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Nadal and Cheating. From Chipnputt. Thanks.

Posted by tennisplanet on October 16, 2010


Nadal and Cheating
I have been surprised at the lack of discussion on this site about Nadal and his admission of asking and receiving strategic advice during the USO final. Discussions have started but have been killed off by a variety of reactions from some posters.
This is the No.1 player in the world, and he has admitted to cheating. Should we brush it under the carpet? Surely it deserves an adult discussion.
In an earlier post, I had flagged what Jon Wertheim from SI (incidentally, Jon is one of the most respected journalists on tennis) had said on this topic. In gist: (1) This is not a new development — Nadal has been pulled up for it before; (2) Jon condemns it; but (3) He wouldn’t call it cheating. According to him, cheating is graver stuff like taking drugs.
Jon got some more mail because of this response:
Mail: “I think you’re an idiot”.
–Jerry, Odessa, Texas
Jon’s answer: “Hey, at least provide a reason”.
Mail: As I was saying, the reason I think that you’re an idiot is because of the things that you say. Now you are saying that Nadal (I’m a Nadal fan) isn’t cheating by soliciting coaching from his uncle. You claim that cheating is taking performance enhancing drugs and such, but getting coached is not. Well, cheating is defined as breaking the rules. Regardless of what the violation is, it is still cheating. There [sic] ATP rules stipulating that coaching is illegal. So if Nadal was [sic] getting coached, then he was cheating.
–Jerry, Odessa, Texas
Jon’s answer:
“I was surprised how strongly many of you feel about Nadal’s “cheating” when he solicits and/or accepts coaching from his uncle/coach. I just want to clarify: I don’t think we should condone this behavior. I think it’s beneath Nadal. I think other players are in their rights to complain. I think it violates the rules both in spirit and letter. I just don’t think it’s a felony. I was reacting to the notion that Nadal’s U.S. Open title was dirty or tainted or somehow ill-gotten.
In any case, I recognize that many of you — even Nadal fans like our friend Jerry — are deeply upset by this. I also recognize that if Nadal is openly admitting to cheating and not getting called for it, the door’s now open to every other player. Conclusion: especially with technology available, it’s time for tennis authorities to crack down.”
A second letter:
“About Rafa and coaching. There’s a big difference between a coach yelling ‘focus’ and a player ASKING his player box (serving for the match in a GS final, and not your first GS final, either) where to serve and getting a reply. I don’t think the rule book meant ‘focus’ or ‘vamos’ when they forbade communication between player and coach. They were thinking about ‘serve to the body’ You think it doesn’t take away from Rafa’s title, and I agree. However, I’d feel different if this was a fifth-set tiebreaker. Moreover, If anyone ever looked for a reason as to why Rafa, a humble, down-to-earth guy who is polite to players, to ball kids, etc., does not win any sportsmanship awards, look no further.”
–Or, Israel
Jon’s Answer: “Your last point is a good one. Here’s a guy who clearly cares about fair play and sportsmanship. You wonder why he allows this behavior — which is a bare minimum is controversial — to persist. And anyone who can improve his serve and volleying so dramatically can’t fall back on the “creature of habit” defense.”
I am posting this, and at some length, because it is an important topic for tennis fans. Nadal is the #1player in the world and indications are he is going to stay there for a while. He is the standard bearer of the sport and he has admitted to cheating. Surely, the authorities need to crack down harder on future violations. AND surely, Nadal needs to realize that greatness is not only about winning matches. He needs to show a grater respect for the rules of the game and he needs to earn the respect of his peers, not just as a player but also as a sportsman. It was really news to me that Nadal has not once (not even in 2008) been voted for his sportsmanship by his peers.
Lastly, as we’ve (almost) been here before, let me pre-empt a few replies:
(1) First, let’s not confuse (deliberately or otherwise) cheating with gamesmanship. According to the Webster dictionary, CHEATING is “to violate rules dishonestly”, while GAMESMANSHIP is “the art or practice of winning games by questionable expedients WITHOUT actually violating the rules”. (my emphasis).
Taking a toilet break to break your opponent’s rhythm my not be a nice thing to do but it is within the rules. It’s gamesmanship, but not cheating. Asking your box for advice is a deliberate violating of the rules. It is cheating, not gamesmanship.
(2) “Everybody does it”. Ans: (a) Not true – how many in the top 10 players have been warned for cheating, a la Nadal at Wimbledon? and (b) Are we saying the whole game is rotten? They are all cheats, top to bottom?
Just a reminder: The game is bigger than the individual and regardless of how strong one’s feelings may be for a certain player it is just plain silly to try and malign the sport to obsessively defend “your player”. You are doing nobody any favors, especially not your guy.
(3) “Fed took a toilet break. He cheats too”. Answer: Yes, he did take a break, it wasn’t a nice thing to do, but it was within the rules and wasn’t cheating. In any case, not sure what purpose it serves to attack Federer, except to try and show that all players are cheats. In that case, refer above. By the way, if Federer cheated, it still wouldn’t make Rafa’s actions any more correct.
(4) Ignore the main message of this post and attack something obscure in it or attack me. Answer: Oh well, go ahead, but it won’t change the facts.


14 Responses to “Nadal and Cheating. From Chipnputt. Thanks.”

  1. Jenny said

    Thanks, Chip. I like Wertheim’s fair responses to comments in the article. I think some fans need to distinguish and understand the difference between cheating [actual violation of the ATP rules] and gamesmanship which isn’t against the rules, whether one likes it or not. Most of the players take tactical bathroom breaks at one point or another, again there is nothing in the rules against it. Until such time, there won’t be a reasonable and objective debate by some fans who just want get the knives out and jump on everything like vultures laying in wait, especially if they don’t like a player. Also, bear in mind, Nadal has only been officially warned once [I believe] in his career for off-side coaching which is a violation of the rules, no question. Okay, Rafa may have asked Toni which isn’t right, but then Toni didn’t have to be complicit because two wrongs don’t make a right and the only one who lost out was Rafa.

