PARIS The world’s best tennis players must gang up on Rafa Nadal, and agree on a collective policy to slay the Spaniard at Roland Garros, triple champion and former world number one Mats Wilander told Reuters on Wednesday.
A joint effort is the only way to break the stranglehold at the top of the men’s game, dominated by Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, the Swede said.
Only five of the last 40 grand slam crowns have eluded those four players.
“There has to be some collective responsibility, that is what I’m saying… the only way to beat these guys is to bring their level down,” Wilander said.
“Everyone has to take a bite out of them.”
Wilander shared his theory after commentating for Eurosport on fourth seed Nadal’s 6-1 6-4 6-3 victory over Robin Haase.
“Every player, they should sit down and have a meeting. They should agree, ‘this is how we play Nadal, this is how we play Federer, this is how we play Djokovic’.
“Then, all try to play them the same way. The right way.
“First you have to play the right way, then you need to play well.”
Wilander said that, intellectually, players know what they need to do to beat, for example Nadal, on the clay courts on which he has dominated for so long.
“For Rafa, they know you have to put him on the back foot on his backhand, that you then rocket a flat shot to his forehand, that you need to mix it up. You need to moonball, rip some returns, throw in some serve-volleys… But that is just the basics,” he said.
“You need to make them feel awful, bring their level down, so that finally some lucky guy is waiting and he is going to beat one of them.
“I used to hate it when guys did that to me… drag my tennis down, weaken me, and that is what you need to do.
“The role of the locker-room is to give everybody a chance. Get the best players to play worse – because that is what they are going to do to you.”
Wilander said the way to bring the top four’s level down was to stick to a plan.
“OK, some guys are going to take one for the team… you’re going to lose, but you’re going to play in a way that weakens these guys for someone else.
“Robin Haase took one for the team today. In the first set he played like he wanted to play, and lost 6-1.
“In the second say he thought about it, and started doing things differently. That will help other people later in the draw when they play Nadal.”
(Editing by Ed Osmond)