The 800 pound gorilla in the room of professional tennis discussion is performance enhancement drug (PED) use. I Googled "Nadal" and "Steroids" and got over 1,100,000 results. I am clearly not alone in my suspicions.
In fairness, many elite athletes are under suspicion of using steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs due to the extreme power demands of modern sports, and the notoriously ineffective doping controls.
Cycling has perhaps the strictest and most comprehensive doping controls and it seems that the cheaters are mostly one step ahead of the testers. Take a look at Nadal at 18 years of age and pictures of him at 23. His body underwent a remarkable transformation in just five years, and while it could be in his hard work in the weight room, he repeatedly says that he does not work out except for playing tennis.
Steroid suspicions are nothing new in tennis. A widely circulated story is that Andre Agassi was told to skip the Australian Open after testing positive and he dropped out with a mysterious "wrist injury."
The highest levels of professional tennis demand extraordinary power and almost every other major sport that is power driven has been rocked by a major PED scandal.
Perhaps tennis is a clean sport and tennis players are morally superior to athletes of other sports. We can hope for the best, but we should not be shocked to one day learn that the superhero physicality of the top men and women in professional tennis was developed by less than super means.
Steve Kaplan is the owner and managing director of Bethpage Park Tennis Center, as well as director emeritus of Lacoste Academy for New York City Parks Foundation, and executive director and founder of Serve &Return Inc. Steve has coached more than 1,100 nationally- ranked junior players, 16 New York State high school champions, two NCAA Division 1 Singles Champions, and numerous highly-ranked touring professionals. Many of the students Steve has closely mentored have gone to achieve great success as prominent members of the New York financial community, and in other prestigious professions. In 2017, Steve was awarded the Hy Zausner Lifetime Achievement Award by the USTA. He may be reached by e-mail at StevenJKaplan@aol.com.