the legendary left-hander is still going strong, following in the footsteps of Roger Federer, who is the only player to win two Grand Slam championships in a calendar year after turning 35. The Spaniard is currently on an exhibition tour with Casper Ruud in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The World No. 2 discussed his early years on the tour and how he saw the game change from patient transition play to first-strike tennis. He remarked, as cited by Marca:
“Prior to that, the points were set up while waiting for the appropriate ball to attack; not all balls were targeted; the appropriate ball was anticipated. Transition balls and point preparation are not used today. The goal of every ball that is thrown is to end the period.” While acknowledging his success, Nadal went on to say that he prefers other sports to tennis because they offer more tactical variety. It has gone well for me, nothing should be changed for me, but emotionally speaking I like another type of sport more, which allows you more options and implement a tactic,” he said.
Rafael Nadal believes that the homogenization of playing surfaces has produced more consistent playing conditions, reduced player diversity, and players with similar playing philosophies. He did, however, add that clay courts still allow players to “think” and build points. Says Nadal, “I would like to see tennis that offers more opportunities, more diverse styles of games. Today, because of the way it is played, the way the courts are made, the balls, most people play a very similar style because the the speed at which you play and the conditions give you very little room to put a different tactic into practice. On the clay court there is a little more time, it gives you the opportunity to think.”
The former World No. 1 recently lost in the group stage of the ATP Finals in Turin. Nevertheless, the Spaniard finished 2022 as the No. 2 player in the world after a respectable 39-8 season in which he captured four championships and defeated Ruud in the final match of the year.