Borg: Nadal's Number Will Be Up
By Tennis Week 3/28/2008 2:04:00 PM
Hall of Famer Bjorn Borg believes Rafael Nadal's number may soon be up.
While third-ranked Novak Djokovic has set his sights on seizing the World No. 1 ranking from Roger Federer within a year, Borg said the second-ranked Spaniard is still Federer's successor as future No. 1.
"I believe the Spaniard will be the heir to the throne," Borg told the Spanish sports newspaper AS in comments published by AFP. "[Nadal is] working to become a total, complete player."
The three-time French Open champion has not won a tournament title since capturing the Stuttgart championship last July and the fact the Nadal plays a grinding, physically-grueling style so reliant on his legs has led to increasing speculation the muscular Mallorcan may wear down or become injury-prone as his career progresses.
Borg said he heard the same speculation during his playing days and suggests if Nadal manages his tournament schedule wisely he has a successful future ahead of him."The same thing was said about me. That my style of play led to injuries, but I love his tennis," said Borg, who is currently in Madrid where he will play an exhibition with John McEnroe said. "It's clear that he has to take care, not play too much. But he is young and he has a great future ahead of him."
Borg, who won Roland Garros six time and posted a 49-2 career record in Paris, said Djokovic can claim the top spot, but "in the future."
Nadal does not win nearly as many free points on his serve as Federer or Djokovic and drifts further back behind the baseline making it difficult for him to conclude points as quickly. Nadal, who plays German qualifier Benjamin Becker at the Sony Ericsson Open on Key Biscayne today, said he continues to work to adjust to faster surfaces and feels he can play closer to the baseline when he's confident.
"I have my style; [Djokovic] has his style. With my style I didn't have a bad results in the last years," Nadal said. "For sure I always try to improve my game, and if I have to play more inside, I try to play more inside. But for play more inside... when you are playing well, you can play inside. When you are not playing that well, you can't play like this, no, because you don't feel the ball perfect. So right now he's playing very well. I played very good tournament in Indian Wells. I played terrible match against Djokovic in semifinals, but the rest matches were before I was playing very well. So happy for my tournament. Maybe I can change something more for try to play on hard. But, you know, when I am No. 2 in the race, in the last years I have very good results on hard, too. The true in my mind is thinking I'm not doing bad things for playing in this surface."
The 21-year-ol Nadal dwarfed the dirt and the most dominant player of this era in capturing his third consecutive Roland Garros crown with a four-set victory over Roger Federer to leap into history in joining Borg as the only men to collect three straight French Open championships last June. Widely regarded as the best clay-court competitor since Borg ruled Roland Garros six times, Nadal's dream match is a showdown with the stoic Swede.
In an interview with Time Magazine last summer, Nadal said if he could face any player in his prime in history, he would select Borg.
"I'd choose [Bjorn] Borg," Nadal told Time. "He had such an incredible mental approach to the game. He had ice in his veins, and I'd love to see what I could do against him. If I had to say, I suppose he'd win."
While Nadal has drawn comparisons to Borg for his clay-court dominance, dazzling defensive skills and for his power of persistence, Borg said last year he believes Federer is has established an ideal for aspiring players to emulate.
"[Federer] simply does not have any more weaknesses left in him. It is such a pleasure to see him play," Borg said. "To me, Roger Federer is the right model for anyone aspiring to be a tennis player. It is such a pleasure to just watch him play. His shot-making has got better and I doubt there is any shot he cannot make in any part of the court."
Responding to concerns the sheer physicality of his game, which is so reliant on his legs and movement, could take a toll in cutting his career short, Nadal says his technique is more important than his physique to his success on court.
"I started playing very young, and if my career ends short, then it would be because I started playing younger than almost anyone else," Nadal said. "My tennis is aggressive, though I wouldn't say that it's more physical than technical. I rely more on technique than physique, but being physical is always a help to me."
Djokovic after his Madrid 2009 Semi with Rafa: “Next time I’ll probably take two rackets on the match point and try to hit with both of them. It’s frustrating that when you play so well you can’t win.”
Last edited by veyonce; 03-28-2008 at 05:50 PM.