He is referring to this link >> Rafa news and articles <<
Just about a week ago, in a meeting with Tennis staffers, new ATP President Etienne de Villiers responded to a question about the credibility the tour lost when so many of the top men skipped the “official” ATP Championships (Shanghai) with a fairly light rejoinder: “Well, I would hope that next year Lleyton Hewitt isn’t expecting his first child again, that Andre Agassi will realize he’s not meant to be a racquetball player, and that Rafael Nadal will have avoided the kind of injury he suffered this year. . .”
Next week, I’ll be posting a more thorough report on the state of the game following our first meeting with de Villiers, but on the issue above I’m not exactly convinced that it was merely a case of the stars being out of alignment. An alert TW reader sent me this link in which there’s an extremely interesting discussion about Nadal having pulled out of Rotterdam.
Keep in mind that this thread is especially revealing because it takes place at the official RN Kool-Aid drinkers fan site, whose webmistress, Susan Seemiller, put on a full court press to convince us of the severity of the foot injury that caused Nadal to miss the Australian Open. At least one poster at the fan site picked up this curious comment posted by at the Men's Tennis Forum by someone (Galaxystorm???) who purports to have serious knowledge of Rafael’s situation, plans and short-term strategy.
A caveat is in order here: this is the internet; we all know people can get up to all kinds of mischief, so I wouldn’t take anything I read on a message board to the bank. But even apart from that comment, it’s fascinating to read what the Kool-Aid drinkers say and think about the withdrawal when they're just talking amongst themselves.
In some ways, Nadal is the ideal guy to take the growing “I’ll do what I want, when I want” movement to the next level. He's a great clay-court player who can stay within his athletic and cultural comfort zone without leaving Europe, where people often put a higher premium on quality of life than success. At that next level - and I'm not sure we're there yet - players will simply cast aside all pretense of accepting the implicit obligations that became part and parcel of a tennis star’s life in the Open era.
Those obligations include taking part in a requisite number of tournaments and, more importantly, having a strong sense of professionalism and ethics – the latter being the only protection fans have against players allowing tournaments to use their name to sell tickets when, in reality, they have no intention of playing in the event.
Curiously, I heard just the other day that a top name player accepted the equivalent of a “promotional” fee for allowing a Tournament Director to use his image and alleged entry into an event to fatten the coffers, even though both parties implicitly understood that the guy wasn’t going to show up. It was rumor. Let me repeat. It was rumor. But it would hardly surprise me if it turned out to be true, given where the game appears to be heading.
And before you get all worked up about this being just an excuse to slam Nadal, ponder recent history. The drift has been as clear as it has been gradual: the pioneers of the Open era built a tour, and fell to their knees each night, thankful for every new tournament opportunity that came their way. Imagine that! Once the vaults filled with riches and the calendar filled up, stars began to want to play less, for greater compensation, and more on their own terms. Each generation pushes the envelope that much further. If Nadal and Bjorn Borg were to change places in time, this post would be about Borg.
The WTA has an even more pressing, glaring problem than than the ATP, as we saw last year. The Williams sisters are MIA from the tour. Many top players, starting with Justine Henin-Hardenne, seemed to play only at those times when they chose. Oh, I know there were injuries involved, and some of them undoubtedly were real, and serious. But you have to be really naïve to deny that the present commitment and injury rules simultaneously force players to commit to events and give them an easy way to bag those committments.
You know, I accept the fact that you can lead a tennis player to a tournament, but you can’t make him play. Tennis players should not be coerced into playing any more than I should be coerced into writing more stories than I’d like to post. It’s the hypocrisy and the incessant screwing of the ticket-buying public that I despise – that, and the increasing role that money plays in this tableau.
I know why, but I fail to understand why, players don’t just block out the Grand Slam and Davis Cup/Fed Cup weeks, fill in the other weeks they are willing to play, and honor those commitments.
P.S. - I had to edit this item after posting because in the original I attributed the MTF quote on Nadal to the wrong poster.