John McEnroe rubbishes Australian Open complaint made by Nadal and co

John McEnroe says 'we all learn from our mistakes'

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Rafael Nadal shared his concerns about the balls used at the Australian Open this year – which were dismissed by John McEnroe. Before the first Grand Slam of the year commenced, the great Spaniard claimed he was unable to generate the amount of spin he would like when using the new Dunlop balls, and that they are better suited to players who like to hit the ball flat. 

“They say [it] is the same, but the ball is worse quality, without a doubt,” Nadal said, “I think it’s a ball that doesn’t get the same spin as usual. After a couple of hits, the ball loses the pressure. It’s more difficult to hit with the right spin. I think it is easier to play when you play flatter on the shots. But I need to live with it. I think I have practised enough with the ball to be ready for it.”

The likes of 2014 Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka and Aussie John Millman agreed with Nadal’s point of view, but McEnroe, a former semi-finalist at the event, shared a different perspective. “To me it’s much ado about pretty much nothing. When I was a player, you’d be amped up or anxious about pretty much everything,” the American told Eurosport.

“Maybe the tension’s not right on my racket, the balls, they get too heavy. Yeah, of course the balls get heavy after the way these guys and girls hit it. I threw this out the other day, how about bringing rackets with different tensions, so after three or four games if the balls are getting heavier or you think they are getting heavier, use a frame with slightly looser strings.

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“Players generally are incredible at making adjustments. I think that’s one of things that tennis players do better than almost anyone in any sport. These things are par for the course for tennis players. USually when people are amped up and nervous about how they;re going to do in the tournament and they get closer to it, everything seems to be wrong.

“I think eventually you’ll see now it’s towards the end of the first week, you’re not going to hear much talk about the balls anymore.” McEnroe also sahred his thoughts regarding Nadal’s future, after it was suggested he might soon retire.

The Spaniard succumbed to a 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 second round defeat against USA’s Mackenzie McDonald at the Australian Open – his earliest exit at Melbourne Park since an opening round loss to Fernando Verdasco in 2016. He has struggled with injury over the past six months and this time a hip problem scuppered his chances of playing his best tennis.

Nadal will spend the next two months on the sidelines with a grade two muscle tear, and despite winning two Grand Slams in 2022, rumours of his imminent retirement have once again surfaced. “Rafa, from what I’ve heard, wants to keep playing,” McEnroe told Eurosport.

“You know, he loves the competition, he loves the process, and he loves the sport and we love him for that. But if the body doesn’t hold up and he feels like he can’t get to that type of level health-wise that he needs to, to win majors, then I think he’ll quit.” According to the 63-year-old McEnroe, the record 22-time Grand Slam winner will aim to be fully fit for the clay-court season culminating in a defence of his French Open title in May.

“The question is, when is that? So it is as early as the French, it’s as late as playing two or three more years,” the seven-time Grand Slam winner, a left-hander himself, added. “It really depends on how the body holds up, and then obviously he’s used to doing so well that if the results aren’t there for a consistent period of time, I would expect that he would stop playing then.

“I would suspect that he will wait because, if you recall last year when he went to Indian Wells, he got hurt there and then he missed the first part of the clay-court season. So I think he would prefer to sort of start with the clay-court season. If I was part of that team, especially if you’re not quite sure how the hip is reacting, sort of build up his conditioning and his confidence on his favourite service and then try to peak at the French Open. So that would be what my guess would be at this present time.”

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