  2. mircea said

    When Nadal loses the # 1 ranking, it will also be because of coaching during matches. Could turn out to be funny or a sorry sight; losing because you were told to go to the opponent’s backhand and you should have done the reverse.

  3. sperry said

    Thanks for the post, Chip. I agree with you, as usual. I too have wondered why this, (and other seemingly more important issues) is discussed far less than the shirt color of the men in the final. Or their hairlines. (And there is absolutely nothing wrong with discussing shirts and hairlines.) I can think of two reasons off the top of my head, I’m sure that there are others. Perhaps number one is the fact that we are surrounded by SOOO many things that are SOOO much worse in society? Is Rafa asking where to serve on the top 10000 crimes in my mind? Nope. (Just so I’m not misunderstood: I still avidly support stopping it.) As a society, we are getting pretty numb to all but the worst crimes. This is a problem with such immense implications and ramifications that what happens on a tennis court can almost be forgotten. Far less important ultimately, but a MAJOR contributing factor here, I think, is the fact that decisions as to what is right and wrong are made based on whether or not the poster is a fan of the player who is being discussed. This site has a ton of Rafa fans. I am one. (Has this incident changed my opinion of him? Very much so.) But overall, Rafa’s going to have to do a lot worse than a little cheating before people are capable of looking at his behavior objectively. That’s my opinion… that and a quarter might get you a newspaper.

    • chipnputt said

      Agree, Sperry. The sad part is Rafa doesn’t have to do it. He could win just as easily without Toni helping him along. Yet he does it and, to me at least, it affects his legacy.

  4. M said

    Lack of discussion?
    *Lack* of discussion, you say?

    http: // tennisplanet.wordpress. com /2010/10/01/ did-nadal-admit-to-cheating-from-nelson-goodman-thanks/ #comment-148155

    I offer the alternative view that some people can’t seem to get *past* it.

    • sperry said

      For me, you “get past” one incident. Cheating is on-going, so “getting past” means resigning yourself to the fact that cheating is here to stay. Again, I think as long as there are new ideas floating around, (and Chip’s post had some good ones, I think) no harm in keeping the thread going. I avoid the ones on Rafa’s hair-line pretty easily.

  5. Growltiger said

    Human beings do what they can get away with. Rafa can get away with cheating, so he does it. If the ATP doesn’t want Toni coaching Rafa from the box, the players’ coaches should have a special section where they can observe the match without participating. Otherwise, they’re tacitly saying it’s okay to get coaching so long as not that many people realize that’s what you’re doing.

    I like Rafa. He’s a good player. He really doesn’t need to cheat. If he thinks he does, he’s underestimating himself and in the case of the US Open, overestimating Djokovic who has so many birds in his head he can lose to an 90 year old woman on a walker if he takes a mind to.

    What IS scary is that Rafa fans can shout down a genuine complaint by a respected tennis journalist.

  6. Stella said

    and don’t get me started on the extra long time taken between points which is also cheating but he hardly ever gets called on it

  7. evie said

    Coaching may be against the rules in print, but in practice, it happens all the time. In the WTA, it’s beyond absurd. And as we can see with Rafa, it happens in the ATP as well. I can only assume that umpires are discouraged from calling it. There can be no other reason for blatant coaching to continue. It’s sort of a back door way of allowing players to get the on-court coaching many believe should exist on tour. I wish it didn’t happen, but I don’t think it’s cheating. The tour is clearly sanctioning it by never calling a player on it.

    Nole talked to his box repeatedly throughout the match today. Rafa talked constantly to his box yesterday when he lost. If players are not called on it, it is effectively approved by the tour and cannot be considered cheating.

    IMHO, of course.

    • Jenny said

      In WTA the coaches are actually allowed on the court during a break, am I right? If it’s officially approved by WTA, why not ATP?

      • sperry said

        Match dependant in the WTA. Can’t answer the second question.

      • Dee said

        I didn’t know it was official.I’ve seen it on one match.I thought it was a trial. I think it’s a waste of time.Even though Nadal and Tony say that he was only giving encouragement,Even though I don’t speak Spanish, I’ve seen the gestures- indicating move forward and more– It’s sad because Nadal is pretty capable of doing it all by himself.But why does he always look up to his box?May be they should move the coach away from players box to some where else.

      • Jenny said

        I know I’ve said this before, if it does become an ongoing issue after a warning, move the offending coaches out of the ‘boxes’.

  8. chipnputt said

    Jenny…in my opinion, retribution needs to be far more severe than that — moving the coach out of the box is simply saying “we won’t let you get any more illegal coaching “. But what about the punishment for the cheating already done? The ATP needs to get serious about how it wants the rules of the game to be respected. The #1 player in the world admitted to cheating during a Grand Slam final. Very little can be more serious than that and yet they are just sitting on their hands. To me — It’s either change the rules or start implementing them irrespective of the personalities involved. Otherwise, you are running a banana league.

    Incidentally, I’ve said this before but I’ll repeat it. Blaming the coach is a complete cop out. The player is responsible for his behavior and the behavior of people in his box. Toni is not to blame for the coaching, Rafa is. There is also a huge double standard here. While Toni often gets blamed, nobody blames Calrlos Rodriguez for the coaching. Justine is held responsible. And she should be.

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