As is true of almost everything, practically every sport is in a continuous state of evolving. Tennis has gone through its own share of metamorphosis.
What we are possibly witnessing, is the next wave of change, initiated inadvertently, by none other than Nadal.
He is first player in tennis history to be that muscular and ripped. None of the tennis players of the past come even close to his body structure. In fact, muscular body was
considered by tennis pundits, to be a deterrent in the game of tennis. Terms like ‘muscle bound’ and ‘stiff and inflexible’ were used to show its ineffectiveness in a game requiring suppleness and fluidity.
Nadal is a living example of its merits, and his continued success, can easily breed a new generation of buffed up tennis players, who would brush aside the stereotype and rule the tennis world in the future. The ‘flexible’ player of today, may find it difficult to compete with this new body type, and eventually it may become a norm and a prerequisite.
If you look back, most World’s No. 1 tennis players were not even 6 feet tall. Borg, McEnroe, Agassi, Hewitt (all 5’11″), Connors (5’10″) and there were many of similar height in the top 10 in the past eras.
Now, the minimum requirement is 6’2″. Anything under, and your chances of being in the top 10 diminish dramatically. In fact, unlike in the past, we are now having players way past the 6 feet mark. Safin and Ljubicic at 6’4″, Ancic and Berdych at 6’5″, Karlovic at 6’10″ etc. Such tall players never opted for tennis earlier. The few players with some success, without this new ‘tennis minimum’, are Nalbandian and Davydenko at 5’10″ and Robredo at 5’11″.
So, as we have seen, a new benchmark for height has been set, and that’s the way it might go for the muscular body, if Nadal continues to enjoy sustained success at the top.
Look at boxing, the ultimate contact sport. Mohammad Ali, Joe Frazier or even George Foreman did not have the definition and ‘ripped’ bodies of the newer generation like Mike Tyson.
What about Basketball. Wilt Chamberlain would be considered a toothpick compared to Shaq. Larry Bird, Magic Johnson or even Michael Jordan cannot compare to the muscular bodies of even an average NBA player today, leave alone stars like Kobe Bryant, Le Bron James or Dwayne Wade. Today’s NBA player has to spend a lot of time in the gym. Its not fancy stuff, its just a basic prerequisite now. You can see, how out of place some of the NBA players, who are not buffed up, look on the court today, like Tony Parker or even Tim Duncan. Compare him to Dwight Howard!!!
How about Baseball. Compare Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Hank Aron etc. to Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, Jose Conseco. You probably won’t be even allowed, to step on the field, if you are Babe Ruth today.
Golf? Tiger Woods has set a mark with his chiseled and muscular body, and if you do not follow suit, forget about making a mark in the sport. John Dalys and Phil Nickelsons have to either shape up or ship out.
Boys are getting taller and bigger and the competition is intense. Its the true ‘survival of the fittest’ out there.
It seems to be the dawn of the new era for tennis too. Muscular and chiseled bodies would become the rule, rather than an exception. With prize money shooting through the roof in recent years, any edge over the competition can bring in rich dividends.
Will the tennis world turn direction like other sports have, or will Nadal be considered just an aberration?