Rafael Nadal's legacy as a great tennis player is being undermined by his adamant stance against the rules purposely placed to foster fair-play in the sport.
Ever since his emergence as a top netter in the world, Nadal is known for his feisty attitude on and off the court. This ruthless aggression has catapulted him to unimaginable success, capturing as many as 14 Grand Slam titles and breaking countless records in the sport.
Tenacity and the will to win at all cost are what drive Nadal to be even greater in his craft. On the other hand, this fiery demeanor and unapologetic mindset are also the ones creating friction between him and fellow ATP players, more particularly the other members of the fabled Big Four.
Feud with the Big Four
Nadal's rivalries with Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have been followed by fans and tennis pundits alike ever since their inceptions. The level of competition everytime these players face each other are always exceptional, and more often, breathtaking.
But despite the tenuous nature of their relationships, each one of them has great amount of respect to one another. After all, their greatness is byproduct of beautiful memories they shared together on the tennis court.
Then again, it's far from being romantic or even friendly. Earlier this year, Federer provided a clear perspective on what's the real score between him and his fiercest rival in the tour - Nadal.
"We're almost too nice to each other sometimes, I don't want to say today's players are too soft, but it's good when players go after each other a bit. I'm not sure how close we are as friends.
"I'll be interested how much we'll stay in touch once everything is said and done and we're off the circuit. We're not going to dinner, if you know what I mean. I don't know how it was in Connors's era," Federer said in an interview with Tennis Earth.
Federer again stressed that his rapport with Nadal is professionally cordial, though it's nothing that goes off the court. The Swiss might sound unfriendly, but it's the very best adjective that describe what's going on between him and Spanish rival.
And it's very clear that bad blood prevails more than anything else. Deep inside these warriors, a genuine hate towards each other exists, waiting to be unleashed. Federer, on his part, has never restrained himself from going at Nadal everytime unruly things happened on the court.
Throughout their rivalry, Federer has been complaining for Nadal's tendency to take extra time between points along with his habit of spending too much on the sideline or walking into the locker room during injury break. Federer called this as a foul, something that should not be tolerated during matches for the sake of fair-play.
Nadal's answer was a bit of a disappointment. Instead of upholding the spirit of fair play, the Spaniard expressed his displeasure for getting constant remainder from his fellow ATP players, especially Federer. He stressed that he's tired of Federer's complaints and he's not the only one who commits such violation regularly.
"Obviously, when Federer talks is Federer talking, but right now it's me saying this. Everybody would just turn things around and make them sound the way it better suits their position," Nadal said.
"Also, I don't think I am the only one violating the rule. Novak Djokovic too has been warned many times. Actually I think he has been told off many more times than I did
Lesser of a Champion
It's true that Nadal was not the only one who logged so much time between points. Djokovic is guilty of this antic, so is Andy Murray and other top singles players. However, Nadal's response to Federer's comments only showed that the Spaniard doesn't want to admit mistakes.
Federer, for all of his blunders and shortcomings in his career, knows very much how to acknowledge his slip-ups. He's not adamant to the rule. In fact, the one thing that tennis fans loved about Federer is his humility despite his lofty status as perhaps the best tennis player of all time.
On the other hand, Nadal is a likeable champion as well. He knows how to appreciate the worthiness of his opponents and keep his bravado tempered. But for him to become a people's champ, Nadal must show to everybody that he can follow rules, whether written or unwritten. After all, these rules aren't made for no reason.
Fairness and equality must be observed always, and there's no better role model out there than the big wig in the sport. Nadal has to man up, if he doesn't, then he will be remembered as a player who has no respect in the sport. And that would make him a lesser champ.
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