Rafael Nadal is playing in Brazil this week after his return in Chile last week. (Ignacio Iribarren/Getty Images)
Rafael Nadal says playing the type of tennis that produces the great rallies and epically long matches he's become known for can't happen under the ATP's crackdown on the amount of time taken between points.
Since the start of the year, umpires, in response to the ATP's rule changes, have more readily enforced the 25-second rule between points. Nadal says that's just not enough time.
"People like to see great rallies, long matches, and for that to happen, the 25 seconds are not enough,'' he said. "If the ATP wants a sport which is faster but doesn't take into consideration a lot of strategy or great rallies, then it's right doing this. I think the players in the locker rooms are not very happy with that rule."
Nadal's comments are consistent with his stance over the years calling for discretion from the umpires after particularly grueling points. Last week in Chile, Nadal told L'Equipe that strict adherence to the rule won't improve the viewing experience for fans, which is what the rule change is aimed to accomplish. Here's an English translation of his comments:
I’m slow, I recognise that. But for me, to apply those 25 seconds in all circumstances will affect the quality of the game. If you strictly apply 25 seconds, my US Open final in 2011, especially the third set, and the Australian Open final in 2012 would not have the same level. It’s impossible to keep on playing incredible points one after the other if you don’t have time to take a breath. It happens that I’m slow after a normal point. When the umpires sanctions me then or gives me a warning, no problem. But if you’ve just played a crazy point, no. Otherwise, what will happen after an enormous point is that your serve or the shot after that will miss the line by 3 meters. That’s not tennis, that. They tell me that those changes are made for the tv public, but don’t you think that those people watching tennis on tv would prefer beautiful points being disputed? No?
Nadal's concern surrounding rampant enforcement of the 25-second rule is understandable given his playing style, but it's also head-scratching. As one of the fittest players, Nadal should want to take as little time between points in order to exploit his physical advantage over opponents.
Can you imagine if Nadal, Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray -- three players who can beat their opponents with their physicality -- decided to embrace the 25-second rule and introduce a new bruising style of hurry-up offense? Roger Federer plays at a remarkably quick clip, but his slashing offensive style makes it easier, as he has the power to avoid protracted rallies. But physical, lung-burning points with minimal rest in between could be the new evolution of tennis.