Sunday, June 10, 2007

I'm asking for it, I know

Please allow me to utiilize the full power of the blogosphere by making a completely uninformed opinion. I believe that if Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were forced to play with inferior racket technology, Rafael Nadal would beat Federer consistently on any surface.

The improved racket technology obviously increases the speed at which all shots are hit. However, the greatest advantage comes on the serve, when no adjustments need to be made. This gives an advantage to the players who specialize in big serves. A bigger serve increases the number of aces and thereby decreases the numbers of points in which the ball is in play.

This shift in the game decreases the importance of strategy as well. There is no need to create shots that magnify your opponent's weaknesses if the ball can be hit so hard nobody can even get to it. The older rackets demanded that players focus more on placement than rocketing their shots past.

The serve-and-volley game exploded in the 90s, not coincidentally with the exponential acceleration in racket technology. Pete Sampras won so many Grand Slams because his game revolved around his powerful serve and three of the four Slam tournaments are played on hard courts or grass - surfaces that benefit his type of game. It is for this reason I will always believe Andre Agassi was the better pure tennis least after he cut his hair.

Put Roger Federer on clay and he goes from being a legendary player to just a great one. Why? The clay surface slows down his shots and takes his greatest weapon away - his power, especially on his serve. Giving him an inferior racket would do the same on any surface. Rafael Nadal would lose the same power, but his superior shotmaking and strategizing would conquer Federer's serve and blistering forehand.

Now it's your turn to give me the myriad reasons why I'm hopelessly wrong.

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