Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal debate greatness of tennis generations
After he had moved into Wimbledon's fourth round Saturday, top-seeded and defending champion Rafael Nadal, the Spaniard, suggested that the top four players in the men's rankings now -- himself, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray -- were playing as solidly as any top four in history.
"It is difficult to compare the moments of tennis 15 years ago because the game changes," Nadal said. "The only thing I can say is before, in my opinion, the top four players didn't play as solid as today is going. I think all of the tournaments, even if there isn't a Grand Slam ... top players are always there in the finals, semifinals, playing in the final rounds. Probably in the past that didn't happen a lot.
"That's probably because of two things. The courts are a little bit slower than before, so the best have a little more chance to play the points ... if you have more time to play the best player have the better chances to win.
"Second this is, because the players of today have a big rivalry, they know if they don't play at his best in every tournament, it's going to be very difficult to be in the top positions."
"I think it's not fair to say that our generation is stronger," Federer said. "For many years many people said it's weaker just because there was only me and then there was only Rafa and me. And now, all of a sudden, there's people talking about four. Now it's the best ever. This is where I disagree. it doesn't happen so quickly.
"I remember when Pete [Sampras] and Andre [Agassi] and [Boris] Becker and [Stefan] Edberg and [John] McEnroe and all those guys were still around...
"Now I still feel 10, 20 years ago, I still think when they were doing something good, they were doing excellent. Like Pete's serve, I still think would be one of the great serves in the game today, if not the best one. Agassi maybe didn't have the serve, but he had the return that many players don't have today."
Interesting argument. Who's the winner?
-- Diane Pucin, reporting from Wimbledon, England
Photo: Rafael Nadal serves against Gilles Muller during their third-round match on Saturday at Wimbledon. Credit: Glyn Kirk / AFP / Getty Images