OPINION: Alcaraz and Nadal's Netflix Slam threatens to set dangerous precedent

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OPINION: Alcaraz and Nadal's Netflix Slam threatens to set dangerous precedent
Alcaraz and Nadal don't need this exhibition match
Alcaraz and Nadal don't need this exhibition match
Profimedia
Rafael Nadal (37) and Carlos Alcaraz (20) will tonight go head to head in an exhibition match in Las Vegas for Netflix, and it's a non-event that could have major future consequences in the world of tennis.

"The ATP calendar is too demanding." This quote from Carlos Alcaraz hasn't been taken out of context. In an interview with Argentinian outlet Ole Tenis before the Buenos Aires Open in February, the Spaniard - seemingly already tired just a month into the season - said the following: 

"They (the organisers) play with the health of the athletes, who have to play at the highest level for so long, tournament after tournament. I think we have to change that... (but) I don't know if there is a solution."

It's a statement that would be perfectly understandable if the Spaniard wasn't tonight playing an exhibition against Rafael Nadalwith just a few days to go before the start of the first American tour of the season and then two consecutive Masters 1000 tournaments. Some will argue that Las Vegas is close to Indian Wells so it doesn't make much difference, but if it doesn't mean anything, why on earth would he do this exhibition?

At first glance, the answer is obvious: money. For this exhibition match commissioned by Netflix, there's no doubt that the two players won't be playing for free.

On paper, it's a win-win situation for everyone; the streaming platform is bound to line its pockets with such an exclusive event (possibly the last clash between the two); the spectators get to watch their heroes and the players get to offer private lessons for the occasion for the eyewatering sum of $150,000.

But it has to be remembered that Nadal almost missed the entire 2023 season through injury, playing only the Australian Open, that he is at the end of his career, that 2024 is probably his last season, that he started it with yet another injury and that he has not been seen since. As for Alcaraz, he picked up an injury in Rio just last week, twisting his ankle. Are the two players fully fit now? Fit enough to put on a quality show?

Although exhibitions are nothing new in tennis, they are never usually played in front of millions of television viewers, and this change could have dangerous consequences. It's a godsend for Netflix-type services: a match where the participants, start and finish times are known beforehand, with minimum risk and maximum profitability. 

But what happens if Nadal suffers a serious injury and is unable to resume his career afterwards? Will his last match have been a publicity stunt? He doesn't need that, and neither does Alcaraz. They are two already hugely rich and successful players, but like most modern athletes, they still want more. 

As has already happened with LIV Golf, we mustn't allow competing circuits that are less demanding and more lucrative to emerge and drive certain stars into dissidence, or we risk saying goodbye to the Open Era of tennis - an era that has given us so many great moments, and without which the two Spaniards would not be what they are today.

Follow the match here from 21:00 CET.

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