Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Sampras Wasn't Fun, Says Nadal; World No1 Believes His Generation Are Serving Up More Exciting Tennis Than That Played by the Wimbledon Great. by Henry Swarbrick and Chris Jones

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Sampras Wasn't Fun, Says Nadal; World No1 Believes His Generation Are Serving Up More Exciting Tennis Than That Played by the Wimbledon Great. by Henry Swarbrick and Chris Jones

Article excerpt

Byline: Henry Swarbrick Chris Jones

RAFAEL NADAL believes previous tennis eras cannot match the excitement generated by the current stars of the sport and dismisses the idea that slower courts have allowed him to triumph at Wimbledon.

Nadal, the defending champion, is looking to extend his 16-match unbeaten run on the grass here as he faces wild card Gilles Muller, of Luxembourg, in the third round today.

Retaining his crown will take him to 11 Grand Slam titles at a time when Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are also illuminating the sport with their skills.

The Spaniard's view on the type of tennis that allowed Pete Sampras to win seven Wimbledon titles will spark a lengthy debate. He said: "Personally, to watch a Pete Sampras versus Goran Ivanisevic match, or one between those kind of players, is not enjoyable. 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.

"I started playing at Wimbledon in 2002 and since then the court has been exactly the same. Before then, I can't make a comment. But to say it has been getting slower since then is wrong.

"Before my time, perhaps the conditions were faster. But, for me, the difference now is that the best players in the world will strike the ball past you if you go to the net. If people see a player practising serve-and-volley tactics, they say it is fast and if they see baseline play, they think it is slow.

"The truth is that now the players are so good that if it is a fast court, then when you serve and go to the net the ball flies past you even quicker."

Mats Wilander, the seven-time Grand Slam champion, played in the era of Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors and mounts a strong defence of that period of the game, although he admits the current men's competition has greater strength in depth.

"If you go down to the 100th-ranked player, we weren't as deep as they are today," said Wilander. …

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