Rafael Nadal: Did he cheat to win the 2010 US Open?
It has been four weeks since Rafael Nadal won his first tournament at Flushing Meadows, with his triumph against World Number 2 Novak Djokovic at the 2010 US Open tournament. In the month that has passed since this victory, the Internet has been inundated with rumours claiming that Rafa cheated to win the Cup, and that the related tennis authorities – the United States Tennis Association and the Association of Tennis Professionals – chose to turn a blind eye to it.
So the question that remains to be answered is: did the World Number 1 actually cheat to win his first Grand Slam title at Flushing Meadows?
The answer is yes.
In tennis, one of the tenets of the game is that the player is on his or her own during a match. While coaches have every opportunity in the world to help their protégés before a match, when the player is competing it is him against his opponent, and his only weapons should be a racquet, a tennis ball, talent, and sound judgement.
What tennis is not about, is taking advice from your uncle in the coach’s box. This is a blatant disregard of the basic principles that make up the grounds of tennis, and Toni Nadal, Rafa’s coach, has been guilty of flouting it multiple times. The first player to point this out was current World Number 3, Roger Federer, who grouched that Toni was trying to give his nephew advice during a match. This year, the coach was fined $2000 during a match for offering help to Nadal during a match; when asked for an opinion about this, he said, “The rules are the rules.” He also added, “Sometimes in the past, Toni talks maybe too much. But not today in my opinion.” However, as far as rules go, Nadal does not seem to care for following them – perhaps because there are no consequences, and this offence is now the open secret of tennis.
In fact, Rafa has even given an interview confirming that he did receive coaching during the match. He was quoted in the Spanish newspaper El Pais as saying, “It was in the last game, when I was serving for the match. ... I didn't know where to serve. Down the centre, to the middle or to try the classic play of the wide serve and then try to hit the forehand. They told me to serve wide and that's where I served."
In a match, coaching has become an accepted broken rule, on many occasions. Maybe it is unfair to Nadal to hit him hard with a fine for this, since he’s been getting away with it due to a general lack of action from the authorities. The worst part of it all is not Rafa’s mistake, or cheating: it is a failure of the system to take proper action against it. The rule should either be enforced properly, or it should be withdrawn, and in-match coaching made legal. However, the game will lose a cornerstone on the day that the no coaching rule dies; it will no longer be the player, his nerve, and his strength, but a more experienced third person playing the match for him.