Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Nadal Seeks Final Proof That He Is Now Grass Act

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Nadal Seeks Final Proof That He Is Now Grass Act

Article excerpt


RAFAEL NADAL walks onto Centre Court today for his first Wimbledon semi-final as a genuine title contender rather than just another Spanish claycourter who believes grass is for cows.

Nadal, the double French Open champion and undisputed King of Clay, has adapted to grass just as the courts at SW19 have started to embrace fully the baseliners who dominate the sport.

The second seed from Spain takes on Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis, the 18th seed, who reached the Australian Open Final in January in a clash few predicted.

Compared to reigning champion Roger Federer, who meets unseeded Jonas Bjorkman in the first semi-final, the precocious Nadal is a grass-court novice. But thanks to the slower courts and balls, he can produce aweinspiring winners from six feet behind the baseline.

While the serve and volleyers of old decry the death of their playing style, the survival of Nadal proves grasscourt tennis has evolved into a different game. The signature of the current Championships is a badly worn strip of dusty court behind the baseline where the majority of men's and women's players have spent their time.

The arrow head of worn grass - with the point almost reaching the net - was the pattern left by exponents of serve and volley as they headed to the net, but it no longer exists on Centre Court.

Nadal's passage to the semi-final has been impressive, not only for the way he has played but also because he has refused to be distracted by allegations linking him to the doping scandal which has rocked the Tour de France.

"I have never taken anything in my life and I never will," he said. "It has not affected me because I know I am completely innocent.

"For me it is exciting to be in the semi-finals of Wimbledon and I am still learning to play on this surface. I need to improve in lots of ways and I can get better. …

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