Rafael Nadal's Shocking Loss Further Evidence Grass Season Needs Remodeling

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COMMENTARY | Steve Darcis deserves full credit. He squared off against Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon in 2013 and beat him cleanly.

Straight-setted him, in fact.

That said, the tectonic-like quake of Nadal's first loss in the opening round of a Grand Slam certainly doesn't sit well.

There can't be a person in the tennis world that hasn't wondered how this could have happened two years in a row, especially after Nadal returned to the game with such exceptional results.

The anticipation of watching Rafael Nadal finally play Roger Federer at Wimbledon again has fallen off the same cliff as Nadal's backhand mechanics against Darcis.

It wouldn't be fair to attribute even a single point in the match to Rafa's health. The Spaniard suited up June 24 and stepped out on court ready to play. And that's that.

Steve Darcis was incredible throughout the match, socking aces and crushing his forehand. There's no doubt that Darcis maxed out his power range at a count greater than two hands can handle.

Credit the Belgian for a good game plan and even more so his execution of that plan. Darcis played ferociously and never let off the accelerator, ending with 53 winners and 13 aces over the course of three sets.

By comparison, Novak Djokovic hit 54 winners and 5 aces against Nadal in their epic semifinal at Roland Garros just a couple weeks prior over the course of five sets.

Darcis' triumph shows that a professional player going for his shots and making them is extremely dangerous against Nadal -- or any player for that matter. Blasting nearly 18 winners per set, Darcis outpaced the rate that Lukas Rosol achieved against Nadal in 2012 (13 winners per set).

If Darcis can maintain that same insanely high level of tennis over the course of the entire tournament he will be a favorite to take the title. Odds are he can't. But odds also said he had no chance of beating Nadal in the first place.

Grass Court Season Needs An Upgrade

Beyond the specific performances of the two players, one also has to wonder if the logistics of the grass-court season make sense from the perspective of equitable distribution.

Given there are three unique surfaces used in the Grand Slams, one has to wonder why the grass season is only one month long. Averaging the surfaces equally over a 12-month period should dictate four months per surface. That's three months too little for grass.

Wimbledon also starts just two weeks after the final ball drops at Roland Garros. That doesn't leave much time for players to get accustomed to the transition between the game's slowest surface and its fastest surface.

The ATP World Tour Masters 1000 series, which comprises the level just under the Slams, is another indicator that something might be amiss from the standpoint of surface equality. Of the nine Masters 1000 series tournaments, there are six dedicated to hard court, three dedicated to clay, and zero reserved for grass.

Another clear example of how the scales simply don't balance.

Traditionalists will immediately stand and shout that the system can't be tinkered with.

However, changes involving court surfaces and tour structure have been a continuous way of life in professional tennis since the game was invented. Heck, there was a time when three of the four Grand Slams were contested on grass. A far cry from the single Slam and sliver of the season dedicated to the oldest surface seen in today's game.

Nadal's loss at Wimbledon this year was not the result of a flawed system, but it does help highlight an illogical design.

Remodeling the tennis calendar to allow for equal representation of the three surfaces would arguably allow for a more fair and balanced professional tour. As well as one that allows for greater specialization across disciplines.

Many elder statesman in the game have pointed out the reduced influence of the serve and volley strategy in today's game. At least a portion of this pattern has to be attributable to the decline of grass at the tour's most prestigious events.

What Now?

The goal of the sport should be to provide the most thrilling product possible. A central aspect of this approach is the potential for the best players to meet in the latter stages of any given tournament.

When a Slam is contested on a surface that the majority of players have not had the opportunity to properly train, then the results aren't necessarily attributable to pure talent. Upsets are a part of the game, but should their prevalence be favored over epic rivalries that suffer at the cost of a flawed design?

A more balanced distribution of the three Grand Slam surfaces would serve to improve the balance of the tour while highlighting the various styles of play that are most effective on the three unique surfaces.

The current system may be fair in the sense that every player is subject to the same trials and tribulations.

But that doesn't mean it's perfect as is.

Andrew Prochnow is a derivatives trader by day and a tennis buff by night. You can follow him on Twitter @AndrewProchnow.

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