It’s the middle Sunday of Wimbledon, which is designated as a day for rest, part of the tradition of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC). Play thru the first week has gone by fairly smoothly with little disruption. There were quite a few rain delays but with the roof on Centre Court, we are on schedule for the second week.
Roger has been looking very good thus far, winning all three matches in straight sets and doing so in utmost economical fashion. His serve can be thanked for this, as most of his service games finish so quickly it allows him to put pressure on his opponent in return games, and overall matches finish quicker. Less time spent on court means less energy spent, and more time to rest, recover, and prepare for the next round.
He plays Mikhail Youzhny third up on Court 1 according to Monday’s schedule of play. Roger holds a 10-0 record against Youzhny, with their most recent meeting at Roland Garros (a while ago) in 2007. They have played three times on grass over the years, all at Halle, all routine except 2003 (Federer d. Youzhny 4-6 7-6 (4) 6-2).
“It is difficult to compare the moments of tennis 15 years ago because the game changes,” Nadal said. “The only thing I can say is before, in my opinion, the top four players didn’t play as solid as today is going. I think all of the tournaments, even if there isn’t a Grand Slam … top players are always there in the finals, semifinals, playing in the final rounds. Probably in the past that didn’t happen a lot.
“That’s probably because of two things. The courts are a little bit slower than before, so the best have a little more chance to play the points … if you have more time to play the best player have the better chances to win.
“Second this is, because the players of today have a big rivalry, they know if they don’t play at his best in every tournament, it’s going to be very difficult to be in the top positions.”
“Personally, to watch a Pete Sampras versus Goran Ivanisevic match, or one between those kind of players, is not enjoyable,” the 10-time major champion told The Evening Standard. “It’s not really tennis, it is a few swings of the racquet. It was less eye-catching than what we do now. Everyone enjoys the tennis we play much more. I am not saying we are playing better tennis, just more enjoyable tennis. For me, in the past it was just serve, serve, serve.”
Roger disagreed and had this to say:
“I think it’s not fair to say that our generation is stronger,” Federer said. “For many years many people said it’s weaker just because there was only me and then there was only Rafa and me. And now, all of a sudden, there’s people talking about four. Now it’s the best ever. This is where I disagree. it doesn’t happen so quickly.
“I remember when Pete [Sampras] and Andre [Agassi] and [Boris] Becker and [Stefan] Edberg and [John] McEnroe and all those guys were still around…
“Now I still feel 10, 20 years ago, I still think when they were doing something good, they were doing excellent. Like Pete’s serve, I still think would be one of the great serves in the game today, if not the best one. Agassi maybe didn’t have the serve, but he had the return that many players don’t have today.”
My take: Rafa makes good points that the consistency of the top 4 today is very high, and you usually see all 4 of them making it farther in the masters tournaments which may not have always been the case perhaps ten to twenty years ago. This trend began with the unmatched consistency of Roger and soon after, Rafa as well. However, Rafa, the courts are a bit slower? Surely they are a lot slower, but because they are slower, the best have a little more chance to win if there is more time to play? No. The players who are suited toward slower surfaces win those, because they’re game is tailored to playing points out longer, not because they are better.
Regarding what enjoyable tennis is, I think Rafa was very arrogant in calling (example Sampras vs Ivanisevic) previous generations of tennis as “not really tennis, just a few swings of the racquet.” Thats ironic, funny, and downright pathetic. Many more people and tennis fans find Rafa’s game to be repetitive, boring, and in general (overall game today), the rallies being too long. So what should we call that? How about “not really tennis, just way too many swings of the racquet.” For “the world #1” and a 10-time grand slam winner to demote another generation for how “enjoyable” it is to watch, shows lots of character, or lack thereof. It also shows how he contradicts his statements, for all he can say about Roger are positive and words of praise. Well if anyone needs a reality check, Roger plays a game closer to that “just a few swings of the racquet” style that Rafa personally finds less “enjoyable.”
Roger’s response goes straight toward giving respect for the previous generations and highlighting unique strengths of players which would be a factor in today’s generation of players. Regardless, will be interesting to see how these young players of the next generation of tennis will turn out.